Tuesday, April 20, 2010


By Polly Guerin

There have surely been some vocal phenomenon’s, like Enrico Caruso, a voice of such rare beauty that he was named “the Master of Natural Singing.” In the book, “Caruso’s Method of Voice Production,” by Doctor B. Mario Marafioti, M.D (D. Appleton and Company 1922) wrote, “Experts on voice believe that the principal feature of Caruso’s golden voice was the striking power of his health, due to the exceptional strength of his muscles. In reference to another physical factor was Caruso’s breath, which he always had at his disposal; the most generous supply of air, which he supported wonderfully by his control of the diaphragm. The natural placement of his voice in the very center of masque was also a prominent feature.” Dr. Marafioti ought to know. He was for many years the personal physician of Caruso and official physician of the Metropolitan Opera Company.
In a letter Caruso wrote to Dr. Marafioti, “I, myself, have always felt that something natural has inspired and guided my art.” Nature then must be the answer to the natural instincts to sing. Might not therefore even the layman seeking better health benefit from singing whilst improving their mind with learning? Singing which is a natural phenomenon therefore may be the best exercise for any individual who seeks to acquire good breath control and better health. If you can talk, you can sing for your own amazement but there are more opportunistic ways to achieve your goal. For the novice singer it is important to acquire basic sight reading skills and to take voice lessons. You can then audition for a choral society where repertoire will improve one’s mind and quality of life.
A choral society member told me a most interesting story about how she came to join the St. George Choral Society. She recalls, “I was in such a weakened state of health that my doctor advised me that I should not do any strenuous exercises. Instead this wise doctor recommended that singing would produce vibrations in my entire body and serve as an internal exercise of sorts and generally build up a healthy state. Singing he added would be beneficial to improving my breath control and that through the process of singing the resonating would travel from my face throughout my entire body.” After listening to this choral member I concluded that vocal exercise is obviously another major key to maintaining good health. I, for one, think that professional singers’ vocal production stimulates the face muscles and gives them a built in face lift.
The correct training is paramount for the choral singer to develop natural voice production. It comprises a knowledge of normal functions of the lungs, as moving power; of the larynx with the vocal cords, as producing power; and the mouth, which include the tongue, palate, lips, and the resonance chambers, as resonating power of the voice. As Dr. Marafioti states, “Vocal education, as related to music, is purely a technical study and an acquisition of vocal musical knowledge, should be entrusted to music teachers, coaches, accompanists and conductors.
“The joy of singing can be a joy forever,” or so goes the old adage. One of the most rewarding experiences a singer can have is by joining a choral society where masterworks of the choral repertoire are under the baton of a music director like Dr. Matthew Lewis. If you like to sing you could become a member of the St.George’s Choral Society and experience the thrill of singing choral music in an inspiring setting, the historic chapel of St. George’s Church at Stuyvesant Square (16th St). Rehearsals: Wednesday evening from 7 to 9:30 pm. www.stgeorgeschoralsociety.org. Author, Polly Guerin is a member of the St. George’s Choral Society.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


By Polly Guerin


Like so many people today some of us are so busy on a fast track of activity that it’s no wonder we are often left feeling disconnected, dissatisfied with results and sometimes even depressed. The cacophony of noise blasting a discordant symphony of city sirens, the invasion of our thoughts by cell phones ringing and text messaging, the lure of the computer and other electronic devices jangles our nerves. These intrusive distractions can make your good mood plummet. Most seriously, zipping through life and its daily demanding tasks you’re missing each day’s minutest treasures that sustain a healthy and happy life. A Cayce reading says, “For the vibrations should be from within, rather than from without!” (1183) It’s time to calm down, relax and take time out to ‘smell the roses,’ to still your thoughts and focus your attention on the present.
If your calendar is so crammed with appointments and you have become a victim of the computer driven society now is the time when you should assess what’s happening to you. It may seem that the days just roll one into another and before you know it another week has pushed you frantically into the next week. When you’re racing against the clock, trapped by appointment overload, or you rush to complete a project or lock yourself on the computer for hours on end you’re beginning to lose touch with life’s precious hours. If you are racing against the clock it’s time to go into repair mode.
When Cayce said that vibration should come from within rather than from without, he was talking about the matter of attunement, allowing our innermost being to align to the world. Slowing down and savoring every moment is a mental medicine that may even save your life from a sudden heart attack or from depression, and even premature aging. Despite personal or work demands put your needs first and find five or ten minutes to focus totally on the ‘now’ in your life.
One of the easiest ways to get into the ‘now’ grove is through calm breathing exercises. Cayce placed a great emphasis on deep breathing as a daily exercise. He said, “When you take a good deep breath, especially if you exhale it completely, forcing residual air out of the lungs, you bring about a complete change of air.” Still the moment in your activity at home or office and take a deep breath, feel the air flow passing in and out of your nostrils, filling your lungs with oxygen which will help to eliminate carbon dioxide, which is the end product of fatigue. As you perform this simple exercise a calm feeling floods over your body. Do this any time you find yourself caught in a traffic jam, locked in standby mode at the bank or the checkout counter or post office. Look around and breathe in serenity and you’ll find yourself looking at the situation with rose colored glasses instead.
Cayce also recommended walking briskly to replenish the oxygen in your body. Walking can work as well as any antidepressant and it can benefit weight loss as well. For short trips instead of jumping into the car or taking a bus start walking, not strolling and window shopping. As you do so, discover new sights and sounds. Welcome the trees that renew each spring, select a flower and cherish its creation and smell its aroma, thank the stars that come out each night, take joy in the returning seasons, the wind in your hair, the feather kiss of the snow and before you know it you are in the ‘now’ living life fully and cherishing each moment.
Becoming fully aware and living in the present your internal sense of happiness takes on a new level of meaning and relationships improve. You no longer rush through the moment, but instead you listen and respond with personal attunement. Each individual in your life receives your total attention in the moment and you make them feel appreciated and important. When dining you taste each morsel you eat with renewed delight and find that you eat slower and enjoy it more. You’re on the path of discovery and find many other little ways to return yourself to the present. Making every day, every minute, every hour count, you jumpstart joyful renewal, living in the moment.