Saturday night was one of the best evenings of my life. My husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early. He bought me flowers, we dressed up and went to a fancy restaurant, and then we went to hear Renee Fleming live in concert. Now, in case you don’t know, Renee Fleming is a goddess, and my favourite (living) Soprano (my favourite Soprano of the past is Maria Callas, if you were wondering). Renee is first and foremost an opera singer, but she has also branched out into some other genres such as Jazz and Indie. You probably know her best from the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings.
Her concert performance was breathtakingly gorgeous. She was a goddess, but at the same time so human. After the concert she came out to meet her fans, take pictures, and sign autographs, and guys, I met Renee Fleming!!
She kindly signed her autobiography for me and smiled for a picture. I told her she was an inspiration, and she said, “You’re a singer.” Guys, Renee Fleming called me a singer (granted there was a tiny bit of a question mark in there). That makes it official: I’m a singer (I told her, yes, I was).
In the words of Anne Shirley, this marks an epoch in my life.
You know, some people don’t consider singers to be real musicians. They label us as undisciplined, unmusical, lazy, and the list goes on. I once heard a pianist complaining about his singer friends who were required to practice less than he as an instrumentalist had to, but they, lounging about doing absolutely nothing, still groaned that they had too much to do.
I will admit that some of what they say is true – of some of us. But what many of this opinion don’t know is that many singers work very hard at what they do. It saddens me that the lives of some of us ruin the reputations of us all. But I suppose that is how things work in all areas of life.
Do you realize how many tasks a singer juggles while he is performing? Just like an instrumentalist he has to sing the tune correctly, worry about tone production, battle stage fright, and work with his accompanist. But in addition to these hardly trivial tasks, the singer must sing words: he must sing them as if he means them (and this is made doubly hard if the language he is singing in is not his native tongue) and he must enunciate clearly enough that every person in his audience can understand him. The singer must also become the character that the piece calls for – he must be an actor as well as a singer.
But, as a singer, I suppose I’m a bit biased toward my kind. I find as I listen to different instruments and styles that the instrument that moves me most is the human voice. I wonder if this is simply because the voice is my instrument. But no one can deny that the human voice is different from anything else on earth. Humans alone have been created with the ability to communicate with words, and the voice stands alone among instruments in its ability to combine both music and words.
Violin, Piano, Oboe, Flute, Trumpet, Voice. All of these and more are instruments, all require musicians to be used to their utmost potential. And while I love voice and vocalists, I admire many instrumentalists for precisely the things they criticize singers for. I guess nobody’s perfect.