Sometimes my brain gets full. This “information age” can be quite exhausting at times. So when I attended 4 days of wonderful concerts, master classes and workshops here in Boston at the National NATS conference last week, I felt I needed a nap every day.
Actually, I felt like that in school after lunch.
But I digress. Or not. How do we absorb all this wonderful new stuff?
I find it seeps down. Sneaky deep, as my friend Cerridwen puts it.
Coming back to teaching summer lessons and classes, I found myself trying new things, on the fly, with students. Just simple things, like closing your eyes and feeling the sound, or placing your hands gently on your cheeks to feel the gentle opening of the jaw. Just stuff. And I felt excited again about my students’ progress. And they discovered new things themselves. It wasn’t all new information, but hearing it from a different teacher (or student), gave me a new look.
A new look. So I was looking for some French mélodies (that’s art song, the French equivalent of German Lied) and thought of an old book I was given by one of my teachers, Woody Thornton, before he moved to Europe to sing opera in the 1980’s. Sergius Kagan’s Music for the Voice. Still in print, and at your local library. Chock-full of great information on songs, their range and tessitura, suitability for high or low voices, how hard the piano part is, etc. And Mr. Kagan edited most of the International Editions I bought over the years. So, despite databases and new books on repertoire, here was this marvelous book right next to the piano, on the shelf with dictionaries and encyclopedias.
There are 2 anthologies of French songs in my very library, edited by Mr. Kagan, with so many composers– BUT NOT Fauré and Debussy, because everybody sings a lot of those two wonderful guys.
And that’s how it goes. Hearing D’Anna Fortunato sing a short recital of Boston composers (with the Marvelous John McDonald) reminded me of how long this great legacy is. (I’m also a booster on West Coast composers, being bi-coastal). And hearing 2 marvelous baritone recitals of mostly American music, more great repertoire and new composers. Hearing the scientific basis of what we intuitively know after years of using our voices and teaching others to do so, is very cool. It seems that body-based learning is all the rage. Who knew our style would finally become fashionable?
So, my takeaway from all this is that a nap is a good thing. I once heard that Pavarotti said “90% of my practicing is done in bed.” Before you get snarky and lewd, think about this: we used look at the vocabulary list before bed and be better able to give those definitions on the next day’s test. We absorb, and the knowledge filters down, sneaky deep.