The 2003-2004 Artist Series concludes this weekend with vocalist Jubilant Sykes, an outstanding baritone with an impressive score of vocal achievements. Having performed with top symphonies such as the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sykes has won the firmly established respect of the classical music world.All of the impressive information thus far will probably be included in the playbill during Sykes’ performance on Friday in the Chapel, but none of it does justice to his unique musical genius. The Atlanta Journal writes, “He isn’t merely an outstanding singer; his voice is art at its highest expression.”
Just what makes Jubilant Sykes so noteworthy? Although Sykes studied classically in Berlin and Austria, he later developed a distinct flair for mixing jazz, gospel, and spiritual hymns. By using influences such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder in the extremely conservative field of professional music – which is typically resistant to pop influences – Sykes has become a well-established success in the classical music world.
Says Sykes in an interview with the Toronto Symphony, “Technique is first and personal style is second with classical singing. In pop, it’s just the opposite. That’s why I find pop music so exciting. Classical music has lost that spontaneity because everyone is so set upon perfection. That’s why it’s difficult to hear the heart in classical.”
Sykes’ first major debut, as a classical pop vocalist with the Boston Pops and John Williams, was such a success that the Boston Pops immediately asked him to come back. Making the break in a field that requires perfection is impressive, but making it while blending music’s beautiful imperfections – such as gospel and spiritual jazz – is an entirely different level of achievement altogether.
Jubilant Sykes sings in the Memorial Chapel on Friday, May 14 at 8 p.m.