Ashley Wade Returns To Chatham For Two Concerts

By: Debra Lawless

Lyricora. COURTESY PHOTO

About 25 years after she first debuted as a singer in Chatham’s churches, mezzo-soprano Ashley Wade will return to perform in Chatham as a part of the choral ensemble Lyricora and then in a second, solo concert this spring.

“I really was raised in music on Cape Cod, and that’s rare and special,” Wade, 35, said during a telephone interview from her home in Dover, N.H. last week. “I’ve been studying voice and singing for a very long time, and still learn so much from it. It’s something that feeds my soul.”

Since 2012 Wade, who grew up in Harwich, has served as director of Children’s Music and Ministries at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, N.H. There, she leads various programs for young musicians. She also teaches private voice lessons. Her parents are Tim Wade of Chatham and Joni Tuttle of Brewster.

The Boston-based Lyricora will perform a 90-minute concert on Saturday, May 5 at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. The concert is called “Let My Love Be Heard,” and it includes original compositions and arrangements by the American choral composers Morten Lauridsen, Stephen Paulus, Jake Runestad and Connor Koppin.

“It’s leaning into the idea that through the ages, from the Renaissance on, people have used music in different ways of expressing love,” Wade says. “Old madrigals are really quite sexy, which I didn’t know until recently. The older music has a fiery passion.” The types of love that are depicted are many—the love of a significant other, children, God, the community. One piece was written in response to the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. The song expresses a universal love of humanity and mourning after a tragedy.

Lyricora members come from all over the Northeast. The conductor and artistic director, C. Thomas Brooks, lives in Pennsylvania. The group was founded in 2006, and Wade joined the following year. Members have taken breaks to get married, to have babies—Wade’s sons Easa and Amos are now 2 and 4 — and to deal with other life-changing events. In the 12 years since its founding, members have come to “mean so much to each other,” Wade says. The group socializes, and their children are friends. “Bonds have extended to a much greater place in our lives. This extends to the music.”

Many in the group met at Gordon College in Wenham, which Wade attended for a year before transferring to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to major in music performance. “We’re in that great place because we want to sing for [conductor] Tom,” she says. “He draws something out of us that is unique. Audiences really appreciate that.”

This will be the group’s second Cape Cod appearance.

And then on Sunday, June 17, Father’s Day, Wade will give a solo performance accompanied by pianist Elizabeth Blood, whom Wade calls “a rare gem,” and percussionist Olin Johannessen, who is Wade’s husband. Johannessen is the choral director at the middle and high schools in Portsmouth.

The program will celebrate children “and our experience of them.” The songs Wade will perform were written for or about children. The American composer John Duke set five Lewis Carroll poems to music. “Those are really fun, playful, whimsical songs,” she says. “Very accessible to anybody.” The music itself bridges the gap between classical and later music.

And the composer Jake Heggie’s songs are classical but transcend genre as they have been influenced by Spanish flamenco, burlesque theater and more, Wade says. “There’s all kinds of crossover in these songs. I’m very excited.”

The program will also include selections of Leonard Bernstein’s theater music. “That’s a program that will be really easy for any listener,” she says. Wade hopes young people—including children – will attend the hour-long program. “I’m obviously very used to young people being around,” she adds.

Wade has recently returned to taking singing lessons in Boston with Dana Lynne Varga. “She’s been amazing for me,” Wade says. “It has really changed everything, my approach to everything.

“Voice is an interesting instrument,” she adds. “It’s inside the body, you can’t just press buttons and go.”

Because she is returning to her home, Wade speaks with some nostalgia as she describes her upcoming concerts. She says she is grateful to her late grandmother Jane Wade, “a force of nature,” who drove her to music lessons and forced her to practice. She also credits the Chatham Music Club which gave her scholarships that enabled her musical studies. In the past Wade has performed at St. Christopher’s during First Night Chatham and also during weddings. These will be her first concerts in the church.

Lyricora will perform “Let My Love Be Heard” on Saturday, May 5 at 4 p.m. at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. Tickets are $10 for students or $18 general admission and are available at the door or through www.lyricora.org.

And Wade will perform “Music About and For Children” on Sunday, June 17 at 4 p.m. at St. Christopher’s. The concert is co-hosted by the Chatham Music Club. A donation is suggested at the door. For more information on the concerts visit www.stchristopherschatham.org.