Friday, May 28, 2010

Abide with Me

I am taking Basic Conducting this term as part of my music minor. All our tests are filmed so we can watch and critique them. This is my test on May 5. At the beginning of the class, my instructor, Dustin Graden, told us to forget everything we ever learned about conducting. So you'll notice that my movements are quite pedantic. I didn't know where to look, which made me look awkward and uncomfortable. There is a huge contrast between my expression during the piece and right after my cut off--suddenly I don't look so bored anymore!

Stars and the Moon

The video was too large to upload, so if is available on my facebook page for those of you who are friends. This piece is from the musical Songs for a New World. I really focused on making this quite speechy, particularly in the last verse. The notes I hit on "Hollywood," "Warm," and "Paris" are the closest I've come to a good belt. Many of the issues I dealt with working on Philosophy also apply to this piece.

My New Philosophy

This is from the musical You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. I sang it with a little bit of an edgy mix. The goal in gestures is to embody a six-year-old girl. I felt like there were points when I nailed it and others when I used to much hip movement or my movements were too legato. Along these lines, one of the challenges in doing musical theatre is mastering the voice, the emotion, and the gestures all at once. Throughout this performance you'll notice that one often gets sacrificed for another and often the one getting sacrificed is my voice. In my practice I sing the piece three times and rotate my focus between each element then sing it a fourth time trying to combine them all.

The Mermaid's Song

This is Haydn's The Mermaid's Song. Like Pieta Signore, this piece also caps at a high G. Unlike Pieta Signore, the higher range was easy to swing in and out of in this piece. My greatest struggle was the runs. We did "belly laugh" exercises to help me gain the active elasticity that the runs require. The voice has to be allowed a lot of freedom. It reminds me of the last workshop I did with Clayne Robison when he said that the thing that makes classical singing so alluring is that the singer is always on the precipice of losing control. I thought a lot about that concept as I worked on this piece. And you'll notice that in my efforts to balance on that razor edge, my voice does get out of control sometimes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pieta, Signore!

This is the hardest piece in Twenty-four Italian Songs and Arias, but I loved it so much I couldn't resist choosing it as one of my classical pieces. Initially I planned on competing in the classical division of NATS, singing this and the following piece--The Mermaid's Song--but decided I was not prepared enough (a direct consequence of choosing such hard pieces). Some problems I consistently had were getting off the breath in the lower register and pressing too much in the higher register.

Winter 2010 Final

Just as before, the following four pieces are live clips from my voice final with Sister Bounous recorded with Audacity. I am also including video recordings of Stars and the Moon and My New Philosophy that I did later in order to archive the gestures.

Barbara Streisand Belt Clip

Here is the heart-wrenching final scene of Funny Girl.

Who Will Love Me As I Am?

This was an extra piece that we threw in so I could work on my belt. It is from Sideshow and is a duet by siamese twins. Belt has all the space of classical but tips beyond the precipice and borders on shouting. Needless to say, I tried to practice it when no one was home! My belt usually ends up being an ugly sounding mix more than anything else. The beginning sounds too pleasant for this piece and the end sounds strained. Those notes are not in the high part of my range, it is just a poor attempt at a good belt. If you would like an example of premium belting, listen to Barbara Streisand. I've heard her referred to as the last great belter. The best examples are her Broadway recordings, I'll post one of my favorites for you to listen to.

Till There Was You

This piece is sung by Marianne in The Music Man. It is a very classical mix, which (as I have said before) is my forte. Unfortunately it's not a great recording. There are a few points, when I get off the breath or am pressing a little to hit a note. It gets cut off, but Sister Bounous gave me the greatest complement after and said, "oh, you can do that role!"

A Change in Me

This is from Disney's Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. There is an unsteadiness in my voice, some of this is nerves and some is just lack of better technique. This is my live final, hence the point when I forgot the words. It becomes more confident by the second verse, which helps with the wobbling that I had in the beginning. I didn't include this, but after I finished singing the entire piece, Sister Bounous had me go back and sing the last few bars for her, focusing on relaxing the final note.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Abba is one of my favorite popular groups to listen to so I chose to sing Fernando as one of my mix pieces. Unlike most of my other mix pieces, I sang under the pitch in this one. Probably because I sang far too classical of a mix. I think a flatter tongue and edgier mix would have been enough to pull me on top of the pitch. The other issue that stands out to me is the weightiness of my voice. Part of that is being under pitch, but I wonder if there is something else also.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd

This was my classical selection for the semester. It is an arrangement from Clayne Robison's Sabbath Songs II. The piece was a lot harder than I expected. The repetition of even eighth notes made musicality quite a challenge and you'll notice several passages where it sounds more like a drum beat than a lyric song. In order to get enough air pressure to support a legato line, Sister Bounous taught me appogo (sp?), which feels similar to what I imagine suffocating being like. I think that feeling will eventually go away as my body gets used to the change and accepts it as safe.

Fall 2009 Final

The next four posts are the pieces I worked on over the Fall semester with Sister Bounous. The clips come directly from my final, which I recorded using Audacity. The sound is not terrific, but it is good enough to be able to hear what was done well and where the problem spots are.


The next eight clips all have a few things in common, so I'll address those issues all at once so I am not repeating myself. These cover my work through the 2009-2010 school year. I consistently struggled with two problems: going sharp in my mix and going flat in my classical. I think that my sharp mix is resulting from too much air pressure. If I can learn to relax my air flow, I think that problem will be solved. My flat classical comes from resonance problems. I struggled to maintain the frontal resonance I use in my mix when I opened up to a classical shape in my mouth, which generally led to my classical dropping back into a 4 or 5 resonance space. Some of the exercises I am using to try to correct this problem are singing my classical pieces on an alternation between "ng" and "ah" in the hope that I will eventually be able to carry the frontal resonance I get on an "ng" into my "ah" and then into the actual words of the piece.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Song for Unsung Heroes

This file was too big to upload. For those who are friends with me on Facebook, I have uploaded the video there for you to watch

For the most part all of my posts will be solos, but as I am the one holding the alto line, I felt this would be appropriate. Up until college, I focused almost completely on solo singing, only dappling in choral music where the opportunity presented itself at church. It was when I began attending BYU that I became more interested in choral music. My freshman year (2008-2009), I participated in University Chorale under the direction of Brent Rodgers and Cristina Bishop (graduate students in choral conducting). Initially I sang as a first soprano for one semester and then moved to second soprano the following semester. This was my first exposure to the unique style of chorale instruction at Brigham Young University. In the year following (2009-2010), I was blessed to be admitted into the prestigious BYU Women's Chorus under the direction of Jeanne Applonie, in which I sang first alto. The performance in this video fell between the two. It is the final piece performed at the voice recital in July 2009.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Angels of Mercy

This is at the private studio recital of my voice teacher, Debra Bounous, in July of 2009. I had been studying with Sister Bounous since January of 2009, at which point I had my first exposure to mix/belt instruction. Having studied classical for 10 years, mix/belt was definitely a new experience. This particular piece entitled Angels of Mercy was written by Irving Berlin in 1941. I chose to sing it with a very classical mix and, other than a few places where my resonance fell back, I am pleased with the result.

Note: there were some problems uploading the video, which is the cause for the striping.
I am excited to start this blog. One of the times I am the most happy is when I am singing. My goals in creating this are 1) to document my progress and 2) to share my vocal journey with others. My plan is to post a recording along with a short summery and some note on what I need to improve on. Feel free to add any constructive comments you may think of as you listen.