While you were catching your breath on a nature walk, Mezzo-Soprano Katarzyna Sądej has been Earth Singing! That’s right. This classically trained singer is filling the air with beautiful songs inspired by the very places in nature where she is singing!
It brings to mind the famous scene from the timeless film classic, The Sound of Music, where actress Julie Andrews is caroling, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” in the beautiful Austrian countryside.
However, keep in mind this is no Hollywood movie. It’s the real deal with a modern twist. Here to share the first of her travelogue installment with you is none other than the creative director herself, Katarzyna Sądej! So, kick off your hiking boots, grab some refreshments and enjoy the story.
LRW: I love the title of your project, Earth Singing. What does it mean and what does it entail?
KS: With COVID going on, which was devastating to most artists this past year and a half, the earth’s other plight, the climate crisis, has been a bit forgotten.
LRW: I suppose you’re right about that. How does that tie in with your project?
KS: “Earth Singing” is a collection of various clips of me singing in various styles (not just opera) while out in nature and in spectacular locations. I want to use my voice to raise awareness for the beauty of our precious planet.
LRW: Amen to that! Musicians championing the environment. But how did that work?
KS: It became a fascinating topic for me to use my own trained voice to show how it can carry in natural acoustics such as forests, mountain ranges, valleys, rivers, lakes, meadows, etc. But the rawness of an unamplified voice, surrounded by the natural world – there is something very special and meditative about that for me personally. Our bodies evolved on this planet to have a voice that can carry, and that’s a fascinating, powerful thing.
LRW: That’s very enlightening. I hadn’t thought about that before. So, when did you begin this adventure? Was there a singular event that inspired you or were there several moments that lead to this?
KS: Well, we have spoken about my singing to bonobos in a previous interview, so you are already aware that I’m very passionate about wildlife, animals and the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems. This project definitely came about from my need to help protect our planet’s fragility.
LRW: I fondly remember that interview. For my readers, a the bonobo is a matriarchal ape and close relative of the chimpanzee with a black face and black hair, found in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can read more in my 2019 blog interview with Katarzyna. Enjoy the link below of Katarzyna singing to them.
KS: About three years ago, while at a US National Park, I recorded a short video of me singing with some of the gorgeous landscape behind me. It became a bit of a thing for me, to do that whenever I traveled to a beautiful wild place. I would sing a capella in the environment to demonstrate the natural acoustic.
LRW: How inspiring! For my readers, “a capella” means unaccompanied vocal music or music performed by a singer without instrumental accompaniment.
KS: That’s right. Now, the project has evolved a bit, as I’m incorporating music videos with pre-recorded musical accompaniment, (most recently from wonderful Canadian pianist Nadia Boucher), which I meld with the natural sounds of nature that are in the environment, along with my live singing sound, within that acoustic. It has been very important for me to use the live singing sound and not lip-syncing a studio-recorded track.
LRW: I admire your authenticity in the quality of your project. May I ask, where exactly are the places you have sung in nature for this project?
KS: I have sung in quite a few locations now, and counting. The most memorable are inside a giant Sequoia tree (that’s right, I said inside) and in front of a 4000-year-old ancient pine tree.
Also wading in a lake lit by the setting sun, and during hikes in mountain ranges – most recently in the Canadian Rockies.
LRW: That’s fantastic. What songs were sung in each place? How did you decide on those pieces or was it spur of the moment?
KS: When I sing a capella, it is generally the spur of the moment, but when I produce the music videos, of course I choose the location in advance with what would go well with the poetry of the piece.
LRW: Good strategy. That makes sense. I have to ask – did you happen to encounter any quirky or funny run-ins with nature? No grizzly bears, I hope…
KS: No grizzly bears! The funniest encounters have been with people actually. I sometimes gather a random audience here and there. You do have to be smart when traveling in nature, but I also don’t let fear stop me from experiencing it.
LRW: Phew! I’m greatly relieved. I bet, kind of like when I sketch on location and people randomly stop to watch. Absolutely! Any tips for my readers?
KS: Packing light and being responsible with nature is a must. I do have a collection of blooper videos, which I will eventually release, featuring moments where animals may have interrupted me (loud squirrels in one!). Birds can be quite fascinating too, and I’m quite certain that I have various birds singing along with me on a few of my videos. Birds listen and respond.
LRW: Good advice. Naughty squirrels! I look forward to the silly animal bloopers. I didn’t realize birds listen and respond. That gives me goosebumps. Where in nature do you plan to sing next?
KS: The Swiss Alps!
LRW: Aaah! Please take me with you! But seriously…will you be making an album or CD of your Earth Singing collection?
KS: That is a great idea! I probably should, eventually. One idea is to use some of the nature footage I gather and project it during a recital, featuring some of the music I have used.
LRW: Indeed. Lately, more and more musicians have been including art projections during their concerts. Projecting the nature scenes during your recitals of the pieces sung in nature would be perfect. As concert venues reopen and touring resumes, will you be performing these pieces live, perhaps in an outdoor venue in nature?
KS: Again, that’s another idea. Since this project is still evolving, I’m not yet sure where it will go.
LRW: Glad to inspire musical ideas. Contacting national parks as well as local nature preserves might make for great partnerships and collaborations on music festivals or environmental organization fundraisers. (My fempreneur mind is clicking away at ideas…) In the meantime, how may my students, readers and I be kept informed of your future concerts?
LRW: Will do. Thanks for the links. Katazyna, it was such fun catching up and learning about your wonderful musical project/adventure. I’m honored to be the first to interview you as you begin your travelogue. I look forward to reporting back to my students and readers as new installments become available. Best wishes!
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