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Subject: Re: warming up the voice
From: Howard Hood <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Sun, 4 Mar 2001 09:42:00 EST
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In a message dated 03/04/2001 7:57:25 AM Central Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

<< i believe it was also bumbry who said that a singer's
 voice should not be fully warmed up upon stepping on
 stage.  if that's the case, doesn't it make it really
 difficult for roles that begin with a big vocal bang
 at entrance (radames, norma)?  what's the rationale >>

I am just an humble choral singer, but I am very conscienctious about warming
up.  This is what warming up means to me:  First of all, I believe in warming
up the body, the breathing mechanism.  This requires aerobic exercise to
relax the breathing apparatus and encourage deep breathing.  When singing at
our downtown performing arts center, I commonly walk the stairs going up to
the lighting catwalks.  Sometimes I overdo this and my legs tremble on stage.
 Vigorous walks are also good.  I sometimes put on Big Boss Man (Jimmy Reed)
or Chain of Fools (Aretha Franklin) and dance around my house, sometimes with
light weights in my hands.  Physical exercise shortly before singing has an
amazing effect on my singing.  After exercise, my voice is bigger, more
easily produced, and has a wider range.

Another aspect of warming up is clearing the throat.  You ask for disaster if
you begin singing in public without testing the voice to make sure that you
have no congestion or phlegm.  A little bit of phlegm in the throat can cause
horrible cracking while singing.  Failure to take this step could make
singing Celeste Aida a disaster.

Third, one should test the voice by singing some scales or musical phrases.
Here one gets the breathing and placement on track, or one checks to make
sure everything is OK.  For me, I stress checking the high notes, especially
notes in the passaggio--F sharp and G for me, some of the hardest notes for
me, as well as the very top of my range. Some singers will test their voices
regularly some hours before a performance to ensure that they can sing the
performance and will not need to call the management and cancel or summon a
replacement.  There was a good New York Times article on Corelli which
described his elaborate preparations for singing.  I think this was in the
Sunday magazine section c. 1970.  Corelli, my idol, is one of the few singers
who emphasized the need for physical exercise to warm up the voice.  He
reportedly did calisthenics.   He must have prepared at home because he liked
to get to the theatre shortly before curtain, a strange practice for someone
with stage fright.

The final, optional, step might be to sing difficult phrases from the opera
or even entire arias.  Here one must be careful not to tire the body or the
cords and then not be able to sing to the end of the performance.

Briefer warm-ups might also be needed during the performance, if one has to
wait for some time in the dressing room between acts, for example.  I imagine
that some Wagnerian singers must warm-up during performances because the
operas can last five or six hours.

I have noticed in some recent Met broadcasts that some singers do not seem to
have fully warmed up their voices properly and start out with a wobble or
excessive vibrato which diminishes as the opera progresses.  I think it is a
mistake to sing in public at less than the best possible to the performer in
the circumstances.

The crucial thing is to get into a good routine which one knows from
experience works best for the individual singer.  Bjoerling, for example,
supposedly cleared his throat, hummed a bit (for focus), and stepped on
stage.  Lucky he!

Loca Telli

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