It was a triumphant end to the Delaware Valley Opera’s summer concert series with a performance by the spectacular “Opera Cowgirls”. Ever heard of opera-country, or country-opera? I …
It was a triumphant end to the Delaware Valley Opera’s summer concert series with a performance by the spectacular “Opera Cowgirls”. Ever heard of opera-country, or country-opera? I certainly hadn’t, and I was curious to hear the combination of the two.
Well it was truly one-of-a-kind and the two genres mesh surprisingly well, especially when performed by Caitlin McKechney, Sarah Beckham-Turner, Mila Henry, Maria Lindsey and Jessica Sandidge!
These ladies were beyond impressive – they can sing two different styles of music, they can play their own musical instruments, they can abandon those instruments and sing accapella, they were humorous and theatrical, and they gave the audience a truly unforgettable night of music.
Caitlin McKechney, the ringleader and founding Cowgirl, played guitar and banjolele (a combo of the banjo and ukulele) and gave jaw-dropping performances. Her vocal range is so impressive, and I loved her cheeky rendition of “Una Voce Poco Fa” and bluesy performance in “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On”. And her performance of “Habanera” blew me away.
Sarah Beckham-Turner provided bass lines with her cello and truly soaring vocals. Her performance of “O Mio Babbino Caro” started off the evening with a bang, brought the house down with “Why Haven’t I?” and her duet with Jessica Sandidge of “Juliet’s Waltz” was a showstopper.
Mila Henry is a true “Jill-of-all-trades” when it comes to musical instruments playing the piano, mini-accordion, autoharp, bells, ukulele, slide whistle, and melodica. It was a treat to hear her sing a solo in the Cowgirl’s introductory song “Pearlsnaps and Pearls” in addition to her wonderful melodies.
Maria Lindsey’s voice is angelic and I really loved her performance of “Vedrai, Carino” and “Quando M’en Vo”. She not only has a wonderful voice, she is also theatrical and can play up a crowd. Another standout was her performance with McKechney for a mashup of “Say Something” by Great Big World and “Vissi” by Puccini.
Jessica Sandidge wowed with both her country solos and opera performances. Whether she was singing a “Carmen” inspired spin-off of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, enchanting the audience with “I Fall to Pieces” or making jaws drop with the high notes she hit in “Sempre Libera”, Sandidge was a force of nature.
And on top of individual standout pieces, the Opera Cowgirls were truly at home with wonderful group numbers including “Hell on Heels”, and “I Feel A Sin Coming On”. There were moments the eclectic blending made me forget that I was listening to opera. And at the same time I still couldn’t believe when McKechney said these ladies normally play in bars – I’d love to be at a bar where they were playing.
Their final numbers of the night included a harmonious and stirring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” into a powerhouse accapella rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”. I couldn’t believe how rich and full the ladies sounded and I was so impressed by how the audience got into the triumphant finale.
My mother and I left the performance elated, and musing about how powerful classical music can be and how cool it was to see it combined with a more popular genre like country. And, as at each of the DVO’s concerts this summer, my mind wandered to my wonderful high school choir teacher Kim Eschenberg, and I wish she could have been at the concert Saturday night.
The night made me think of how she pushed her students to expand their performance range through classical and popular songs, and the Opera Cowgirls were proof of how right she was.
In this reviewer’s opinion the Opera Cowgirls were inspirational, powerful and a true joy to experience and I hope that they can make a return to the DVO soon.
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