Anastasia Lee ~
Performance with Italian Tenor Michael Castaldo at
Milwaukee, Wisconsin July 23, 2016 "In my many years of life, I have found that often the most memorable times come unexpectedly. Recently I had one of those memorable experiences. I had traveled to Milwaukee on an extended vacation in order to attend the “Festa Italiana.” I wouldn’t ordinarily travel such a distance to attend a festival but this was no ordinary festival. On Sunday the festival featured a concert by Jackie Evancho as well as one featuring Michael Castaldo and Agne G. both of which I wanted to see. That turned out to be disappointing since both concerts were scheduled at the same time but that’s another story.
In planning my sightseeing vacation I decided to arrive in Milwaukee a day early since there was to be a concert with Michael Castaldo and Anastasia Lee on that Saturday night. To be perfectly honest, I really followed these performers only sparingly prior to that time. The early videos of the much younger Anastasia had not drawn my attention since her voice seemed so 'unnatural' to me. But, I also knew that both performers had a very loyal following. Therefore out of curiosity, more than anything else, I decided to attend their concert.
To my amazement and delight, curiosity led me to an unexpectedly memorable night. I must first mention that Michael Castaldo was truly the outstanding performer about whom I had read. He is truly a master of Italian song with a stage presence that captures the emotion and intensity of his Italian heritage. It is no wonder that he is a beloved performer not only within the Italian community but also with “classical crossover” music lovers.
That stormy evening I also found an answer to my other point of curiosity, Anastasia Lee. Oh how wrong I had been with my previous thoughts and judgment of her. The first song of the concert was a duet with Anastasia and Michael singing “Time to Say Goodbye” (“Con Te Partiro”) which they changed to “Time to Say Hello.” This was a very creative twist to a now classic song for “classical crossover” performers. Introduced by Michael, Anastasia appeared on stage in a full red gown. I immediately saw the confidence of a mature performer, relaxed and with an expression of joy in anticipation of her performance. When she began singing with the rich depth of her contralto voice, I knew I had better pay attention and not miss a single note. I was really taken when her voice flawlessly soared into the higher registry of that song. She had my undivided attention from that moment on. The duet was beautifully sung ending with a most powerful prolonged note. Both performers were at ease with each other showing a special relationship between them that began when they last performed together at the same venue. This was a powerful performance to begin the concert – “Time to Say Hello.”
When time came for her second song of the evening, “Luna Mezzo Mare”, a Dean Martin hit, Anastasia stunned the audience with a second beautiful gown. The Spanish fashioned, flared gown was white accented with black designs. Her appearance set the stage for a performance which showcased her rich contralto voice. What followed was a most powerful and flawless rendition of this standard pop-folk favorite. It was awesome not only because of her exceptional voice but because of her dominating stage presence and presentation. This was not only enhanced by the obvious joy and enthusiasm she displayed for singing but also by her connection with the audience. Her joy easily transferred to the audience which responded in kind. She not only “owned” the song but the audience as well.
If the first song was not a highlight of the night, the second solo song was - another Italian Classic, "Funiculi Funicula". In her second solo appearance she was dressed in yet another beautiful dress. This time she was in a stunning black sequined full gown accented with white filigree. When she began singing I didn’t think that she was in the same comfort zone as she was in her previous songs, but that assumption quickly changed. Her voice almost immediately found the rich tones of her contralto capabilities delivering an overall powerful rendition of this spirited and challenging song. Through it all she displayed the energy, charisma, and enthusiasm which lifted her performance to bring the audience to a well-deserved thunderous ovation.
Again she appeared on stage adorned in another gown, the third of the evening, a beautiful red ball gown. My thought at the time was that she is not only a great performer but a quick-change artist also. She ended her part of the concert with the popular classic, Dean Martin song, “That's Amore.” The song was suited for her voice and her voice fulfilled each note of that song with a flare of magnificence. Her enthusiastic presence made the stage come alive with the joy of music which then transferred to the audience. When Anastasia asked the audience to sing along they were eager to join her. One cannot sit in the audience as a mere bystander when she is on stage. Willingly or unwillingly you are drawn into the energy, joy, and enthusiasm of her performance.
Although she had other obligations as an Italian Idol Judge after the concert, Anastasia did mingle among the audience for a while after her performance, handing out flowers from her bouquet of roses to audience members. It was very evident that personally meeting her audience and fans was as important to her as was the actual performance. The next afternoon she made herself available to talk and be with her fans and others. What a pleasure it was to be with her and her father that afternoon.
The only thing which could have been better that night would have been better staging. Like many festival venues the stage was cluttered without any suitable background. At times I thought it to be distracting and not worthy of the performance. With just a little artistic creativity that could have been different. This of course was out of the performers’ control.
I am very thankful and happy that I decided to arrive a day early in order to attend a concert which proved my first impressions very wrong. Anastasia Lee is a most engaging performer with an exceptional contralto voice and stage charisma. Every experience in life can be life changing, some filled with regret and others filled with the joy of living. In this case I left in appreciation of another young talent with the gift of song. I know that if I ever have the opportunity to see her in full concert I will make it a point to be in attendance. I also know the experience of a full concert will leave me exhausted from watching such high energy on stage but totally filled with the joy of music given by a very spirited, talented, and compassionate young performer."
John (PJ) V. Trautwein 8/24/16
It was requested that I write a 'blog' or 'diary' type entry covering this event, for the people that could not attend - so here goes. :)
Friday - July 22, 2016
That's right - all of the above Classical Crossover singers were booked to sing at Festa Italiana 2016 - Milwaukee, WI - the biggest, most popular Italian festival in the world.
My Mom, Dad, sister Tatiana, brother Randy, and myself drove down to Milwaukee the afternoon of July 22 of Festa Italiana. On that day I performed on the first night - one of two qualifying nights - at Italian Idol, I also judged the idol. I sang my recent Elvis cover, "If I Can Dream". I'd never judged other artists before, and I can tell you it was VERY difficult, though it was good practice as I will be judging "Music For Kids" - a Talent TV Show - in Romania this August. There were many good singers the first night of the Idol - including a young girl, Madeleine Francesca Keane - that sang "Time To Say Goodbye" and Gregory Rogalinski who performed Frank Sinatra's "My Way".
Received plenty of comments after my performance that night relating to the fact my "big voice doesn't match up with my small body" - as they put it. :)
Saturday - July 23, 2016
The morning of Saturday (which is the day I sang with Micheal Castaldo) I ran a 5K in a ballgown. Literally - I ran the Vince Lombardi Cure for Cancer 5K in a ballgown. My Mom is a cancer survivor and I wanted to raise awareness for the cause. Wearing the ballgown certainly did it's job as EVERYONE in sight - especially those that didn't know what the 5K was all about - asked me what I was doing. Cancer has touched nearly every family in the US, and it doesn't receive enough attention and funding even today. I finished top 5 in my age group and finished ahead of most of the other runners, but I will tell you it was no easy feat. It was 93 degrees out and nearly 100% humidity. I finished in 28:48. Half of the course was covered in fog so thick we couldn't see the foot path (we were practically on top of Lake Michigan).
After a quick soundcheck at a nearby church with Micheal and the string quartet we performed with, my Mom and I went shopping - for odds and ends - but also so I could "pace" (you know, work off the nerves... as if I didn't already do so at the 5K).
My younger but taller brother Randy (orange, below) placed first in his age division and third overall.
Micheal, his wife Bozena, his dog Elvis, and the rest of us met up at the Festa and began preparing for our show later in the afternoon. We had a quick sound-check prior to the show as well with the instrumental group, Micheal, and myself posing for a photo afterwards.
The below photograph is one of my favorites ever taken at a gig. We all look like we're in an old 19th/20th century opera performance.
Micheal and I took to the stage to perform the Bocelli/Brightman classic, "Con Te Partiro" or ("Time To Say Goodbye") which he decided we should sing as "Time To Say Hello" since we started the concert with it. :D As we started singing this song the crowd started flooding into our open air - yet covered - stage and seating area. We had a full house for the duration of our performance and we received a standing ovation after our opening piece.
First Song - Duet: Time To Say Goodbye
Micheal then took to the stage to perform his solos. After every three of his solos, I performed a solo - my songs were specifically selected to be happier, jumpy music to get the audience excited. Generally I perform ballads so it was exciting getting to perform strictly more up-tempo selections.
Review from PJ Trautwein who attended our concert:
"That night I was privileged to see Michael Castaldo and Anastasia Lee in concert. I had never heard either Micheal or Anastasia in concert. Michael’s Italian tenor voice was superb and his performance was professional in all respects. Anastasia sung beautifully. Her singing was enhanced by her lively stage charisma and persona. She is a performer at heart and loves her audience. What an enjoyable concert. But the evening was not over because I got to meet Anastasia and her sister Tatiana, her brother and her father. What a warm, unselfish, and unassuming family.
The next day, Sunday, I did get up early enough to attend the festival Mass in which 16 year old soprano, Jackie Evancho, sung 'Ava Maria'. Even though the beginning was lost because of a sound problem, Jackie sung as beautifully as ever. After the mass, I walked the festival until the sun and heat drove me into the protection of the concert venue in which Agne would be singing. It was there I would eventually meet up with Anastasia and her family and Richard. I learned the night before that Anastasia had applied to my Alma Mater, Gettysburg College, and was on the waiting list. During that time together, I discovered a most intelligent, warm, and fun loving young woman in Anastasia. All of this led her Father, Randy, and myself into an extended conversation about the trials and challenges of talented young people. He is full of insight into the pitfalls of the entertainment world as well as the desire to promote young talent beyond the reaches of stifling contracts. I know we will be in communication for we both have the same interest in encouraging young talent in the classical – CC genre."
Solo #1: Luna Mezzo Mare
I had four dress changes, and changed in a dressing room about 200 meters away which meant my Mom and I did a lot of running to do. The fact it was raining meant my hair was a mess and my dresses were dripping. Wore this white dress below for "Luna Mezzo Mare". The crowd clapped along and in the back row between the seating areas they were dancing. The reason for the dress changes is the fact that audiences like things that are always changing, such as song tempos, and even dresses. Keeps them interested.
Solo #2: Funiculi Funicula
Ran back to my dressing room and changed into the black ball gown below - you'll probably recognize this one as the dress I wore to my 2015 high school junior prom which I attended with my sister. I watched Micheal finish his sets backstage and he did very well keeping the audience engaged. Every time I came onstage in another dress Micheal announced, "And another beautiful dress !" I think he was jealous he didn't have any ballgowns to wear. ;) Joking of course.
I grabbed some roses backstage and pranced and twirled back and forth onstage singing "Funiculi Funicula" with those flowers and eventually gave them to Vicki Zanartu - one of our supporters who came from across the country to see us - who was near the front row during the concert.
Solo #3: That's Amore
I changed back into the red gown for my final song, Dean Martin's "That's Amore" and 'waltzed' back and forth onstage. My Mom said I looked very confident and happy, and I guess the audience thought the same as I received similar comments from both parties.
After performing my solos and our duet I left the stage and started mingling with the audience, giving flowers from my bouquet to audience members, including members of our police force. :) Micheal called down from the stage, "Anastasia's out there working the crowd." He was right, my feet have the blisters to prove it. I went to the Italian Idol venue and judged yet another amazing night of talent and performed Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love". Obviously my family and I finished off the night with cannoli and ravioli !
Sunday - July 24, 2016
Between judging Italian Idol, Agne's performance with Micheal, and attending Jackie Evancho's concert at Festa - Sunday was to be a busy day. Though all of these events were in the evening... which meant...
We had the morning to use ! My brother, sister, and I wandered around - I photographed while they went on the Tilt-A-Whirl, etc. We listened to the opera singers performing "Faust" & "La Boheme" and my Dad and Mom mainly sat in the cooking tent getting free samples of the meals the cooks demonstrated how to make onstage.
It was around this point that I decided to hop in the fountain in my ball gown (4 times over the course of the day). It was 95 or so degrees out with awful humidity. It had to be done.
Micheal Castaldo & Agne G.
My friend Agne G. (one of our "Tre Principesse" girls) was Micheal Castaldo's guest artist on Sunday night. My siblings, Dad, and I went to Jackie Evancho's concert at the Festa, though I had to leave Jackie's concert early to judge the Italian Idol and I made it back in time to listen to Agne's last song for the evening, "Funiculi Funicula". Agne did an amazing job. As a Contralto I listen in 'aw' as Sopranos hit their higher notes. :D
Click the button below to read my review of Jackie Evancho's concert at
Festa Italiana 2016 !
Photos of The Sicilian Tenors - a Classical Crossover group that also performed at the Festival.
As far as the results of Italian Idol go, in First place came a young lady who sounded exactly like Whitney Houston, in Second place came Madeline Francesca Keane - a young Classical Crossover singer who performed "Time To Say Goodbye", and in Third place came Giovanna who had some great pipes for Broadway show-tunes.
Spent time after Agne and Micheal's show with some of our great supporters that travelled from across the country to hear all of us perform. So thankful for all of your support guys and gals ! Prior to taking the photos below I was warned by Mrs. G (Agne's Mom) that we would be taking photos, but I forgot about it and went and played in the fountain some more much to the pleasure of a few little girls that were running around there. That's why I was wet... again.
Here are the three of us (Tatiana, Agne, and myself) posing with the print of an original made by George Dunham, bought by Len Rausch to support our trip/CD project.
Overall it was a VERY successful weekend for all of us as individuals, but mainly for the Classical Crossover genre ! It's not everyday you see this many Classical Crossover singers in the same place at the same time. This simply reassured me of my previous thoughts, that the only way this genre will continue to work and grow is if all of us work together - both online and in doing as many collaboration projects and concerts/tours as possible. A huge thank you to Micheal Castaldo for inviting me to sing with him again - always an honor.
Jackie Evancho Festa Italiana Concert Review from the BMO-Harris Bank Pavilion ~ June 24th, 2016
I had been booked to perform at Festa Italiana (Milwaukee) 2016 last year, to perform with the great Italian tenor, Micheal Castaldo (who I also performed with at the Festa in 2013) and to be a Judge for Italian Idol 2016 and perform as their special guest, as I Won Milwaukee’s Festa Italian Idol in 2012.
So... you can pretty much guess my surprise and great disappointment when I heard Jackie Evancho would be performing at the Festa as well - my disappointment was due to the fact I didn't think I would be able to go to her concert ! I was busy EVERY night of the festival so I assumed I wouldn't be able to go and that was that. Eventually the times for all of my appearances were finalized and I realized I could probably make it to at least the first half of her concert, but I wasn't banking on that chance.
Each time Jackie has had a concert in our area we where unable to attend. And by our area I mean the three surrounding states. Either I had a gig of my own, or we had the State Indoor Track & Field Meet, etc. We were a bit disappointed when those circumstances came about, but as always - our previous commitments to school, sports, etc. come first.
Some incredible Jackie fans and Lovers of Classical Crossover Music stepped in at the Italian Festa and graciously provided us (My Dad, sister, brother, and I) tickets right before Jackie's show-time. Not just any tickets but Premier Seating in the first few rows. In my case, I was within say 10 feet of the stage, front and center as well. Seats could not get any better!
The venue was an absolutely lovely and huge place - we walked across the Festa grounds, through security, and directly into the BMO Harris Bank Pavilion which was in the closed off South Section of the grounds. I was already dressed in a red ball gown, as I wouldn't have time to change and make it back to the Italian Idol stage. I was escorted with my brother Randy Jr, to our seats in the 5th row - dead center - and folks around us started saying, "Oh it's Anastasia !"... "Are you Anastasia Lee?"... "I get to tell my friends I sat next to Anastasia Lee at Jackie Evancho's concert !", etc. I knew I was friends with a good number of these Jackie Evancho aficionados from Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube), but there were several that I did not recognize.
We took our seats with about 30 minutes till Concert time.
Ms. Evancho’s SET LIST:
1. Pure Imagination
2. Made to Dream
3. Music of the Night
Nessun dorma (Instrumental)
4. Impossible Dream
5. Your Love
6. What a Wonderful World
~ 20 minute Intermission:
8. Ave Maria
9. Nessun dorma
10. Writing's on the Wall
11. Safe and Sound
12. O Mio Babbino Caro
13. Think of Me
~ Encore: The Lord's Prayer
Let me digress to begin the Concert Review
Jackie entered from audience left onto an open air pavilion stage with a clear mesh background through which we could see the lake and sky behind her. She was accompanied by Peter Kiesewalter, her music director and conductor for the Festa concert. Also backed by eight string accompanists from Milwaukee.
She was wearing a very colorful, floral mid length, off the shoulder dress, rather perfect for the incredibly stifling heat that evening. I would guesstimate around 90+ degrees with very high humidity as well.
Jackie started our concert with hauntingly beautiful, ‘Pure Imagination’ which is a song from her "Songs from the Silver Screen" CD. With lyrics like, "come with me, and you'll be in a world of pure imagination" it is an excellent song to start her concert’s with. Judging by the audience's reaction.. I'm guessing they thought much the same.
Ms. Evancho lightly discussed the weather and her Thanks to all for attending her concert. This then segue into her performing “Made to Dream”, a favorite song of hers.
Jackie's first standing ovation came when she performed "Music of the Night", the great solo performed by the "Phantom" in the musical and movie "The Phantom of the Opera".
It's amazing how so many young female singers actually started singing because of their love of the Andrew Lloyd Webber movie/musical "The Phantom of the Opera" - Jackie obviously, myself included, as well as many of my other musical friends and contemporaries. It is a very beautiful musical with a great story line based off of Gaston Leroux's classic novel, which is actually a much darker scenario.
It seemed to me that Jackie 'truly felt' this song more than any up to this point in the concert. One visual thought that stuck me.. was about her stage mannerism's was her great eye contact. She seamlessly floated looking from person to person in the audience, holding eye contact with what seemed like everyone. This was particularity so with the first say ten or so rows from my vantage point. (Brava)
My personal favorite song in the first half of the concert was "The Impossible Dream" which she dedicated to her Mother (Lisa) who helped her begin her musical career and has recently been ill. She truly portrayed the meaning of this song well and it's a song with lyrics, I think that all people can relate to.
In the end most people end up looking on the dreams of their youth like the Bruce Springsteen classic "Glory Days", but there are a few people who are given the opportunity to live out their dreams - Jackie admitted she was one of them and was thankful for that. At this point in her concert, she started squinting as the sun was setting directly into her eyes and much of the audience had a similar problem with the sun reflecting off of the piano. However Jackie, being the true entertainer that she is did not hinder her vocal abilities in the least.
Following “The Impossible Dream”, where “Your Love” from the “Once Upon a Time in the West” and then closing the first set was the Louis Armstrong venerable classic “What a Wonderful World” dedicated to her father Mike Evancho. One of his favorite musical pieces as Jackie humorously informed us.
After Jackie had performed the above 6 songs, there was a 20 minute intermission.. at which point, I left my seat in the front and went to sit at the back of the pavilion, so that I'd be less of a distraction when I had to leave the concert in order to make it to the Italian Idol stage on time.
Jackie re-entered the stage as the intro to the song "Lovers" was played. I've always enjoyed her rendition of this song - the drums and string instruments really make for an epic intro. This was also my sister Tatiana Marie’s favorite song from the entire concert.
The second selection in this set, that she performed was the always fan favorite “Ave Maria” to the gratitude of the eager audience, they seemed on the edge of their seats awaiting this piece. Earlier in the day, she performed Ave Maria at the annual Festa Italiana mass and procession held in the Marcus Amphitheater at 11 a.m.
Her pianist Peter, had played Puccini's "Nessun dorma" as an instrumental solo in the first half of the concert, but in the second half Jackie performed her own version of this operatic classic. My father was surprised with her flourish at the end of the 4th "Vincero". Both he and I, stood even before the conclusion of the song, in which she received a standing ovation from the audience.
A special point of interest is when she made light of tripping over her dress and said something along the lines of, "You see, that's the problem with being 5'1", no matter how much you alter or hem your dresses you always trip over them. And it’s really frustrating, ‘cause that’s all I ever do when I’m onstage. I’ll run into a wall, I’ll trip on my dress, and it happens all the time." All I could think was, "Girl, I feel your pain." (I'm 5'). She has the guts to wear high heels though, which is something I don't plan on attempting anytime soon.
At this point in the concert, she performed a couple of her newer cover Pop songs - that will be included on her next album, Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" and Taylor Swift's "Safe& Sound". Unfortunately, I had to depart after she sang "Writing's on the Wall" which she performed very well and definitely to the satisfaction of the audience. I picked up the skirts to my red ball gown and made my way to the exit and heard her begin "Safe & Sound" from "The Hunger Games" - which sounded wonderful - as I walked down the street. Of all the pop songs she's released lately with this new direction she is taking, "Safe & Sound" is my recent favorite of hers. During these more modern songs she filled the stage with her flowing movement back & forth. At this point, my father, sister and brother had the charge of reviewing the remainder of Jackie’s concert.
While I wasn't there for her last three songs my younger brother Randy Jr. tells me "O Mio Babbino Caro" was one of his favorites – of course we all remember Jackie had her musical 'break-out' moment on America's Got Talent (2010) singing this very song. Apparently, she hasn't lost any of her shine from 6 years ago. :D
My father’s favorite of the evening was in his words “His musical highlight of the evening” was her rendition of “Think of Me” from of course Phantom of the Opera. Jackie truly performed this song masterfully as he said. She concludes the Festa Italiana concert with a standing ovation as she delivered another sterling performance!
Re-entering for her encore, Jackie performed "The Lord's Prayer" which is from her Gold selling album "Dream With Me" - she received a standing ovation for this as well.
My only complaint about the whole concert? How short it was ! 14 songs ! Yes, I had to leave early which did not help in my case, but my statement stands. :)
All in all ~ It was an incredible Concert and I Wish to Thank all of those great Jackie and Classical Crossover music fans for this special opportunity for my family and I. Those of You all know who I am Thanking !! If you have any questions or want to leave your thoughts please leave a comment below !
After the amazing Festa Italiana Iron Mountain my Dad, sister, and I hit the road and began the long drive to Chicago for a performance the next day (August 17th). Now the weather didn't look good when we left, but then again it didn't look necessarily dangerous, so we kept driving. When we were about three hours away from Chicago, (1.5 hours away from home) we were forced to call Mrs. Archbold as the weather had taken a turn for the worse and the rain was coming down in sheets, and coupled with wind, it didn't make for safe driving conditions. My Dad thought we should turn around so we called Mrs. Archbold who advised that we turn back home as well and leave for Chicago in the morning. We decided it was for the best and turned back to spend the night at home (much to our puppy's pleasure).
We left on Sunday morning, with the rain just beginning to stop, and headed back to Chicago. Unfortunately we also met traffic on the way... lots of traffic. There were two accidents, which completely stopped the flow of cars for a period of time, and it didn't look like we were going to make it in time for the 3:00 PM performance. My Dad took the nearest exit and pulled over at McDonald's so I could change into my dress. Let's just say the customers inside thought I was crazy, I mean... It isn't often you see a girl walking out of McDonald's in a HUGE red ball gown. I simply smiled, waved, and ran out the door.
Mr. Archbold called Sheridan and I back onstage for bows and we exited to meet the attendees. We were finished... or so I thought.
"Nessun dorma" was supposed to have been my final song, I had a couple other songs included on the CD, but I was told I wasn't singing them. Right when I started to relax Mr. Archbold ran up to me backstage and said I would be singing "My Way" and "That's Amore" back to back. I nodded and he ran back to the sound man. I notified my Dad who was under the impression I was finished as well and came back onstage. I dedicated "My Way" to Elvis Presley and received a standing ovation and asked the audience to sing and dance along with me during "That's Amore". Sheridan then closed the show with "Time To Say Goodbye", receiving a standing ovation.
Agne also attended this event with her Mother. I don't think this many Classical Crossover singers appearing in the same place happens very often (Agne G., Tatiana Marie, Sheridan Archbold, & Anastasia Lee) ~ Hopefully in the future we can all work together.
After a celebratory cannoli we headed to the Archbold's house and ate a celebratory pizza dinner and played more "Four In A Row" and Chess. The next morning Fulton (Sheridan's oldest brother) went to work with his Father (Fulton acts as secretary to his Father's medical business) and Mrs. Archbold took my Father, sister, and myself grocery shopping. She explained the differences in many foods, the effects they have on the body, etc. It was definitely an informative morning.
When we arrived back at their house Mrs. Archbold prepared lunch and we went to the park and had a picnic. Naturally afterwards the boys wanted to play tag with us. They didn't catch my sister or I, but they definitely gave it their best shot, and as the boys grow - I have to admit we will probably be 'toast'. It was also suggested we bring our brothers next time. My Dad spent the rest of the picnic giving Edgeorge running tips and Sheridan tried his hardest to steal my ball-cap as well as Tati's (at my height this is not a difficult feat).
Before we left they took us into their garden and we gathered tomatoes and Mrs. Archbold cut onions, beets, eggplant, etc. for us to bring back home.
A Big Thank You to the Archbold Family for a Pleasant stay and Thank You for the Performance Opportunities !
Overall, that week ("The 2,600+ miles, 5 performances, in a total of 7 days" week) was a learning experience for me, and although it was quite stressful, it was a lot of fun. I hope to have many more weeks like it in the near future.
As quite a few of you may know, my siblings and I have been taking a Musical Theater class this summer. We worked hard throughout the seminars, working on pieces from "The Phantom Of The Opera", "Les Miserables", and "Wicked". The director of the show and teacher of the class was Alyssa Phinney, a trained soprano.
Nicholas Jefferson, my youngest brother, The moment my brother walked into the auditorium it was obvious he would be chosen to play Gavroche. From his stature, to his "Gavroche-like" youthful voice and personality, this was his role.
Most people who know me personally know me for my deep voice, somewhat "Contralto-like". Well I sang a very "Soprano-like" song that day. Benjamin Wright played the part of the Phantom and I performed the part of Christine in the theme song from the musical "The Phantom of the Opera". I must say everyone in the audience was extremely surprised, when I began the high notes at the end of the song I'm assuming they were surprised it was humanly possible to sing that high. Admittedly I was crossing my fingers the whole time.
In the second acting segment, four cast members, Nathan Jacobs portrayed the "Evil Stepfather", Jenna Perock as "Cinderella" Beth Le'grave as "Portia the dim-witted evil step-sister", and I played "Joy the depressed evil step-sister". Truthfully I found it funny that in the first acting segment of the show I performed the part of the goodly, bubbly Fairy Godmother, and in the second segment I played a bratty, spoiled, depressing Step Sister.
...the man in this photo taught me how and when to use mine. My parents instilled in my siblings and I our moral values, our knowledge of right and wrong, and they helped us develop our policy views - never forcing us to believe anything, merely showing us the options and telling us their own views. We were taught facts were key to establish and share our beliefs. I had always been outspoken in regards to my views, and I never had a problem telling people what I thought, whether it be at school, protesting on a street corner, etc. But one place I did have a problem discussing my beliefs to any extent was my music career. I had been taught that politics or social issues and music shouldn't mix. However as time went on and our country became and still becomes more bitterly divided than I've ever seen it in my 19 years of life I began to understand that maybe it was necessary that I speak my mind.
As Patrick Henry said, “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.”
The fellow in this photograph is Malcolm McGough - Australian by birth, though he moved to the US some years back. He told me he did so on a promise made to God. He demonstrated the type of character, American patriotism, and passion I wished I could find in all of my natural-born American brethren. He was more of a true American than 99% of all Americans I know. Ever since I was a little girl I had looked up to heroes in old history books, you know the types - Patrick Henry, John Adams, George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. etc. etc. To my disappointment though, I could find none of these people in 'real life'. I had begun to think such people were extinct. I was happily proven wrong in the case of Mr. McGough. I found a 'real life' Founding Father type... sure he had a funny accent that smacked of Vegemite and the land down under, but hey - beggars can't be choosers ! It was as if American Founder Samuel Adams had come back from the dead and decided to make himself right at home stirring the waters of injustice once again. He came to Wisconsin in mid-March of 2016 and stayed through the beginning of April 2016. He did get me one of the biggest gigs in my entire life, but more importantly ~ In the nearly three weeks that I spent working side by side with that old buzzard I learned many things - first of all and the reason for this blog entry - I learned to believe. I've always been rather pessimistic - even when I believed in a cause or something I hoped to happen in the future I could never truly believe in it or give it my all as I'd seen so many defeats under that cause's name I figured the fight was pointless. In him, I saw and still see another parental figure. I was absolutely devastated when he left Wisconsin - okay, to be honest I cried a lot and for days on end - and for the better part of two months I couldn't figure out why he had affected me so much. I'd sit in school for hours pondering all of the things he told me and running memories through my head trying to figure out what he did or said differently that made such an impact on me. I'd pester him online every once-in-a-while asking him how he was, or asking him if he truly believed that we could achieve victory. He repeated the same line to me over and over again. He said, "Be bold and believe young lady."
I asked the old Koala with the receding hairline why he was so passionate for his cause, I asked him why he fought so damn hard - that I'd never seen that kind of attitude before - and he said, "I do it for a selfish reason Anastasia. As goes America so goes the world. And if America goes over so too my country. And my grandkids won't have a life." Obviously he was wrong in one sense, this reason is not selfish at all, but if every person in our country and others based their entire existence upon making the lives of future generations better as he has tried to do, we would all be better off.
It was the night of my high school graduation that I realized why he had affected and seemingly changed my thoughts for the future so much, and in truth it was quite simple - he let me believe.
He was only ever encouraging, he never said our fights were impossible as others had previously told me. He told me with God we could do anything. Through my life I'd met many people that simply talked a good talk - whether over coffee or beer - they said that they would someday help change the world, they said that they would stand up and fight if necessary, but when the time came for them to actually stand up and speak their minds in the face of this danger they claimed to oppose - they generally sat back down or silently submitted. Malcolm was different though - which is naturally why I went to him seeking advice.
His words, his deeds whether I watched him and listened to him speak in person or whether I followed his journey cross-country online - inspired me. And yet, his words also made me feel guilty. I'd look at myself in the mirror and I'd see that which I claimed to be against - in a way a hypocrite. I was almost lying to myself or at least about myself in order to 'survive'. When rallying people for a cause in person I'd tell them that they should always speak their minds and stand up for their beliefs regardless of the cost - as that is the only way any change is ever made. Yet as a singer I couldn't bring myself to do this - for example online with my supporters. I wanted to speak my mind not to force others to agree with me, but to show my truths, what I believed in, so maybe people would accept me for who I was, and perhaps sway a few people into either agreeing with me or shaking hands, accepting our differences and continuing with our friendships. I wanted to speak, but I knew I would lose major support which I could not really afford to lose.
So - I worked up the intestinal fortitude to send Malcolm a very... very long e-mail asking for his advice. He took a look at it and told me it would take some time, but he would give me a very thoughtful response.
The most applicable part of his response to this blog post was this, "You should always be ‘true’ to yourself. It is the one thing you can control and nobody, and I mean nobody can control this. ONLY YOU! ... You should never lie to yourself - ever. It is your truth to own and to be transparent in what you believe. It is also to present and to defend."
In regards to God's timing in all of this and the bad things that happen in our lives as a whole he told me, "To know His word is to know His will. And if you know His will you will know what to pray for. Maybe then you will get the answers He wants you to have. And then, you may be presented with the doors He wants you to go through. And this will come from spending time in quiet prayer, alone, where He can talk to you. And He does talk to us Anastasia, in His quiet touching of our heart, in the people he brings across our paths, in the doors that are locked, and in the trying circumstances He allows us to experience. Sometimes it is during these trying circumstances that He does his best work. Why, because He has our full attention and believe me, I have been in these trying circumstances."
Lord knows I wish I could talk to him more, but he's off working for what will hopefully be a better future for all of us and that is far more important than keeping tabs with a teenager. It's because of this fellow that now, I genuinely believe. Will I lose supporters? I have no doubt I will, but in the end I would rather succeed or fail while being true to myself. I also think that in the end I'd rather stand up for what I believe in, but in ALL cases, not only some - Not only when it's easy to do so. If this man, could affect every kid in this country and others 1% of the way he has helped me, this kangaroo could easily change the world singlehandedly.
You know in those old biographies that you read about our Founders, etc. - you know how they mention mentors that shaped these character's personalities, beliefs, and futures? Yeah, well I have to say, Malcolm - whether planned "on High" or by some stroke of luck - happened to land in Wisconsin and he became my mentor. And I can't thank the old wombat enough for it.
Ya'll keep an eye on this guy, because he is going to end up in the history books - and then some !
Anastasia Lee performs for Donald Trump - and meets him - during the Primaries.
After much deliberation with my career mentor - Rick Barker - we decided it was a good time to record and release a single - my 1st single For Sale for that matter - and after much more deliberation, we decided on crafting a Taylor Swift song and making it Classical Crossover (CC) would be a great idea. Especially, as Rick Barker is Taylor's former manager.
We recorded "Sano e Salvo" ("Safe & Sound" from The Hunger Games, but in mainly Italian) at Rock Garden Studios with owner Marc Golde.
We decided to released from the start "it will be for charity - St. Jude's Children's Hospital" - my favorite cause. So we decided to record a short video to Promote & Launch for 'Sano e Salvo'.. (see below)
Needless to say we are absolutely overwhelmed with the positive response 'Sano e Salvo' has received and honestly I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to come home from school and see my single in the charts.. right next to Andrea Bocelli & The Piano Guys.
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