Friday, December 17, 2010

Libera Canto

I just finished my second semester of singing class this week.

It has been an interesting journey in this class. The idea of Libera Canto shouldn’t even have to be a technique. It almost seems like something a singer unlearns in a lifetime of singing. I still had a hard time with it.

My first session of the class had me thinking of who I am as a singer. I understood that my teacher wanted me to understand what it meant to just sing a song, and not perform it. There really is a difference. We were doing all kinds of strange techniques to make this happen.

I still wasn’t sure if it was working. Was I really getting anything out of the class? My singing rarely received any individual attention. During the 6 weeks of the course, most of us only were able to sing our chosen songs solo once or twice. Was it helping me?

After the October disaster with the Harrison Players, I knew I hadn’t learned nearly enough.

I liked the teacher. I liked the other students. After meeting for a few sporadic, informal classes over the summer, I decided to try another semester as LMCCE was offering it again.

We kept working on the same techniques of course. There was lots of bodily and facial relaxation involved, and the usual exercises of taking the words of a song and making them into unintelligible nonsense.

Somehow it started to click. Brenda, my teacher often talked about singing as if you were a “drunk puppy” telling a story to other drunk puppies. Open your mouth. Wiggle your jaw. Stick your tongue out. Let the lyrics be sloppy but enthusiastic. I might be singing at home or in my car and a note would trouble me. I’d back off and go to the drunk puppy mode. I sang so sloppily I could hear the late Prof Stites (former Elizabethtown College choir director and King of Consonants) spinning in his grave. Suddenly things did feel freer. Notes were less difficult. I would gradually bring diction back into the song, gently closing my mouth around the words.

I began to learn that I could really open my mouth up and let the song flow, and still sing with diction. If I sang notes instead of words, the words would eventually follow the notes. I didn’t have to close my mouth and clamp my jaw and stiffen my tongue tightly around every word. I also found it easier to find a note when I made thinking of the note my priority rather than performing the song. The notes won’t always be right, but I can sing the song as if I didn’t care and it wouldn’t be so terrible.

I wondered if I had come far enough that I no longer needed the class, but I think I still have a little way to go. For one thing, I am just not at the stage where I can really make a song resonate with me, both physically and emotionally. If I don’t feel the emotion of the song, how will anyone else (hence why no one laughed when I sang my song in October)?

During a recent class one of my classmates sang a beautiful version of The Christmas Song (the song most people think is titled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”). She varied it – played with it. After she sang it, Brenda complimented the “musicality” of her voice. I remembered my own attempts to put a few spins on the same song and had another flop. I couldn’t handle it. The whole thing was forced. I want musicality. I want that playfulness to be natural and beautiful.

I guess that’s why I know now that I’ll be joining the spring semester of this class. Now that I can understand a bit more how to let my voice flow more freely, I can stop being in my head so much when I sing and just find what I’m really meant to sound like. Where is my own “musicality”?

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