By Mike Peaslee
Bryan is the exceptionally talented operatic tenor that we recorded for our exotic Voice Of Gaia - Bryn solo vocal library. We captured 16 hours in the studio with Bryan, covering 4 true legato types, sustains, staccatos and a whole host of emotive liver performance phrase elements, including Arabian, Southern Gospel/Spiritual, Pure Vowel, Humming and Whistling. We spoke with Bryn about the experience, his background and the road ahead.
When did you begin singing seriously?
I started seriously singing in college when I began private voice instruction. Previously I had experience singing in local theater and high school musicals etc. However, my family likes to tell the story of how, when I was 4 years old, I had memorized and sung the entirety of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and I was pretty serious about it.
What led you to study early music?
I suppose I heard the call from a very early age. As a kid, I would sit for hours entranced by Angel records 1994 re-release of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. It was exotic, mysterious, peaceful, inspiring and wholly foreign to my young ears and I loved it. This began a love affair with early music. As I matured as a singer and musician, I frankly became tired with the standard classical vocal literature as I find it constricting in many ways. There is far greater room for improvisation, composition, and collaboration between singer and instrumentalist in early music than I found in the standard rep. I was also blessed with great mentors in the field particularly Dr. Alejandro Planchart one of the founding members of Early Music America and one of the world’s foremost musicologists. I had the distinct pleasure and privilege to work with him this past year, rekindling the fire that burned in me as a child listening to the Benedictine monks.
What has been your most interesting project?
Recording for Soundiron has been the most interesting project that I have done so far. It combined highly technical and challenging vocal recording with carte blanche to create and improvise to my heart’s content.
What has been your most significant project so far?
The most significant project I’ve done was with Dr. Planchart this past October at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Through his research into 11th century Aquitanian (southern and southwestern French) liturgical music, he compiled a complete mass of chant as would have been heard in the abbeys of Southern France in the 11th century, with its mix of Gregorian, Gallican, Old Hispanic, and Frankish chant. We presented a concert version of this mass in conjuction with a Medieval exhibition of some Canterbury Cathedral artifacts. I’ll never forget the experience of singing this newly discovered chant; some of these chants had not been heard or performed since the 11th century!
What draws you to middle-eastern, Mediterranean and Arabian vocal styles?
I would say the same sense of mysticism, and exoticism that drew me to Gregorian chant as a child. There is a great undercurrent of passion in Middle-Eastern vocal styles that I love tapping into.
How did you develop your skills in those areas?
As far as developing skills, I have done a lot of close listening. I’ve spent time listening and exposing myself to Byzantine chant, Mozarabic chant, Georgian Polyphony, Islamic Adhans and also some Indian Classical music. Also (and this is an admission of my weirdness) when I hear a natural drone in everyday life (bathroom fan, refrigerator hum, office lights, etc) I love improvising in different styles to it. True boredom therapy!
How do you feel that style contrasts creatively and emotionally as a performer with singing American Southern Gospel and Spiritual styles?
I draw upon the ecstatic spirituality common to both styles. I find lots of inspiration in the folk songs and ballads of the British Isles which were adopted and transformed by the early American pioneers. Along with African American Spirituals, this is music that you really have to feel. I’m not as worried about what sounds “authentic” when singing Gospel and Spirituals as I am when singing other ethnic styles, I’m just hoping to draw upon genuine emotions which the music then flows from.
What was the experience like for you recording Voice Of Gaia: Bryn with us?
It was very much unlike anything I’ve done before, challenging and rewarding in equal measure. I’m most accustomed to live performance, but once I became comfortable with the recording environment I felt free to experiment with different ideas and explore things. I found the juxtaposition of highly technical and precise singing, with completely free form improvisation very rewarding. It was a good full brain exercise.
What was the most challenging part of the process? The most unexpected?
Definitely the intervallic work, that stuff is tough! Successfully navigating that aspect of the recording required a level of concentration that was a challenge to maintain after several hours.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently completing an Artist Diploma in Early Music at Cornish College in Seattle. I’m working to improve my skills of interpretation and expand my repertoire in 17th and 18th century music. I’m doing a bit of freelance recording work as well, both vocal and on trumpet (my second love). I’m planning to work with Seattle Opera’s Education/Outreach program this year and with some local choral groups. Upcoming performances include singing with the Seattle early music collective Queen City Musicians in October and January, Seattle Early Music Guild in February, and this December I will be joining the Santa Fe Desert Chorale to sing for their 2014 Winter Season.
Where can people reach you and/or find more of your work?
Those interested are free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on my LinkedIn or Facebook pages. I have also begun freelance recording with Odesk.com. Check out a bit of my solo trumpet work with composer/arranger Trevor Welch on the film Chicken Suit directed by A.K. Hottman at www.saltbrothers.com. Also this October, be sure to check out a few of my original choral and chant compositions on sync-licensing website www.moonshine.tv