I’m 6200 words into writing Opening Bars, a 25,000-word book about starting to take singing lessons. I face the question: what’s in it for those who may never sing to an audience?
Scroll forward to last Monday. V wants me to sing staccato and has chosen an old French drinking song. It’s rated presto (ie, crotchet = 152) which turns it into real tongue-twister. Try this at speed:
S’il est bon, s’il est agréable,
J’en boirai jusqu-à mon plaisir
V’s French isn’t too hot and I tease her, something I regret bitterly a few minutes later.
We’re two-thirds through the lesson, my voice is not only thoroughly warmed up it’s well used. We’ve dropped the French song and I’m doing Waly, Waly, half-imitating a well-known tenor I’ve seen on YouTube. V nods when I’m finished. I can’t remember her exact words (Ah, would that I could!) but this is the gist:
“Why don’t you forget every pro singer you’ve ever heard, relax, pretend you’re alone, and sing this in your own voice.”
It’s not the first time she’s made this recommendation but in the past it’s always been impossible to follow. This time the song, the state of my voice and the moment all click. I push all those “singer-ish” memories to one side and open my mouth:
The water is wide,
I can not get o’er
V doesn’t nod, she spreads her hands. “There, that’s what you’ve been looking for. Your voice. And it’s lovely.”
And I’ve got one answer to the question in my book.