October 10, 2013

Singing cannot be taught

Until he was ninety-six, Señor García gave lessons, and at eighty he still came every day from his house in Shoot-up-Hill to his school in Bentinck street. He always accompanied his pupils himself. His white, expressive hands brought the most wonderful preludes and harmonies from the keys, while he sat with eyes closed, as if his thoughts were far away. But the pupil who imagined this soon discovered her mistake: the slightest wavering of intonation sent a nervous quiver through the teacher's frame, and the music stopped. 

"Singing," the señor would say, "cannot be taught. I can only tell you what and how to sing, and try to awaken your intelligence so that you may learn to criticize your own singing as severely as I do. Listen to yourself, use your brain. If I can teach you this, it is a great deal." 

Señor García was a frail-looking old man gentleman with a thin grey mustache. He had a prodigious digestion, which probably gave him his age. His favorite lunch was tea without milk or sugar and hot buttered rolls. Up to the last, he was devoted to outdoor exercise, and whenever the weather permitted he walked, accompanied by Mme. García, from his residence to the High-Road, a distance of half a mile. He usually had some refreshment, preferably soda and milk, and walked back. 

Señor García never missed a meal, and ate with a hearty appetite. 

His piano remained a favorite friend. Frequently he played for an hour in the forenoon and again in the evening, playing mostly from memory, snatches of the Italian operas, especially those of Rossini and Meyerbeer. For Wagner's music he had never acquired much fondness. 

Newspaper Clipping File, "Manuel García," New York Public Library of the Performing Arts, c. 1906.  

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