The Friends School built the $10 million dollar auditorium for students and the lucky people of Hobart. I was lucky enough to sing in this superb acoustic and then hold a Masterclass for thirty-four gleeful Musical Theatre aspirants. It was a weekend of open hearted revelation.
To inspire authenticity, is the goal I set myself in front of a class of singers. I have no idea who they are, what they are singing or where they come from. It doesn’t matter much. Anonymity serves the singer.
We want less of you, to see more of you.
Singing and storytelling demands that the singer/storyteller jump so inside the lyric and melody, that we lose sight of them and all their foibles. They must become a medium for the composer and lyricist, not just an interpreter. The performer is that fulcrum between the heart and mind of the writer and that of the audience.
Singing will never be a truthful act, unless the impulse to sing is motivated by action. Singing is just another way of delivering ideas, that may result in tears, laughter, reflection or even inspiration. It's the ideas that are important and they need to be inspired by action, to make them live.
The difficulty is the music. There is meaning in the sound and the combination and combining of sounds (melody and rhythm) . A performer has to find the sense in the sound, as well as in the lyric, to connect to its meaning.
The sound is best produced by a voice that is emotionally alive. 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. When it is not explored, the singer will impress, but never move us.
I am not interested in perfection. I long for the humanity in each and every performer. The act of performing, for many, is about, “putting on a show”. The learnt instinct is to produce a voice, repeat the practice done elsewhere and “be” sad, romantic or happy. The outcome is rarely impressive and always predictable. If the singer/storyteller is more interested in “singing” than storytelling, the wash of emoting will give away the end, well before we have had a chance watch the game. This is not good story telling and not true singing. Honest singing is when you are not aware that a note has been “sung”; when you are transported to the point of believing the ideas to be real, even though they are delivered in an extraordinarily heightened form.
Sometimes from an unlikely source, springs a moment to move us. In that moment a song has life; the composer and lyricist are served; and the singer transcends the ordinariness of self, to breathe life into a series of dots and squiggles on a page. It's an endlessly fascinating process of exploration, full of dead ends and fragile arrivals. It is an elusive task and often the rules don’t apply!
My favourite moment was when Rob discovered that he could have a true heartfelt relationship with all those people in Dublin. He didn’t have to illustrate them, just reveal how he celebrated each of them. It was a moment when the “show” stopped... and the real show began.
The attitude should not be an overwhelming desire to be good. To be “good” is not what should drive a singer. It is not about self. Many students say they sing because it makes them "happy" or "feel whole" or "it’s a way of expressing myself". The aim is not to express you, with all the inherent self-awareness and self-consciousness that that entails. Singing is an act of giving and if seen in those terms, begins to dilute the self consciousness dilemma, that performing encourages.
Stop putting on a show; stop producing you. Start giving and start revealing you, by losing yourself in the act of singing and storytelling. Transport us to another state of being, where the resulting laughter, tears, reflection and inspiration have the potential to change a life forever. Grateful. Grateful.