But not just virgin: rich and convincing. Although Luker and Wilfert have distinct voices when singing separately, they can sound almost identical when singing together. (They have the same voice teacher.) Listening to backing tracks, even they couldn’t always tell who was who. In duets like “You are my best friend” (the lovely first game) and “Isn’t that better?” (a song from Kander and Ebb’s torch is here transformed into a hymn of brotherly support) Something sublime happens as the two voices, blending so closely together, seem to multiply even as they merge.
This effect is at its peak in the album finale, an unexpected association of Patty Griffin’s song “Be Careful” with “Dear Theodosia”, a number sung by Aaron Burr to his baby girl in “Hamilton”. As performed by Luker and Wilfert, “Theodosia” feels like a promise from today’s women to their spiritual daughters to leave them a safer world. “Be Careful”, whose lyrics give “All the Girls” its title, is heart-wrenching ambivalence, celebrating the strength of women but also their fragility – and ending, in this arrangement, in a daringly unresolved harmony.
Which seems fair. As strong as the album is – five settings of Thalken’s poetry are particularly beautiful – it’s inevitably shrouded in loss. I’m not just talking about the loss of Luker herself. Her voice genre (and Wilfert’s) is gradually being squeezed out of musical theater, as classically trained sopranos give way to the one described so casually in “Not Funny,” which Kelli O’Hara will sing at Tuesday’s concert. . Most new books are written for belters.
The biggest loss is of course personal. Many of us, mourning a loved one, are grateful for any piece of our voice that might be retained in a phone message or video. This is not Burstein’s situation. He has a lot of Luker’s albums to listen to. The problem is, while they’re heartwarming, they’re also devastating – especially, on “All the Girls,” that final mix, with its painful Griffin words: “Be careful the way you bend me / Pay attention. the way you send me / be careful how you end me.
In any case, the albums are what Luker gave us, not him. More than his public voice, what Burstein misses most after 20 years of marriage is his private voice: the one he heard on car rides spent tuning in with hits from the 70s to the radio.
“Now it’s just me and the radio,” he says.
In comparison, the rest of us are lucky. Listening to “All the Girls,” in some ways Luker’s funniest and wisest album, we keep her singing next to us forever.
Rebecca Luker and Sally Wilfert
“All the girls”
Becca: A Night of Stories and Songs in Memory of Rebecca Luker
May 4 at 7:30 p.m.