Revels Spring Sing Artist Spotlight: Claire Dickson
Our extraordinary lineup of Revels Spring Sing performers includes with Brooklyn-based (but Boston bred) creative vocalist, songwriter, and producer Claire Dickson! Claire grew up with Revels, appearing on various Revels stages since age five alongside her family, and we can’t wait to welcome her home for her Revels Spring Sing soloist debut. Revels Digital Communications Manager Sydney Roslin sat down with Claire to discuss her performance career and her Revels history!
Sydney: Thank you for taking some time to talk to me, Claire! We’re really excited to have you at Revels Spring Sing next weekend.
Claire: I’m excited to be there!
S: So you’re a Revels alum!
C: Yes, I am. I was in my first Revels when I was five years old, in one of the Summer Revels. That was definitely one of my first experiences being on a stage and singing in front of people. I feel like I’m more than a Revels alum – I’m born and bred, raised on Revels. Pretty much everyone in my family has been involved with Revels in some way at some point. My mom and younger sibling have been part of the chorus, my older brother has been part of the chorus and played in the band, and my older sister was in Revels before I was even born. And my dad is a musician, he’s been a part of Revels before, so that’s everyone in my immediate family.
S: That’s awesome. Do you have any specific memories from Revels performances that have stuck with you?
C: One of my favorite Revels experiences was the German Christmas Revels because that was the year that my mom, younger sibling, and older brother were in the chorus. It was a family show. And in half of the performances, I got to sing “Silent Night”, or “Stille Nacht”, from the balcony in Sanders Theatre. “Dona Nobis Pacem” would finish and David Coffin would bring everyone down to a whisper. Then, for my moment, I rang a handbell for my note and sang, just this disembodied voice singing from the balcony. It’s such a beautiful space, and it was such a special experience, this hushed moment. It was beautiful to be a part of at such a young age.
S: You’re currently working on a songwriting project called Myrtle – what types of projects are you working on with that group?
C: I started Myrtle in college when I was taking a songwriting class with Esperanza Spalding. My friend Camila Ortiz and I wrote a song together, and it just felt so comfortable and exciting that we kept writing together after the class. We moved to New York together and we’ve been writing songs for a while now – we just put out an EP. We wrote a lot of music over the past two years, over Zoom, and then outside in parks in fifteen degree weather, but we did it! Our music is experimental pop, art pop – very lyric driven with a theatrical element, and through-composed most of the time. We rely on a lot of grooves and harmonies that might be associated with pop music, but we always have tension and dissonance that makes it feel experimental. It’s almost related to Revels in the sense where it involves this group singing element as well.
S: What is the name of your EP, if people are interested in giving it a listen?
C: It’s called “Myrtle” and it’s on our Bandcamp, https://myrtleworld.bandcamp.com/.
S: You also perform solo, improvising with voice and electronics. How did you get into that field of performance?
C: Well, I really see my voice as my instrument. It’s the way that I express myself, and I think when that’s the case, it follows that you want to manipulate it and find more ways to communicate with it. That’s the basis of using electronics; when you’re already so comfortable, so fluent in communicating with singing, adding other elements is especially exciting. Performing solo also feels the most natural to me as opposed to accompanying myself with the keyboard or other instruments. I’m able to create soundscapes that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, just using a looper and different pedals like reverb and delay. That music isn’t on the internet yet, but I’ll put some stuff out soon. Actually, my newest album “Starland” has a little bit of solo work on it.
S: Yes, your album “Starland” just came out a few months ago! What other types of music make up the rest of that album?
C: That album is largely inspired by this artist residency I did in the Arctic. I was on a tall ship in the Arctic Circle for two weeks with about thirty other artists. Some of the album is made up of songs with lyrics, and some of it is more atmospheric, ambient music. I produced it all myself, and I’m very excited to get it out to the world.
S: What sorts of in-person performances have you been able to do as the world has opened up?
C: I have done a number of in-person performances. This summer, New York really opened up for performances and now they’re happening all the time, with Myrtle and with my solo stuff.
S: What will you be singing on the Revels Spring Sing program?
C: I’m going to be singing a few jazz standards. I’m really excited – Stan Strickland has put together an awesome band.
S: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Revels community?
C: Hopefully I will be playing in Boston with my other projects soon! And don’t forget to visit our Bandcamp to hear all of our new releases – you can hear my solo work at https://clairedickson.bandcamp.com/ and Myrtle’s work at https://myrtleworld.bandcamp.com/.
Read more about Claire Dickson at her website, https://clairedicksonmusic.com/, and listen to her work at https://clairedickson.bandcamp.com/ (solo work) and https://myrtleworld.bandcamp.com/ (Myrtle). You can also follow Claire on Facebook @clairedicksonmusic and on Instagram @claire.dickson. And don’t forget to join us for Revels Spring Sing at the Center for the Arts at the Armory in Somerville at 3 PM on Sunday, March 20 to hear Claire and the rest of our fantastic performers! Learn more here.
*Photo credit to Sasha Pedro for INPUT/OUTPUT