Heather Masse performed euphonic melodies from new album “Hold On”
Musician’s angelic vocals created an enchanting evening at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club
Heather Masse fans of all ages united at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club on Sept. 23 to bear witness to her graceful performance of heartwarming melodies.
Trained as a jazz singer at the New England Conservatory of Music, but well versed in folk, pop and bluegrass, Masse achieved a perfect balance between light, soaring, aria-esque melodies in her high register and a fuller, richer sound in her lower register. Her harmonic genius, which she continuously perfects as a member of the Billboard-charting folk group The Wailin’ Jennys, shone through as she elegantly approached each note with a sophisticated, stylistic flair.
“We all really believe in our project, The Wailin’ Jennys,” Masse said. “But it’s also important for each of us to have our own voice out there and being creative in different ways is important for all of us. Taking breaks and having different projects is what has helped us stay a band for so long.”
On Oct. 11, Masse released “Hold On,” her first original album in 10 years. The album is a collection of acoustic pop and jazz performances, which Masse describes as a necessary outlet for her to experiment with jazz improvisation. It features her long-time pianist and frequent collaborator Jed Wilson, who reflects how “this new album is particularly remarkable as it exhibits her profound gifts as a songwriter.”
“I wrote ‘Hold On’ about trusting humanity and finding hope and peace amidst today’s chaos,” said Masse, who pinpoints today’s climate change, political unrest and the general lack of trust and respect among humanity as the main sources of this intensity.
Masse’s sweet, soulful melodies brought comfort to concertgoers, who gasped in awe at her euphonic tone in covers of Ann Reed’s “If You Were Mine” and Emmylou Harris’ “When We’re Gone, Long Gone.” Masse even surprised audience members with an impressive folk spin on classical pieces like “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe and rock numbers like “Let It Be Me” by The Everly Brothers.
For many of these duet covers, Masse was joined by singer and radio personality Garrison Keillor and pianist Richard Dworsky to pay tribute to Keillor’s radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion,” of which Dworsky served as music director while Masse performed as a frequent guest. Dworsky amazed audience members with his sophisticated versatility, earning endless applause for his seamless transition between folk, jazz and classical genres.
In 2017, Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio after allegations of “inappropriate behavior” toward a co-worker. Keillor handed off “A Prairie Home Companion,” which was retitled to “Live From Here,” to mandolinist, singer and radio personality Chris Thile.
Keillor has denied these allegations and responded in an email to the Star Tribune that “anyone who ever was around my show can tell you that I was the least physically affectionate person in the building.”
Masse has not provided a response to these allegations.