Arts and Entertainment

South Whidbey graduate returns for special concert

Langley native Alicia Gianni takes a break from her busy singing life in Houston, Texas to sing a concert at Langley United Methodist Church with pianist Joseph Li. Gianni hopes to raise money for her debut album featuring all original songs.  - Photo courtesy of Rocco Gianni
Langley native Alicia Gianni takes a break from her busy singing life in Houston, Texas to sing a concert at Langley United Methodist Church with pianist Joseph Li. Gianni hopes to raise money for her debut album featuring all original songs.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Rocco Gianni

Jazz, pop, opera.

You name it, Alicia Gianni can sing it.

The South Whidbey graduate and singer returns to the island from her home in Houston, Texas for a holiday concert featuring pianist Joseph Li at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23 at Langley United Methodist Church.

Gianni was recently nominated as “Best Jazz Artist” in Houston for the 2011 Houston Press Music Awards and is currently at work on her solo album at the historical Sugarhill Recording Studios.

The Langley concert will include a variety of music, including the debut of some of the songs which will be featured on her album.

It’s been quite a ride for the singer, who hails from Langley and whose dad, Rocco Gianni, has been sending out word of his daughter’s island concert.

“I just want the kid to get a break. She’s been working so hard and I would just love her to get a break,” Rocco Gianni said.

Gianni first moved to Houston when she joined the Houston Grand Opera, where her performances as a soprano were described as “charming, impressive” and “powerfully real.”

Since then Gianni has been seen on other opera house stages and concert halls around the world and had the honor of being asked to sing in a world premiere of composer Andre Previn’s “Brief Encounter” in 2009.

More recently, however, Gianni has been performing jazz, pop and opera in and around the biggest city in Texas.

“In the past two years, opera has taken a back seat to writing and jazz,” Gianni said.

“I was given a generous gift to start work on an album (all originals) and it’s been quite a struggle to get it all done independently,” she added.

With the help of producer Dan Workman and Sugarhill Recording Studios, Gianni has finalized a schedule to go into the recording studio and finish the album in January.

“I’m looking forward to this,” Gianni said.

It hasn’t come easy, either. She supports her singing by teaching voice and piano and has 26 private students.

“I have worked overtime, taken on extra students, taken gigs that I didn’t really want and sacrificed most of my days off to work just so I can keep putting money aside for all of this to happen and, of course, survive. I keep telling myself it all builds character,” she added.

Otherwise she is constantly honing her techniques for gigs and has been called “the chameleon” for her ability to cross genres, singing opera as easily as she sings jazz. Her coaches tell her she has never sounded better.

“I have found this process to be fascinating and, contrary to what people may think of an opera singer making a jazz, blues album, it’s only improved my voice,” Gianni said.

“When people ask me what I do for a living I say, ‘I’m a professional singer, trained in opera, but capable in any genre. I love it all, and if you don’t believe me, just listen.’”

Gianni said being nominated for the Houston Press Music Award was a complete surprise and an honor. She plans to keep the exposure going, so the album is a main priority.

And although she misses Whidbey, Houston, with its expanding music industry, has been a good place for her to be. But, she said, moving from the country’s fourth-largest city to its biggest, New York, might be an option someday.

Still, Gianni said she always looks forward to a visit home.

“When I come to Whidbey I love to just be at home with my family,” she said.

And in addition to the fresh air and quiet nights she happily succumbs to on the island, she looks forward to seeing a few familiar faces, as well.

“I can’t wait to come home and sing for people that I know still support me as a community, the way they did when I was in high school. What a gift to have,” she said.

Admission is by a suggested donation, with all proceeds going toward Gianni’s production costs of the CD. The church is located on the corner of Third Street and Anthes Avenue in Langley.

 

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