Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Twenty-Third Lesson

Lesson 23

Now you may take the songs given on the lantern slides, and sing them, selecting one for each of the following ten lessons.

The moods and songs corresponding with them as given on the lantern slides are as follows:

Restful repose Evensong Schumann
Joy Come to the Fair Martin
Sorrow Leave Me To Languish Handel
Love I Love Thee Beethoven
Hate Shepherd See Thy Horse’s Foaming Mane Korbay
Mystery Memory Ganz
Fear Death and the Maiden Schubert
Religious exaltation Credo (Herculaneum) David
Comedy Tell Me Not of a Lovely Lass Forsyth
Narration Happy Three Roeckel

Sing the scale first in the mood of the song. This is very easy and simple, and it will teach you much about being able to keep the real mood value of a song instead of making some pleasing sounds.

Pronounce each sentence of the song with beauty of diction, clear and distinct, avoiding mannerisms, and curing defects in your own speech. Again some one who is willing to listen to you may aid you while you practice, but you will soon learn to be your best and most severe critic if you really want to be a good singer.

There are many common faults in pronunciation even among pretty good singers, and few people speak with really good diction.

Diction has come to mean clear, distinct, and perfect pronunciation and emission.

Certain words are likely to have definite faults, especially in singing.

Here are a few of those which occur in the songs on the slides.

Generally speaking, vowels possessing a “vanish” or another vowel at their end are liable to oversounding of these “vanishes.” “I” is really “AH-E” and the “E” must be very short. Otherwise one hears the “E” too much and the result is disagreeable and very confusing. Other sounds are “OH-OO” for oh, “Vai-een” for “vain,””Ray-ee” for “ray,””Day-ee” for “day,””She-all” for “shall,” resulting from slow use of the mouth in forming the “A”(n) vowel. You can easily find the faults of like significance. These are a few suggestions.

Do not sing L-oo-k, too much OO, for look; nor B-oo-k, for book.

I have heard singers sing the Beethoven song, “I Love Thee as Thou Lovest Me” as follows:

“AH-ee LOHVE thi(t) es thah-oo lohvest mi(h).” Of course, this is hideous and sounds very silly.

Singers are very prone to false pronunciation in slow moving songs which demand sustained vowels and which tend to cause slowly formed consonants, so be on the watch.

Singers as a rule pronounce faster songs more correctly, but you must be sure that each word is well made and distinct.

When you sing the scale in the mood demanded, listen to the color you make, and also observe how forward or how far back you sing.

Never sing very far back in the mouth. The large dramatic tone demands much room and a larger vowel, but it must never be back in the pharynx or back part of the mouth. Very small changes in the vowel size or position cause great changes in color and expression.

Sing the songs given for the slides – and be sure your tone color expresses the mood of the song. If it does not do so, change the “size” of the vowels – or what you may call the “placement” – more or less “forward” as the case may be.

Song for this lesson is “Evensong” by Schumann.

You can purchase the songs for either high or low voice.

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






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