Mutual love of singing reunites childhood friends

By From page A7 | June 26, 2013

Soprano Elizabeth Bell Kling, left, and Alison Skinner — seen at prom — are reunited as professionals. Courtesy photo

Soprano Elizabeth Bell Kling, left, and Alison Skinner — seen at prom — are reunited as professionals. Courtesy photo

Back in the 1980s, Elizabeth Bell and Alison Skinner were next-door neighbors on a North Davis street. And they became the best of friends (even though Elizabeth was one year ahead of Alison in school), brought together in part by a mutual love of music.

This month, they’re back together again — Alison Skinner (now the director of the Davis Chorale, and a local voice teacher) is hosting Elizabeth Bell Kling (now a professional soprano, based in Colorado), who will give a master class in Davis on Sunday, June 30.

The upcoming reunion is reviving all kinds of memories for both women.

Kling said: “When I first meet Alison at age 8, she told me she was going to be a conductor. And I thought she meant a conductor on a train! I didn’t have any professional musicians in my family at that time” — and there were only a few women in those days using a baton to lead professional choral groups or orchestras. “At the time, I thought I was going to be a doctor — a medical doctor,” Kling added.

They went to school together — West Davis Intermediate, Emerson Junior High (where they sang in a choir led by Rachel Kessler), Davis High (where they sang the Madrigals).

“I remember we were both in the sixth-grade choir at WDI,” Skinner said. “I remember singing ‘Don’t Let the Lights Go Out,’ which is a tried-and-true Hannukah song. We also sang this hilarious arrangement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik — as chickens. We were all completely tickled. (UC Davis music professor) Kern Holoman was the volunteer accompanist.”

“We were such music nerds,” Kling recalled. “I remember having singing parties at Alison’s house … there was a piano in the front room. And we would get together in person … this was before Facebook. We would do sight singing, we would have sectionals, and when we were in high school together, we had Madrigal parties.” (Kling also sang in the high school’s Jazz Choir for a year.)

Skinner added: “In high school, we sang together all the time, including a duet from the Vivaldi Gloria, ‘Laudamus te.’ ” Kling remembers singing Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium — “we just put that together for fun with several friends, I remember crowding around the piano and loving that piece. Hearing it now takes me back to the junior year of high school.”

After high school, life took them in somewhat different directions. Kling earned a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory, a doctorate from the City University of New York Graduate Center and embarked on a career as a professional singer. Skinner got an undergraduate degree in vocal performance at UC Santa Cruz, and then earned a master’s degree in choral conducting at Temple University.

They got together again during the Christmas holidays last year. Kling came back to Davis to see her parents. Skinner moved back to Davis a few years ago and is now the conductor of the Davis Chorale (taking over from the retiring Rachel Kessler). Kling and Skinner soon discovered that they still have a lot of things in common. “We both have children of similar ages, we’re both teaching voice,” Kling said. “But Alison is conducting — the career she always wanted as a girl — while I do more solo performing.”

When Skinner found that Kling would be coming back to Davis again this summer, Skinner invited Kling to give a master class. “I’m excited that my voice students in Davis will get to work with someone who has such fabulous vocal training, and lots of experience teaching,” Skinner said.

Kling said that while she’s in town, she hopes to look up Larry Snyder, who “organized some wonderful, amazing opera performances when I was living in Davis as a high school student — that was a really incredible experience and more formative than I realized at the time. I’ve re-performed so much of that repertoire as an adult. He was so happy to introduce us to music, incredibly generous.”

And the two childhood friends will have another opportunity to catch up with each other. Skinner said: “It’s really nice, finding ourselves together again as adults, and see how much we have in common. It’s a nice little turn of events that I wouldn’t have expected.”

Note: Elizabeth Bell Kling will give a vocal master class at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at 1011 Hacienda Ave. in Davis. The public is invited to come and observe, a donation of $5 is suggested. For information, call 530-574-8419.

Jeff Hudson

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