“If you put as much effort into your singing as you put attitude into your writing, you could be a great singer — even greater than you are now.” – Professor Alexander Hurd
Today, out of sheer boredom and in an attempt not to just sleep the afternoon away, I decided to sort through the academic books I shipped back from Buffalo which, after nearly eight months, were still sitting in their boxes outside my bedroom because I couldn’t bring myself to look at them and I didn’t know where to put them once they were out of their boxes.
There were books I’d forgotten about, on writing, speaking, web publishing, linguistics, sociology, psychology, music, and even politics (from my short stint as a political science minor). These were the books I hadn’t sold after each semester because I figured at some point they would come in useful to me — which now makes me wonder why I kept my political science books.
Then I came across the black folder that held all my music scores — six semesters’ worth of them from being in the UB Choir, and my first two semesters’ worth of them from being in the Vocal Performance program under Professor Hurd. There were scores from Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Josquin des Prez, Beethoven and so many more, including the negro spirituals and Neapolitan folk songs that Professor Rosenbaum loves. And that was when I realized how much I missed singing classical music.
Singing — and music being the great love of my life — has always been fun for me, and no amount of practice was ever too much, whether it was for Operafest, the UB Choir or the Pitches, or just to keep my vocal range where it should be. But practicing classical music, especially opera, comes with a challenge that even acappella music — for all its emphasis on control and enunciation and pitch — can’t override. Singing opera music involves all that and more: breathing techniques, the right places of articulation so that the voice wouldn’t be affected, the correct pronunciation of the libretto because it was usually in French, Italian or German, and the list goes on, and of course, holding the same damned note in the same damned pitch for a long damned time.
In some ways, I love singing opera music even more than I do singing to whatever’s on the radio these days. Whenever I learned a new piece, I was given the translation of the libretto so that I understood it and could put the right feelings and emotions into what I was singing. And it’s so much more difficult than singing something like Leona Lewis’s Better In Time in a studio; that particular challenge alone makes it all the more beautiful, which is why people are able to bawl their eyes out watching an opera, even if they don’t understand what they’re hearing.
I’ll admit that in recent months, my vocal range has narrowed somewhat, from the lack of practice and the lack of space and freedom to practice. The only time I ever sing now is when I’m in the car, which poses some restrictions simply because I’m sitting down, or when I’m in my room, which also brings restrictions because there are other people in the house and I can’t let loose they way I used to when I lived alone in Buffalo.
Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to tap into it again. Right now it’s just not worth incurring the wrath of the neighbors.