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Minnie Hauk's Music Lesson

A few days since Mme. Minnie Hauk was called upon by a young choir girl, who desired the great prima donna to give her some information about going abroad to study.
 
After some pleasant conversation, Mme. Hauk said to the girl (Miss Elizabeth D. Griffith, of Bennington, Vt.):
 
"What vowel do you use?"
 
The pupil told her six, naming them.
 
"Indeed! I use only one, 'ah.' I studied with Errani, Strakosch and Courto; they all taught me with the same one, and I have used nothing but 'ah' all my life. However, you must be your own judge in the matter. Now, before we begin, I wish you to understand that I mean to be perfectly candid. I will say just what I think. I shall be honest with you.
 
"Now sing the scale for me, and take the long-drawn notes.
 
The scale was sung, but the tones were not full and did not please the distinguished artiste.
 
"Ah, you do not study your scales, I see. Now, that is the great mistake young singers make, and it is fatal. You must work at your scales. They are the alphabet of music. Without them you can do nothing; remember that."
 
Then she generously proceeded to give the girl a lesson, and together they ran up and down the major scales, took the arpeggios and chromatics until the canary bird in the next room became overpowering and had to be covered up.
 
"Hold your notes, heed the time, husband your breath and open your mouth," were her orders. "Open your mouth, I say," she repeated. "How do you expect a good tone when you keep your lips together?
 
See!" And she threw her head back, made her lips describe a sort of parallelogram, and the common everyday scale rang out as musically as her first aria in "Carmen." It wasn't a scale as the pupil understood it; it was music! It was a revelation to her.
 
"Now, my dear, I'll tell you what you want—bodily exercise. Do you practice any gymnastic or calisthenic movement?"
 
"No? Well that is bad. I have been singing ever since I was fourteen years old, and I never let a day pass that I do not take exercise to expand my chest and refreshen my lungs. It is a stimulant that the vocal chords must have. I go through ten different movements and practice each one twenty-four times."
 
She rose from the piano bench and proceeded to beat the air with her arms, showing the pupil exactly how to use her muscular force without straining it.
 
"You need not take it so violently. It is not to strengthen the arm so much as to expand the chest. Keep your head still," and the Baroness de Wartegg threw her arms up and down, from side to side, and as far back as she could, explaining that one needed a loose jacket to do the exercise correctly.
 
"Breath is the first requisite for tone, and you need not expect to sing until you have increased yours," shaking her finger admonishingly.
 
"You have a fine voice, but you do not yet know how to use it. Now, let me hear one of your songs."
 
Miss Griffith produced one of the sentimental songs of the day and began to sing it, the charming cantatrice playing her accompaniment.
 
Mme. Hauk watched her critically, and when she finished threw it aside and rubbed her hands significantly.
 
"My dear child, that is trash. You mustn't spend your time on that kind of music. Haven't you any of Mozart or Schubert?"
 
"I can sing 'Last Rose of Summer.'"
 
"No, you can't. Only a consummate artiste can sing those simple little ballads like 'Last Rose,' 'Sweet Home' and 'Suwanee River.' Haven't you anything else at all?"
 
"Well, I've only been studying a little while," the pupil replied, apologetically.
 
"Yes, but it took time to learn that," pointing to the ditty, "and it was time wasted."
 
"Now, you must get some simple songs by Schumann and Schubert and Brahms. Here, now, is his 'Sontag;' just let me run over this for you," and it was delightful to hear the exquisite way she sang that charming little German ballad.
 
"Don't you like that better?" she asked, looking into the bright eyes of the captivated girl.
 
"You have the voice and the feeling; you want training and directing; you want physical exercise that will enable you to run the scale with one breath, and you want good, wholesome music. Trash like that which you have been singing for me is like a diet of candy—not nourishing. Work at slow scales and the solfeggios in piano, forte and piano again, and you will get flexibility and execution. Work incessantly and systematically, but don't over-study."
 
Then she seated herself in front of the favored visitor and told her how to take care of her health and how to work, read and study for "harmonic culture." She told her to keep her feet dry, her head cool, and her chest warm; to take an honest view of life and take no favors from any one.
 
"Make no secret of the fact that you are a poor girl. There is no disgrace in that. The world knows that wealth is inert, and that the bravest struggles and best triumphs are made by the poorest artists. Be perfectly honest about your condition, and be too proud to aspire to anything you cannot earn.
 
"If you want to please be natural. Truth is always better than affectation, and a great deal more lasting. If you have any intention of doing comic opera, relinquish it at once. Operetta won't help you for the legitimate. It is a school by itself now. Do Elsa? My child, don't dream of such a thing. You are too young. Wait until you have had more training. In your undeveloped condition the strain would ruin your voice. Wait until you have a repertoire of lighter, brighter music. Study Verdi, Gounod, Bizet, Donizetti. Get songs by standard composers and learn to sing them as they are written. The translations are not always good, for the reason that in the original the music and words are written expressly for each other, and when you change one you change the song.—Ex.

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