Monday, 15 November 2010

It never fails to amaze me how few singers venture out from their comfort zone when it comes to listening to music.  I'm not talking today (although I have been known to, at length) about being open to all styles, hating some with a passion, dancing to others, turning the occasional one up to deafening levels and chilling out, but always listening and reacting.  This is simply in relation to classical music. 

I spent this morning listening to some glorious stuff.  Bloch arranged for piano, clarinet and horn.  Mahler, for all the above plus fabulous singer colleague.  Fibich (no, shamefully, I had never heard of him.  Czech, 1850-1900 for those who are interested, lush Romantic melodies) for quintet of piano, violin, cello, clarinet and horn.  Wonderful.

Admittedly, I sneaked into this concert mainly to hear my singer colleague.  I was however captivated, as I almost always am, by the interaction between the musicians in the quintet.  The thought I couldn't get rid of was, damn it, singers should be FORCED to occasionally listen to such recitals, with their eyelids propped open with matchsticks if necessary.  There is no excuse for the sloppiness that sometimes overtakes us on stage.  Just WATCH what happens in this chamber music.  Each musician is alive to the slightest impulse from any of the others.  They are alert, in the moment, reacting, making utterly LIVE music.  (Apologies; it appears to be a night that demands capital letters.)  So often we singers fail to do this.  Some of it may be down to the outward focus on the conductor, but frankly I suspect that some of it is because we forget, or are too lazy.

Not just singers, mind; over lunch with instrumentalists, the odd rather violent disagreement was noted in respect of recent conductor trials.  What is sauce for the goose is apparently NOT sauce for the gander :-)  Interesting, that, if not terribly surprising (whilst orchestra and singers really shouldn't feel like they're batting for different sides, it does often feel exactly like that).  All the singers involved were agreed, however, that conductors should be forced into at least a few singing lessons.  Some are naturally sympathetic to our peculiar needs.  Some, let us say, are not.  It makes such a fundamental difference.

Usual thing with the arts, I suppose.  Seeing things from different angles, changing one's focus altogether, swapping lives, throwing the cards into the air... on the whole, the more facets you have to your particular work of art, the more brilliant and deep the sparkle. 

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