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Speaking of singing


Impressive sound supports the adage ‘an empty vessel makes the most sound’. Or in this case, the empty heart.

There are two types of singing - Impressive singing and Honest singing. Impressive singing is often exactly that... impressive, in fact sometimes very impressive. You sit there listening to a sound that is coming from body that sounds technically well produced, even grand, but has nothing to do with anything. This sometimes beautifully ‘produced sound’ soars and dives with total disregard for the singer’s own personality, the context and the song. There seems to be a disjunct between the person and the voice. The overall effect is, ‘wow... what a noise!’, but what of that?

Has the singer fulfilled their purpose to move, inspire and make laugh or cry? Has the singer been successful? Probably not. If anything the audience has become aware of a voice and how it is ‘impressively’ functioning; and distracted by being forced to focus on sound that is meaningless and disconnected from the singer’s personality, imagination and the sense of the song.

This impressive sound supports the adage ‘an empty vessel makes the most sound’. Or in this case, the empty heart.

To fill the heart, every decision you make must be in response to the lyric and melody i.e., the story and music. It is these two elements that provide the source material that will drive the singer’s emotional response that in turn determines the ‘action’ on which the ideas are carried.

Singing is a way of delivering story (ideas), just as in a speech or monologue. But I would argue many times more difficult because of the heightened form of the music and the abstract structural requirements it places on the reality of the narrative. To put it more simply, as a singer expressing ideas and story, you are restricted and disciplined by the need to adhere to melody and rhythm while using words (lyrics) that have to artificially fit onto this melody and rhythm all the while using an instrument that is organic and determined/inspired by thought and feeling...this is not easy!

Tobias Sweeney Todd. Opera QLD

The difficulty is the music. There is meaning in the music (vocal sound). A singer has to find the emotional sense in the sound that compliments and underpins the sense of the lyric. The singer has to plot what they are thinking and feeling (determined by the lyric), so that the sound made, is a true conduit and companion for those ideas. Much of this can be instinctive. But when it is not explored, the singer will impress, but never move us. But when explored with integrity the effect on the audience will be tears, laughter, reflection, inspiration - success!

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