22 melodies are weaved into a contemporary art song tapestry of 12 arrangements for voice, piano and cello. This recording was inspired by a magical encounter between Rebecca and those vibrant ladies of the RED HAT SOCIETY and reflects upon the wisdom of the Human Spirit.
— Jeff Rossen, CABARET SCENES MAGAZINE – April 2006
“Rebecca Spencer follows up her absolutely gorgeous 2003 album, WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING, with a new dozen-song offering that is even better. There is something unavoidably entrancing about her voice, whether she’s lowering the register and enticing us with a sexy allure or lightening the sound and captivating the ear with the elegant beauty of her tones. And when you add in Philip Fortenberry’s exceptional piano arrangements and accompaniment, the effects are dazzling.
With the melody of the traditional Shaker song ‘Simple Gifts’ setting the mood, Spencer launches into a richly powerful performance of ‘The Girl Who Used to Be Me’ that’s the most effective and affecting version these ears have heard. From there, Spencer, Fortenberry and Keith Thompson’s luxuriant cello orchestrations craft a musical voyage of surprising stops as they mix an artful take on ‘Stardust/Deep Purple’ and spine-tingling interpretation of ‘Summertime’ with a reflective ‘You Must Love Me’ and less country-flavored version of Lorrie Morgan’s ‘Something In Red’. But as fine as these selections are, it’s in the unknown territory that Spencer takes us where we experience the most amazement. A quartet of songs by Thompson allow Spencer to truly wow us — the housewife’s lament found in the artful ‘Instead’ (wonderfully supported by Chopin Nocturne in E flat, Op.9 No. 2), the lovely theatre homage ‘The Memory,’ a woman’s observations on life around her expressed in ‘Virginia’s Response’ and the rousing ‘Eat, Drink and Be Mary’.
So what do all these songs have to do with each other? The collection was inspired by a group of women Spencer observed in Weston, Vermont who call themselves “The Red Hat Society,” all of whom dress in purple and wear “radiant red hats” and hold to the philosophy that life is just beginning at age 50. Well, Spencer’s musical celebration of life is certainly a fitting soundtrack for them. (****)”
— Rob Lester, TALKIN’ BROADWAY – March 2006
“Intrigued by the stories of two inspiring “grand ladies” who loved life, Rebecca Spencer has collected a group of songs old and new on her new album, Fair Warning. With the underlying theme of living life fully, with familiar tunes woven through instrumentally, this album, too, has the feel of a song cycle. In her liner notes, Rebecca says what is attempted is “a tapestry of music with contemporary art song interpretations.” The tapestry she has created works like a strongly reflective story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. The first vocal is “The Girl Who Used to Be Me,” the powerful song by Marvin Hamlisch with Marilyn & Alan Bergman written for the film version of Shirley Valentine. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, I don’t know anyone who’s recorded this excellent lament besides its originator, Patti Austin. Speaking of Oscar’s favorite tunes, a Best Song winner, “You Must Love Me” (added to the score of Evita for film) is here, too, benefitting from the velvety Spencer treatment.
But the very first thing we hear are the instrumental strains of the old Shaker hymn (“Simple Gifts”) setting the tone. Midway, there’s another religious moment and the album ends with a vocalise version of “A Prayer” by Vangelis. The cello playing throughout the album holds everything together and is a beautiful asset and anchor. The ethereal beauty plus power will come as no surprise if you’re familiar with Rebecca from her work on cast albums or her first solo CD, the delightful Wide Awake and Dreaming. You’ll know she’s a soprano with range and power. She takes chances and has a taste for the unusual and the traditional. Working again with versatile pianist/ musical director Philip Fortenberry, the elegant pair mix the very well-known (here, “Summertime” and “Stardust”) with the unexpected. There are four premieres, all with music by Keith Thompson who also did the cello orchestrations. One is a setting for the words of the late Virginia Scott, a professor who was one of the women whose life was part of the CD’s inspiration. With Thompson’s music and lyrics, “Eat, Drink and Be Mary” is the recording’s change-of-pace number. It’s a rousing carpe diem campy piece with fun rhymes and a cute salute to “Nowadays” from Chicago. This number is a party all by itself. “Something in Red” by Angela Kaset is another brash and bright selection; others are quite serious and fervent.
If “legit” soprano singing and a serious look at what life is about are not to your taste, this might not be the CD you’ll rush to buy. Much of it requires a willingness to reflect, not just be diverted. The rich recital succeeds in delivering its message of embracing and appreciating the important things in life. This album, which the artist’s liner notes prominently states is “dedicated to the human spirit,” is not a project tossed off casually. Formal? Certainly. Earnest? Quite. And also quite moving.
In celebration of this release, Rebecca Spencer will be at Tower Records on Broadway at 66th Street on Wednesday, April 5 at 6 p.m. On April 6 and 7, she’s at Don’t Tell Mama to celebrate and sing. Then, she’s off to Las Vegas to play Madame Giry in Phantom of the Opera.”
Rebecca created the role of Madame Giry in the new $35 million production of Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, under the direction of Harold Prince. Her acclaimed performances at the Venetian Hotel and Casino continued for over two years.…