GC VILLAGE — The multi-talented crossover musician Jubilant Sykes, a young African-American baritone, will bring his personal performances to the 18th annual Grand Canyon Music Festival next week.
Artist Ed Mell’s Grand Canyon Music Festival poster, entitled ‘Receding Light,’ shows the Grand Canyon at dusk. The posters have become collectors’ items by many locals over the years.
Sykes, hailed by the media as one of the next major stars, has performed everything from spirituals and jazz to mainstream pop music. He’ll perform at Grand Canyon on Sept. 12, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 at the Shrine of the Ages.
The festival actually kicks off its impressive series of performances Friday with opening-night music by Debussy, Bolcom, Gershwin and Franck.
The following night, Saturday, will feature Spanish and South American music, including a world premiere of Rodrigo’s Aldeas de Espana along with Rhapsody for Harmonica performed by Robert Bonfiglio. Both performances on Friday and Saturday begin at 7:30 p.m.
Sykes brings a diverse and personal approach to singing. Accompanied by pianist Alan Chow, he will perform classical compositions by Haydn, Schubert and Litszt, in addition to songs by Copland and Sondheim, and American spirituals.
Just recently, Sykes released "Wait For Me," a folksy pop medley on the Sony label. It’s his second album, the first one, "Jubilant," drawing much praise with his innovative reading of spirituals in duets with noted jazz trumpeter and composer Tereance Blanchard.
Sykes burst onto the music scene after winning first place in the prestigious Metropolitan Opera auditions. He went on to make his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Jake in Gershwin’s "Porgy and Bess" during the company’s 1990-91 season. Sykes has also performed in places like the Deutsche Opera Berlin and the Houston Grand Opera.
Last month, Sykes performed in a televised tribute to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, proving his ability to crossover into pop music. Sykes appeared on stage with pop stars such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Paul Simon and Nancy Wilson.
"The preparation ... [is] pretty much the same," Sykes told the Christian Science Monitor about his crossover music talent. "Sitting down at the piano and really knowing the score is my first goal. The ultimate goal for me is to honor the composer and allow the music to move me to communicate his thought.
"As for spirituals and jazz settings, knowing the score is again my first task," Sykes continued. "Yet the challenge of communication for spirituals and jazz is ‘freedom.’ With this freedom comes the responsibility to communicate my heart, yet not to the point of complete self-indulgence."
Earlier this year, Sykes thrilled the audience in his debut with the San Francisco Orchestra where he did renditions of spirituals, Gershwin and Richard Rodgers. A future CD of that type of music is in the works with Sony.
Sykes also appeared this year in a special performance at the Smithsonian Institute honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and two weekends ago, performed with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra.
Festival founders Clare Hoffman on flute and Robert Bonfiglio on harmonica will perform both Friday and Saturday during the first nights of the festival. Maria Bachmann on violin and Jon Klibonoff on piano will also perform both nights.