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Artistic Singing.


There are many beautiful voices in America which the public never hears, because they are never brought to the perfection, or to a quarter of the perfection, of their possible beauty. I will try to explain to The Etude readers various reasons why such is the case, but the principal one is the lack of serious appreciation of singing as an art. This lack of true comprehension of artistic singing is very general among our people and our students. Singing is looked upon by the majority as a delightful and rather an easy manner of winning laurels or of earning a livelihood. The imperative need of arduous application, of intelligent thought, and earnest study, is not recognized as it should be by all vocal students.

A voice is, after all, a small part of the make-up of an artist. Even after a long period of technical work, faithfully accomplished, there is something more and something greater; and this is, even when the singer has genius, the beauty and the perfection of song.

This great requisite is a knowledge of music itself. There is something to be thought of besides a good emission of tone. The artist knows something of music as a science. He knows what good phrasing is, he understands musical sentences and comprehends that which he sings. It is this musical knowledge which enables him to sing intelligently and to interest his listeners. His work is no sham; it has real worth and value, and that is what holds the public and wins a name for the singer. All of his beautiful tone emission—most important in itself—would be of little value if the singer were not a musician. When these two requisites are accompanied by the divine gift of genius, the singer is a perfect artist, who thrills us all by the glory of his voice, the force of his enthusiasm, the purity of his conception, and the grace of his rendition.

But the genius has labored long and earnestly, and has perfected his gifts slowly and conscientiously. What, then, is the future of the average student, who may be endowed with good gifts but who can not be brought face to face with the demands made upon his intelligence, patience, and persistence without becoming discouraged and disenchanted with the art he has ignorantly admired as beautiful and as easily within his reach?

A good master, good health, regular habits, and self-denial are all requisites, but all are worthless without a studious and intelligent mind. The performance of an artist may appear to be a thing, beautiful, natural, and quite simple; but this ease is the result of application and intelligent preparation.

Wise parents can do more for a talented child than a fine master can do for the ambitious but ignorant young man or woman. Teach the child, or cause him to be taught, how divine a thing is music. Let him respect the art, and study it as seriously as he studies other things. Many children sing a great deal; but that is not studying music, and it too often ruins voices. Develop musical instincts, but do not develop the voice before it is sufficiently matured. Teach the child what a scale is; let him give the intervals and read at sight, using his voice as little as possible in learning the rudiments. Teach him also to play upon the piano. He should hear what good music there may be within reach, and he should think about it and hear it intelligently and appreciatively. All this cultivation will be an invaluable assistance when the child is grown and the voice matured for cultivation.

When this foundation has not been laid in childhood, the young man or woman must have sufficient force of character to work twice as hard for it, and not be content to fall far short of what he or she might be because of the discovery that to become an artist requires talent, energy, perseverance, and intelligence.

The reward of the artist is sweet and well worth his labor. It is something dearer to him than the fame, the applause, or the pecuniary reward which he wins. It is the consciousness of having truthfully expressed the beauty and the life of the music which dwelt in him.

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