Larry and Trish Sewell love Bend, but the lure of grandchildren is too great to ignore.
And so in a few weeks, the talented singing couple will pack up a U-Haul truck and head south, onward to a new home in Mesa, Ariz., just 30 minutes away from their five grandkids. In addition to proximity to family, the Sewells will be close to an international airport in nearby Phoenix, and within reach of all the cultural attractions of a major metropolitan area.
”We're excited about our move, but I tell people I'll be sobbing all the way,” said Trish Sewell.
Friends and fans of the Bend couple are sobbing, too, at least figuratively, about the duo's imminent departure.
”For as long as they've lived in Bend, Trish and Larry Sewell have been like bedrock in Central Oregon's classical music community,” said retired Cascade Chorale Director Clyde Thompson in an e-mail to The Bulletin.
Trish, 42, is a soprano, and Larry, 61, is a baritone. In the 13 years the two have called Bend home, the Sewells have performed with many of the region's classical music groups and theater companies: Juniper Opera, Obsidian Opera, Cascade Chorale, Central Oregon Symphony and Cascades Theatrical Company. The two even formed a classical music concert series of their own, Sundays at Seven, which ran for two years at their church in Bend.
”Trish has been a mainstay of classical music singing here,” said Monica Torrey, her voice teacher. ”People love her singing so much. It's going to be a real loss.”
The Sewells met 14 years ago, at a community theater in Los Angeles. Both were in the theater's production of ”South Pacific,” and according to Trish, the two ”became friends, got married and have been singing together ever since.”
Shortly after they were married, they moved to Bend, escaping the rat race in Los Angeles. A classically trained vocalist with degrees in voice performance from Linfield College and Boston University, Sewell said she wasn't expecting to find much of a classical music scene in Bend.
”I figured I would be a voice teacher, but I really didn't think there was going to be much in the way of musical opportunities,” Sewell said. ”Hopefully we would be able to create something when we got here, but it was all going to be pretty suspect.”
Upon arrival, however, apprehension turned to anticipation. The now-defunct Juniper Opera was in full swing, and the Sewells ”dove right in.” They soon got involved with the nascent Obsidian Opera, and 10 years ago joined Central Oregon Community College's choir, Cascade Chorale.
”They were doing Sundays at Seven, and it was a very nice outlet for people, especially since I was brand new (in town),” Thompson said. ”I hooked up with them and I have been hugely appreciative of them. They are such positive people, and have given so much to the community. And they are great musicians.”
According to Thompson, whenever he composes a soprano part, he does so with Trish's voice in mind.
”I just like Trish's voice a whole lot,” Thompson said.
Helping Sewell keep her voice trained has been her voice teacher of the last five years, Torrey. Both so-pranos, Torrey said they had always discussed performing together, but until now, circumstances never made it possible.
”We've been talking about doing a concert the whole time, and just as she leaves town, we are going to do it,” Torrey said. ”It's now or never.”
Tonight, the due soprani, Italian for two sopranos, perform a free concert at COCC's Hitchcock Auditorium (see ”If You Go”).
The first half of the concert will feature the two singers performing pieces in English. These include ”Six Elizabethan Songs” by contemporary composer Dominic Argento, and Handel's ”Let the Bright Seraphim.”
The second half will feature pieces in other languages, such as songs by Richard Strauss and Claude Debussey, and will close with a duet from Bellini's ”Norma.”
”It's a duet of friendship, so it's very appropriate,” Torrey said.
After the concert, the Sewells will start packing, except instead of packing for Arizona, they will be packing for a quick trip to Europe. They have been invited to sing with Festival Chorale Oregon, a Salem-based choir that is about to undertake a three-week tour through Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.
”We've been to Hanoi, when we adopted our daughter, but not to Europe,” Sewell said. ”We are really excited.”
Joining them on tour with the choir will be Thompson and his wife, Jo Ann, who are also classical singers. Thompson added that Sewell is to be the choir's featured soloist, no small honor in a choir with 45 members.
After their return stateside, the Sewells and their 7-year-old daughter, Liz, will prepare for the long haul to Arizona. As they have already sold their Bend home, and have been staying with friends, all they have to do is retrieve their belongings from storage and pack up their moving truck.
”We were hoping to make a family vacation out of the journey, but we're not sure if that's going to happen,” Sewell said, lamenting the long drive in a U-haul, towing a car.
Once they settle into their new house in Mesa, Sewell plans to give private voice lessons, but primarily be a full-time mom and grandmother. She also plans to find a local theater to perform with.
”If you're going to be a singer, you gotta know how to act,” Sewell said. ”Acting just kind of gets in your blood and doesn't get out. I love teaching, but it's also nice to keep your own abilities fresh.”
Sewell thinks Phoenix will provide lots of cultural and performance opportunities, but she knows she will miss ”everything” about Bend.
”The people here are fabulous,” she said. ”We have made some incredibly strong ties. We consider most of the people we know as family because our own families are not in the area. And we'll miss the surroundings. It's just so beautiful here.”