September 20, 2017

Nothing but Technique for Months

Miss Gilberg is preparing for a song recital which she will give in the Grand Opera House some time in February, the proceeds from which will enable her to give her time entirely to the study of the voice preparatory for the stage. 

She is a pupil of Mrs Nellie Quinton Adams. Mrs Adams has had thirteen years of study under the best teachers and is thoroughly schooled in the old Italian method. She holds a teacher's certificate from John O'Neill, Nordica's teacher, to whom Nordica gave the credit of making her voice all that it was. O'Neill was a pupil of Manuel Garcia, the greatest of old Italian masters. Madam Marchesi was also a pupil of Garcia's, and every pupil of Garcia and his pupil's pupils, have his technique, which can only be gotten in this way, as it is not in print. So those who study with Mrs Adams get this same technique and training that has made the world's greatest singers. And her pupils have that assurance as the fact is established through the line of the world's greatest teachers. 

Mrs Adams says: "Our old Italian masters taught their pupils to sing naturally, but because they were Italians their manner of teaching is called "the old Italian method." Garcia, Lamperti, Marchesi, and all of the old masters gave their pupils nothing but technique for months, that the tones might be properly placed, the breath controlled, the registers evened, and for a certain amount of development and execution. Many things can only be acquired through technique. So those who attempt to sing songs before the proper technique is mastered meet with failure."

"It is an established fact that classical music is enjoyed by everyone when it is sung by one with pleasing voice, who sings correctly and with the soul of the master. The fault is not with the unschooled ear, or the masses, but with the singers. The voice with the abominable tremolo due to forcing of lack of support: The voice worn and broken from wrong singing; The voice that is always off key: The baritone who presumes to sing tenor: The Singer who resorts to contortions of the body to effect a climax: The singer who tightens and forces so that he is obliged to take quiting powders for his throat: The quartette composed of voices that never blend or harmonize and could not get past a critic on the first point raised: The playing of the church organist who plays the same voluntary many Sundays in succession because she has had but one organ lesson: The pianist who plays with no soul are the things that have prejudiced the masses against classical music because they do not know that it is the rendition of the music and not the composition that has displeased them. So it is the performer who needs to be educated, and not the masses. Narrow, self-centered, fakes and grafters, are responsible to a great degree for existing conditions. So that now genuine artists only can ever raise the standard of music."

Excerpts from "A Benefit for Miss Rose Gilberg, at the Grand Opera House in February," The Topeka Daily State Journal, January 9, 1916, p 8. 

September 19, 2017

When the Parent is the Problem

Did you know that Kiri te Kanawa was given a lifetime achievement award by Gramophone Magazine? Watching the presentation, I was struck by her words at the end. What did Te Kanawa say? She thanked her parents for the sacrifices they made. And where did my mind go? It contrasted her words with the recent experience of having a parent contact me about preparing a child for an audition at the Metropolitan Opera. 

Never mind that I hadn't worked with the kid for more than 6 months—and only sporadically before that. Never mind that the music for the audition displayed repeated high B flats and C. Never mind that I had never heard the kid sing those notes. Never mind that the audition was in three days. Never mind that the kid was being set up for failure. Never mind any of that. Never mind that I told all this to the parent. 

This is when the parent is the problem.  

Kids don't know jack. They only know what is presented to them. The hoops they need to jump through to sing at a high level are provided by a teacher who knows what they are doing.

The parent's role is to fully support their child over the long haul that real tuition demands. But too few understand this, thinking that learning an art form is nothing more than entertainment, like pulling up Netflix and downloading a video game. Sure. Singing and playing the piano can be—and is—highly enjoyable. But true enjoyment comes from self-sacifice, which leads to self-mastery—and involves both parent and child.

What was the parent sacrificing? Nothing that I could see. What was she teaching her kid? That you can shoot for the moon without any real preparation whatsoever. 

Yeah. She took her kid to the audition having—presumably—found someone else to work with him. I know this because she posted photos of him standing outside the stage-door. (Don't you just love social media?) Her words? "It was a great experience."

So, that's what it's all about, I thought. Chasing fame and likes.

The Muse is not amused.