Wednesday, December 19, 2007

French Learning

As I began singing my first aria (the one with 24 high b-flats, 3 high c’s, and tons of fast notes) at the start of last night’s show, I noticed that it actually felt easy. I thought back to all of the lessons I have had on this role, slaving over each b-flat and every coloratura passage in my lessons, trying over and over again to keep them in line and properly supported and placed, wondering how I was ever going to manage to do this on stage in front of a theater full of people. As yesterday's show went on (our 10th performance in the tour), I began to realize that I have learned a lot during my time here in France.

A sampling of the things that I have learned over the past three months, ranging from things vocally technical, things musical, life lessons, to random miscellany:

  • It is actually possible to sleep on a plane from time to time.
  • I’ve learned a ton of new French vocabulary (like how to discuss train strikes, for example).
  • I have a tendency to hold tension in my left shoulder and arm when I sing, and this prevents me from grounding into a lower support and causes me to lock my abdomen. (Thank you, Susie, for pointing out my perpetually bent left arm – it was a bigger problem than you realized)
  • I have learned to rely on resonance to project the sound even more than I used to (rather than muscle).
  • The French tax situation is better than the German one for us singers.
  • Being alone on the road is easier than it used to be.
  • You need a fairly good internet connection for Skype to work effectively.
  • I can navigate my way around Paris Gare du Nord, Charles de Gaulle airport, and London St. Pancras Station quite easily now.
  • I am constantly reminded that phrasing is a good thing.
  • Marking in rehearsal is not always a bad thing.
  • Slow and steady wins the race (although not tempo wise in Rossini…then simply being steady wins the race).
  • Champagne takes a long time to make.
  • Bulgaria fought on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I.
  • Always explore the local farmer’s market as soon as you can – don’t wait until the last weekend you are in a city.
  • Even if I feel tired, if I immerse myself in the music, it will feed me the energy I need.
  • The lower and more grounded my support is, the more musical options I have at my disposal.
  • Recording is a REALLY useful tool.
  • Arriving 35 minutes before a trans-Atlantic flight is not enough time, no matter how good your excuse is.
  • The French are an incredibly polite people.
  • It had been ten years since my last tetanus shot.
  • Tetanus shots make your arm really sore for days.
  • You don’t need a prescription in France to buy the tetanus vaccine at the pharmacy.
  • It is possible to learn a great deal of things vocally on my own without a voice teacher holding my hand.
  • I can do an upward bow in yoga now.


Ann said...

I love your list. For the non-singer things, I can totally relate. :)

Yankeediva said...

Nick! I'm smiling so hugely right now reading this post, because I immediately am brought back to that time you and Laquita were traveling through Paris, and you both had that "where the hell am I and what the hell am I doing here?!?!" look on your faces! To read all your 'lessons learned' and see how much your growing and embracing this life is just so utterly wonderful! Congratulations for all the work you've done to get to this point - you're an incredibly perceptive, hungry artist and PERSON, and this will only serve you more and more! So happy to see you enjoying this crazy ride!!
CHEERS, and happy new year!

nick said...

Thanks, Joyce! That means so much coming from you! Sometimes it feels like that first trip to Europe with Laquita was just yesterday. It is nice to be reminded how far we've come! Happy New Year to you, too!

Simon said...

Your blog is very interesting - I hope you don't mind me asking this question about your list entry:
The lower and more grounded my support is, the more musical options I have at my disposal.

Is this "support" a reference to you diaphragm? Can you explain more - I'm not a singer but am interesting in what I can learn as a Horn player form singer's insights.

nick said...

I guess I am really referring to my air flow - the lower a place it comes from (i.e. making sure that I am taking low breaths from the diaphragm as opposed to high, chest breaths) and the more grounded I feel physically in my body, I find that my vocal mechanism remains more free of tension, allowing me more options in terms of shaping the phrase or dynamic control. The problem that I struggle with is that my abdomen tends to lock when I sing in certain parts of my range, allowing me to only have flexibility breath-wise in my upper chest, which does not allow me to take "low" diaphragmatic breaths.

Simon said...

Thanks. I listened to the clips on your website and you sound like you're doing very well. I really liked the aria from the Creation (am just can't get enough of that piece) - would love to hear the first Aria but I guess its hard to get a chorus to help out? BTW the your pianist really captures the orchestral colours extremely well! Hope you get to give a concert/sing a role over in the UK sometime soon. Looking forward to reading more of blogs and thank you for your candour.