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Classical Singer Julia Bullock Wins First Grammy Award with Walking in the Dark, Her Solo Album Debut

(February 2024) — At last night’s 66th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, it was announced that American classical singer Julia Bullock had received her first Grammy Award, winning in the Best Classical Solo Vocal category for Walking in the Dark. Marking Bullock’s solo album debut, the recording has already been recognized with both Opus Klassik and Edison Klassiek awards, as well as being featured in the New York Times’s “Best Classical Music Tracks of 2022.” Alongside offerings from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, it was named among the “20 Best Albums of 2022” by NPR, which called it “an album that shines, introducing us to an artist curating a career on her own distinctive terms.”

Released in December 2022 by Nonesuch Records, Walking in the Dark was recorded with the singer’s husband, conductor and pianist Christian Reif, and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, of which she is now the 2023-24 Featured Artist. The album combines orchestral works by American composers John Adams and Samuel Barber with a traditional spiritual and songs by jazz legend Billy Taylor and singer-songwriters Oscar Brown, Jr., Connie Converse and Sandy Denny (see full track listing below). Of this wide-ranging and eclectic program, Bullock explains:

“This music and poetry have 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.”

Hailed as a “stirring and lyrical debut” by The Guardian, the recording proved a resounding critical success. ABC News declared: “Bullock is one of the most talented singers of her generation and her first solo album offers a mix of unconventional and deeply personal choices.” Naming the recording its “Record of the Week,” BBC Radio 3 concluded: “Bullock is equal to everything here, the expressive power and range and truth of her singing leaving an indelible impression.”

Gramophone agreed: “The soprano’s musical prowess, interpretative skills and creative vision shine as bright and clear as daylight on her illuminating debut release.” Dubbing Bullock “an essential soprano for our times,” the Los Angeles Times marveled:

“Bullock brings the quality of oration to all she sings. Words are always in the spotlight. By the end of the recording, you just may feel the world ever so slightly differently, with your perception a little changed, your receptivity a little enhanced, your sense of wonder a little improved. … The fullest revelation of who Bullock is, right now, a fully formed artist in her mid 30s at her vocal prime, is Walking in the Dark. It is likely to be the first of many such solo recordings for Nonesuch.”

Bullock’s earlier discography includes the soundtrack of Amazon Prime Video’s The Underground Railroad and Grammy-nominated recordings of both West Side Story and Doctor Atomic. The latter was recorded under the baton of its composer, Pulitzer Prize winner John Adams, whose creations also include the Christmas opera-oratorio El Niño. Interweaving sacred and secular texts in English, Spanish and Latin, from biblical times to the present day, El Niño considers the Nativity story from Mary’s perspective. Of Bullock’s interpretation of an aria from the work on Walking in the Dark, BBC Music magazine observes: “Bullock’s blazing performance of John Adams’s ‘Memorial de Tlatelolco’, a fiendish aria from his opera-oratorio El Niño, showcases her exceptional technical and expressive range.”

This spring, the singer makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in the company premiere of Adams’s oratorio. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, the Tony-nominated resident director of Lincoln Center Theater, El Niño’s fully staged new production will co-star Davóne Tines, the bass-baritone who, like Bullock herself, “is changing what it means to be a classical singer” (New Yorker). Two mezzo-sopranos – two-time Grammy winner J’Nai Bridges and Cardiff Singer of the World finalist Daniela Mack – will take turns to complete the trio of principals, with MacArthur award-winner Marin Alsop conducting from the pit (April 23–May 17).

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Julia Bullock: upcoming engagements
April 23, 27; May 1, 4, 8, 11 & 17
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera (debut) / Marin Alsop
John ADAMS: El Niño

July 6, 9, 12, 15 & 17
Aix-en-Provence, France
Festival d’Aix en Provence
DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Mélisande

Walking in the Dark: track listing
1. Brown Baby
(first released 1960, rearranged 2013)
Poetry and Music by Oscar Brown Jr. (1926–2005)
Arr. by Jeremy Siskind & Julia Bullock; inspired by Nina Simone
2. One by One
(first recorded 1954, rearranged 2017)
Poetry and Music by Connie Converse (b. 1924, disappeared 1974)
Arr. by Jeremy Siskind
3. Memorial de Tlatelolco
From El Niño (composed 2000)
Poetry by Rosario Castellanos (1925–1974)
Music by John Adams (b. 1947)
4. City Called Heaven
(arranged c. 1930)
Poetry and Music developed by enslaved person/s in the United States
Traditional Black Spiritual
Arr. by Hall Johnson (1888–1970)
5. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free
(first released 1963, rearranged 2013)
Poetry and Music by Dick Dallas (1937–2004) and Billy Taylor (1921–2010)
Arr. by Jeremy Siskind
6. Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24
(composed 1947)
Text by James Agee (1909–1955) (published 1938)
Music by Samuel Barber (1910–1981)
7. Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
(first recorded 1967, released 1973, rearranged 2021)
Poetry and Music by Sandy Denny (1947–1978)
Arr. by Jeremy Siskind, Christian Reif, Julia Bullock

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© 21C Media Group, February 2024


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