Bonnie Montgomery & Zachary James Release 'Song Beyond Words, A Vocalise'

Award-winning singer/songwriter Bonnie Montgomery is widely lauded.

By: Dec. 07, 2020
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Bonnie Montgomery & Zachary James Release 'Song Beyond Words, A Vocalise'

Bonnie Montgomery & Zachary James Release 'Song Beyond Words, A Vocalise'

Award-winning singer/songwriter Bonnie Montgomery is widely lauded as enthusiastically for her polished parlor songs as she is for her lawless country barnburners - or for the opera arias she's penned at the piano. Montgomery returns to her classical composition roots with her new song, "Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise," featured on the virtual album CALL OUT, a celebration of female composers by celebrated Broadway and Metropolitan Opera star Zachary James. The single and video for "Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise" are now available on Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube.

Montgomery's "Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise" for piano, steel guitar, baritone and soprano, features singers James and Megan Nielson. The composition is the first use of steel guitar in an operatic medium, played by Kevin Skrla, and seamlessly brings elements of virtuosic country instrumentation into a classical music landscape. Merging these two sounds fits perfectly in Montgomery's musical language, which celebrates the lyrical American sound reminiscent of Aaron Copland, Florence Price, Scott Joplin, and George Gershwin.

"I am incredibly honored to be featured alongside all the badass female composers on CALL OUT," says Montgomery. "Writing the vocal lines specifically for Zach and Megan's exquisite voices has been thrilling, and very personal because the two singers are close friends and endured family tragedies during the last year. Their pain and loss is a crucial influence on the musical terrain of the song. They are both among the greatest singers of our time."

"Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise" was written during the pandemic and expresses a spiritual journey that transcends language. Inspiration for the piece came primarily from Montgomery's time at Standing Rock, where many of the Native American ceremonial songs she heard were sung on a vowel. The power of those songs at the sacred fire led her to write this song without words. Other inspirations were Rachmaninoff's Vocalise and the passing of Ennio Morricone this past year.

However, this new work is not Montgomery's first foray into the opera world. In 2016, her BILLY BLYTHE, an opera about Bill Clinton's youth in Hot Springs, was presented at Opera Ithaca to wide critical acclaim. This and other productions of BILLY BLYTHE (staged in Little Rock, AR and New York City by the Metropolis Opera Project) have earned the attention of the The Economist, The New Yorker, The Huffington Post, US News, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Daily News and other publications. Her second full-length album FOREVER drew praise from Paste magazine for its "timeless songwriting."

"Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise" is part of James' upcoming album CALL OUT, a series of simultaneous visual and audio albums of works composed by women, to be released mid December, 2020. James is joined on the album by pianist Charity Wicks, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, theorboist Brandon Acker, steel guitarist Kevin Skrla, guitarist Frederick Poholek, and vocalist Megan Nielson.

In the tradition of visual albums like The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and A Hard Day's Night, Daft Punk's Interstella 5555, Prince's Purple Rain, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Beyonce's recent hit, Black Is King, James' album is comprised of music videos conceived by the singer as visual vehicles for the music. The musical program originally planned as a live solo recital for Carnegie Hall for November 2020 has been reimagined, adjusting to the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic and the mass closure of live performance venues.

Zachary James has appeared with The Metropolitan Opera (Akhnaten, Wozzeck), Teatro Real (the world premiere of Philip Glass's The Perfect American), Minnesota Opera (the world premiere of Edward Tulane), Opera Philadelphia (the world premiere of Breaking The Waves, The Love For Three Oranges), English National Opera, Opera Queensland, Los Angeles Opera, Arizona Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera, Virginia Opera, Union Avenue Opera, Opera Roanoke, Shreveport Opera, Opera Ithaca, Sun Valley Opera, Central City Opera, Ash Lawn Opera, The Prototype Festival, The New York Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

James created the role of Lurch in the Original Broadway Cast of The Addams Family, played Hassinger in the Lincoln Center Theater Revival of South Pacific, and made his Broadway debut in the play, Coram Boy. Off-Broadway credits include Pasquale in The Most Happy Fella and Jo-Jo in Irma La Douce both with Encores. He has appeared on the sitcoms, 30 Rock and Murphy Brown. A frequent interpreter of new music, James premiered operas by Philip Glass, Missy Mazzoli, Kristin Hevner, Paola Prestini, Dana Wilson and Andy Teirstein and serves as an Ambassador to Opera America. James was named the Most Innovative Opera Singer of 2019 by Classical Post, Breakout Artist of the Year by Verismo Magazine and one of the top 30 most influential LGBTQIA artists by OperaWire. More at

Austin-based artist Bonnie Montgomery is a creative nomad, lauded as enthusiastically for her polished parlor songs as she is for her lawless country barnburners - or for the classical opera arias she's penned at the piano. With roots in White County, Arkansas and a firm foothold on forward-thinking audiences in Texas, Montgomery is armed with a poet's phrasing, a soprano's crystalline timbre and a revolutionary's spirit, and her repertoire ranges wherever it damn well pleases - from high romantic ballads swaddled in violins to fiery anthems of dissent to spaghetti western-inspired vignettes.

Dale Watson called her "a sophisticated badass who was born to sing." Counterpunch Magazine hailed her operatic compositions as "white trash arias, soaked in alcohol and sex." Her 2016 short-length opera about Bill Clinton's youth in Hot Springs has earned accolades from The New Yorker and Huffington Post, and her second full-length album "Forever" drew praise from Paste magazine for its "timeless songwriting."

Montgomery secured the title of 2020 Entertainer of the Year with the Arkansas Country Music Awards, ACMA 2019 Americana/Roots Artist of the Year, the title of Outlaw Female at the 2016 Ameripolitan Awards and the titles of Best Americana Artist and Best Female Vocalist at the 2018 Arkansas Country Music Awards. And, with two new singles produced by rockabilly legend Rosie Flores and a touring collaboration with Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard in her rearview mirror, Montgomery's leaving little doubt that she's a master in the making - a charismatic collaborator, a commanding bandleader and a prolific, sensitive conduit for big ideas about beauty, defiance and power. More at

Megan Nielson has triumphed in roles including Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly (Regina Opera), Nedda in Pagliacci (Opera Ithaca & Amore Opera), Tatiana in Eugene Onegin (Utopia Opera), the title role in Tosca (New York Opera, Opera Ithaca, Regina Opera, Chelsea Opera), Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Festival Opera de San Luis - Mexico & Opera Ithaca), Judith in Bluebeard's Castle (Opera Ithaca), Mimì in La Bohème (Opera Ithaca, Symphony of the Mountains, CoOperative), Chrysothemis in Elektra (Manhattan Opera Studio), the title role in Suor Angelica (Chelsea Opera & Manhattan Opera Studio), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Fiordigligi in Così fan tutte, and Meg March in Little Women (Knoxville Opera). In 2019 Ms. Nielson performed Salome's Final scene from Strauss' opera in recital at Juilliard with pianist Dror Baitel and was chosen to participate in New York Singing Teachers Association Jennifer Rowley's master class. She also was a featured soloist for Connecticut Opera and performed on their Star-Crossed Lovers concert at the Sanibel Music Festival. In 2020, she will join Miami Music Festival as a featured performer on the Celebrity Edge Cruise alongside Eglise Gutierrez.

She received her Bachelor's of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Kansas City - Missouri and her Masters in Voice and Pedagogy from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She has enjoyed residencies with young artist programs including Sarasota Opera, Knoxville Opera, Bay View Music Festival, American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, and Princeton's CoOPERAtive. Ms. Nielson is a student of Ms. Laura Brooks Rice and coaches with Mr. Thomas Bagwell. More at

Kevin Skrla, Houston-based multi-instrumentalist and acclaimed producer/engineer is keeping classic country alive. His pedal steel guitar style sits perfectly beside all the best in the country music catalogue. With the perfection of a savant, he transfers his genius to every instrument of the traditional country band.- flawlessly playing drums, bass, piano, lap, pedal, electric and acoustic guitar.

A 2020 nominee for Texas Country Music Awards Steel Guitarist of the Year, he has shared the stage and toured with Dale Watson, the Bellamy Brothers, Jamie Wyatt, Gene Watson, Rosie Flores, The Reeves Brothers, Johnny Falstaff, Bonnie Montgomery, Jason James, Summer Dean, Zephania O'Hora, and many others, alongside additional tours supporting Colter Wall and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

At Houston's historic Sugar Hill Studios, Skrla produced and engineered hip-hop legend Bushwick Bill's final album. His new venture, Wolfe Island Studios, in Dayton, Texas has already hosted Texas music legend Gary P. Nunn and composer/singer/songwriter Bonnie Montgomery, with her classical piece "Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise."


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