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After A Day's Work

Department for Singers
Conducted by Eminent Vocal Teachers
Editor for September



The reason why the art of singing can never be acquired from the printed page is because, as Hume says, “The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.” Nothing can take the place of the living example and the word of instruction weighted with that personal interest and sympathy which should always exist between the teacher and his pupils. It is absolutely necessary for a singer to be periodically under the guidance of a teacher’s sensitive and critical ear. Scarcely anything else can be of as great assistance to him in acquiring sureness of feeling and perception of true, pure and artistic tone. The most interesting periods of study for both “teacher and pupil are those moments when the light of truth breaks through the barriers of mere understanding and becomes living feeling. Many hours may have been spent in discussion and endeavor to reach the expression of some particular passage in a song. That which is necessary to be done may be clear to the student’s understanding, and he tries with utmost faithfulness to reason a way to successful accomplishment. But such effort invariably ends in failure to sing at all. And why? Because cold, calculating intellectual effort chills the sense of feeling. Such work is uninspiring, it is insipid, the words lifeless. This dreary monotony is due to a performance devoid of emotion.

In any struggle to reach supremacy, obstacles are encountered. They are inevitable. In the case of the singer, if the student is sincere and enthusiastic, opposing forces will but serve to arouse within him the spirit of determination to conquer and win out. It is not to be denied that, in the preparation, intellectual work enters to a considerable extent. But with the beginning of the real business of singing its mission ends. The feelings never get into the play of the voice unless there is a clear field for action. While intellect and emotion may be combined in singing, one must be the ruler, and that one the emotion. It is equally true that, in science, intellect and emotion may be combined; here, however, the relation is reversed and intellect becomes the dominating factor.


The singer must form the habit of listening to the promptings of the inner guiding voice, and yield to it the ready and implicit obedience of the trained organs of sound. This is spontaneity of expression; artistic abandon. When the heart enthusiastic speaks, enthusiastic hearts will answer. Then, and only then, the singer will realize the power of song. He will then have a message to carry and the ability to deliver it. Remember: “It is emotional force, not intellectual, that brings out exceptional results.” Intellect is. the brain’s cold storage plant where the things we know, or think we know,

are placed to keep from spoiling. They spoil just the same. The future throws out the musty tomes, substituting other brain products which eventually meet the fate of all the others. The character of the emotions is fixed and unchangeable; they spring from an eternal fountain. They are ever new, ever inspiring, ever ready to respond to stimulus.

The student of song must start out with this appreciation of the meaning of vocal culture: that it is to be acquired for the purpose of being able to express in an orderly, attractive and appropriate manner in song our deeper feelings and emotions. True vocal culture is a means by which we are enabled to give artistic expression to refined emotions, and must not be confused with a riotous, emotional type of singing. The highest form of vocal culture enables the master singer to give utterance to his feelings with noble repose.

I believe it is wise at the very beginning of vocal practice to introduce into the tone every desirable constituent of the human voice that exists in our nature. For this reason I thoroughly believe in the early giving of good suitable songs. The imagination and the dramatic instinct are thus stimulated, exercise is provided in great variety to promote agility of voice in conjunction with activity of the articulating muscles.

All vocalizes should be sung with color and expression. If this is done the exeercises (sic) will be full of variety and interest. Instead of being a drudgery, they will become a pleasure. The student who practices after this manner will at once begin to individualize his tone. His perception of sound and all that constitutes beautiful quality and desirable expression will improve.


There is a most important reason why the vocal student should gain early mastery of all these essential elements of artistic singing. The teaching of a voice in a one-sided manner, that is, merely for flexibility, smoothness and beauty of tone, will produce an action of the entire vocal apparatus corresponding to these features of his singing. The action of lips, tongue and larynx are in unconscious accord with these demands, and these habits of action become more or less fixed. Later, when the voice is called upon for something different in the way of color and dramatic expression, the throat will rebel. The vocal organs accustomed to other mental stimuli are disturbed by an order to do something foreign to their formed habit. The new and the old are at cross-purposes, and as a result spontaneity is lost. If, however, at the outset of study and training, the sensitive and peculiarly delicate vocal mechanism of the throat is exercised simultaneously in the acquirement of legato, smoothness, flexibility and mastery of all the varied shades of meaning of the text, a complete and perfect coordination of all parts of the vocal apparatus will be the result. This is the view taken by advanced thought in vocal culture. It is the most complete as well as the most satisfactory way for a student to acquire the art of singing. Results are surer, more rapid gain is made in absorbing the artistic features of singing, and the treadmill elements that commonly prevail in a day’s work are eliminated.


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