Friday, April 30, 2010

You have TOO MUCH space!

There is always disagreement in the singing world about how to do anything (this is putting it mildly!) and mouth space is no different.  I spend a lot of time reminding students to check their mouth space and saying things like "we open our mouth for pitch and power".  Recently I stumbled upon a blog called VoiceTalk: Perspectives on the Art of Singing by Daniel James Shigo, the founding editor of VOICEtalk, the official newsletter of the New York NATS.  In a recent post he listed some of the teachings of Alberto Randegger, a teacher in London at the end of the 19th Century, about mouth space.   Some of the highlights of his 1894 book The Method of Singing include:

The opening of the mouth must be only sufficiently wide to admit the thumb between the teeth.
In singing the first exercise upon the vowel A, open the mouth, and fix its position, before emitting the tone, and not simultaneously. Keep the same position firmly, but without stiffness, throughout the entire vale of the note.
Should there be any difficulty in keeping the mouth steady, it will be useful to place a small piece of wood or a small cork between the upper and lower teeth, either on the right or left side of the mouth.

It is always interesting to figure out where we get our ideas and how the articulation of these ideas have changed (or not!) with time and research.  To read the rest of the article, check out VoiceTalk here!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Singing Community mourns the death of Shirlee Emmons

"The universal respect and affection that we voice teachers have for our own teachers and mentors is not just sentimentality; it is a common recognition that the knowledge demanded by a life in music and the art of singing is handed down from one teacher to another, generation by generation. Might it not be not only pleasurable but instructive for voice teachers (even those who are not of my advanced age) to stop for a moment, look back, and regard anew the learning paths that they have taken—so far? I heartily recommend the procedure."  Shirlee Emmons, 2006

Voice teacher, mentor, author and performer Shirlee Emmons passed away April 16, 2010.  As an undergraduate singer, Ms. Emmons book The Art of the Song Recital was THE definitive source for information on putting together those first performance recitals.  That book and her subsequent resources Researching the Song: A Lexicon and  Power Performance for Singers: Transcending the Barriers continue to help me guide my own study and that of my students.  In addition to her books, there are many articles on her website including those on anxiety and performancee, perfection and my favourite, adjudicating (or the problem with competition).

The international singing community will miss this insightful and dedicated teacher.  Many condolences to her family and students.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do I REALLY have to Sight Sing?

One of my least favourite classes at music festivals growing up were the sight singing classes. We would all groan and complain and mumble but ultimately, it became one of the most important skills I had for learning music quickly and efficiently!  Recently I discovered a fabulous series of two books for practicing your skills.  Sight Singing for Success is the brainchild of NATS member Dr. Joan Heels of Hamilton, ON and makes it easy for both students and teachers to prepare for Royal Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada exams.  
Published in two volumes with samples for Grades 1-5  in the first and Grades 6-10 in the second volume, it is efficient and easy to use.  Every 4 bar sample is numbered and gets progressively harder.  Each grade is split between Part A and Part B for RCM and CC respectively.  You can see from the example here how clear and easy this score is to read.  The final bonus is the coil binding that makes it stay open on any piano!

Sight Singing for Success author, Dr. Heels "maintains a private vocal and piano studio in Hamilton, is an active international adjudicator, and is a member of the College of Examiners of the Royal Conservatory of Music. As an examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music, she saw a need for a sight singing manual such as this, with progressive sight singing examples geared to help students be more successful in the sight singing part of their examinations."

A resource much needed and appreciated in my studio!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blogging from the Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival

I am in Ottawa this week as the Junior Voice Adjudicator at the National Capital Region Kiwanis Music Festival.  Although I can't go into detail about the singers I'm hearing, I will say that I am hearing some incredibly polished, mature and musical singing!

With over 10,000 musicians (yes, TEN THOUSAND) participating this year at their 65th Anniversary, the Kiwanis Music Festival NCR is one of the largest in the country.  They have re branded and connected with the social media network (you can find them on Facebook and Twitter) making them timely and accessible to all generations!

Kudos to all the collaborative pianists that are playing this week - there have been some outstanding performances despite the oppressive heat, the long days and huge classes of singers! Check out this article on the Festival with a focus on well-known pianist Evelyn Greenberg....I can't wait to hear more!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Summer Plans? Check out VISI

This just in from the Vancouver International Song Institute:

"Teaching Art Song from the Inside Out"

5 days of Extraordinary Immersion

School of Music, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC. Canada 

"I feel inspired enlightened, reinvigorated, encouraged with a new sense of belonging, and I return to my teaching with new ideas and renewed passion"

We invite you to join us this June in beautiful Vancouver, BC for:
  • A banquet of ideas and explorations of innovation and interdisciplinary pedagogy in Art Song Interpretation Training and Performance Practices.
  • An international convergence of artists and scholars for classes, concerts, and conversations.
"Teaching Art Song from the Inside Out" highlights the pedagogy and philosophy of poetic and theatrical elements in Art Song, creative collaborative partnership skills, emerging research in vocal science, alternate career paths for young artists in therapeutic environments, and the psychological and ethical questions that emerge when deep artistic training challenges interpersonal boundaries.

Speakers include PROFESSOR SCOTT MCCOY, President of NATS, Professor of Voice and Pedagogy, Director of the Presser Music Center Voice Laboratory, and author of the voice science and pedagogy textbook, Your Voice: An Inside View. FRANÇOIS LE ROUX, Director of the Centre de la Mélodie Française, SIMA GODFREY AND KEVIN MCNEIILLY, UBC Literature professors, DR. LEONARD GEORGE, psychologist and author, BARBARA HEYMAN, author of the definitive biography of Samuel Barber, DEBORAH STEIN, co-author of "From Poetry to Song", DARRYL EDWARDS, Professor of Voice and AIRS researcher at the University of Toronto, and many more share the roster.

The retreat also includes auditing of masterclasses with visiting artists such as singers JULIE SIMSON, BENJAMIN BUTTERFIELD, ROSEMARIE LANDRY, and FRANÇOIS LE ROUX, pianists CAMERON STOWE, KENNETH GRIFFITHS, and more. See our full roster of artists and presenters on our website.

June 11, 12, 13, and 15 offer Art Song concerts by the VISI faculty artists with commentary by musicologists and performers. June 14th is an optional private dinner and conversation for Retreat participants and select faculty.

More information and the Retreat Schedule are available on the web. REGISTER NOW at this link.

The early-bird online registration fee until May 15th is $200 for the full five-day program, including concerts and June 14th dinner. Fee is $250 from May 16 through June 11th. Daily drop-in tickets can be purchased at the door at any time: $10 for morning classes, $20 for afternoon classes, concerts $20, June 14th dinner $35 (please register for dinner by June 12th at VISI).

Bring your ideas and join the conversation at VISI in June!
Rena Sharon
Artistic Director, Vancouver International Song Institute

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A voice you MUST hear: Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky

American born, Canadian resident soprano Sondra Radvanovsky has been in the press a lot recently. From her cover of Toronto's Wholenote magazine in March to promote her Roy Thompson Hall recital to recent postings on the blog sphere from Opera Chic (who loves her, which is good) and Life's a Pitch, Radvanovsky  is generating some much deserved buzz on the Canadian opera scene as she launches her new Verdi Arias CD and announces her first Aida for her debut with the Canadian Opera Company.

After downloading the free offering from OC of Radvanovsky's Tacea la notte (Trovatore), I immediately went to iTunes and downloaded the album.  THIS is a voice you must hear!  The laser-like focus of the sound is light and agile while the colour of the voice is dark and bloomy...she can float the top of the voice like no other singer while keeping the ping in the sound.  Have a listen to track 2, D'amor sull'aria (also from Trovatore) and you will hear this incredible ability to bring the voice to a point at pianissimo that had me pulling my car over on the 401 so I could really listen!

Attention young singers - LISTEN to how she sings and it is all there!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scholarship - Edward Johnson Foundation

The Edward Johnson Music Foundation is accepting applications for 2010 Scholarship and Awards Program available for students of music who are pursuing post-secondary educational opportunities.
Applicants interested in applying for the Edward Johnson Music Scholarship Awards must demonstrate that they have established roots within Wellington or Dufferin County and possess both the recognized ability and dedication to a career in classical music performance or classical music education.

Applications must include the student’s musical experience and studies to date; an audition tape, CD or DVD; three letters of recommendation providing community involvement, academic capabilities and musical potential and evidence of acceptance at a post-secondary institution in the music education

The deadline for application is Thursday, June 10, 2010.

Scholarship funds are made possible by generous donations from the Canadian Federation of University Women - Guelph Chapter, Guelph Wellington Men’s Club (Kenneth P. Greenaway Memorial Award) and the Rotary Club of Guelph (Murdo MacKinnon Music Scholarship) and interest earned annually from the Mildred Christie Endowment Fund.

For more information, contact:
Rosemary Smith
Executive Director
Edward Johnson Music Foundation
Telephone (519) 821-7570

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Music festival time!

I am just getting ready to head out to a number of festivals to serve as voice adjudicator but before I leave, my own city is hosting our annual Rotary Music Festival. As I pop from church to church, I have heard some wonderful adjudicating! Currently my favourite line has come from Dr. Luba Zuk of McGill University. She just likened advanced performance to playing at a high stakes lottary table! How true...

To all students preparing to sing and play over the next few weeks - have fun and commit to your music!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Canadian at the MET tonight!

Where would i LOVE to be tonight?  Why, at the MET of course!  Canadian soprano Jane Archibald (whom I have blogged about before) will be singing Ophelia in the MET production of Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet.  This is Jane's debut season at the Met after a number of years making herself heard in the big house of Europe.  She will be taking over from Marlis Petersen who was replacing Natalie Dessay.

Check out more at the New York Times site, Sarah's Endless Pursuit blog, and the Met press release.

Have a listen to Jane below:

From the voice of....