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Soulful singing transcends language barriers: Arts Dawg date night recap

Ana Moura dazzled the audience on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Isabel Pinto)

Ana Moura dazzled the audience on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Isabel Pinto)

One of my tasks as part of this series was to write honestly about the Arts Dawg experience as a date night idea. We in the UWAA naturally felt it would make a great date – Appetizers! Wine! The arts! – but my first two dates admitted that they wouldn’t have thought to attend dance productions or symphony performances on their own.

Thankfully, Ella Mae, my date on Saturday, couldn’t have been more excited to see Ana Moura.

We talked briefly about the Portuguese fado singer over coffee while escaping the Seattle rain and waiting for the pre-show reception. Ella Mae, also an occasional singer, had brushed up on Moura’s work beforehand and found herself entranced by Moura’s voice. “Smooth” became the descriptor of the night.

We shifted topics after a few minutes and spent much of the hour-long coffee date talking about travel. We shared our travel philosophies– “get lost” and “get off the beaten path” – talked about places we’d been – like the Philippines, New York, and New Orleans – and destinations we’d like to visit – basically “everywhere on Earth.”

We couldn’t go to Portugal on this night, so Moura brought a taste of the country to Seattle.

Moura is a young star in the storied fado scene, which started nearly 200 years ago as a genre similar to American blues music; it sprung out of poor and disenfranchised communities, and most song topics touched on loss, yearning, and heartbreak.

Those themes were evident on Saturday, as Moura performed one tear-jerking tune after another. She sung all but two songs in Portuguese, leaning heavily on her latest release “Desfado,” for the set’s material. Maybe Ella Mae and I were actually better off for not understanding Moura’s devastating lyrics; how awkward is it, after all, to spend a blind date listening to songs of failed romance, sorrow, and sadness?

Whether performing a folk-inspired number or traditional fado tune, Moura enchanted throughout her two-hour set. The Portuguese might have been lost on Ella Mae and I, but Moura’s voice – which could soar just as easily as it could crawl from note to melancholy note – kept us engaged throughout the night. Some feelings and emotions transcend language.

Two hours and one encore later, no one in the crowd was ready to call it a night. Nearly everyone stood and clapped along when Moura ditched the sorrowful tunes for more upbeat, fast-paced numbers. As Moura and her band took a bow and waved to the crowd, Ella Mae turned to me and shouted over the applause. “I loved that,” she said. “So smooth.”

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