By Jane Suttmeier
On April 16, concert pianist and professor of music Robert Nims accompanied his wife, mezzo-soprano professor of music Marilyn Nims, in a four-part faculty recital in Jemison Auditorium. Marilyn Nims sang 23 short songs in the Nims’s production of “Manners…The Way We Are,” celebrating her upcoming retirement at the end of the year.
During her 29 years at Ohio Wesleyan, Marilyn Nims said she has performed in 29 faculty performances.
“It is an opportunity for faculty members to model what they are teaching,” she said. “While performing, the faculty artist is illustrating those concepts in technique, musicianship, musicality, and communication which have been discussed in applied lessons. Faculty recitals also add to the cultural life on campus and in the community.”
According to the department of music website, Nims has “been an opera or oratorio soloist with many orchestras and choral groups including the Columbus, Mansfield, Central Ohio, Welsh Hills and Columbus Youth Symphony Orchestras, as well as Cantari Singers of Columbus and the Columbus Bach Ensemble.”
The website also said Nims has performed with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in Souillac, France, and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
She has also sung chamber music with the Marble Cliff Chamber Players, OWU’s Duvall Ensemble, Mid-America Chamber Music Institute and the sextet Vocal Colour.
Robert Nims retired from teaching in 2002. He was a professor of voice and Director of Choral Activities at Ohio Wesleyan.
Since retiring Robert Nims has been an adjunct voice teacher at Ohio State University and an interim teacher of voice at Capital University and Cleveland Institute of Music.
He is also an adjunct professor at both Ohio Wesleyan and Otterbein Univeristy.
Robert Nims played piano for each piece, starting with a German song called “Fischerweise,” or “Fisherman’s Song,” by Franz Schubert.
“It’s very easy working with my husband, since we know each other’s musicianship and musicality so well,” Marilyn Nims said of working with Robert.
“It’s also a pleasure working with faculty colleagues, who bring their own background to the mix. Our work with students usually involves some element of instruction, which is a different situation than working with a colleague.”
Many of the songs Nims sung were in German, while others were in French, English and Spanish.
“Being able to translate and pronounce foreign languages is essential for ‘classically trained’ singers,” Nims said. “The study of German, French and Italian is always a part of our preparation. Spanish is of late becoming an essential, and many schools now offer training in Russian and Czech.”
The audience was able to follow along in the program, which had the lyrics translated into English.
Between each piece, Marilyn Nims briefly gave facts about the songs the audience couldn’t find in the program, as well as exchange short banter with her husband.
She has a particular interest in the Spanish zarzuela, which is a form of musical theater. She has “served as (a) singer and Spanish diction coach for the zarzuela theatre at Jarvis Conservatory in Napa, California, and has made singing translations of two zarzuelas,” said the music department’s website.
Marilyn Nims used theater throughout the performance. Each song had a different movement or form of animation involved.
“Singers are most often presenting words as well as music, and since we face the audience directly, acting becomes an important factor for interpreting those words,” she said. “Some pieces seem to beg for physical communication; others seem best letting the music and words speak for themselves.”
One of the more animated pieces was a German song by Hugo Wolf called “Elfenlied,” or “Elf Song.” Nims used her body language and vocal fluctuations to perform as a mischievous German elf.
Another at the end of the second section of the performance was Jake Heggie’s “Once Upon a Universe.” Nims again used movement to act as a young version of the Christian God being scolded by his mother for breaking his toys, a pun on the universe and God’s creations.
Marilyn Nims’s last song out of the 23 she performed was Leonard and Felicia Bernstein’s “I Am Easily Assimilated,” a testament to her long, successful career making music as well as teaching it.