Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), Music and Contemporary Studies, 2009
You have to sing in multiple languages and be competent in them. You have to know every single word that you are singing all the time.
Kristi Bryson thinks parents who are not professional singers probably sing more to their children than she does. But she will sing a Mozart aria or two to her young son and certainly some Christmas carols. But little Matthew knows his mother’s voice well. When Kristi was five months pregnant with him she performed the role of Susanna in the comic opera The Marriage of Figaro.
“That was a dream role for me” Kristi says. A dream role and a physically demanding one. Susanna is on stage for much of the production, running around, directing the plot through singing. And Kristi says her voice had a special quality.
“Your vocal cords thicken when you are pregnant. It sounds more beautiful to me..” Then Kristi adds with a laugh - “ the breathing was a challenge.”
Kristi began singing at the age of nine, winning a competition at the local music festival. In high school she sang in musical theatre but also discovered classical music. She had found her voice.
Kristi then went to King’s as both an organ and vocal scholar. She played organ for the Thursday services and sang in the King’s Chapel Choir. And while at King’s she found something else.
The Foundation Year Program (FYP) was “the perfect thing” for her intellectual curiosity. Kristi found the historical and philosophical context for the music she loved. She remembers studying the German composer Richard Wagner and “learning about the debates in music at the time and about the importance and the emphasis that should be put on the text. Wagner’s idea of it was an entire theatrical art form where the music and the text work together. Neither is subordinate to the other.”
It was an important part of her education.
“You have to sing in multiple languages and be competent in them,” she says. Those languages include German, French, Italian, Russian, Latin and even on occasion, Swedish. “You have to know every single word that you are singing all the time. And on top of that it has to mean something to you and then you have to make it mean something for your audience.”
Kristi speaks French and has learned some Italian and German. She would like to do more language study though, to understand the nuances and, as she says, “the spirit of the language”. Like Wagner, Kristi believes the true power of a composition comes when words and music work in concert.
After King’s, Kristi went on to complete her Master of Music in Advanced Vocal Performance at the Royal College of Music In London. She worked freelance in England and continues to do so in Canada, getting contracts with ensembles that perform the early music she specializes in.
In an interesting bit of synchronicity, while she was in England Kristi had the opportunity to sing with I Fagiolini, an international vocal ensemble. They performed a forty voice Mass in a place that had special meaning for Kristi – they sang in the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.
Posted: Apr. 2016