Soprano Carrie Hennessey has been based in Sacramento since 2008, but her career spans the globe.
Her many performances in the capital region and Northern California include Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” in Davis’ Mondavi Center; the “Mozart Requiem” with the Camellia Symphony at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament; a benefit recital of works by Puccini, Strauss, Barber and Previn for the Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra; and Larsen’s “Songs from Letters” (Calamity Jane) at the Crocker Art Museum, to name a few. She is the capital city’s most sought-after soprano since Janis Martin distinguished herself as an exponent of Wagner and Strauss.
In addition, Hennessey has also performed or is scheduled to perform in Bruges (Belgium), Ypres (Belgium), Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, and Munich.
The youngest of eight children, Hennessey grew up in a musical household in her native Minnesota. Her mother was a piano teacher whose keyboard skills were always in demand. “She accompanied the church choir and everybody,” said Hennessey. “I am quite sure I came out of the womb singing and able to harmonize about anything.”
At first, Hennessey didn’t find her singing ability to be remarkable: “No one told me it was supposed to be difficult!” When people eventually persuaded her that she had a genuine gift, she finally realized there were career possibilities and placed in regional Metropolitan Opera auditions. A mentor who loved both Bach and gospel music was instrumental in demonstrating to Hennessey that music didn’t need to exist in stifling little genre boxes.
“Everything is connected,” said Hennessey, “but not everyone recognizes those connections! I wanted to sing everything. Good music is everywhere.”
Hennessey is a guest artist this weekend in two performances with the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento in a program devoted to works by Italian composers. She is performing Respighi’s “Il Tramonto,” a lyric poem for soprano and strings. Saturday’s event will be in Davis at Congregation Beth Haverim and Sunday’s performance will be in Capistrano Hall at California State University, Sacramento. The Respighi composition is a setting of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sunset,” a meditation on love and death.
Later in the month (March 23 through March 25) she is singing in four performances of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Sacramento Ballet, an event that melds song and dance. “Collaborations like these, that are outside the box, are right up my alley, artistically,” said Hennessey. “We can bring life-changing musical experiences to those around us.”
The soprano is not content to limit her activities to promoting her own career. Hennessey has been a dedicated supporter and sponsor of a broad range of cultural projects, including fundraising benefit concerts on their behalf. The Sacramento Children’s Chorus is dear to her heart and Hennessey stresses the importance of providing the region’s young people with opportunities to grow in the arts and enrich their cultural lives. She is also a voice teacher, who provides lectures and master classes in which young singers can develop their talents.
Hennessey is one of the founders of a venture that is giving her a new outlet to indulge her eclectic passion for genre-spanning performance. “The Rogue Music Project is getting off the ground,” said Hennessey, “and we are planning a few big surprises this spring and beyond.” Her colleagues in RMP – is it a coincidence that the Rogue Music Project’s initials make one think of “romp”? – are professional musicians who share both her expertise and devotion to looking at things a bit askew.
She and her mash-up band, the Reassemblers of Whimsy, have performed across Northern California, cheerfully ignoring arbitrary boundaries, including those that segment the repertory according to voice type. “My mash-up band and I are continuing to delight audiences with clever mixes of music one would never expect! I sing opera arias that are in my repertory, in the tenor and baritone repertory, jazz, blues, pop and musical theater. We’re all playing with the idea that good music is good music.”
Carrie Hennessey’s performance schedule will give Sacramento-area residents many opportunities to hear her in the coming weeks. Wherever she goes, she has a message for her audience: “My goal is generosity of performance, always, in whatever I sing. I want to be present and thoughtful and vulnerable, no matter how many times I’ve sung a piece.”
March 10 and 11: Respighi’s Il Tramonto with The Chamber Music Society of Sacramento (http://cmssacto.org/)
March 23-25: Orff’s Carmina Burana with Sacramento Ballet (www.sacballet.org)
Carrie Hennessey: www.carriehennessey.com/