Last Saturday, Nov. 19, soprano Marilyn Oliver gave a Thanksgiving Celebration concert at the South Oxford Space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Thomas Siklos accompanied her on the piano and steel panist Sheldon Rathan was a guest artist.
This concert, which consisted of classical, sacred and other works, marked the launch of Ms. Oliver’s first CD, “Classics and Spirituals.” The CD also features Thomas Siklos, a seasoned pianist and accompanist who is the musical director of Brooklyn’s Italian Opera Company.
The program began with Oliver’s beautiful rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer,” followed by Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim.” Other sacred pieces were “All Good Things Will Be Added unto You” by Shelton Becton, and the spiritual “Great Day” arranged by Hall Johnson.
Among the classical pieces Oliver sang were Bizet’s “Agnus Dei” and Handel’s “Ombra mai fu” as well as the poignant “Un bel di Vedremo” from Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly.
This being a Thanksgiving celebration, Ms. Oliver said that she wished to honor the United States, a nation made beautiful not only by its indigenous peoples but by the diverse immigrants that now inhabit it. She also wanted to pay tribute to the country of her origin, Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of steel pan. She invited panist Sheldon Rathan, a Grenadian who has been playing pan since he was seven, to accompany Thomas Siklos (originally from Hungary) and her in a rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
The sweet, sweet sound of pan was heard again as Rathan accompanied Oliver in her inspiring performance of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which left not a dry eye in the house. Oliver asked audience members to join in on the final chorus, which they did with great enthusiasm.
During the evening, Rathan also played Paul Desmond’s “Take Five,” made famous by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and Siklos performed Chopin’s “Nocturne in D Flat Major” and Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise.”
Oliver has given recitals and performed as a soloist and choirist with notable choirs in Trinidad and Tobago and New York City. These include her Christmas and Classics concert and performances with the New York Grand Opera and New York Oratory Society.
Oliver said that her love of classical music began early. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, the schools participated in music festivals where the students were encouraged to sing a variety of music, including indigenous folk songs, calypso and classical music. “So I grew up singing all different types of music, but I always leaned more toward the classical,” she explained. “I just loved how it sounded. Classical music helps move me away from reality around me and takes me to another realm,” she continued. “And, too, I always really enjoyed singing the spirituals, which I also connect with on a very deep level.”
Following the performance there was a reception with refreshments provided by Golden Krust Bakery. Marilyn Oliver’s CD, which would make an excellent holiday gift, were also available.