Friday, December 03, 2004

Handling Vocal "Issues"

This isn't really a 42nd St. Moon story, but I thought our faithful blog readers might be interested.

I've been Vocal Directing a local high school production of "Fiddler on the Roof" for the last couple of months. The kids are generally pretty good kids, they're putting in a lot of effort, and the Tevye? He's 16 going on 40 I swear.

So, Wednesday afternoon I show up to watch the Final Dress Rehearsal and am greeted by general panic. Apparently between long days of school and rehearsal and spending the previous day, all day, going from classroom to classroom singing "Tradition" to promote the show, the kids are all sick...or at the very least they have lost their voices.

Everyone's drinking tea and whispering (yikes!) And the Director and Choreographer are actually suggesting everybody just whisper their way through the final Dress and not even attempt to sing.

So, I'm not one to be quiet, and I had to disagree. Here's my philosophy, and I shared it with both the director and choreographer...and the kids:

The choreographer said "Well, my sister is a speech therapist, and she said not talking is the best thing."

I said: "Is she a performer?"

Performing is a mental game. Even the most talented people can give sucky performances...and you can bet it's something mental that turns talent into suckage. And even musical theatre acting is, after all, about the acting. I've seen performers whose voices were on their last legs, but they kept me enthralled nonetheless.

I thought the worst thing for these kids would be to go out there Opening Night and have no idea what was going to come out of their mouths. It seemed like they were thinking that 24 hours was going to miraculously cure their voices...but what if it didn't? How shaken would they be if they hadn't worked through a performance and figured out where they could take it easy, where they could "Henry Higgins" their way through some moments, where they could act their way through?

Of course I gave them my personal DOs and DON'Ts:

DO gargle with warm salt water
DO drink hot liquids
DO add honey if you like it (lemon, not so much IMHO)
DO hum
DO keep your placement up in the mask of your face, not in your throat...think high, think nasal

DON'T whisper, under any circumstances
DON'T drink dairy
DON'T drink caffeine

Am I missing any of your favorites?

And as I suspected, most of the kids were actually a lot better off than they thought they were. They had woken up in the morning, felt hoarse and so had been not talking, in fact had been whispering. Consequently their voices had simply never gotten properly lubricated and warmed up.

All that hot tea and a few vocal warm-ups, and most of them were pretty much good-to-go.

Crisis averted.

Opening Night last night was a lot of fun, and the kids sounded great. When they were on beat beat and on pitch, of course :)

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