BWW Interviews: Cast Talks TENOR TO BARITONE, SOPRANO TO PATSY Concert
Performing this weekend for one night only at Ovations will be Houston concert veterans Ramon Rabaza and Julia Laskowski. Joining them is Kierstin McKinley, making her Houston concert debut. The trio, singing everything from Opera to Pasty Cline, will be accompanied by Patti Rabaza on piano. Recently, I chatted with Patti Rabaza, Ramon Rabaza, and Kierstin McKinley about what Houston audiences could expect from their concert TENOR TO BARITONE, SOPRANO TO PATSY.
BWW: Your TENOR TO BARITONE, SOPRANO TO PATSY concert is taking place at Ovations Night Club. How did you decide on this intimate venue?
Patti Rabaza: My husband (Ramon Rabaza) and I have been singing there since we met. It's just an awesome place to sing! The acoustics are fabulous. My husband, as an opera singer, hates to use a microphone, so he really loves that. There's just a lot of good things about Ovations, and Frank Tilton (owner of Ovations) has just been a really good friend to us.
BWW: What was the inspiration for this eclectic cabaret concert?
Ramon Rabaza: I wanted to this because it is an opportunity for young singers-Kierstin (McKinley) is only 16 years old-to get in front of the audience, get to practice, and get to see how their stuff works in front of the public. That gives them security and experience.
Also, what I'm going to sing is a kind of crazy idea. A friend of mine looked through YouTube and everywhere to see if anyone out there was singing baritone and tenor in the same evening, and so far we haven't found it yet. So, I think I'm going to be the first crazy guy who tried this kind of stuff. For the people who know opera, Verdi is sacred. You do not sing baritone and you do not sing tenor on the same night. It's a crazy idea, but I think it's only crazy until it works. So, I'm going to take that in there and make it work.
Additionally, I'm going to have my friends help me. I'm going to have Julia (Laskowski) singing Patsy Cline, Kierstin (McKinley) singing musical theatre songs and operatic arias, and a couple of students of my own signing there.
BWW: Without giving away too much, what can audiences expect from the concert?
Patti Rabaza: There's kind of a little bit of everything. If you don't like one song, just wait 'til the next one. [Laughs] That's one thing. Like you said, it's very eclectic, very different. The opera, especially his (Ramon Rabaza) stuff is very, very exciting and intense. Kierstin (McKinley)'s voice is just gorgeous-a huge, gorgeous voice out of this tiny girl. So, we're really excited about her and introducing her for her first real concert. Also, it's the hardest concert I've ever played, so I'm working my tail off to try to get it just right.
Also, Julia, a baritone friend of ours, my husband, and I started singing and called ourselves Four the Love of Opera about 15 years ago. Julia and I kind of stopped signing opera, went off, and wrote our own musical theatre stuff. We really don't have the guts to sing the opera anymore because it is so hard [Laughs], so it is fun to really have people in Houston signing such awesome opera stuff.
Ramon Rabaza: And in the world of opera, if you ask anybody, "Hey, does anyone sing Verdi baritones and Verdi tenors in the same evening," the answer is, "That's insanity!" There's a good reason for it. So, I'm taking a big risk.
BWW: How are you individually preparing for the performance?
Patti Rabaza: Well, we're in the middle of Kierstin (McKinley)'s lesson right now. Julia (Laskowski) doesn't really have to prepare. You know, she did Always...Patsy Cline at Stages (Repertory Theatre) for 18 months. For her stuff, and we've rehearsed it so much and done it so much, we don't really have to rehearse much. Everybody else, we're just practicing a lot.
BWW: How does it feel to be making your big debut in a cabaret concert like this?
Kierstin McKinley: Well, I am very excited. I think it's such a great learning experience because I get to sing a story through my songs. I get a feeling of a connection with the audience that is not like what I get in a lesson because I'm not really performing for anybody. I'm just really excited to sing and show everybody what I've been learning and what great teachers I have. I've come a long from what I used to be, and I'm very happy. I can't wait to perform.
I first met Patti (Rabaza) at TUTS (Theatre Under the Stars), when she was my teacher. The class was really big, and I didn't get to sing a lot. I asked her if she did private lessons. She said, "yes," so I quit TUTS and I started taking lessons from her. That was the best decision I've ever made. I'm so thankful that I met her, Ramon (Rabaza), and everybody. I'm just go glad that I started taking lessons. Man, my voice has changed. Listening back to how I used to sing, oh my goodness, I don't know how I got this far. It's just amazing.
Patti Rabaza: When I first heard her, she was signing "Johnny One Note," and it was the biggest voice I'd ever heard. It was awesome. We started private lessons, working music theatre stuff, and then she started working with my husband on opera because he's the opera man. She just really fell in love with opera, and everyone will hear it. It's just amazing. You'll hear why when you're there.
BWW: Since this is currently just a one-night event, are there plans to perform together like this again in the future?
Patti Rabaza: Yes! We're actually looking to do the same concert in College Station, Texas and a few other cities around Texas.
Houston audience can catch Ramon Rabaza, Julia Laskowski, and Kierstin McKinley performing TENOR TO BARITONE, SOPRANO TO PATSY on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at Ovations Night Club, 2536 Times Boulevard, Houston, 77005. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. For tickets and more information please visit http://www.ovationsnightclub.com or call (281) 807-1251.
All photos courtesy of Patti Rabaza.