I've been asked how the recording of this CD came about.
In 1963 I recorded an LP of Classical Folk Songs called “A Voice In The Wind” with Columbia Records in NYC Since then, I’ve sung and recorded many different styles of music, and in the last few years have had an enormous amount of fun doing my novelty Operatic Chicken CDs. All along, it’s been very flattering to continually receive emails from admirers of my original folk LP. One that I received was from Mike Sheppard in New Zealand. He is still a great fan of “A Voice in the Wind” and was wondering if I planned to do any more folk recordings. I sent him a copy of my Operatic Chicken arias: “The World’s Favorite CluckOratura Arias”. After he recovered from the shock, he began a campaign of his own for me to do a “book end” CD of the original LP as I sing now by starting his website www.myspace/orrielsmithsociety in honor of “A Voice in the Wind”. Even after merrily meowing and clucking my way through my second novelty CD of Cat and Chicken duets: (“Live From CarnEGGy Hall”), my new New Zealand folk fan hadn’t lost hope! So I started going through my collection of the dozens of folk/art songs that I loved singing with the guitar and never recorded. As I reviewed them, the songs and their characters began haunting me to the point that I felt I had to record them. I’ve always felt that the folk songs “sing me” rather than the other way around so each song has its own voice and I become the various characters. I feel very much at home in a recording studio, so it was an inspirational experience making arrangements and recording songs I hadn’t really thought about for a long time. Like meeting old friends, I hope this “Forever” CD will remind folk song fans of some of their favorites, and that new listeners will enjoy being introduced to my “take” on these choices.
BIO: I was surrounded with music from the moment I was taken home. I began singing very early imitating the Coloratura arias that my Mother sang. John’s Hopkins University had developed experimental schools for young children which emphasized creativity, and I was admitted at an early age. Soon I was singing Lakme’s “The Bell Song” at the end of my mother’s concerts. A few years later, we went to live in Milano, Italy, where my mother had been invited to study and sing. I was able to speak Italian quickly and was enrolled at the Milano Conservatory studying piano and violin, as well as the La Scala Ballet Company School. Three years later we moved to Hollywood, CA. where my mother worked at Paramount Studios and I attended Hollywood Professional School.
As a young teen, I continued singing as guest artist in city concerts, the Hollywood Bowl and special occasion musicales I also began acting on television, Divorce Court, Alfred Hitchcock, and had a co-starring role in “The Mark of Distinction” starring London the Wonder Dog. During one summer I attended Arrowbear Music Camp as a violinist in the orchestra. Jean Ritchie was the guest artist and I was fascinated with the haunting melodies of Appalachian folk songs with guitar. I became obsessed with the idea of having portable accompaniment and soon was carrying my new guitar everywhere with me. I decided to learn to play by playing Joan Baez albums on a slowest 16 RPM speed. Then I would tune the guitar down to that pitch to get down every note. Tedious process! But it worked pretty well.
At eighteen, I was invited to go to NYC to study singing with Roberta Peter’s teacher, William Herman. I would take my operatic lessons during the day, and explore the folk clubs in Greenwich Village at night. I soon discovered Gerde’s Folk City where Jose Feliciano, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performed. I also began singing there as a regular paid performer. My mother came for a visit and as usual we were doing our vocal exercises playing “who can go the highest”. A theatrical manager who happened to be staying on the same floor knocked on our door, gave us his card and suggested we look him up at his office. We did and while we were there he called the Johnny Carson show saying he had a “voice higher than Yma Sumac” in the office with him. The next day I was singing “The Russian Nightingale” on the show to a standing ovation. The appearance was noticed by Columbia Records NYC and I was signed to Bobby Scott (“A Taste of Honey”) as producer. He was delighted that I liked to sing Irish and English folk songs since that kind of music was his great interest. We quickly put together a guitar/voice album “A Voice in the Wind” and I began touring doing promotional concerts and televised “Hootenannys” throughout the U.S. and as opener for Dick Gregory at The Hungry Eye in San Francisco. I joined the Jimmy Joyce Singers who were about to become the musical mainstay for The Smother’s Brother’s Show, The Red Skelton Show and many television specials.
After several years with The Jimmy Joyce Singers, I went on the road alone with guitar. I fell in love with Seattle while singing at the Washington Plaza Hotel and moved there to work at The Van Ackeren Film Production Co. I’d always been interested in learning the “behind the camera” workings of a studio and was able to apprentice as a film and music editor as well as creating music and performing for commercials. Around this time I wrote my country song “Lifetime Woman” which was recorded by David Frizzell. Several years later, I returned to Los Angeles to spend six years singing and on tour with the Ray Conniff Singers overseas Japan Tour, Charo in Las Vegas and Dolly Parton.
Eventually I moved to Irvine, California where I finished my UCLA/UCI Psychology degree and Real Estate license. For the past 20 years I’ve been teaching presentation skills for many companies including educational, the Universities of California, and government. I’m further training my voice with Jill Goodsell of Yorba Linda, CA. I continue to "forever" think of arrangements to record.
Hauntingly beautiful folk songs are back with the "book end" 2011 CD to Orriel Smith's 1963 Columbia LP "A Voice in the Wind". Each song a unique arrangement, simply accompanied, with story telling characters.