A Little Lunch Music: Can Journalism for Truckers Inform Opera Singing?

On March 6 from noon to 1:00 p.m., A Little Lunch Music welcomes Kathleen Buccleugh with pianist Laurelie Gheesling. Ms. Buccleugh is an Auburn High School alumna now building her career as a professional soprano. They will perform music by Eric Whitacre, Libby Larsen, Joaquin Rodrigo, Claude Debussy, Vincenzo Righini, and more. The free concert is being co-sponsored by Mary Jo Howard and  anonymous friends of the series. 

“I don’t generally talk about trucking when I’m presenting myself as a soprano,” said Kathleen Buccleugh, performing this Thursday for A Little Lunch Music. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say that this would be a true statement for just about every classical musician in the world. However, with Buccleugh, and it’s pronounced like “Buckley,” the comment is relevant to her life.

While at Auburn High School, Buccleugh studied journalism with John Pennisi and loved it. She enrolled at the University of Alabama to study music and began writing for the school paper, The Crimson White. This was the beginning of a journalism career that led to a job writing for Truckers News, Commercial Carrier Journal andOverdrive, all trucking-industry magazines.

If you Google “Buccleugh,” you’ll find both trucking and singing hits. When we started talking about booking her for the series, I poked around online. True to form for the stereotypical close-minded art-music enthusiast, I was more inclined to believe that two people could have her particularly ancient Scottish name than that one person’s life could touch both worlds. Then I read her bio.

In some ways, it is as you might think. In the classical world, trucking is unfamiliar, and usually not immediately relevant. And she’s a journalist, so the fact that she’s a classical soprano, or anything personal for that matter, doesn’t come up when she’s interviewing truckers. Incidentally, she also writes for the magazine,Classical Singer.

But her journalism colleagues have supported her blossoming artistic career. They encourage her in her music, attend her performances, and give her the flexibility to be able to travel when there’s an opportunity to sing.

For instance, Buccleugh just returned from a trip to Texas where in two days she performed five concerts featuring the music of composer Eric Genuis. “He’s very passionate,” she said, adding about his music, “It’s very meaningful, all of it.”

Buccleugh said journalism skills have helped her music career. “I learn a lot about how to market myself as a soprano from journalism,” she said. Being able to write well gives an artist a tremendous advantage in an extremely competitive market.

Among others, Thursday’s concert will feature music by still-living American composers Libby Larsen and Eric Whitacre. Whitacre’s music has been sung for us before. The AU Chamber Choir has beautifully performed his song “Water Night,” and the piece A Boy and a Girl. Buccleugh will sing his Five Hebrew Love Songs. She said that Whitacre’s wife, Hila Plitmann, a Grammy-winning soprano herself, wrote the poetry for the piece to teach Whitacre some simple phrases in Hebrew. “The poetry is very pretty,” said Buccleugh.

Pianist Laurelie Gheesling will join Buccleugh for the performance. Gheesling is AU piano faculty and has performed for A Little Lunch Music audiences before. There is talk of Gheesling or a guest pianist doing some solo Haydn. You’ll have to come to the concert to find out.

A musician himself, Patrick McCurry coordinates A Little Lunch Music and occasionally performs for it. He blogs about the arts in our community.

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