Joyce Lyons

August 9, 2009 | By

Metropolitan Room – August 5, 12, 19

Joyce Lyons informs us that when she puts a show together, “It’s about the words. My voice teacher told me, ‘Your job is not to be the best singer in the world—there’ll always be someone better. Your job is to make people feel.’ I’m here to tell a story.” True to her word, Lyons, while unquestionably singing in the jazz idiom, always honors a song’s lyric. But she does more than honor a lyric: like all artful interpreters, she illuminates its meaning. And whether someone exists who is a better singer is open to debate.

For me, what stands out above all is the potency of her quiet moments. In Nancy Hamilton and Morgan Lewis’s “How High the Moon,” her hushed phrases are rich with feeling. Her magnificently understated rendition of “Don’t Explain” (Arthur Herzog, Jr. and Billie Holiday) is so compelling, so mesmerizing—rarely have I seen an audience so rapt. Despite its delicacy, her interpretation of the Gershwins’ “How Long Has This Been Going On?” is unmistakably celebratory, and she brings depth to Rodgers & Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind.” Singers who tend to sing loud just because they can should hightail it to Lyons’s show to observe and, one hopes, learn the eloquence of subtlety and restraint.

Her interpretation of “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gene Lees) is luscious, though on opening night she was fairly dependent on the lyric sheet, which was a bit distracting. Billy Barnes’s “Too Long at the Fair” is the evening’s only number in which I thought she was not connected with the song’s meaning.

On piano, Tedd Firth is a wonder—as so many people have acknowledged over the past few years. Not only is his technical virtuosity dazzling, he supports Lyons’s quiet moments with exquisite grace. On the bass, David Meer does more than supply the rhythm; his playing is also beautifully mellifluous.

Joyce Lyons is one of a small handful of singers whose interpretations are so authoritative and singular that I would be eager to hear what they do with any—nay, every good song ever written.

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Roy Sander has been covering cabaret and theatre for over thirty years. He’s written cabaret and theatre reviews, features, and commentary for seven print publications, most notably Back Stage, and for CitySearch on the Internet. He covered cabaret monthly on “New York Theatre Review” on PBS TV, and cabaret and theatre weekly on WLIM-FM radio. He was twice a guest instructor at the London School of Musical Theatre. A critic for, he is also the site’s Reviews Editor; in addition, he is Chairman of the Advisory Board of MAC.

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