“Of the three languages, Swedish is the easiest to sing in," Martin said. "It’s the most lyric of the languages, so it’s more like singing in Italian or French."
Martin said she has enjoyed the challenge of singing in unique languages.
“These are not languages that are regularly performed because they’re a little intimidating, so I was really excited to tackle something new and different,” Martin said.
Cat Zachary, communications coordinator for the UNC-CH Department of Music, said she is eager to hear the uniqueness of Scandinavian languages.
“The standard languages are usually Italian, German and French, so it’s exciting to have something that’s a little bit different and perhaps is often overlooked in the standard repertoire,” Zachary said. “Bringing a different flavor of art song to campus for our students to hear is really exciting.”
Many American vocal students and teachers are not familiar with Scandinavian music. Martin said when she performed with O’Brien at UNC-Greensboro recently, none of the voice faculty present were familiar with the Danish or Swedish music.
Martin said the recital's music draws from Scandinavian history and culture in addition to language.
“With the Danish set, the composer is Peter Heise," Martin said. "It’s based on a true story about a young woman named Dyveke who became the mistress of Christian II [former King of Denmark]. It’s a really incredible story that was very tragic."
Marc Callahan, voice professor at the UNC-CH Department of Music, said he is looking forward to having longtime friend Martin perform on campus.
“I have worked with Martin for the last 20 years," Callahan said. "We met in the late '90s at an opera company called Ohio Light Opera."
A recent reconnection led to Callahan and Martin showcasing each other’s talent at their respective schools.
“We met up at a conference for teachers of singing,” Callahan said. “I’ve been down to her university to give a recital and to direct one of their operas down there, so I wanted to bring her up here to sing for our students as well.”
Callahan said he is personally familiar with both Martin and O’Brien, and he can't wait to hear the performance.
“Both Jessie and John are wonderful singer-pianists, respectively, and so their interpretation will be really beautiful," Callahan said. "Not only that, but the scholarship that they’ve done that goes along with the recital will be really rewarding for anyone who wants to learn about the music."
Martin said she and O’Brien have had an ongoing musical collaboration, which helps both artists to feel comfortable during performances.
“He and I started working together in 2013 when I wasn’t feeling great about my singing," Martin said. "The first time we worked together, all of a sudden, everything clicked really well."
When rehearsing for recitals, the artists sometimes utilize O’Brien’s music space inside the Victorian home he renovated. Martin said O’Brien has opened up this space previously for concerts and performances.
“He has a music salon, so he does concerts there," Martin said. "It’s the most lovely, perfect space to perform music."
Both artists complement each other’s strengths, which Martin believes is why they work well together.
“He’s an amazing collaborative artist," Martin said. "He claims that I’m one of the most consistent singers he’s ever worked with, but it’s a great ensemble relationship and we’re really sensitive to each other’s needs. I sing so much better when he’s playing.”