Singing is top sport!

I am a person who likes to work hard to reap the rewards. But it should be fun, a challenge. For a number of years I participated in a musical group. We got mp3s with terrible midi horns to rehearse our parts at home. The first year, the first few weeks I did that well, but it soon became apparent that in the singing rehearsals all notes were played back one by one and it took us a whole evening to put a song in the ground a bit, in other words: that everyone knew just about what to sing. Not how, why or nuanced in dynamics, just the basics. So those horn files remained unopened in my email box.

Musicals are fun, especially with the polyphony in great parts, the singing together, sometimes 12 or 16 voices, sometimes with some weird jumps that you have to practice on and the music is full of witticisms and modulations, but in general it’s all good to sing.

A new challenge came when I went to join a classical choir. My first piece was Haydn’s Die Schöpfung. Harmonically not really special, very predictable.

But singing was a different story. Regularly jumps were made that covered a whole chord. That accuracy of landing on the right note required a completely different way of using my voice. I took up the challenge and started singing like my life depended on it. Every day for an hour in my room, starting with some singing exercises to warm up the vocal cords and then singing along with a recording, stop, back, again and again, with the necessary frustrations and euphoria. I got good at it, both at singing and reading notes on the spot, and I discovered a way to get even better with breath support. Vocal cord control, enough air for a whole phrase, knowing what and how to sing, I loved it.

And then Corona came….

Like a bolt from the blue, the whole world was turned upside down, including mine, but in a good way. With a completely empty social calendar, I turned the lockdown necessity into a creative virtue and started drawing and painting (as if my life depended on it). I didn’t sing anymore, because there was nothing, no concert or scratch day, to work towards and singing for the sake of singing alone, I don’t like that. But it wasn’t a big deal, because painting was the new singing. Something new for me to sink my teeth into.

Creativity just kept on flowing. During my breaks, my body got some rest, but my head kept spinning at full speed to end up making “A New World”. The “old” disciplines, composing and singing, were taken from the attic and I assumed these skills were just sitting in my toolbox, waiting for me to take them out again to play with.

Foto: Unsplash - Jr Korpa

Boy, was I wrong. The composing went fine, the old strategy of letting the music go through my head and that way coming up with new ideas, worked as usual, but the singing…?!

Het was een ramp om “Dandelions” in te zingen. Er sijpelde valse lucht langs mijn stembanden, na iedere maat moest ik heel diep ademhalen en de ademsteun was een vergeten vaardigheid. De kracht was weg. En juist bij zachte liedjes als in de eerste strofe van “Dandelions” heb je die controle hard nodig.

So that became practice and training, because just like marathon runners, you have to keep training your muscles (in this case the vocal cords) to stay in shape.

Singing is top sport!

I don’t sing every day yet, I don’t have time for it at all, but when I’m home alone, I do some singing exercises to keep the vocal cords flexible. The next piece of music is going to demand a lot from my vocal cords, with a technique that hasn’t been used for a very long time, I already know…