For the last two years, I’ve used “Curiously Strong Singing” as my tagline. In the past year, I’ve established a performance coaching series called “Curiously Strong Performing.” The content on my website and in other places reflects the use of that phrase.
But other than the relationship between mezzoid and altoids, which is what triggered the whole tagline in the first place, what do I mean by this? What is “curiously strong” singing? What is “curiously strong” performing? Why am I using these phrases other than they’re catchy?
I decided that I needed to define what this means to me in order to make it more than just a phrase that looks good on my business card and website.
So what is curiously strong singing/performing? It is:
Singing that is grounded in a strong sense of technique, whether that pertains to classical, pop, or musical theater (because it’s not all one size fits all);
Singing and/or performing that takes risks and digs deep into the song’s text, its history, and its style.
Performing that tells the truth, is authentic and embraces both standard performance practice as well as new interpretations.
Singing and performing that is confident, consistent, and constantly developing.
Performing that welcomes in others as collaborators, as creators, as colleagues, and as an audience.
This is what I mean by being curiously strong as a singer and as a performer, and what I want for my students, my colleagues – really anyone who is in my life.
One thing that annoys me is mandated recitals where people are assigned music to which they have no affinity. And, consequently, they sing it with no connection to the text, to the music, to the history of the song or the poet, or to the style of the period. They’re singing the right words, and often, according to the diction rules of the language. They’re singing the right notes. They’re singing with technique appropriate to where they are in their vocal development. But it’s not interpreting the song, or expressing anything. It’s just duplicating what they were told to do. And as soon as it’s done, it’s forgotten. It’s like a school uniform that they’re required to wear, and soon as they can take it off, it’s off.
Whose fault is that? Is it the fault of the student? Of the person who assigned the song?
Sometimes, you are assigned songs that fit a requirement and may or may not be songs you really want to sing. If you are an artist, it is your job to find something in the song that speaks to you. If your song is in a foreign language, translate it. Whether it’s in English or not, create a vernacular translation/inner monologue for yourself. Know the history of the poem, of the composer, know what its performance practice (style) is, know how the accompaniment enhances the text, and what you can do to bring that out.
This post was inspired by Seth Godin in a post called memorization and learning. In it, he says, “memorizing anything that you’ll need to build upon, improvise on or improve is foolish. You’ll need to do the work of understanding it instead.”
You need to do the work to understand that which you sing. And you need to make it your own.
Stay tuned for more information about the Curiously Strong Performing series of performance workshops I’ll be presenting in 2020. We’ll be doing the work.