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Qualifications Essential to Success - The Common Fault of Overtaxing the Voice - The "Slow but Sure "Method-Importance of Clear Enunciation - How to Practise Before a Mirror - Nervousness Studying Away from the Piano
There can be little doubt that competition on the concert platform is keener to-day than it ever was, and on that account, the first words of advice I will humbly venture to give to aspirants to vocal success are : " Be sure that you possess real singing ability before taking up the concert platform as a means of livelihood."
A Word of Warning
I fully realise, of course, that the concert platform does not cast quite so irresistible a glamour over its votaries as does the stage proper, but, at the same time, my experience has taught me that it nevertheless exercises a considerable attraction for a very large number of young people, who are induced to enter the ranks of the profession, in many cases, I fear, without possessing the slightest chance of success. It is for that reason that I earnestly advise the ambitious musical student to secure the best advice as to her real capabilities before starting out on a career for which really - although she may refuse to acknowledge the fact herself - she is not adequately fitted.
In writing these special hints to concert-platform artistes', therefore, I am assuming that my remarks are being addressed to those who possess the qualifications essential to the attainment of success - in other words, to those who not only possess a voice capable of reaching a really high pitch of excellence under careful training, together with a small amount, at least, of dramatic power, but who are also prepared to show courage and determination in those dark hours inseparable from the career of every young artiste.
I am strongly of opinion that one of the most common faults among young singers is to overtax the voice. In their eager enthusiasm to reach the highest point of proficiency in the shortest possible time, they overdo their daily practice, with the result that instead of the voice becoming stronger, it probably grows weaker, and finally a breakdown is almost sure to occur. Yes, many a young singer has marred her chances of success through failing to realise that the muscles of the larynx are extremely delicate, and should be put to as little strain as possible.
The Slow but Sure Method
I have always believed in the slow and sure method of singing, and on that account I can assure the aspiring artiste that ten or fifteen minutes' singing practice a day in the early part of her training should be found quite sufficient. Of course, as the muscles of her throat become stronger this period should be gradually extended, though even when her voice is thoroughly strong I think ten minutes' singing practice, repeated at intervals three times a day, is a far wiser policy to pursue than to sing for half an hour without a rest. And yet young singers have come to me on countless occasions, and when I have asked them whether they practise regularly, they have smilingly replied, "Oh, yes; I sing for two hours in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon, every day of my life." I need scarcely say that I have at once done my best to deter them in future from continuing so suicidal a policy.
Another very prevalent mistake to which young singers are prone is to overlook the very great importance of clear enunciation. In their appreciation of the beauty of the particular music which they may happen to be singing, they, seemingly, forget that clear utterance of the words is also of importance. Thus, especially among amateur vocalists, many beautiful songs very often are completely spoilt by the indistinct utterance of the singer, who, in her anxiety to do full justice to the music, has left the words of the song to look after themselves. In opera, perhaps, when the artistes' actions help to tell the story, such a fault may occasionally be condoned, but on the concert-platform music so rendered becomes quite ineffective.
I recall with a feeling of pride, which I would not repress if I could, that her Majesty the late Queen Victoria once told me that her enjoyment of my singing was greatly enhanced by the clearness of my enunciation, and I well remember, too, that I esteemed that high compliment all the more because it so faithfully reflected my own views on this matter. Let me, therefore, earnestly counsel the young concert-platform artiste to bear in mind at all times that enjoyment of vocal music - oratorio especially - cannot be complete unless every word pronounced by the singer can be heard distinctly by every member of the audience.
Madame Clara Butt, the world-renowned singer, who in this article, written specially for " Every Woman's Encyclopaedia," gives young singers the benefit of her wide experience in singing on concert-platforms
Photo, Dinham, Torquay
In writing of the value of clear enunciation, I would point out, too, that the penetrating quality of the voice is materially assisted by a distinct articulation of the words. To accentuate my point, let me quote the remarks of a famous master on articulation : " This branch of the vocal art generally receives much less attention than its importance merits, not only from students, but also from many teachers and vocalists, whose mission it should be to encourage artistic singing.
' Too much time is exp2nded in acquiring quantity of tone at the expense of quality and distinct enunciation. As a result, shouting, instead of singing, is frequent; while it is not uncommon for the greater part of an audience to come away from a public performance of vocal music without having under-stood more than a few words of what has been sung."