Singing Musical Theater
Variety Keeps Agility when Singing (Part 2 of 3)
You can keep the voice healthy and agile through singing a variety of repertoire. Kellie O’Hara states that if you do both classical and musical theater singing, you “keep everything loose as you use different parts of the muscle” (vocal cords). Think of the analogy of being a runner. If you only run all the time, you will lose your ability to be flexible and do ballet. If you only do ballet, you will not have the stamina to be a runner. By doing both, you stay flexible. By singing musical theater and classical or opera and a little bit of country, you exercise the different parts of your vocal cords and surrounding muscles. This keeps the instrument flexible. Of course given your passions and performing venues, you will do a little more of one style than another. You should always afford yourself the opportunity to sing different styles, even if it is only in the practice room.
You use similar breath support for opera as you do for belting. (Kellie O’Hara) It is low and deep. You create the sound in the same place, it just resonates differently. (Buccleugh, Kathleen Farrar, “No Limitations”, Classical Singer, April 2012.) http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine
In introducing belt warm-ups, O’Hara’s teacher, Florence Birdwell states that there is a tremendous amount of support involved to do it correctly. A healthy belt equals absolute support- the same support that carries the voice up in high/legitimate singing. If you keep it free with no tension, it creates a well-supported sound. She describes the support required to be as low as if you were physically lifting the piano with your arms and legs, not your back (as many of her students really do in lessons). http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine
When studying musical theater and classical singing in the same lesson, the style and songs should be taught separately, but students should be reminded that what they are using in one can be used in another. This is especially true of the emotion in a foreign language after singing a musical theater piece.
When practicing, always return to a song that you know sits in your voice well. One that you have worked on with good technique that returns you to a good, healthy place. Sing it at the beginning and end of your practicing. If you can sing this song well after learning a new song and using new additions to your technique (such as belting), you know you are and will stay in a good place.
What are the other values of singing a variety of repertoire? What has opera learned from musical theater? Read about it in “Communication of the Word” in my next blog.