Vocal Rising Stars: Reflections by Chris Reynolds, piano

Chris Reynolds, piano, joined the 2015 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars for their week-long residency and concluding performance at Caramoor.

I am a pianist who confuses people. The question I am asked is always: “where do you see yourself?” It seems that half the world sees me as a “solo” pianist. The other half sees me as a “collaborative” pianist. The truth is I detest both these categories. It was only when I got to college that I realized there was a difference between the two. I don’t know what I see myself as. One of the many things I admire about Steve Blier is his understanding that there is such a thing as a solo pianist who loves going beyond the confines of the Liszt Sonata and will step into a practice room with a singer. When I first played for Steve, I arrived at his apartment with a binder in which I had assembled virtually every song I felt comfortable playing, expecting to present anything from Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte to Rautavaara’s Sonnets of Shakespeare. But once I sat down at the piano, he said, “play what you feel most comfortable with.” I played a solo piano work by Granados. And he loved it (I think- I’m assuming I wouldn’t be writing this if he didn’t). Steve is a man who appreciates music as more than a genre. And thank God I found a mentor who isn’t confused by me.

In my short time here at Caramoor I have found myself quoting Rutger Hauer circa Bladerunner: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” I’ve seen more personal growth through song in the course of 10 minutes from these incredible singers than I’ve seen through the entire run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve seen a baritone sing higher notes than most sopranos. Watching these singers I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I don’t think I realized how beautiful music could be until I heard Chelsea scoop a note in “I Pastori.” And this is coming from someone who heard Jessye Norman sing “All the things you are” on Valentine’s Day.

I have never been one to easily connect with people. I found from an early age that I had a hard time getting to know people naturally. Being a solo pianist for a time was an ideal solution – to enclose myself in a practice room for hours without much human contact. I remember reading a prayer in front of the student body at my pseudo-religious high school: “Thank you God for giving me music, when no one else was there.” This past week I have discovered that to play a song with someone is to make a connection deeper than anything beyond music. Five musicians arrive not knowing each other intimately, have a day of singing songs, and that night are in the kitchen together making pasta and laughing like old friends. What more could one ask for?

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