Singer Spotlight: Catherine van der Salm

Catherine van der Salm
Catherine van der Salm at the Keukenhof in the Netherlands

Our Singer Spotlight series continues with soprano Catherine van der Salm!

What was your first performance with Cappella Romana?

I sang my first concerts with Cappella Romana in November 2006, gorgeous Russian music under the direction of Mark Bailey.

What Non-Cappella Romana Projects are you excited to share?

I love to sing chamber music and new music! Last summer, I had the honor and pleasure of being the first singer featured on the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival. We performed  “Who Makes a Clearing,” by composer in residence Reena Esmail, and “How Slow the Wind” by Osvaldo Golijov, in the barrel room of J Christopher Winery at the Appassionata Estate. This spring, In Mulieribus and Portland Youth Philharmonic Camerata collaborated on an extraordinary concert, “Because I Will Not Despair”, with a world premiere by Jessica Meyer and the west coast premiere of Kareem Roustom’s Hurry to the Light. I got to meet Kareem just a few weeks ago, when he came to Portland to work with the musicians of WVCM.

In Mulieribus with the Portland Youth Philharmonic Camerata © Rachel Hadiashar, photographer
In Mulieribus with the Portland Youth Philharmonic Camerata © Rachel Hadiashar, photographer

How Slow the Wind [soprano and string quartet, on a text adapted from poetry by Emily Dickinson] is in memory of a friend, Mariel Stubrin,”_says Golijov. “[She] died in an accident while driving in the south of Chile (a landscape similar to northern California) in January 2001. It is about sudden death, about an instant in which life turns upside down, unlike a process of slow death. I think that Emily Dickinson’s words could be understood like that. I imagine that those words could represent the feeling that Mariel’s husband, Dario (a friend of mine since childhood), felt the minute after the accident. The voice is a call from a flying spirit, and the strings are the wind.”

Los Angeles Philharmonic Program Notes
Willamette Valley Chamber Music in 2022
Willamette Valley Chamber Music in 2022

What Is something Cappella Romana audiences might not know about you?

Outside of my musical life, I am a pretty serious plant nerd. We run the family farm north of La Center, WA ( I have worked as a graphic designer, photographer, lily hybridizer, and small business owner doer-of-what-needs-to-be-done since I finished college. My husband is a first-generation American who immigrated from Holland with his family in 1980. Singing with Cappella Romana in Holland at the Utrecht Early Music Festival is a cherished experience for me, as it means time with my Dutch family and a chance to share the music I love with them, in person. 

What is a Cappella Romana Recording Highlight for You?

I am grateful to Cappella Romana and all who seek to teach women to chant, especially Alexander Lingas and John Michael Boyer. I’m especially proud of Hymns of Kassiani. We recorded and performed this extraordinary music in the before times, January 2020. For me, it’s a testament to the exceptional music written by Kassia that has survived to this day, a way to  experience history more fully, and a reflection on how far I have come singing Byzantine chant.

I love all the recordings of Cappella Romana, especially ones I didn’t sing – I can listen to them on repeat without my inner critic noting my own less-than-perfect moments! Some are especially dear to my heart, including Richard Toensing’s Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ (my first recording with CR), Live In Greece, Arctic Light, and Maximillian Steinberg: Passion Week.

What are some of your favorite experiences with Cappella Romana?

Cappella Romana has toured the USA and Europe, but one of my favorite tours happened over Memorial Day weekend on the Oregon Coast. This is the original photo of me and Kristen Buhler, holding the handmade concert signs in Manzanita! José Solano (of blessed memory) was our host, and we got to see him again in 2019 when Cappella returned to Lincoln City to perform the Kastalsky Requiem. These connections are something I treasure.

What concert this season are you most excited about?

Short answer: yes!

Longer answer: I’m anticipating The Odes of Repentance concerts in late September with great joy. Both the Vespers of Galina Grigorjeva and the Kanon Pokajanen of Arvo Pärt are on the program, and I wouldn’t miss them for the world. 

—Catherine van der Salm