I found your book Miss Healy

An interesting book found its way into my possession which was written by two tenors, George E. Thorp and W. M. Nicholl- the latter making an appearance in my recent post Signor Garcia takes a lesson. Nicholl, as you may remember, was a student of Manuel Garcia, while Thorp was a student of Charles Lunn, who, it should be noted, was a friend of Manuel Garcia and wrote The Philosophy of Voice (1874). Lunn's tome was quite influential during its day.

But back to Thorp and Nicholl. Their book, A Text Book on the Natural Use of the Voice (1895), appeared in my mailbox with its Royal Mail postmark a day after I posted about Nicholl and Garcia. I opened the package, then the musty blue-green cover, and read these words:

If I by chance should lose this book
And you by chance should find it
Remember Madeline is my name
And Healy comes behind it

"Well Miss Healy" I thought.  "I found your book, but don't think you'll be getting it back!" 

Originally published in 1894 when Garcia, Nicholl's teacher and fellow faculty member at the Royal Academy of Music was in his 90's, A Text Book on the Natural Use of the Voice contains quite a bit of technical information which leaves the reader with the impression that its two authors were intent on making their mark. And they must have, since the edition in my mailbox was in its fifth printing as of 1904. 

The title, I believe, contains a clue. And that is the word "natural." You may recall that in my last post, buried deep within an interview with Frederick W. Root, is Garcia's admonition to study "nature." I've come across this word in connection with other Garcia School exponents, which has lead me to believe that Thorp and Nicholl's book was inspired by Garcia's instruction. The content certainty seems to be, especially the chapter on 'Open Production" which echoes and advances Garcia's instruction on the Study of Tones in A Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing (1841/1872).

Gray's Anatomy

A careful study of the production of singers who use an open throat shows that the voice is produced from lowest to highest tones with scarcely any change in the position of the mouth and pharyngeal cavities. When the point in the ascending scale is reached where the disagreeable tone appears, instead of closing the throat so as to avoid that tone, they make an effort to open it still wider, and by so doing that same quality is maintained. In short, a uniformly open throat produces a uniformly open and even tone throughout the scale. Such a use of the voice we call "Open Production."

In this production the tongue lies low in the mouth. It's tip is slightly elevated, and in its center there is a groove which extends to the epiglottis. The soft palate in front of the uvula, especially the most forward part, is kept as high as possible. The pharynx is wide open and the larynx is low. The position of the larynx is not the result of conscious muscular effort, but is the position which the larynx takes as soon as breath compression begins. The pillars of the fauces are as far apart as possible, and the tongue is well forward at its base. This makes the space between the tongue and the back wall of the pharynx very considerable. The pharynx extends as far upwards (behind the uvula) as the nasal chambers. In singing, the pharyngeal and nasal chambers should not be separated by an upward and backward movement of the uvula. Now the question arises, are these positions to be maintained from lowest to highest tones and on all vowels? By all means. 

The first step towards open and uniform production is a recognition of the most open tone in any part of the voice. This must be carried both up and down until all the tones in the voice are of the same quality, and are produced with the same ease. The second step is the development of the throat from the position taken in the first step; and the third step is the application of the open tone of the developed throat to all vowels.  p. 11- 13


It should be noted that modern scientific research has shown that, in making clear vowels, the soft palate does indeed maintain a seal in shutting off the vocal tract from the sinuses.