Get to Know Special Guest Mary Chapin Carpenter

Editor’s note: Mary Chapin Carpenter sings with the Kansas City Symphony and guest conductor Vince Mendoza at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Learn more.

Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Russ Harrington.
Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Russ Harrington.

1. Tell us about how you and Vince Mendoza started on this journey of orchestra shows. Did he come to you with the idea, or did you reach out to him? How long did the process take?

I first heard Vince’s work more than a decade ago, when I was performing at one of Don Henley’s fundraisers for Walden Woods. Vince was the arranger of all of the songs, and they were so beautiful, lush, evocative… I remember standing on the side of the stage and in that moment making a wish that if I could ever do an orchestral record, Vince would be the composer/arranger that I would love to work with. From that moment on, it took many years for it to come to fruition. We reached out to him when we felt we had the means to pull this project off. The phrase “worth the wait” comes to mind; I have never been so happy to wait so long for something so life transforming and artistically satisfying.

2. What are the some of the differences of performing with an orchestra versus a smaller ensemble? What do you appreciate about each format?

Playing with my 5-6 piece rock band is quite different from playing with an orchestra, as is fairly obvious.  But I love doing both and have discovered how many different skills are required to perform within each incarnation. I had to learn how to sing live with an orchestra, as well as to sing with an orchestra in the studio of course. I liken it to surfing; you have to stay atop the wave, recalibrating constantly … you don’t want to over-sing and lose all of the nuance and emotion, and you don’t want to under-sing and get swallowed up by this enormous wave of sound … so you learn how to listen to everything, follow your conductor, and know your own voice and it’s resonance within the orchestra. Having great monitors helps a lot! I appreciate being able to do many different things as an artist, the notion of being “nimble” enough to present my music in so many different settings is something I treasure and appreciate every day.

3. What type of response do you receive from fans from these symphonic concerts?

I have felt so grateful for the response we have received… I am always aware that no doubt there are a number of folks in the audience who are unfamiliar with the material, and so I always want to try and provide some brief introductions to the songs, to at least offer some context. It is always a pleasure to do this and it gives me a chance to bring a little bit more of myself into the more formal environment of a concert hall. Presenting the music last year from Scotland to New York to Los Angeles and back was the thrill of a lifetime.

Songs from the Movie album cover.
Songs from the Movie album cover.

4. Do you have a favorite moment or song from the “Songs from a Movie” set? If so, which one and why?

I do not have a favorite moment, as the set truly is a sum of its parts. What made this project in particular so challenging and satisfying was the fact that I was culling songs from so many years of recordings. Basically, these songs came from many different lives… Vince was the alchemist, the magician if you will, who made them all sound as if they originated from the same time and place and put them in musical settings to bind them to one another. It was extraordinary to hear the finished work, and to feel how the songs all connected to each other.

5. When is the last time you performed in Kansas City?

I last played there with my old friend Shawn Colvin a few years ago. It was a memorable evening!

6. Are you looking forward to performing within Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with the Kansas City Symphony?

I can’t wait… the Kauffman Center [for the Performing Arts] is one of the most glorious venues I have ever had the privilege to play, and I cannot wait to present our music there… a dream come true.


Mary Chapin Carpenter sings with the Kansas City Symphony and guest conductor Vince Mendoza at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Tickets start at $40. To purchase, call the Kansas City Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online. To learn more about Mary Chapin Carpenter, visit her website.

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