At his junior recital, Aaron Reynolds ’12 sang music from three periods, drawing on his studies in the history of vocal performance.
In Jean Paul Martini’s “Plaisir d’amour,” Reynolds demonstrates the Classical style in an interpretation that is dominated by the melody. Adherence to form dictates a performance in which the phrasing is balanced and predictable.
Franz Schubert’s “Das Wandern” is typical of the early Romantic period, when modifications to the structure itself helped to express the text, for a more emotionally charged performance.
And in Reynold’s performance of Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” we hear the highly embellished style typical of the Baroque. Such
a performance demands much of the singer, with a premium placed on the vocal agility, lightness and precision needed to execute its runs, trills and challenging intervals.
Student/prof partners explore composers’ intent
Aaron Reynolds ’12 is more than a technically skilled vocalist. He’s a storyteller who captures the meaning of a song and conveys it to his audience, whether the piece is a contemporary Broadway musical or a Baroque-period Italian opera.
Reynolds recently gave a recital at the college informed by his scholarly collaboration with Michael Rosewall (Music) in applied vocal literature. The music education major researched the stylistic practices of the Classical, Baroque and Romantic periods; studied French, Italian and German; and ultimately performed music from composers like Handel, Mozart and Vaughan Williams to showcase the results of his efforts.
To the audience, Reynolds realizes it looks simple. “Obviously on the outside, it’s just smile and perform … but it’s not easy,” he says.
There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved. One of the main tasks in preparing for a vocal recital, says Reynolds, is trying to interpret how the composer would want the piece sung.
Rosewall explains: “We have to understand the style of music and the culture that the composer inhabited. We have to understand the kind of piece that it is, whether it is a stand-alone aria or whether it is one song from a song cycle, and, kind of piece by piece, look at these individual artifacts and try to reconstruct what would be the most authentic performance of a piece.”
Works from Reynolds’ recital help illustrate the interpretation involved. For example, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” a predictably structured, melody-dominated Classical piece, calls for vocal balance. Conversely, Romantic works like Vaughan Williams’ “Songs of Travel” convey meaning through varied phrasing that stirs emotion.
If a song Reynolds plans to perform is in a language other than English, he looks at multiple translations. He also uses the International Phonetic Alphabet to break down the pronunciation of the words in the text. Reynolds says it is a “syllable-by-syllable and letter-by-letter” process that, in the end, helps ensure he is saying the words correctly.
Once Reynolds has completed his research on a song, he enters the voice studio. There he puts the theory, culture, language and style into practice with what he already knows about good vocal production.
Reynolds’ dedication to his craft has been recognized. In October 2010, he progressed to the semifinal round of a competition held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and hosted by the North Central chapter for the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Rosewall was present that day and says: “Aaron is a unique and innate performer. When he gets on stage and knows his music, he steps into it and is somehow able to broadcast meaning through his performance. There is sincerity in his performance that comes across to the audience. I think that, as well, pure, nice sound – his beautiful singing – caught the judge’s attention and pushed him forward.”