Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crystal Monee Hall to bring Southern soul to Idaho

Singer, songwriter and performer is rising star

Express Staff Writer

Crystal Monee Hall will perform at the Sun Valley Opera House on Nov. 19. Courtesy photo

Straight from the Bay Area, Crystal Monee Hall will make her Sun Valley debut with her new album, "River Train." Hall will perform with her band at the Sun Valley Opera House on Friday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' Performing Arts Series. Tickets are $20 for Sun Valley Center for the Arts members and $30 for nonmembers.

"When I decided I wanted to sing professionally, I was a school teacher," Hall said. "My first job was on a Disney cruise ship, and the next job I was touring with 'Rent.'"

Hall performed in the Broadway and touring productions of the Tony award-winning musical for six years. She said it was a stable and amazing job, but she wanted to do more. From singing in the choir to singing on the Broadway stage and doing backup vocals for Elton John, Hall has impressed audiences with her big voice since she was a little girl.

Born and raised in Richmond, Va., Hall went from starring roles in musical theater in high school to directing the gospel choir during her college years at the University of Virginia. Her debut album, "River Train," released this past summer, showcases her remarkable vocal talent in songs inspired by her youth as a "church girl" in the South.

"The project came together and I just started learning to play acoustic guitar," Hall said. "It now has become a center piece and part of my career as a musician."

Hall said she had an energy shift and her music and songwriting began to focus on her ancestors and her upbringing.

"I was not writing from a random place," she said. "It was all from inside and from my roots. My ideas came out of an organic space."

Hall's powerful voice is deep and soulful. Her songs are rich and reflect her life growing up on the James River in Virginia— a special place for her.

"I had a lover affair with the James River," Hall said. "I loved going over the bridge and growing up by the river. It has spiritual significance for me."

Best known for her stirring, octave-leaping solo in the song "Seasons of Love" in "Rent," Hall has broken onto the scene this past year with performances at major festivals such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival and the Playboy Jazz Festival.  

Hall's move to the Bay Area from New York City has allowed her to become a recording artist. With "River Train," she has started to hit the road performing her work with her band.

"We've been playing together for awhile and the sound is coming together," she said. "I'm going to make Idaho sing with me."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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