Ever considered what it takes to go before an audience and bare your soul through scintillating performance? As you know, great performance is never fake. It is authentic emotion, enacted, oftentimes, in a contrived space, nevertheless conveying exemplary theatre - walking in the light, as it were.
Any true signal performing talent is endowed with revelatory capabilities designed to unleash emotional energy. This impassioned spirit is imbued with poignant kindred sentimentality, deemed to reside, metaphorically, in the heart and encapsulated, eloquently, for the purpose of confession, conviction and connection. The capacity to exude this inimitable performing style is sheer incandescence.
Seated at the AMC Lincoln Square on Broadway and reliving this-here luminosity through Renee Zelwegger’s compelling performance cast in the titular role of ‘Judy’, I reminisced on the star quality of the performance luminary, Judy Garland. There is indeed an other-worldly quality which differentiates a diva, for the want of a better word, from a more nondescript performer. With the recent passing of the indomitable Jessye Norman and the versatile Diahann Carroll, it piqued my attention to the fact that we are sometimes not as honouring of our own divas, daughters of the soil, with their distinctive larger-than-life personas - the likes of Anne Fridal, Lorna Mae Mayers, Heather Headley. They manifest more than great talent, they transmit an unparalleled God-given gift that expresses a sort of metaphysical healing.
In keeping with this said New Age philosophy, love-and-light healing, Jazz songstress Bri Celestin accepts her responsibility to utilise her creative prowess - her ability to croon cabaret and explore jazz improvisations - to transport us, the audience, to an elevated realm, all in an effort to counteract the mundanity of our existences. She intones, “I want to allow my audience to escape while still being a reflection of reality.” Yes, I, myself, do believe the role of our talented, our gifted, our blessed ingénues is to counterbalance the consumerist materialism of our everyday world and offer esoteric comfort by lightening the boredom of commonplace living.
I see this performing style as a gift of communication, and as Bri also succinctly affirms, a blessing “quite apart from the undeniable vocal talent”. It’s unadulterated stagecraft, the phenomenon which possesses a charismatic panache and at the same time demonstrates an uncontrived sophistication. Referencing her greatest influences - Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and Sade - she sees these all-time greats, as remarkable story-tellers, creating “memorising imagery through song”. Therefore, we, the more uninitiated, can, live vicariously through the sensibilities of these pegged individuals. In other words, we benefit from their radiating love-and-light gifting.
Miss Celestin is a representation of the style of this transcendent performer, consistently ‘making her entrance again with her usual flair.’ There exist a silent magnetism, a dazzling virtuosity and a breathy soliloquizing which all reveal a visceral truth and revel in a capacity to enthrall. The ultimate Jazz singer, for all intents and purposes, must have stage presence. She must use her interpretive abilities to pace, suspend and deliver runs while cavorting with vocal range. That’s the flair with which she enraptures us. That’s the healing!
Bri says, “Love connects everyone, it is a universal language.” Despite this seeming cliché point of view, she retorts, “My repertoire will make the audience tap into emotions we all feel but sometimes are unable to express.” She inculcates an uncommon conversion with her musicians - Tony Paul, Rodney Alexander, Shaquille Noel, Ron Clarke - seemingly self-indulgent, however expressing collective inner vibrations of the heart. Bri Celestin is evidently following in the footsteps of her mentors and is moreover ‘walking in the light’, as she lives, unequivocally, by the love-and-light philosophy. See her at Kafe Blue, on the 26th October.