Although, as far as singing is concerned, imitation is most assuredly not the sincerest form of flattery, I am, none the less, convinced that, in the early days of their career, concert-platform artistes can learn much by studying the methods of those who have already "arrived." After all, one of the great secrets of success in every walk of life is not to be above taking hints from those who have succeeded, and, bearing this in mind, I would, therefore, specially advise young singers to watch the best-known artistes of the concert platform as often as possible.
Let me, however, impress upon them not to become mimics. Mere parrot-like mimicry of some renowned interpreter of a song should at all times be strenuously avoided, for in singing, as in everything else, slavish imitation of the model, no matter how good that model may be, is always unsatisfactory. Still, after carefully watching the methods of a great concert-platform artiste, the young singer will assuredly find ample scope for originality of treatment left to her.
So, my aspiring concert-platform artiste, let this be your motto : " Saturate yourself with the spirit of the part allotted to you till every shade of the composer's meaning becomes perfectly clear to you." And to " get at " that spirit, I know of no better method than to study the methods of those who have already mastered the composer's meaning by long and protracted study.
And now let me say a few words about " platform self-control." Almost every normal-minded young singer will find herself attacked many a time and often in her early days by what can, I think, be best described as nerves."
Many of our greatest vocalists have told me that they habitually suffer from nervousness. Nevertheless there can be no doubt that this nervousness can be kept under self-control as the artiste becomes more experienced. And, after all, I am not at all sure that the nervous singer does not, as a rule, do herself more justice than the very confident artiste who faces an audience with the staunchest belief in her ability to do herself ample justice.
For this reason, the young artiste should endeavour to cultivate a belief in herself to prevent her nervousness. When she has done this she need have no fear that that ' quaking feeling in the heart " will interfere with her rendering of a song.
The Effect of Health on the Voice
No; "nerves" may be very unpleasant to those who habitually suffer from them, but when experience has been gained, and "platform self-control" acquired, it is a mistake to imagine that they necessarily prevent an artiste from doing herself proper justice. In offering my sympathy, therefore, to those who suffer from extreme nervousness, 1 would, at the same time, throw out a reminder that most singers at one time or another find themselves similarly afflicted, though, personally, I have never suffered from it myself.
During my career I have frequently noticed that a common fault among many young artistes is to overlook the influence of bodily health on the voice. The connection between mind and body is, nevertheless, so intimate that, when worried or suffering from some physical ailment, a singer's voice is, in consequence, almost bound to reflect the fact that all is not well with her. This being so, anything liable to harass or depress the student should be as much as possible kept in the background during the early stages of training, for experience has proved to me that physical ill-health, or depression, are almost as fatal to the progress of the aspirant's voice as even malformation of the organs of speech.
A point of the highest importance in concert-platform work is to rest the throat as much as possible before singing, otherwise an artiste cannot reasonably expect to have her voice at its best. Personally, when fulfilling public engagements, I put in the greater part of my practice in the morning between the hours of eleven and one each day, so that my throat can have several hours of complete "rest" before I am due in public.
I am a believer, too, when work is very plentiful, in practice being confined to exercises instead of songs. It is also no bad thing to follow the " quiet " method of practice - that is to say, study away from the piano altogether. This, of course, can be done best with songs and exercises, and, as far as the latter are concerned, I am inclined to think that the effect can be judged much more accurately when rendered in this way than when sung over and over again with accompaniment. The 'quiet' method, too, boasts the additional advantage of possessing a great saving of vocal effort-a point I cannot emphasise too emphatically for all young artistes, especially the very ambitious student whose enthusiasm is apt to run in the direction of overwork.
In conclusion, as one who has had no small experience of concert-platform work, I may perhaps be permitted to say that the life of a singer, strenuous though it is at all times, is, nevertheless, so replete with interest that I can think of no more desirable occupation to those whose ability and constancy of character will enable them to overcome successfully the countless difficulties which inevitably beset the path of all young singers. I would repeat, however, that competition on the concert platform these days is keen, deadly keen, and on that account let me earnestly beg young singers to make quite sure that they are thoroughly well equipped for the struggle before they start forth on the stormy seas of a profession in which to every competitor who achieves real success there are a hundred others who, depressed and weary of the struggle, drop out when the contest has, in reality, only just begun.