Christine Steyer ’92 is based out of Galesburg, but she returned to central Illinois on Friday, Feb. 10 to share her love of American music.
Steyer, an award winning, nationally acclaimed lyric soprano, is a classical opera singer who has performed everything from Beethoven’s 9th to the titular role in “Madama Butterfly.”
In this show, Steyer showcased a variety of styles to show what a wide range of things American music can be. She was accompanied by Monmouth College’s Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral and Vocal Activities Tim Pahel on the piano. She sang folk songs, sacred songs and songs from movies, musicals and operas.
Her selections were partially inspired by Music Professor and Director of Choral Activities Laura Lane.
“Laura Lane encouraged me to always have one set of songs in the performance that’s contemporary,” Steyer said.
Steyer devoted part of her show to American lyricist Johnny Mercer. She sang songs Mercer wrote for “St. Louis Woman” and Barry Manilow. A highlight of this set was her rendition of “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Her performance of this song won her the Johnny Mercer award.
Steyer worked to make the performance fascinating for all audiences. As the audiences for opera dwindle, she said it is important for its performers to become entertainers as well as artists.
“I’m trying to figure out ways to keep recitals interesting,” she said.
When Steyer got to the music from the 1953 opera “The Mighty Casey,” the show became interactive as she asked the audience to boo and cheer at all the right parts.
“The audience really got into it,” she said.
Although Steyer loves singing for large audiences, she is also passionate about sharing her love of the natural human voice in smaller settings, like classrooms.
In 2009, Steyer founded Bellissima Opera Outreach. Through the program, she has performed for over 15,000 schoolchildren. She sings in the classrooms, because she feels it is easier for her to connect with students in a smaller setting.
In a time when most students hear music on the radio, Steyer said she wanted to show them that not all music is “manufactured, artificial and sometimes vulgar,” by demonstrating the power and subtlety of a naturally trained voice.
“The human voice can be very, very powerful when it has been trained,” Steyer said.
She realizes that the students might not always be interested in older operas, so she said she works to bridge the gap between the classical vocal world and contemporary youths.