Wednesday, March 31, 2010


When someone told me ten years ago that she didn't like my voice, I figured it was just because I couldn't mimic Alison Krauss the way she could. I love Alison Krauss's work, so it was understandable that someone would prefer her performances to my old-fashioned semi-operatic sound (I can do a rather good Marlene Dietrich imitation, to my husband's annoyance--Der Blaue Engel is one of his least favorite movies ever). Then recently I realized that choral music has changed dramatically in the last decades, too; for an example, just listen to the difference between this older Mormon Tabernacle Choir rendition of Handel's Messiah and their newest album, Heavensong.

As a child taking lessons and a teenager singing in school choirs, I did not realize that vocal technique specifics (e.g., placement, breathiness, volume, and vibrato) change over time even within styles. Now I believe that there is a faddish nature to what voices are considered "good" at a given time.

My mother is a trained singer who often sang solos for church events throughout her life. Her voice is quite powerful (i.e., loud), and I have inherited it (sadly to the annoyance of some people when singing next to me). She took some lessons later in life from an opera singer, whom she also paid to teach me a few lessons when I was a child. I took further lessons in the 80's and 90's from various classical teachers. As a result, I have a voice that now is hopelessly out of fashion. I feel rather like a castrato after the turn of the last century. At least my children still like to have me sing to them at bedtime. They will always be my favorite audience.

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