Death to All Vocal Art

Francesco Lamperti 
Lamperti, the celebrated music master, places the Germans and the Italians highest in excellence as singers, and the Americans next to them. English voices are poor and unmanageable, he says, because of the manner in which English children are made to talk, and particularly English girls. They must speak in undertones or very subdued tones, and they clip their words in uttering them. Their nurses and governesses also speak in subdued tones and clip so that the young ears are formed to that kind of articulation which emasculates speech and is death to all vocal art. 

The National Tribune: Washington, D. C, Thursday, July 30, 1885. 


Anonymous said…
Shhhh! Don't let Janet Baker or Sarah Connolly read this!
Thank you for your comment, thinkingsinger. Please don't miss the forest while looking at the trees.
Anonymous said…
Hi Daniel,
I shouldn't have been so flippant in my first comment. I know that neither you nor Lamperti are saying that the English cannot sing, nor that there are no worthwhile English singers. I expect the point is that deeply ingrained learned habits of speech affect the singing voice (if I am missing the point, please let me know!)

Though I am generally not one to contradict one of the greatest voice teachers of all time, I do wonder how much these deeply ingrained habits of speech matter alongside other factors, however. I'm thinking of a singer-friend of mine who is exquisitely sound-sensitive. When her children were babies and toddlers, she was constantly shushing them, as she had no tolerance for shrieking, screaming, crying, yelling, shouting, or other normal noises of childhood. Despite this, her now-elementary school aged children have beautiful resonant voices with amazing intonation and senses of rhythm. I suspect that this is because despite the fact that they were never allowed to speak or cry above a mezzo-piano, they were allowed to sing, and they had a lot of exposure to healthy, freely produced singing in all kinds of genres.

But of course, anecdotes are not data!
Thank you for your comment, thinkingsinger. Yes—Lamperti's point is that habits of speech affect the singing voice. Though it is also anecdotal, I could tell you quite a few stories about students who were told to shut up as children, which, to these ears, had a hand in their vocal development, or lack thereof. Being encouraged to sing as a kid is a wonderful thing.