Discovering where the voice most truly sits...

Sometimes they come following illness. Or maybe
work has dried up. They seek a new repertoire.
Sometimes because something has started to feel
not quite right. Their voice has stopped speaking to them.

I see the soprano, no longer at ease on her trapeze,
struggling now to achieve the float of a high B flat:
head-voice, the note that once pinged out like a harmonic
on a guitar string, it seemed with no support – not even air.
Or the baritone, heeding the whisper of where
nature wishes his voice to soar or break, who accepts
at last that he must attempt what was always
secretly feared: the operatic tenor’s high-wire act.

Do not ask me to define a ‘natural’ voice –
its light, shade, depth, tone, colour... Yet there are
techniques to achieve a new placing of its register.
Put simply, first we unlock the top of the tessitura
which must be lightened. Then made to blend
in an even timbre throughout the passaggio.
The singer must learn to imagine notes afresh,
aliter: a self-adjustment, both in head and body.

Some win through. They’ll say, perhaps over-dramatising:
I found a new self – as if sprung from a prison cell.
But a recalibration does not work for everyone.
Some must accept that what they once possessed...

Well, a gift has gone.
Or perhaps they’d never really had one.

These I try to help face up to doing something else.

                                                Orbis (161)
Poem 10