The Davis Enterprise

Estimated printed pages: 3

February 26, 2007

Sisters Fitz Gibbon

Jeff Hudson

Enterprise staff writer

Folks sometimes say that "sisterhood is powerful." In the case of Lucy and Elaine Fitz Gibbon, sisterhood is undeniable musical as well.

Vocalist and violinist Lucy Fitz Gibbon graduated from Davis High School last year, after singing with the Madrigals and winning the high school's solo vocal competition, in addition taking top honors in her age division at the Sacramento regional competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Lucy also appeared last year as a soloist with the Sacramento Master Singers.

Lucy is now halfway through her freshman year at Yale — but she'll be back in Davis next month, and while she's here, she'll be singing (and playing the violin) in a trio that also includes her younger sister Elaine (a cellist) as well as their mother Linda on piano.

Elaine, a junior at Davis High, recently won the high school's concerto competition. As a result of that award, she'll be performing as soloist (a movement of the Dvorak Cello Concerto) with the Davis High School Symphony Orchestra, as well as members of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, in the Bodil Wennberg Concert on April 28 at 2 p.m. in the Mondavi Center. The event is an annual fund-raiser benefiting local music programs.

For Lucy, it's been a year of transition. After graduating last June, she took part (as did other graduating seniors) in the Madrigals' big trip in July to the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales, where the Madrigals won first place in the Chamber Choir competition.

The piece that played a decisive part in that award was the group's performance of Eric Whitacre's delicate piece "A Boy and a Girl," which deeply impressed the Eisteddfod's judges.

Imagine Lucy's delight when she arrived at Yale a few months later, and got to meet Whitacre.

"He did a Master's Tea — it's an event where you come in and have tea and talk with the featured guest," Lucy said.

That meeting over tea led into a discussion of how Whitacre comes up with the texts he uses in his compositions. Soon, Lucy Fitz Gibbon found herself doing a bit of research for the composer on the writings of early British naturalists, particularly on the topic of butterflies. "The terminology that the naturalists use is very interesting compared to the way modern science might describe something."

(Whitacre, incidentally, has taken an interest in the Madrigals — in mid-February, this year's group took a master class from Whitacre in Los Angeles, working on another one of the composer's pieces.)

Singing is also part of Lucy Fitz Gibbon's life at college. She is singing with several choral groups at Yale, sometimes as a regular, sometimes as an alternate. She is involved with the Yale Glee Club and plans to take part in one of that group's tours.

"I got to work with Helmuth Rilling (longtime director of the Oregon Bach Festival), and Simon Carrington (a founding member of the King's Singers). It's really exciting to be with people who are working on 'their thing.' "

She's also adjusting to college life: "I have to read 500 pages a week, per class." There's also some noise in the dorm, "the floor below us is really loud ... sometimes you have to wear earplugs."

Sister Elaine, a junior at Davis High, is also carrying a full course load, including several honors classes and AP classes. She's thinking about college (but isn't sure where she'll go yet).

In the meantime, the cello is Elaine's constant companion.

"I try to practice two hours a day ... but it doesn't always happen with all the homework I have."

Elaine is practicing for several upcoming concerts. In addition to her March 14 trio concert with her mother and her sister, Elaine is playing at The Jammies (a youth music showcase) on March 30 at the Mondavi Center.

Elaine also goes to the Bay Area most weekends to participate in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.

"Their conductor, Benjamin Shwartz, is like 24 (years old), he just graduated from (the) Curtis (Institute, in Philadelphia). I like him a lot."

She also likes playing chamber music, especially some of the more modern stuff: "Shostakovich! Prokofiev! Bartok! But I like Tchaikovsky and Brahms, too."

And in an ideal world, she'd find time for a few more things. "I wish I knew how to play the piano, but I don't. And I wish I knew how to sing," Elaine said.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@ or 747-8055.