Monday, July 20, 2015

Learning Bel Canto in Individual Sessions

One of the greatest joys that I have as a teacher is the time that I spend with my students in their individual singing classes. After over thirty-five years I have never grown weary of working with one person after another, because each person has a wonderful gift inside of himself or herself which will come out in singing.

All kinds of people ring the school for lessons, all ages from 12 to 90. Some of the people are established performers and some of them simply always wanted to learn about singing but were afraid to ask. When I start seeing them getting results in their singing ability and they see it too, then that’s the big payback for me. I am truly blessed to have a mission and work in life that makes me very happy.

Someone once asked me if I ever get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again. I replied without hesitation: "Absolutely not." There is something in a song for EVERY individual that is uniquely and only there for them alone.

The singer is the one who brings something to the song. I can always hear something new in a song that I have heard thousands and thousands of times just because a new person is now singing that song. This is true whether the student is a beginner or whether the student has been singing all of his or her life. It is an inherent part of being human. Your art is within you waiting to come out, even before you discover that it exists

Monday, July 06, 2015

"The Art That Conceals Art":

I love this quotation from an old Dublin Grand Opera Society program:

Ernestine Schumann-Heink (1862-1936) described [McCormack] on many occasions as the greatest singer of his time, and she had heard all the great singers over her career of more than 60 years.

Author and critic Ernest Newman in the London Sunday Times wrote a week after McCormack’s death: "He was a supreme example of the art that conceals art, and sheer hard work that becomes manifest only in its results, not in the revolving of the machinery that has produced them."

(Taken from "John McCormack– a Centenary Tribute" from a program of the Dublin Grand Opera Society, Spring Season 1984, at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin)

Monday, June 22, 2015

“What Bel Canto Means To Me...” (By John McCormack’s heir)

In an e-mail letter to me dated October 15, 2003, Count John McCormack, heir and grandson of Irish Tenor John McCormack writes:

Bel Canto speaks for itself – beautiful singing – and one of its greatest exponents was my grandfather, Count John McCormack.... The secret to Bel Canto, some say, lies in the continuity of tone and the art of sustaining passages to create a beautiful line. John was an expert at delivery, phrasing and had uncanny breathing ability, quite often leaving his audience gasping while he sailed effortlessly on.

The sheer simplicity behind the theory of allowing a voice to develop in its own individual and distinctive way could well be learned and understood by many modern singers who force their way through songs while desperately attempting to sound like their favourite singer. Why do we spend so much of our lives trying to be someone else when what we have is so divinely unique?

It gives me great pleasure to know that the tradition of Bel Canto is continued with success through the Bel Canto House in Dublin. My grandfather’s legacy will remain and the lessons that can still be learned from listening to his mastery will, hopefully, continue to be of benefit to hundreds of future students.