Friday, November 20, 2009
I often get asked the question, "How does that big sound come out of that small body?" This question also goes along with another one of my favorites, "Wow, you don't look big enough to be an opera singer. Where are your horns?" That question was actually said verbatim to me not too long ago. I just love these questions because wondering about the answer to them is exactly what got me hooked on being a singer! As I have said before, I started singing church music and country music as a youngster and it was easy for me. I had my microphone and my little amplifier that plugged into my Yamaha keyboard and I traveled Lincolnton with it, singing at all the weddings, funerals, and banquets I could find. I never thought there was much difficulty to it at all. Then I went to college and found out that there were these opera singers who could project their voices into a theater of four thousand seats and still be heard while singing over an orchestra of thirty to seventy players. I was hooked! How did these people do this and do it without losing their voices? Better yet, how did they do it and make it look so easy? Thus began my passion with opera and the classical training of the voice. To my surprise I learned that singing really is nothing more than just breath. Really. Of course, putting that concept into your body and brain isn't all that simple and singers spend their lives coordinating the three wonders: body, breath, and mind. You see, to be a singer you must understand music, of course, this is evident but the true difficulty comes from not learning music or memorizing music or speaking foreign languages. It comes from the precise understanding of how the body works with the breath in order to produce sound. It is difficult because the feeling is different for every singer. Every teacher and every student has different words to describe the sensations and at times the 'correct production' of sound can seem as elusive as world peace. After all, everyone has their idea of what that sound should be! This quest for your own sound and physicality of sound is really what singing is about, along with the deep desire to communicate. Making these sounds and learning to sing is the equivalent of learning to be a gymnast or an Olympic swimmer. It is a quest for authenticity and simplicity. It is finding comfort in your own skin, being connected to your body through breath and it's so darn simple, it's hard. Breathing is what we were all born to do. Singing is like relaxing but not falling asleep. It is being able to stand on your feet and feel every muscle in your legs relaxed but supported at the same time. I imagine it like standing in the middle of a see-saw with each foot able to lead off center and you constantly shift ever so slightly, never losing balance. Singing moves! It is a balance and it is just plain ole fun and it feels good. Above is my favorite soprano, Eleanor Steber. Here is a clip of her singing Pace, Pace, mio Dio, from La forza del destino. Listen all the way to the end and you will see breath and body balance come jolting out of your computer screen!! Enjoy!