Beyond a shadow of a doubt

The other day I was out for an early morning walk and I was listening to a podcast on VocalFri. This particular one, from April, featured voice scientist Christian Herbst, who was talking about the role of voice science in vocal pedagogy, and of all the tech-y, geeky, science-y things that that entails.

But although all that science is invaluable for figuring out how to measure the data involved with singing – the acoustics, registration, anatomical – Mr. Herbst said one thing that made me stop walking and jot it down in my little “blog notes” file in my phone:

As a singer, as a performer, I am more like a politician than a scientist. There is no room for doubt. I have to convey the message.  (Christian Herbst, VocalFri4/25/2020)

This reminded me of an interview from tenor Ricky Leech from a Classical Singer article from 2003 (!!), where he likened singing to golf. When you learn to play golf, you learn all the techniques. And then once you start to play, you can’t think of them or you’ll tie yourself up in knots. You can think about it when you start (the swing thought), but once you’re on your way, you just have to trust. The same thing with singing:

“If you’ve done your homework, when you stand up and start an aria, your swing thought will be the meaning of what you’re singing, and an occasional technical issue. You never get far away from the meaning of the piece, because you’ve done your homework, and you’re out of the way.” (The Student Becomes A Master, July 2003)

You can’t have any doubt. Like a politician, you have a message to share. Hopefully, your message is more sincere than some politicians, especially this one…

Politician
And like a golfer, you have a game to play, and you have to play through.

Clip Art: Golfer Color I abcteach.com - preview 1
You must be convinced that your technique will carry you forward and that you believe in your message – beyond the shadow of a doubt.

  • Is your technique solid enough so that you can erase all doubt after you’ve taken that initial swing/breath?
  • Have you learned your piece backward and forward so that you can erase all doubt that the words and notes are going to come out in a way that serves the composer, that serves the audience, and that serves you in the way that you all deserve?
  •  If your piece is in another language (or in a style that is foreign to you), do you have it translated word for word not only into the vernacular but into your internal monologue so that you have no doubt what you are saying, not only from word to word, but from phrase to phrase?
  • Do you like your song? And if you don’t (and that happens, because sometimes you are assigned things that just don’t speak to you), can you find something you like about it? Can you fake it so that we can’t see that you don’t like it? Because if the audience doubts you, it doesn’t matter that you don’t doubt yourself.

Take that swing thought and let it go.

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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