Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Singing for one's Supper

I never liked my voice! This may come as a surprise to my friends! I usually have quite a lot to say for myself but in truth for most of my life I have never liked my singing voice.

In fact I only sang by accident. At my convent school it was discovered that I had a voice by a Miss Carmen, good name for a singing teacher. She was a character but she decided I could sing and from then on to my horror I was given all the solo parts in her school operas. I just hated it. One was based on Mozart and one on King Midas where I had to play the God Pan and got unmercifully teased.

During one of my dreaded piano exams Grade 2 the examiner was very unimpressed with my piano playing, he was dead right there but told me I had a voice. He was right there too.

I acknowledged I could make reasonable noises but I just didn't like the sound I made or enjoy singing. I used to enjoy singing fun songs with my Auntie Jo who played the piano for me every afternoon when I was a toddler and who also taught me to dance but singing as a career never crossed my mind.

I want to be a ballet dancer ... still do. Life again I should dump everything else and concentrate on ballet but for this life it was not to be because at the age of 14 Benjamin Britten himself no less decided I could sing.

To my horror I was given a solo part in 'Noyes Fludde' first performance where I made something of a hit. Britten desparate for a 'Flora' for the 'Turn of the Screw' little boys were ten a penny but a young girl who could sing 'Dolly shall sleep' was very rare indeed, still is, took an interest is me as he needed someone to sing 'Flora'.

So instead of ballet I became a singer and as the BBC would not employ me in TV  production because I was a woman I stayed a singer in West End Musicals  as Leading Lady or comedy leads which I preferred.

When I married I sang Lieder with my piano playing Oxford GP husband but again I never really enjoyed it. Miles, like Britten, could only play from music and although I could have transposed it into my key the thought never occurred to me. I was a bit miffed, (only joking) when he died because I missed him and my daily sing. I had got used to it and had learned virtually all the soprano repertoire in the 30 years I was married.

For six years after his death I did not sing a note. I tried to employ a pianist but at $30 an hour and the fact that Mahler, Schoenberg, and even Canteloupe require a better than usual pianist my money was spent on their rehearsal let alone me.

Because a singer needs an excellent pianist, lots of practice and the most important thing of all the RIGHT KEY!

Being ill and isolated I discovered Garage band. By chance I learned how to write out a short song and then I had the brilliant idea that I could write out my accompaniments. At last my musical training would be useful.

I started with Schubert's "Die Schone Mullerin" with just piano. I could choose my key and my own interpretation. I even spoke one of the songs and I added a lute, a tolling bell and a few bird songs.

Then I had a go at the "Songs of the Auvergne" with orchestration and I have never looked back. In fact now I love to sing. I could sing all day. Being able to choose my own key and record myself and then mix my voice to my own satisfaction has  given me such pleasure I could do it all day and being retired I do.

I can sing Mahler "Songs of the Wayfarer', Mozart Alleluja & Ave Verum singing all four parts and even Wagner and I don't sound too bad. Big surprise!

I like my voice. Wenarto my biggest fan, said I sing with my whole body and I think I do. I don't make pretty noises I sing with my whole self with meaning. Wenarto is the same he really sings for the joy of it. This is so refreshing as most opera singers 'hoot'. Beautiful noises is all that they think is required.

I always could colour words in poetry and now I can do this when I sing. I always sing in my native tongue which helps and I make sure that the translation is good for me and the mix is good. Raw recording is too unkind on singers and having to dance about at the same time on stage does not get good sound. This is a luxury I never dreamed I would have and yet at the end of my life I have been given the opportunity to sing well. 

Oh to have had Garageband when I was with Britten who was kind enough to say that one day I should be a wonderful Lieder singer although I didn't believe him at the time. I think he and my husband would have been so surprised at how it has turned out. Maybe I should have believed them

Sadly can't offer you 'Songs of the Wayfarer' yet but here's my Lohengrin. 'Elsa's Dream' Wagner. If you don't like the graphics shut your eyes and listen. Surprisingly I sing it rather well though I say so myself. Believe me no one is more surprised than I.

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