Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Nineteenth Lesson

Lesson 19

In Lesson 18 you have tried for the first time to sing words. This means pronouncing words as well as singing them.

Sing the song now, listening carefully to your formation of each syllable of each word. Hear whether the vowel sounds are clear and distinct or whether they are confused with other sounds. Again some one present may give you valuable criticism. If the syllables are indistinct or badly formed, pronounce the vowels carefully, then say the words distinctly several times. Now sing the sentence or phrase again and notice the improvement.

In this simple song you can put into practice what you have learned in the previous lessons.

Observe whether you are scooping or slurring or singing out of tune. Also hold to the rhythm of the song. Remember that the song must “MOVE” in an orderly manner, no gaps in between phrases, no interruption of the rhythm.

Also be careful to stop phrases without grunts or sounds of effort or sudden stopping. The breath support may continue a little after the tone stops.

Do not “gasp” for breath – but breathe noiselessly.

You may use the arm movements when inhaling as you sing the song. They will often prevent gasping for air or too violent breathing, and, therefore, they will help the tone and the pronunciation.

The songs given in the previous lesson are all examples of legato singing. Keep the quality of the voice even and pure. Do not try for too much expression, but sing quietly and simply. Simplicity is the very germ of art.

Look in the mirror and see that your face expresses something of the mood of the words. The eye is the “Mirror of the Soul.” Never sing with a “dead eye.”

Witherspoon, Herbert. Thirty-Six Lessons in Singing for Teacher and Student. Meissner Institute of Music. Chicago. 1930.


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