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Young Soprano Reaches Others with Song

ckjpg.jpg~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on October 23, 2008 and online HERE.

The name “Carolyn” came like a premonition to Carolyn Kirby’s mother long before she had children. “It means “great singer,”’ sixteen-year-old Caroline Kirby said. She was sitting with her mother, Leslie Romano, on an outdoor bench, overlooking the family farm where several goats were grazing in an open pasture.

The oldest of six children, Kirby has lived with her family all over the country – Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Virginia – landing in Floyd from Louisa County in the spring of 2007. Setting down roots in the Coles Knob part of the county, the family strives to live a wholesome and simple lifestyle, which includes homesteading, homeschooling, and book publishing. Kirby’s step-father, Paul Romano has recently written, illustrated, and published a book titled “My Friend Within.” Leslie Romano chronicles the family’s farm life on her blog “Pockets of the Future”. In one entry she describes her eldest daughter as having a “focus on reading classics, writing poetry and singing opera.”

As a Floyd County High School junior and honor student who will be graduating this coming year, the range of Kirby’s voice and her musical accomplishments belie her age. She regularly performs with Opera Unlimited, a summer youth program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and recently won a Bland Music Competition in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Most recently, Kirby auditioned, along with 800 seniors from all over the state, and was one of 18 second sopranos chosen for Honors Choir. The Choir will be performing at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, this November. ck2.jpg

Kirby, who will be performing seven songs at a benefit for the Jacksonville Center on Saturday, says that music is universal, and so “it can touch people universally.” She believes that one of the main purposes of music is for making human connections. “Connecting with people’s hearts and souls is more important than winning awards or being famous,” she said. “I’d rather touch someone’s heart than be technically perfect, but technique is important because it allows you to do that,” she added.

Kirby is already touching others through song. Jaws have been known to drop and tears have come to people’s eyes while listening to Kirby sing, her mother explained. Even the family’s first milking cow was smitten by her singing. When Romano was healing from an injury, her daughter took over her milking chores. Singing as she milked, Kirby soon discovered that their red and white cow named Pezra loved classical music, especially Mozart.

From the time that she was a baby, Kirby’s love of music was evident. Sharing a story she learned from her mother, she said, “When I was really little and nothing could stop me from crying, my father sang an African Spiritual and I instantly stopped. My eyes opened wide and I listened.” She remembers singing rounds with her mother and dancing to Enya as a young girl. When she was eight years old and living in Green County, Virginia, Romano enrolled Kirby in her first Community Choir, hoping that her daughter would discover a purpose to focus on.

Although she loved singing in the choir, it wasn’t until Kirby was in 7th grade in Louisa County that she began to feel very strongly about singing. “That was when I knew music was my thing,” she said.

“I had a fabulous teacher. She chose the most beautiful music and made everything fun and exiting,” Kirby continued. At that time, she realized she wanted voice lessons and began working with Frank Johnson, a teacher and choral conductor in Albuquerque. Kirby noted that the Santa Fe Opera, based just north of Albuquerque, is world renowned and that being in an area where so many people knew so much about opera increased her enthusiasm for it.

More recently, Floyd high school Choir teacher Sandra Smith has helped Kirby improve some of the technical aspects of her talent. Under Smith’s guidance Kirby improved her ability to sight sing, a skill she needed for her Honors Choir audition. “She’s very dedicated to her students and is a great pianist,” Kirby said about Smith. Ed Cohn is Kirby’s local voice teacher. Cohn sang with the San Francisco Opera and is currently a co-host of Miracle Farm Bed & Breakfast Spa and Resort in Floyd, which is also a non-profit Sustainable Living Center and Animal Sanctuary.

Kirby sings in five languages (Latin, Italian, English, German, and French). She loves singing opera and is open to wherever that love will take her, but her interests aren’t limited to one style of singing, she said. Her musical influences are as varied as the places she has lived and include Nora Jones; Ella Fitzgerald; Amos Lee; Angela Gheorghiu, a contemporary prominent Romanian operatic soprano; and Hildegard of Bingen the 10th century German abbess, physician, and visionary who composed and staged liturgical dramas, which could be described as distant precursors to opera.

Since she was a young girl, Kirby has written poetry. “Her writing developed before her singing,” Romano said. Kirby’s love of writing and her love of music recently converged when she wrote her first libretto, the script of an operetta (an opera with spoken words). The operetta, called “When Marriage Becomes Necessary,” is designed for children to perform and has a fairytale theme. Kirby is working to improve her piano skills in order to complete the music for it. She’s also interested in learning to play guitar and has been writing folk songs that she hopes will allow her to share her voice even more widely.

With open field acoustics and to the chirping of a grasshopper, Kirby broke out in song. Her resounding voice, which could be described as transcendent, would convince any listener of her talent. It’s a talent that will likely take her far, in whatever musical direction she chooses to pursue.

Post Notes: Carolyn will be singing a selection of baroque opera and country folk songs at Music for An Autumn Evening, a benefit for the Jacksonville Center for the Arts tonight at 7:30 p.m. Judy Bevans on harpsichord and violinist Linda Plaut, both with impressive backgrounds in music, will also be featured. The trio will be performing 17th and 18th century European chamber and dance music. A Champagne and Wine Reception will follow the performance. To hear a video clip of Kirby singing, go HERE.

Comments

So is her name Carolyn or Caroline? There is a difference, though many people in Southwestern VA pronounce both names as "Carolyn" (I should know, because my name is Caroline).

As far as I know it's pronounced with a short I sound and not a long one. It's like Carolin and not Caroline, as in Caroline Kennedy.

How amazing! I hope she is able to get good training down the road.

Dear Colleen,

Thank you so much for the wonderful wide-ranging article about Carolyn. It will be something for her to keep always. I read it aloud to the entire family around the dinner table Thursday night and she received many fine comments at school about it as well on Friday. She is really looking forward to the performance tonight and we both look forward to seeing you and Joe there.

With warm regards,
Leslie

PS I have long been baffled how someone could hear "Carolyn" and still spell it "Caroline." Interesting that this is common in SW VA although people have done this all over the US in our experience. Must be the generations who weren't taught phonics in public school? I am nevertheless fascinated by the linguistics nuances here in VA. There is a pocket of folks around Richmond who have accents that are dead ringers for Canadian, for instance.

Alas, the link to the video of Kirby singing doesn't work. I'm glad to see that you've mastered the blocking abilities of Moveable Type!!

Thank you, Leslie. I am always hugely relieved when someone I've written about actually likes the piece. Putting things down in writing can be a senistive thing. See you tonight!

OH No, on the link, Jeff, but I fixed it. Give it a listen. It's so well worth it.

I am not actually blocking the spam assault, just moderating it. I still am getting tons (100's a day) and have to delete them at Moveable Type. They also come in my email and clutter that up. I hope the invasion dies down soon.

Wow!! Kirby sends chills down my spine with her beautiful voice!! Thanks for fixing the link ... sorry about the spam problem. Surely someone can help with installing a widget for MT to block the spam? Akismet works very well for me ....

A lovely Article and a Beautiful Voice! It will be interesting to follow her progress, especially when she decides which avenue of music to persue....And I would be THRILLED to have an article like that written about me, Colleen, so it is lovely that they all loved it! Sweet that her Momma read it to the whole family at the Dinner Table!

Such a beautiful voice.. a gift to be sure.

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