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The Making of a Great Singer.

It has been said that a great singer is born, not made. But this, like a great many other nice sayings, is only a part truth. No singer has ever achieved greatness on just what was born in him. Nor, of course, is it true that one can work out his greatness by sheer force of will and application without the natural gifts that must form the basis of all great vocal achievements.

No, the great singer is both born and made.

Several things are necessary to make a great vocalist, and these are united in rare degrees in the persons of those who achieve great fame along this line. The artistic temperament, the natural power and quality of voice, the strong physique, the intense application, the good sense, the expressive countenance, the comely figure,—all these go to make up the artistic inheritance of the great artist in song.

Whether it be the expression of a mood of tenderness or sorrow, or one of joy and gaiety,—whether it be the telling of a tale of woe and misery or one of happiness and ecstasy, whether it be the depths of misery or the heights of bliss,—whatever be the mood or circumstance, the great singer must have the means of its expression at his command and use them in such a way that he plays on the hearts of his hearers as does the leader of an orchestra through the manifold musical means at his command.

To achieve such results one must first feel, then think, then do. That is to say, all the sensitiveness of an artistic nature must be present in the highest degree; one must work, study, think, practice, learn to apply the means to the end, acquire the necessary technic of reaching people’s minds and hearts. Then comes the realization of the ideal, the expression of the emotions and ideas of others, of the great composers. The artist is the crystallization of the best that has preceded him.

A great singer must be at the same time objective and subjective. In the classics he must sing with the expression governed by the intellect and by his historical knowledge,—by thought and tradition, if you please. In the romantic school he must allow the romanticism of his richly endowed nature full sway, and the emotional element becomes more prominent.

Art is mood crystallized into tone or visible form. But more fully is this true of the tonal than of the plastic arts. So the tonal artist must be susceptible to all shades of emotion and, of course, have the technic for all shades of emotional expression. And that is what makes a man or a woman an artist. He or she thinks art, feels art, lives art, does art. What higher attribute can be paid to an artist than to say his life is a continual thinking and doing of art,—that he is a personification of art? And yet many of the great singers, those of broader culture and kindlier disposition, deserve even as rich a tribute as this.—W. F. Gates.

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