Music and theater came together to illustrate the life of American poet Emily Dickinson in the Westerbeck Recital Hall on Sunday afternoon.

“This, And My Heart” featured soprano and PCC Music Professor Anne Marie Ketchum De La Vega, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress Linda Kelsey and pianist Victoria Kirsch, director of organizations such as the Operetta Foundation and Opera Arts.

In addition to showcasing Dickinson’s work, musical compositions by Lori Laitman, Aaron Copland, Steve Heitzeg and Tom Cipullo were an integral part of the performance’s flow.

The hall instantly livened up when De La Vega began to sing on stage in front of a curtain background detailed with keywords from Dickinson’s work. Her rich, warm tone captured the audience’s attention while she gracefully eased between high and low notes, cycling through mezzo piano to forte volumes and everywhere in between.

“I always feel a bit drained after we do this, because it touches so deeply inside the heart,” said De La Vega.

The decision to flesh out Dickinson’s life as a performance came from De La Vega’s view of Dickinson as “rich and complex, misunderstood, tender, strong, and beautiful.”

Kirsch, who co-wrote the performance, worked in harmony with De La Vega, creating the perfect mood and accenting De La Vega’s voice. Kirsch’s hands reflected the dynamics of the pieces as her hands ebbed and flowed from the keys of the piano.

Kelsey’s delivery of Dickinson’s work followed each musical piece, with context provided by Kirsch and De La Vega when necessary. Dickinson’s complicated mind was brought to life by Kelsey, who conveyed passionate feelings of love, religious inquiry and even Dickinson’s thoughts about life and death.

Besides the heavy emotional tones of the performance, there were light hearted moments when the audience shared a laugh.

“I love the laughs because people treat [Dickinson] so reverentially….because she’s this great poet and I think she’s very funny and charming,” said Kelsey. “She’s very satirical.”

Piecing together all the music and poetry proved to be difficult for the talented trio.

“It turned out to be very challenging because there’s so much work of Emily Dickinson. I would say we threw out three version of [the show], staging wise,” noted Kelsey. “Eventually, we came to the right poetry and songs that we wanted to share.”

“There [were] lots of choices and it was fun to whittle it down to the ones that spoke to us and worked with the show,” Kirsch added.

Despite reworking the show multiple times, the trio shined on stage as they expressed enthusiasm and emotion through each note and word.

The conclusion of the performance was met with a hearty applause and whistles as the artists bowed. Overall, “This, And My Heart” peeled away the complex layers of Dickinson’s thoughts and provided the audience with an interesting glimpse of Dickinson’s story outside of her poetry.

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