Scene4-International Magazine of Arts and Culture

pp, mf!

Claudine Jones-Scene4 Magazine

Claudine Jones

Our choir director's always accusing us of not dancing enough during rehearsal. He would love for us to be off book of course, and that's not going to work because there are too many people who don't feel as though their memory faculties are trustworthy; blame it on the demographic. However I'm All About Dance. My earliest memories are about listening to Romanian Rhapsody, dancing my doll, and Bear-crultimately transferring that energy from her to myself.

So, yes for me it's all about body connection to the Rhythm, and the lack of Reliance on something written. I mean this weekend at the house of one our altos I was rehearsing with the small ensemble, which I fought so hard to join 4 years ago knowing that my sight reading skills are not the greatest and that one of the prerequisites is that you learn quickly and you don't hold everybody back by your supposed lack of musicianship.  The stuff is challenging, which I love, although the end result is not always optimum if the director fails to cull older singers who can't keep up anymore—somewhat tragic for them I guess, but I'm in denial about mortality especially losing my voice. shudder Let's not go there.

Nonetheless, my ace-in-the-hole has always been that once I've learned something—whether it's from YouTube or the sound file that I've entered into my laptop with musescore, or God forbid I've actually sight-read it—I'm wanting I am craving to be off book so that in performance I note the minutest changes when the conductor is under the spell of the composer and spontaneously decides to ritard or accelerando or whatever the hell, I'm there. Over the years I'm finding it harder to conceive of Glorious performance without that connection to the conductor.

A lot of it must have to do with breaking my teeth on theater...can't be up there in front of an audience, even without a conductor, with a script in your hand.  Unless you're doing a staged reading, which I have done upon occasion and find pretty intense. And, true, I do love me a cold read. Since I started taking the New Yorker I've been spontaneously turning to something random in that issue, reading it out loud, like the fiction for example or maybe an gripping political piece, or a poem, and I read it to the old man. And it's great for one thing because you don't know how it's going to end. And outstanding practice for storytelling.

Ask my grandson if I like storytelling. I decided once when he was I think 3 years old to introduce him to the Wizard of Oz. We went out in the gazebo in the backyard and I started acting out all the parts and singing all of the tunes I could remember and by God pretty soon we had the whole thing laid out...Ring-around-the-rosy, a pocketful of spears...thought you were pretty foxy, didn'tcha? Going so soon? I wouldn't hear of it! Why my little party's just beginning....... probably scared the crap out of him with my cackle.

But again, one of the things that bugged me yesterday at the mini ensemble rehearsal was how much time we spent on things like fermatas and whether measures 18 should be mf or measure 21 should be pp; for crying out loud we had a baritone  who could conduct. My body was ready to sing wanting to sing, and it only is now that I'm thinking about it, I put them together—my desire to dance and the desire to be free of anything.  Like paper music. I get that you have to have something written down if it's some guy like Mozart, but there is such a thing as a blind singer hello. It's not a requirement. The only thing that's a requirement is vocal apparatus and half a brain.

I'm also working with a friend / colleague who's having a very interesting conflict. As I can best explain it, it seems to be that she wants to sing a solo bit, but cannot find her way around a specific conundrum. She has for decades trained as a Pianist; not so much as a singer. She's a bang-up sight reader but the piano comes first, always has. So the difficulty arises when the Pianist in her overrides the singer. The two simply will not match. As she justifies it, the difficulty is when a tempered instrument such as a Modern Piano produces a pitch, it's going to by necessity be slightly off the farther from middle C you get. It's tempered, duh. So when she sings, her brain translates that as an attempt to match a pitch that, on the piano, is technically going to be different by its very nature depending on its position; for example if she's singing middle C, that pitch is going to be very slightly different than higher pitches between octaves, and so forth, going up or down the scale.

You with me so far? I told her that's not going to be acceptable in solo performance, but essentially she  appears to have trained herself to sing pitches to match her own accompaniment on the piano, because it hurts not to match the tempered pitch on the piano. Can't do it any other way because “I am a quote tempered singer unquote”.

This is way above my paygrade. She's all erudite and knows so much more than me about key signatures and intervals and modulations and relative minors but I just hear the same that any of us hear: when somebody's singing ever-so-slightly off pitch it makes you cringe unless and this is a big Unless they're singing jazz or Blues, which is not the case here—we're talking requiems & shit—and  she understands all this intellectually but she's still hobbled.

Now I ask you, is that any way to dance...?

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Claudine Jones has had a long career as an Actor/Singer/Dancer.
She writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2018 Claudine Jones
©2018 Publication Scene4 Magazine




November 2018

Volume 19 Issue 6

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