We were sitting in an empty airport restaurant…waiting… It had been eight months since we’d shared music in front of a live audience. Up until that point we made music for ourselves, or recorded virtual offerings from our apartment living room on our upright piano. So it was special for Christian, my partner, and I to collaborate on this first concert experience with a large symphonic work like Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.” But I was tense traveling. This was before the COVID-19 vaccinations… In order to get my mind off of it, I decided to look over album ideas once again –– I’d been through seven drafts already and was frustrated. Christian said, “Julia, what if you anchored the album with longer orchestral pieces?” I hadn’t even considered the idea, because during the pandemic, I was looking for ways to economize forces needed. But all of the words and themes resonating through “Knoxville” were immediately on my mind: dreaming –– distance –– history –– home –– searching –– loss –– memory… within fifteen minutes, I had selected the seven tracks for this album.
“An album is a work of art in itself,” Bob Hurwitz, music producer and previous president of Nonesuch Records, said to me in the spring of 2020. “It is not a commodity intended to sell you, or for you to sell it. It’s a chance to capture where you are at one time in your life, while considering material that is timeless.”
Despite the unending challenges and knowing there might be unforeseen delays before release, we still decided to record my first album during the heights of the coronavirus pandemic. Human crises have a direct impact on various forms of human expression. And although it’s near impossible to determine the full depth of influence extreme experiences have on us while we try to live through them, I know the collection of these particular selections would not have been gathered together under any other circumstances, or with any other individuals –– which makes this album undeniably a reflection of its time.
While I can’t speak to the timelessness of these performances, I can share that I either grew up with this music and poetry, or it has contributed to my development as a classical singer. Over the years, I’ve returned to this material with reconsideration, revision, and review, and that makes me undoubtedly call these songs “classics” — classics, which are inclusive of traditions across cultures, and celebrate a diversity of thought, expression and experience. All of this material has been interpreted by a variety of artists time and time again, save the second track, “One By One” composed by Connie Converse, which was inspiration for the title of this album, Walking in the Dark.
The word dark, for me, doesn’t possess a positive or negative connotation, and it certainly doesn’t assert anything absolute. Darkness is a place where we may find protection and safety –– it’s a place we may hold intimate secrets and desires –– or it’s somewhere we hide and shield wounds or violent acts. So the act of “walking in the dark” just represents a space we explore as we investigate our individual and collective limitations.
There are times when we find ourselves isolated and alone, or in reflection and solitude. There are other times when we choose to connect to further understand each other, which provides us with an opportunity to share our evolving identities –– maybe even better discern how to communicate. And who knows… if our intentions are translated well enough and are clearly in focus, it may lead to some moments of illumination.
With warmth and respect,