Soprano Elissa Edwards is establishing herself as a leading performer of 17th and 18th century repertoire. As a sacred music specialist, she is on staff at Washington National Cathedral and has been the featured soloist in many oratorio and cantata performances in the US and UK. Ms. Edwards directs the Élan Ensemble, ensemble–in–residence at the Hammond–Harwood House Museum. She received the Maryland State Individual Artist's Award in 2017 and is currently a research fellow at Winterthur Library & Museum. Her debut solo album, Jane Austen’s Songbook, is pending release, followed by an album of Barbara Strozzi’s Op. 8 songs and arias.
Ms. Edwards has a passion to expose modern audiences to classical music in a new light. Her greatest pleasure is presenting themed concerts, often in historic locations, in which she brings the audience into the spirit of the musical and social world of past eras through programs which form a harmonious whole. Her programs highlight underperformed, yet stunning works from the 17th & 18th centuries. Through her expressive vocal interpretations, spontaneous ornamentation and intelligent regard for communicating poetic text, she captures the hearts and sparks curiosity with her audiences.
Ms. Edwards obtained her performance degrees at the University of York, England (MA) and at Boston University (BA), where she studied under Peter Seymour of Yorkshire Baroque Soloists and Martin Pearlman of Boston Baroque . She currently furthers her studies with Dr. Julianne Baird in Philadelphia.
Jane Austen’s Songbook
Miss Austen’s favorite songs and arias from her personal music collection.
An English Christmas
Traditional carols and Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, sung with harp.
Music by Barbara Strozzi and Francesca Caccini - 17th century Italy's most darling female composers.
Ethereal & Earthly Airs
Charming selections of sacred and secular works by Purcell, Handel, Haydn and Mozart, sung with harp.
French baroque cantatas retelling myths from classical antiquity.
The Pleasure Gardens
Songs of J.C. Bach performed at London’s Vauxhaul Gardens.
Diporti di Dolore
The Pleasures of Sorrow: Italian laments of the 17th century.
'I specialize in using baroque gesture, an intricate system of hand gestures and body poses which was commonly understood in the 18th century but is now little known. This allows me to dramatize the music that I sing, bringing out the emotions of the characters and bringing the meaning of the text more directly to modern audiences.
I use the most historically accurate scores available – facsimile or urtext – in rehearsal and performance. This is essential, as it allows me to tap into the intentions of the composer and more freely interpret the music. Singers of the 17th and 18th centuries were expected to ‘tastefully’ ornament whatever they sang. Each country had its own style and I enjoy reading treatises written by musicians of the baroque era in order to learn these styles. I use these rules as a framework to highly stylize and decorate my musical interpretations.'
'My goal as a performer is to unleash classical music from the museum-like atmosphere that it sometimes inhabits. Instead, I channel the spirit of singers from past eras and try to let the music live again. When planning and preparing a new program, I immerse myself in the era and setting of the music by reading literature, and immersing myself in the artistic, fashionable, and social culture of the times. I am fascinated with weaving a tapestry of time, place and ideals, and incorporate those creative visions into my performances. This historically spirited, yet unbridled, emotional style of performing is my calling as an artist and I am honored to share it with you.'
You are the reason I share my creativity with the world - thank you. Let's stay in touch by becoming a part of my community to hear about exciting, future projects. —Elissa Edwards