Two senior UConn vocalists captivate audience in joint recital

Michael Patterson (left) and Ian Maxwell (right) performing in a joint recital at Storrs Congregational Church on Saturday, Feb. 4. (Courstesy of Ian Maxwell)

Michael Patterson (left) and Ian Maxwell (right) performing in a joint recital at Storrs Congregational Church on Saturday, Feb. 4. (Courstesy of Ian Maxwell)

Music majors Michael Patterson and Ian Maxwell performed an impressive range of works from a wide variety of styles, cultures and time periods.

Patterson and Maxwell, two senior vocalists in the UConn music program, gave their performance on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. to a warm crowd of friends, family and teachers at Storrs Congregational Church. Their pianist Sarah Puckett accompanied them with poise and sensitivity.

Maxwell opened the recital with a performance of Donizetti’s “Bella siccome un angelo.” As a classically trained baritone who studies with Dr. Greg Zavracky, Maxwell’s voice rang with resonance through the church hall as he sang of amorous enchantment in Italian. The Donizetti, written in the early 19th century, was a short but sweet opening to the concert’s program.

Patterson followed with a performance of various arias by Alessandro Scarlatti. Whereas Maxwell is a baritone, Patterson (who also studies with Dr. Zavracky) is a classically trained tenor whose range is higher in comparison to Maxwell’s deeper timbre. Patterson displayed his impressive technical facilities throughout the Scarlatti, which abounded with dizzying runs and challenging high notes.

Next, Maxwell returned to sing Paul Bowles’ “Blue Mountain Ballads,” which differs both stylistically and culturally from the previous older Italian compositions in that it was written in the 20th century and features English poems by the composer’s mentor Tennessee Williams. Some of the poems were surreal and otherworldly, while others were simple and funny. Maxwell’s delivery kept the audience laughing with the latter.

After a brief intermission, Patterson reemerged to the stage to accompany himself on Spanish guitar while he sang Jaime León’s “A ti,” another modern work. The guitar’s dulcet tones complimented Patterson’s voice beautifully, both charming the audience and welcoming them to the program’s second half.

The second half went on to feature more modern works. Maxwell took the stage again to sing Maurice Ravel’s “Don Quichotte á Dulcinée.” Ravel lived and composed in the 20th century during the French Impressionistic movement. Maxwell adapted to the different musical style with ease and immersed the audience into the refreshing harmonic language.

Patterson followed Maxwell with several songs by Ben Moore, a composer who is still alive today. The songs were profoundly stirring. Patterson sang with heartfelt intensity, coming to a stirring conclusion in the final work, “On Music.”

To conclude the night, Patterson and Maxwell took the stage together to sing “Agony” from the 2014 musical “Into the Woods.” They opened with an amusing exchange talking to each other about both of their elusive lovers, joking at the silliness of the love stories in fairy tales and then going on to sing about the agony of loving someone else, to the audience’s delight.

“I thought it was excellent. I loved Mike playing the guitar and singing at the same time, and the last tune, “Agony,” was very fun,” said Jared Graveley, a senior music major who is also in the vocal program.

“I don’t go to a lot of vocal performances so I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Sally Kurdziel, a junior music major who plays clarinet and bassoon. “The only ones I’ve been to have been mostly Italian songs, so I really appreciated hearing a mix of different languages. And call me biased, but I like the English songs a lot. I also always forget how vocal majors perform when they do recitals, and that was super entertaining.”

“It’s always fun to get on stage, and Storrs Congregational Church is a wonderful venue,” said Maxwell after his performance. “I’ve performed here many times with a cappella groups, but this is my first time singing here classically, and it’s just as much fun.”

He added that while he enjoyed the Debussy most among the classical compositions, the highlight of the night for him had been singing “Agony” with Patterson.


Brian Roach is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at brian.roach@uconn.edu.