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.

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