Singers say the darndest things. Really. We are a weird crowd.
(The first girl to speak in the first video is my friend Olivia, and the mezzo in the second video is Jennifer Rivera, who has a wonderful blog about singing and her international career, and who was also the alto soloist when I did Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. It’s a small world after all…see what I did there?)
Anyway. I’m posting these mainly because they give me a good chuckle and also because I caught myself having some very singerish thoughts today. I woke up this morning with a definite need for some painkillers, and the first thought that crossed my mind was, “Do I want to practice today?” Allow me to explain. No, there is too much. Allow me to sum up.
There’s a legendary story that every voice major at Northwestern hears from Professor Brancaccio (my former voice teacher) when they take Vocal Mechanism or Vocal Pedagogy. It’s about a soprano who takes Advil, flies somewhere for a gig, doesn’t get a good night’s sleep, takes more Advil, sings the gig, then flies home. She takes her dog out for a walk when she gets home, and when they get back to her building, the dog’s leash gets stuck in the elevator door on her floor…with the dog still in the elevator. The soprano screams in terror and has a vocal fold hemorrhage. This is the story that has prevented class after class of voice majors from taking Advil. (A friend and studio-mate of mine came into the health service once last year with a sore throat and said, “Don’t tell Terry, but I’m taking Advil.” I told him it only mattered if he was intending to sing. At least, that’s my philosophy.)
And then I was on the train (one of many trains today) staring at my face in the train door and thinking, “My face is HUGE.” It really is! But then I realized that’s where all of my resonance is. I mean, look at Renata Tebaldi.
It’s all about bone structure.
Anyway. My point today about this is that at a certain point, thinking like a singer and talking about singing can really be overwhelming. It starts to feel like drudgery. I’ve had days where I’ve taken Advil just to spite everything I’ve heard about its effects on the vocal folds. (Take THAT!) But right now, my singing is going so well that I can’t help being thrilled that I get to focus on it like this. Singing well releases huge amounts of endorphins; a great voice lesson (like yesterday’s) fills me with boundless energy and excitement about what I want to do with my life. It almost feels like an indulgence–like, I shouldn’t get to feel quite this great about my chosen career. It’s supposed to be work, right?
But if there’s anything I’m learning from my time in Paris, it’s how to indulge a little. Today I practiced, made a huge pot of soup, and then had a Library Day (both music and regular). When I got off the train at Villiers to go to the Médiathèque Mahler, it was raining and gross. I don’t like the rain, but the great thing about Paris when it rains is that it gives one an excuse to duck into some coffee shop and enjoy a slow café crème until it stops or until you have somewhere else to be. So after I made my (wildly expensive) copies at the library, I went to a chocolaterie I had noticed across the street from the métro, called La Petite Rose. I had a cup of coffee with two lumps of sugar, and three little bonbons (a ganache café, a mendiant with candied orange, and a Rosa, which was amazing and I have no idea what was actually in it). I really do prefer these tiny tea shops to the big cafés; they’re just friendlier. In fact, today I pulled out the arias I had photocopied to peruse while I drank my coffee, and the waitress turned out to be a clarinet student at the CRR (Conservatoire de Rayonnement Régional de Paris), a couple métro stops away.
I’m really not very good at sitting and frittering away the time, or at strolling, so it took a special effort to really not rush today. I felt totally indulgent–wasting time, eating and drinking some useless calories, keeping myself dry and warm instead of running around in the rain. And from now on I’m going to try not to worry that I’m having too much fun singing, because that’s just an excuse to worry about stuff. It was glorious.
…and then the woman at the table next to me ordered an individual-sized galette de roi, warmed up so that she could eat it while walking.
People are hardcore about their indulgences in Paris. They’re also totally okay with it. I mentioned a while back how there are always people in the chocolateries. I also went out to dinner before my choir concert on Saturday with a bunch of my fellow singers; one of the other sopranos put away a steak and a pile of fries, with bread and mayonnaise and whatever other sauce, with apparently no feelings of guilt. I think the philosophy here is, if you’re going to eat, you might as well eat well and enjoy it.
If you’re going to sing, you might as well sing well and enjoy it. It’s a job, yes, but the whole point of doing it is because we love it. So when we say crazy sh*t and complain about our lives and our careers and not being allowed to take Advil, it’s all a byproduct of the love.