Monday, December 16, 2013

What She Does

Before the recent televised broadcast of The Sound of Music goes completely out of our heads, I have to drop in with my comments. Luckily for all of you, I was teaching that evening, so I was only able to watch a portion of the broadcast. That should make this post short.

First of all, aren't you thrilled that so many people watched this production? See, Americans DO love quality music and theatre. Give us more!

Didn't it feel great to be watching it simultaneously? I miss that in our modern life. Used to be the show was on once and everyone sat down to watch it. No taping, no watching it on the Internet, no buying it on Netflix. There was something wonderful knowing that everyone else was taking in the same broadcast at the same time.

I'm not here to discuss Carrie Underwood's performance. I give her credit. She was out on a limb, a teeny tiny limb and we were all standing underneath her, chattering away like a bunch of hungry squirrels. People (or should I say squirrels) who live in glass houses.....

Here's what I want to discuss:

I find it fascinating that the vast majority of people are raving about Audra McDonald's singing. Not because I didn't think she sang well (full disclosure: I didn't get to experience her “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” until a few days after the actual broadcast and that was on a YouTube clip). I adore Audra McDonald. She does everything I believe in as a singer and as an artist. So, why do I find her rave reviews fascinating?

Because Audra does everything that is out of style these days. Audra doesn't belt; Audra sings in an extremely classical vocal style. Also, Audra knows (or appears to know) the true essence of whatever she is performing. She seems to know the material in front of her, both the words and the music, inside and out, upside and down.

When people come to me for a voice lesson, I am rarely asked to help them sing like Audra. Usually they want help learning how to belt. As for really knowing the texts? People freak out when I suggest that they read the words away from the music. “Oh, that's so hard. I can't do that.”

Yeah, well, that would be one of the differences between Audra and you.

You know why we adore Audra? Audra is authentic. Audra is true to Audra. She appears to know what she is good at and that is what she does.

She reminds me of the little kid on the floor with a box of 36 crayons and a piece of blank paper. There are other kids in the room with 300 crayons and 5 sheets of paper, but they aren't doing what Audra is doing. She might not have the most crayons, but she's down there using every single one of those 36 crayons, creating that masterpiece. Tongue sticking out of her mouth, curls falling into her face, she's focused on knowing what is at the bottom of that piece of art.

Authentic, creating a masterpiece, knowing the work inside and out, upside and down.

Can we say that about your work?