MPR contest features MoynihanWhile many high school students may be singing to the radio, Red Wing High school senior Briana Moynihan can soon be heard singing on it.
By: Stacy Bengs, The Republican Eagle
While many high school students may be singing to the radio, Red Wing High school senior Briana Moynihan can soon be heard singing on it.
Moynihan’s most recent recording can be heard across radio waves when Classical Minnesota Public Radio presents the second annual Minnesota Varsity featured artists, on-air and online March 12-18.
Recently chosen out of more than 100 applicants, Moynihan is one of 15 featured artists. The public can cast their vote to help chose five students to continue from the featured round to showcase round – who will then perform in a live show April 29 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
The statewide contest was opened to high school students and required an audio recording from each candidate.
Currently in the process of music school applications, Moynihan used her college audition tape of the French art song “Les berceaux” by Gabriel Faure for the MPR contest. Up against other talent ranging from ensembles to instruments, Moynihan’s pipes caught the judge’s attention.
“It’s one of those pieces that was made for my voice, my range and how much breath support I can use,” Moynihan said.
The arrangement was first introduced to her during a voice lesson, from former coach Laura Hacket, when Moynihan was a junior.
Challenging her vocals and ego, she took the piece to Minnesota State High School League’s Solo and Ensemble contest.
“I didn’t score very well,” Moynihan recalled. “When I sang I don’t think I was totally prepared … but have worked really hard to get in a better place.”
With help from her current vocal coach Melyssa Rice, she worked on “getting the piece up to par.”
“I don’t think I could have done without her,” Moynihan adds.
The song is not meant is for the average singer. The classical opera composition tells the story of men going off to sea, leaving the women and children behind.
“There is a beautiful melodic line,” Moynihan said, “with a climax in the middle.”
”Her voice is almost always beautiful and sometimes stunningly so,” Rice said, “In person, her voice often gives me goosebumps, because it is so beautiful.”
Using “Les Berceaux” as her main audition piece has not only paid off physically, Moynihan said, but it also “exemplifies my journey as a singer.”
Going back and forth between her love for theatrical performance and classical opera, Moynihan listened to her coach, voice and heart.
“I’m known for having a big voice,” she said. “And they are hard to come by.”
Rice, who works from her voice studio in Prescott, specializes in opera singing. After hearing Moynihah, the coach was convinced it “would be a shame if she didn’t try” the classical route.
“One of the wonderful things about opera is that it is music and theater combined …each opera performance is also a play,” Rice said. “Briana still uses all of her theater skills, in addition to her musical skills, when she performs opera music.”
The aspiring artist somewhat surprised herself at the acceptance into the apprenticeship program through Minnesota Opera last September, where she was one of six students chosen.
“That is when it really hit me,” she said, “that I have a chance continuing opera.”
The students meet nearly every Saturday morning during the school year.
“It is her dedication to the art of singing that is most extraordinary,” Rice said. “That dedication is what makes the difference between good singers and great singers, like Briana.”
Singing is something that is not new to Moynihan – or her family. “My dad’s side of the family is Irish Catholic,” she explained, recalling her earliest memories of singing. “We would march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in St. Paul and sing-along.”
Crediting her parents for immense support for her seeming opera-bound future, Moynihan thanks her dad for her voice and her mom for constant support.
“My mom is a very practical person,” she said, “so for her to be so supportive … is really cool.”
Moynihan’s first taste of theater came at age 13 when she joined the Phoenix Theatre group at the Sheldon Theatre.
“I owe a lot of my success to growing up in Red Wing,” she said. “The Sheldon stage was a venue I could really perform in, gain confidence and the continuing encouragement I’ve received has helped me become the performer I am now.”
Local audiences saw her as Carlotta in Red Wing High School’s 2011 musical “Phantom of the Opera.” She also was an intern at the Republican Eagle last summer where she squeezed in rehearsals for “Sound of Music.” She played the eldest von Trapp daughter.
As she continues to juggle school, traveling to colleges for live music auditions – her next stop being the Manhattan School of Music - her apprenticeship, upcoming spring musical and general teenage life.
Moynihan excitedly awaits the future. “I can’t wait to figure what is next.”