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Contralto Elizabeth Anker to perform at Meetinghouse

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SHIRLEY — When singer Elizabeth Anker was preparing for her 50th-birthday concert in 2004, she asked friends and fellow-musicians to come up with songs for the performance.

“I wanted poems to sing in English about nature, animals, life, what happens ” she said.

Her goals resulted in a varied repertoire of “12 great songs,” some of which will be included in an upcoming concert at Shirley’s Historic Meetinghouse. The songs were recorded in a live performance, “Poet Power!” available on CD.

After that cycle was complete, “shameless as I am,” she said she continued gathering gems.

“Now, I have two complete cycles and extras,” she said.

The line-up for the Shirley concert covers a wide range of musical poetry and fun family fare including pop songs and improvisation. There’s something for everyone in the mix, she said.

Anker’s multi-faceted résumé includes a bachelor’s degree from University of California Berkeley, private voice studies in the U.S. and Europe, master classes and a performance repertoire that ranges from pop to classical with surprises in between.

Anker is a teacher as well as a singer. She’s held faculty positions at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, the San Francisco Community Music Center and now teaches at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge. Her courses are for beginners to professionals and cover a wide array of musical material, Baroque Oratorio and Sacred Song, and Bach and Handel to name a few.

Her concert résumé ranges from Shostakovich and Debussy to Carole King and Joni Mitchell.

Concert organizer Holly Haase, a trained operatic vocalist, has taken classes with Anker at Longy, where she polishes her skills and is always on the lookout for artists to book for the Meetinghouse concert series.

Anker will perform June 2 at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. Proceeds are used to operate and maintain the Meetinghouse.

Appearing with Anker will be John McDonald and Wayman Chin on pianos and Scott Woolweaver on viola, which she described as a large violin with a deeper voice. She too, has a deeper voice.

“I’m a contralto,” said Anker.

Francine Trester, who penned some of the pieces in Anker’s poetry cycle, will be on stage at the concert, too. All of the performers will interact with the audience and field questions after the show, said Anker. The Shirley recital marks the world premiere of Trester’s “Domestic Affairs,” which Anker will perform.

Asked how she ended up in this part of the country, Anker said she fell in love while in Boston 20 years ago. She and her partner have been together ever since. They were married three years ago.

Anker’s conversational range is wide and varied, too, and touches on the places she’s been and the exciting realms she seeks within an instrument, a song and a voice.

“I have a very satisfying career,” she said. In Boston, she said she was “doing medieval music written by a nun.”

In the beginning, she said she was tuned into “universal emotions,” including love songs. In a departure with distinct New England overtones, she’s sung with the Shakers, she said, and recorded a CD in 1994 that includes the now-famous “Simple Gifts.” The CD was a chart-topper.

Her inspiration was a “wonderful singer,” Janet Baker.

“She made me believe in her songs,” said Anker. “It’s gorgeous music!”