A “Silent Minority” Speaks Up
When tenor Nicholas Phan competed in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2003, participants were directed to present a “song of their country.” For Phan, an American of Chinese and Greek descent, the edict posed a dilemma. “I was immediately drawn to offerings like ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘Simple Gifts,’ but I didn’t feel comfortable doing them,” he says. “In hindsight, it was because I didn’t feel white enough to sing those songs. It drove home the sense that I am an American, but I don’t necessarily feel very American.” Phan eventually chose to steer away from traditional American music and sing “Litany” from John Musto’s cycle Shadow of the Blues.