Hailed by the New York Times as “An interesting composer” and “attractive and tonal” with music described as “a passionate duet “ and “a sprightly songfest,” prolific contemporary composer Mira J. Spektor’s career spans decades, languages, and disciplines. With a compositional repertoire including chamber operas, musicals, film scores, art songs, and cabaret, Mira has written English, French, and German songs and performed and recorded in the United States, Europe, and Israel. She is also a published poet and brings her wealth of knowledge, experience, and musical passion to her Navona Records debut SUMMER & WINTER SONGS.
Today, Mira is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to learn what Mira hopes to say about time and change in this album…
Who were your first favorite artists growing up?
Born in Berlin in 1928, of Russian Jewish parents, we traveled without passports for a few years. This was one of my first memories: I’m 5 years old in a strange Italian hotel bedroom I shared with my Mother. Besides a few suitcases she traveled with a small hand-cranked Victrola. She tells me to go to sleep while listening to her favorite Italian Tenor, Beniamino Gigli, singing Ave Maria. Later, when I was 7, we moved to France and spent a few summers in Deauville where the famous Casino had Sunday afternoon Cabaret Concerts. With my Mother, and ice-cream, I first heard the great Chansons of Édith Piaf, Jacqueline François, Jean Sablon, Charles Trenet, Maurice Chevalier, and other similar artists.
We came to the United States in 1941 and by 1950 my favorite vocal composers were Bernstein, Menotti, and Poulenc. Later, in 1975, I founded The Aviva Players, and we still perform and present songs and chamber music by women composers of the 12th thru 21st Centuries. My first favorites were Amy Beach, Cécile Chaminade, and Clara Schumann!
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t think that one has to “realize” or choose to be an “artist.” I was a singer from the age of 5 to 70 and a composer/lyricist from age 15 to ?? with music on LPs and CDs recorded in the United States and Europe. When I was a Junior in high school I wrote “Music to move furniture by” when the curtain of our School Auditorium broke. In my Senior high school year I wrote my first musical, High & Wide, which I also sang in on the radio for $95! While my kids were in Junior and High School I sang with and produced The Atlantic Opera Singers. We brought one-hour classic opera programs to schools, colleges, and libraries throughout NY State to kids who had never heard opera!
What was your most unusual performance?
I had the honor of being invited to sing the only recital ever held in the Residence of Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Jerusalem! I included Ravel’s Chansons madécasses for voice, flute, cello, and piano—and our Israeli flutist was 9 months pregnant…
What is your guilty pleasure?
At my age my pleasures are NOT guilty!! I love being with my 2 great-grandsons, 1 and 5 years old, who both sing on pitch!
What does this album mean to you personally?
I am delighted that two wonderful artists, soprano Maeve Höglund and pianist Jean-Paul Björlin, made this album! Also, (as I’m at 90, ha-ha!), I hope these songs will reach other recital and cabaret singers, accompanists, voice teachers, students, and coaches!
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
With “Amour, amor, Liebe, lubov / All my songs sings about love” …(from Have Songs will Travel), I hoped to say that songs can travel with you and help you through life, and through Time and its seasons. Please note that the lovely poems, Quiet and Paracheech Tea, by the lyricist Lily Nussbaum, were written when she was 11 yeas old. And the wondrous lyrics about aging, in the duet Give Me Time, were written by the irreplaceable June Siegel (1930-2014).
SUMMER & WINTER SONGS is now available for streaming or purchase through Navona Records. Click here to explore this new album.