Arlington native joins Broadway, opera stars for virtual singing telegrams

WTOP's Jason Fraley highlights 'Sing for Hope' virtual telegrams

Her title role in “Porgy and Bess” was postponed at the Kennedy Center this summer.

Instead, Alyson Cambridge of Arlington, Virginia, is participating in Sing for Hope grams.

“Sing for Hope is a wonderful charitable organization that in the past reached out to … hospitals, schools, youth groups,” Cambridge told WTOP. “In the pandemic, everything is shut down and there is no live performance, but the mission of Sing for Hope is to continue to give back to the community and spread the power and joy of music.”

The idea is to give personalized singing grams from Broadway and opera stars.

“We call up people on the phone or do Zoom singing telegrams,” Cambridge said. “It’s a great way to let somebody know during this time that you’re thinking about them. … It’s perfect for a birthday [or] just a nice surprise. ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you.’ Or, ‘I know my sister loves this song’ or ‘my father might like this.’ It’s a warm, welcome surprise.”

The gram performance can be as broad or specific as you want.

“You can just say, ‘I would like a Broadway star to make a phone call to my grandmother on such and such a date and I would like it to be from a popular musical from the 1950s,'” Cambridge said. “Or, you could say something very specific and say, ‘I would like opera singer Alyson Cambridge to call at this time [and] sing this aria from this opera.'”

You can choose from a talented list of Broadway, opera and pop stars compiled by co-founders Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, who are world renowned opera singers.

“It is a huge roster of artists,” Cambridge said. “It’s people who have been on Broadway from various casts of hit musicals like ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ I think there’s some people from ‘Mean Girls,’ people who’ve been in ‘Les Miz,’ I was in the show ‘Rocktopia.'”

Some artists even jazz up their calls with creative costumes, props and backdrops.

“My home office and practice studio has some modern art, so I rearranged the paintings and made sure I had this flashy artwork in the background,” Cambridge said. “Other artists have absolutely put on costumes and done their hair and makeup in a certain way. Some people have used green screens to have these interesting virtual backgrounds.”

Not only does it cheer up the recipient, but it also benefits a struggling artist community.

“[All] of the proceeds actually go back to the Sing for Hope artists,” Cambridge said. “Most of us are unemployed at this time. It goes back to the different communities and other organizations that Sing for Hope supports, so it’s a really a win-win situation.”

Each gram costs $100, much needed money for the performers.

“It’s a really difficult time and it’s become increasingly difficult actually as the pandemic has gone on,” Cambridge said. “In March, maybe April, we were thinking, ‘There’s an end in sight … end of summer.’ … Now, most of us aren’t going to be going back to work until 2021. That is a huge shock to the system. … There’s sort of no end in sight right now.”

The lack of creative expression is just as devastating as the economic strife. Before the pandemic, Cambridge was regularly singing for the Metropolitan Opera. She was also co-creating the new rock opera “Rock Me Amadeus,” which was set to debut in 2021.

“Not only have we taken a financial loss, but we’ve also taken a huge creative loss,” Cambridge said. “Sing for Hope empowers the artists. It gives us a chance to actually perform and make that human connection. … We are looking for those opportunities to perform, to sing, to share our art with people and to make people happy with our voices.”

The virtual performances also allow her to keep in touch with the D.C. area, where she attended grade school at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, went to high school at Sidwell Friends in D.C. and took voice lessons at the Levine School of Music in D.C.

“I really do look forward to returning back to the Kennedy Center, Washington National Opera and Washington Performing Arts,” Cambridge said. “New York has been my home base for 17 years singing at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and Broadway, but I love returning to the D.C. area and seeing all of my friends, classmates and family.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Alyson Cambridge (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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