50 shades of ….

I was thinking of how I would explain my feelings about a recent situation to my sister, the interior designer,  in a way that she would be able to relate to.

Imagine clients came to you and told you that they really, really liked the color red and wanted their house to reflect that.

So you create a palette of reds, reflecting the nuances and subtleties as well as having some bold accents here and there. A true example of chiaroscuro, bright and dark, light and shadow. Elegant, classy, at times understated, but definite pops of color in places where it would be warranted. There’s rose, there’s burgundy, there’s some cherry red pillows, all of them helping to express what that room needs to express. You worked on that palette for months, consulting with the clients, getting to know their house and tastes and came up with the perfect design. Both you and the clients are totally thrilled with the design and are excited to see it implemented.

And then they went to buy paint and fabric, with their carefully selected design choices in hand, and the store manager told them that what they really want is fire engine red. Everywhere. On the walls, on the floor, the sofas, chairs, everything. That’s what they really want and what’s more, that’s the only thing that the store manager will sell them.

So now you have a room with no subtlety, with no light, no shadow, and it just screams at everyone from the moment they walk in to the moment they hurriedly rush out the door.  And you are angry because they took someone else’s advice in the moment after all the time you spent working together (plus people who know that you worked together will think that you’re responsible for this one-dimensional outcome, and that does nothing for your reputation).

And that’s how I feel.

All singers should have a palette of colors to draw from. You could define that as chest mix, head mix, belt, head voice, etc. You can define it by dynamics, by tempi, by every element that you have to offer as a performer.  I try my hardest to help you find that palette so that when you’re ready to perform, you have something of beauty to show us (which goes beyond merely pretty) and to tell us a story, a story that has a beginning and an end.

Don’t just throw the vocal equivalent of fire engine red paint at us willy-nilly. (Unless, of course, we’re wearing fur.) Otherwise you have wasted the teacher’s and your own time and your money. And you’re not telling a story.

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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