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Vocal virtuoso: Music prof out with debut CD

By Jeff Green | Dec. 4, 2005

A Memorial University professor has released a stunning new CD which featuring a formidable collection of work ranging from legendary composers such as Francis Poulenc and Oskar Morawetz to local musicians like Clifford Crawley.

Dr. Jane Leibel, assistant professor in the School of Music, is a well-known Canadian soprano who has been teaching at Memorial since 1999. After years of “waiting and waiting some more,” Dr. Leibel is thrilled about her debut CD Songs and Sonnets, which will be officially launched Monday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Petro-Canada Hall.

The album was recorded at the D. F. Cook Recital Hall in June of 2003 and 2004 and was produced by Francesca Swan, host of CBC Radio's Musicraft. The recording engineer was Terry Winsor.

Although it has been years in the making, Dr. Leibel insists her CD was definitely a labour of love. “Absolutely, completely,” she said with a beaming smile. “It didn't take me long to choose the music. I always knew what I wanted to record. However the tricky part was trying to assemble things including the venue and musicians' availability. Everyone has a very busy life but we eventually got together.”

Dr. Leibel's “chief collaborative pianist” for all the tracks on the album is Dr. Kristina Szutor, associate professor at the School of Music. Dr. Leibel described the recording process an “enormous, exciting challenge,” which was “overwhelming at times but rewarding.

“One aims and strives for perfection and faithfulness to what the composer transcribed on the page and in a recording studio you have the opportunity to deliver the goods exactly as the composer envisioned.”

Although it's her CD, Dr. Leibel is quick to point out that the album was really a “School of Music family affair.” Aside from Dr. Szutor, flutist Dr. Michelle Cheramy, who is also the associate director of Graduate Programs and Research; percussionist Rob Power; trumpeter Katie Sullivan, and Paul Bendzsa, a woodwind professor, all perform on the album.

Dr. Leibel said releasing her own CD has always been a professional and personal goal. “I wanted to record a CD as I felt it could serve as a calling card or a way to express myself with some of the music that holds great meaning for me and I felt I had something of value to express with this repertoire,” she said.

Of all the songs on the album, Dr. Leibel admitted she's particularly proud of the Arnold Schoenberg cabaret songs where she attempted to infuse much of her own personality into the selections. “I've lived with these songs for many years so I felt very comfortable expressing myself in those songs.”

She also pleased of the series of songs she commissioned St. John's composer Clifford Crawley to write for herself, Dr. Tom Gordon, the director of the School of Music who is currently on leave, and Mr. Bendzsa. They're based on the poem “Grey Island,” written by John Steffler, an English professor at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

“They are pure, director, sweet music which are not overly dense or complicated and they perfectly capture John's poetry in Grey Island.”

Song and Sonnets is available at Bennington Gate and Fred's Record, as well as from Dr. Leibel. Contact