MONMOUTH – Western Oregon University music professor Dr. Kevin Helppie will host a free world premiere performance of original songs inspired by great poets from the ancient world on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Smith Recital Hall. The pieces will be performed with vocals by Helppie and guest artist Katey Bridge, WOU alumna, and pianist Forrest Kinney.
The songs to be performed are from Helppie and Kinney’s book “World Songs, Volume Two: Songs for the Experienced Singer.” The concert will include an interpretive dance by a WOU student and an artist will create an interpretive painting live on stage during one of the songs.
Both volumes of “World Songs” were inspired by Willard R. Trask’s book “The Unwritten Song,” a collection of lyrics gathered by anthropologists who studied cultures all over the globe, including some from China, Japan, India and Native American societies. “The ancients had a way of saying something meaningful in only four or five sentences, it’s quite an art.”
Volume one features 14 songs and volume two has 21. Each song provides lyrics, music for a pianist, and suggestions for creativity. “We encourage people to use these songs to do their own improvisation with them,” said Helppie. “Most music is meant to be performed as written, but this work encourages people to play.”
Improvisation was the key to this project for both Helppie and Kinney. They have been friends since third grade and have always shared an interest in improv, often getting together for retreats two or three times a year and recording music together. In the 1980s, they began improvising based off of the poems and lyrics in Trask’s books. Soon after they began recording their sessions and became serious about this work about 10 years later. After they had recorded more than 100 songs, they began cataloguing and notating them. In about 2004, Kinney encouraged Helppie to pursue publishing the songs and they released volume one in 2008.
Helppie, a baritone, earned his D.M.A. from the University of Washington. Prior to joining WOU, he taught at Austin Peay state University, Sam Houston State University and Skagit Valley College. As a soloist, he has sung with groups such as the Nashville Symphony, Jacksonville Florida Symphony, Seattle Philharmonic, Bay Chorus of Houston, and much more. Helppie’s operatic repertoire encompasses over 20 roles, including the title characters in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Falstaff,” and “Don Pasquale.” In 1991, Helppie participated in the Singer of the World competition in Liangolien, Wales. He sings with the critically acclaimed a capella vocal group Opus 7 and concertizes with a jazz pianist in an improvisation based setting titled Duality.
Kinney is a music educator, pianist and arranger who works to restore creativity to music education. His performances have included opening of the Seattle Symphony’s new Benarova Hall and playing for 15 events at the home of Bill Gates. He is the author and composer of the “Pattern Play” series of books on improvisation and musical creativity, which currently has five books. A new series of four new “Pattern Play” books will be released in March 2010. Kinney is also the author of “Creativity—Beyond Compare,” a book that dispels misconceptions about talent, genius and creativity.
Volumes one and two of “World Songs” will be available for purchase at the concert for $20, with all proceeds going to Medical Teams International for the Haiti earthquake relief effort. For more information about the concert, please call 503-838-8876 or 503-838-8275.
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Dr. Kevin Helppie
Kevin Helppie, D.M.A.
Professor of music
503-838-8876 or email@example.com