November 1, 2015

A Great Deal of Ugliness

Sim Reeves (1821-1900)
A great deal of ugliness can be removed by careful and skillful treatment. The best way to begin with a pupil who is in this category is by experiment with the various vowel sounds. You will soon find the one that gives the best result in the way of beauty of tone, and having found it you must work very patiently on that vowel on the lines I have laid down, and very gradually take the other vowels from it, being careful to make them all match in tone colour. There will surely be some personal characteristics in every case of this kind, and you must take care that you do not eliminate these. After a time you will find that the pupil will become possessed of a new kind of voice, and it should not sound an artificial or made one. I know many instances of the latter kind, but there is always something unsatisfactory an unsatisfying in them, however much it may be hidden (and it often is) by the art and personality of the singer. 

One of the best pupils I ever had came to me originally with a voice quite the reverse of beautiful. So you must not despair for the ugly voice, but you will have to take even more pains with it than with the beautiful ones, and you will soon find that the training of the one can be made quite as interesting as that of the other. 

Harry Gregory Hast, The Singer's Art: Letters from a Singing Master (1925). 20-21. 

*****

This is a really wonderful old book which, unfortunately, cannot be found in a database. To mine its gold, you'll have to go to a library, or snap up a copy at www.abebooks.com, which is where I found my own. Full of sound advice and excellent instruction, its writer—Harry Gregory Hast, was trained in the principles of the Old School as a student of Charles Santley and Sim Reeves, too titans of singing in England during the latter part of the 19th century. 

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