A recent posting on the CBC addressed the number of singers who seem to be developing vocal problems these days – Adele, Celine Dion, Michael Bublé et al. It went on at length about the trials of touring, two shows a day, and audience expectations based on recordings. Looking at that list I saw nothing that singers have not had to deal with in the past. One thing that was not mentioned was sound engineering that gives the balance of sound to the instruments. Nor the David Foster inspired arrangements that required a singer to start forte and end at fortississimo. It’s a bit like bad sex – if you start with a climax where the hell do you go from there?
And something I’ve noticed in musicals recently: despite the presence of those wireless mini-mics that are taped to widow’s peaks and ear lobes often the lyrics are unintelligible. Last year we saw a production of The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre in London in a specially commissioned translation. They should have avoided the expense for all that could be understood of the lyrics even with the body mics. Only one of the performers who was intelligible – not a good thing in Brecht-Weill.
Now lest you think I am being an old curmudgeon – well fine I am but .. – I have two videos of singers who have the technique to sell a song without resorting to shouting to indicate emotion, who make every word count, and who were able to withstand the touring, do two or three shows a night, and meet their audiences expectations.
And here’s Mel Tormé showing how to set a mood and deliver a song without destroying your vocal cords. And just for the fun of it as a coda June Christy chirping, Mel drumming and Nat King Cole jamming.
It was surprised and sad to read in the article that Sophie Milman, a singer I have admired since hearing her back in 2015, has developed trouble. But she admits that she hasn’t learned how to husband and manage her voice. It would seem to be a skill set that is lacking in vocal training today.
On this day in 1747: The first venereal diseases clinic opens at London Lock Hospital.