Next-Gen Classical Musician Krempasky Stars on Album Composed by Her Fave Prof
PENNSYLVANIA-BORN MEZZO-soprano Jillian Krempasky relocated to Houston in 2020 to get her master’s in Voice Performance at Rice University, and like many classical musician transplants, decided to stay upon completing her degree. “It’s not the weather or the cockroaches,” laughs Krempasky when asked what compelled her to stay in H-Town. “It’s definitely the music."
Krempasky has since enjoyed acclaim for her performances with Musiqa and on chamber music concerts as a DACAMERA Young Artist. Last summer, she traveled to Croatia to record Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand, a song cycle in five movements for voice, alto saxophone, and orchestra composed by her former fave undergrad music theory teacher from Westminster Choir College, J.A. Kawarsky. The recording was released both physically and digitally last Friday on Navona Records, the classical imprint of music production house PARMA Recordings. (Other Houston artists who have released albums on Navona include Duo Dramatique and the Axiom Quartet.)
The text for Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand is by poet Stacey Zisook Robinson, who died in 2021 at age 59 of Covid-19. Recording the song cycle became a way to honor Robinson, who was a close friend of Kawarsky, and much of the text concerns preparing the let go of life and the journey to wherever one goes next after death. But Krempasky feels the lightness and seriousness of the work’s title speaks volumes. “Dr. Kawarsky is a very funny man,” says Krempasky. “While there are beautiful, serious moments in the music, there are also really funny moments.”
Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand was recorded with the Zagreb Festival Orchestra in a concert hall designed for chamber music performance. While Krempasky had traveled previously to Italy, Croatia was an entirely new experience for her. “I was so excited,” says Krempasky, remembering how she felt on the flight, which took 11 hours with a stopover in Frankfurt. She found the people in Croatia and the team at Parma to be “kind and welcoming,” and the orchestra ready to play, despite not having looked at the music until shortly before the recording and Dian Tchobanov coming in at a last minute to conduct the piece. “They really pulled it together,” says Krempasky of all of the musicians involved. “I was amazed by their professionalism and their ability to just step up and do it.”
The recording process went fast, with no time for Krempasky to stop to listen back to takes and mull over what she liked or didn’t like about her singing. Having thoroughly studied and rehearsed the music beforehand, Krempasky decided to just “let go,” and trust that what she was doing was right. “My goal vocally was to find a sound that serves the music,” says Krempasky. “I worked to make my voice more intimate; like a sound that’s expressive, and not just about being ‘correct.’”
Like many young musicians, Krempasky listens to music on Spotify or YouTube, and finds owning physical media, like a CD or a vinyl record, a little unusual. “Now I have these CDs with my name on the back,” says Krempasky, who is very pleased with how the final recording turned out. “I’m just going to place them on the mantel and be proud of them.”