Click here for the archive of profiles that takes you behind the scenes with some of the featured performers who bring their special talents to Emmanuel Music.
Soprano Margot Rood is one of the young, up-and-coming members of Emmanuel Music’s “chorus of soloists.” After first appearing with the ensemble in December 2012 in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Rood has become a core member of the ensemble and, in this 2015-16 season, has been honored as one of two Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellows. This award recognizes young musicians of exceptional promise and offers them opportunities to perform in solo or prominent roles.
As a Fellow, Rood will be featured in this season’s opening concert, BACH REARRANGED, in a vocal octet singing Bach pieces rearranged by Ward Swingle for a capella voices. The Swingle Singers popularized these arrangements in the 1960s, and Rood enjoyed the energy and sparkle of one of their concerts when she was a student at the Interlochen Music Academy. “It was a flashy, good time,” Rood recalls, “and yet these arrangements help the audience hear the intricacy of Bach’s compositions. The intricacy is all there, but distilled to one voice to a part.” Rood believes the Swingle arrangements are a new way for audiences to appreciate the mastery of Bach.
Some people evolve into musical careers, but Rood is one of those who never could imagine another life. She saw her first stage performance when she was only five, and was mesmerized by The Phantom of the Opera. Her parents bought the CD recording, which she played over and over and over again. As Rood’s parents realized the intensity of their young daughter’s engagement with music, they enriched the recordings they played for her, adding much classical music. Opera highlights sung by Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti were particular favorites.
Rood grew up in St. Clair, Michigan, a small town near Lake Huron. Classical music was not a big part of the community there, but Rood was able to take private lessons in both piano and voice. After one of these lessons her mother suggested that Rood might want to attend Interlochen Center for the Arts, a summer camp and music academy which has been a rich source of classical music training in Michigan for many years. Rood studied at Interlochen Arts Camp for two summers and then completed her last two years of high school at Interlochen Arts Academy.
“Interlochen changed my life,” Rood says. “For the first time I wasn’t strange for loving classical music. I met the three best friends in my life there. It was such an accepting and loving environment.” Interlochen also set Rood firmly on the classical path she has been following since. After auditioning for both classical voice and musical theater she was accepted for classical voice. In these studies Rood discovered early music, Bach, and new music. She learned to be an ensemble singer. Interlochen put Rood on the serious career path where she wanted to be.
Rood continued her education at the University of Michigan, where new music was “huge” because of composition faculty members William Bolcom, Bright Sheng and Michael Daugherty. “I discovered that I loved being part of the creation of new classical music,” Rood says. Her love of the creative process has made Rood an advocate of new music. She has continued to develop that aspect of her career in Boston, for example by becoming a member of the Lorelei Ensemble, a Boston-based, all female vocal ensemble that has commissioned over 30 new works to date. Her Carnegie Hall debut in 2011 was a world premiere of a song cycle by fellow Michigan alumnus Shawn Jaeger, Letters Made with Gold. Rood was also granted a 2015 St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award for her work in new music, specifically to record a full-length album of vocal works by composer Heather Gilligan.
Like many musicians, Rood has been most engaged at two ends of the repertoire spectrum – new music and early music. And so, after completing her undergraduate degree, she went to McGill University to study early music voice under Sanford Sylvan. Sylvan was an important Emmanuel Music singer for many years under founder Craig Smith, and he had simple and direct advice when Rood asked him what she should do after earning her degree. “Move to Boston, and find your way to Emmanuel Music,” Sylvan advised.
Rood arrived in Boston in 2010 with some additional advice from Sylvan about contacts to make and auditions to seek. Her musical career took shape quite quickly. She became a regular at Marsh Chapel at Boston University, and soon appeared with Handel and Haydn. By the end of her first season with Handel and Haydn she had performed a solo in Handel’s Israel in Egypt – “Thou did’st blow with the wind.”
Singing with Handel and Haydn opened more doors for Rood. “Ryan Turner reached out and asked me to sing in the Christmas Oratorio,” Rood says. “It was so exciting to find myself on stage with people like Frank Kelley, Kendra Colton, and Paul Guttry – names I knew from my time studying with Sanford Sylvan.” Even in her first Emmanuel Music appearance, Rood had a solo, the “Echo” aria, which is one of her favorite Bach arias.
Rood was soon performing Bach cantatas regularly on Sundays. She was prepared, having studied Bach at Interlochen and sung Bach at McGill. And once inside Emmanuel Music she was welcome. “I immediately felt part of the Emmanuel Music family. It’s a very warm environment, and no one treats you like the new girl,” she says.
Rood also loves the way the ensemble prepares the cantatas. With the weekly schedule, the ensemble rehearses on Saturday and performs the next day. “Music-making is delightfully fast and furious,” Rood says. “Everyone is so professional that it all comes together very quickly. Being new in this environment is like being caught up in an amazing current.”
Starting her sixth season in Boston, Rood has much to anticipate. Highlights – in addition to her Swingle performance – include Bach cantatas in Montreal with Handel and Haydn and Handel Messiah with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and the Bach Collegium in San Diego. “I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else with my life at this point,” Rood says. “Every week brings something different and exciting and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My colleagues continue to inspire me and repertoire continues to challenge me. Who could ask for anything more?”