Monthly Archives: January 2017

Too Much Water?

Once again I’m seeing headlines that warn against drinking too much water, and they’re making me uncomfortable. These articles rarely tell you how much water they’re talking about, and it would be unwise for many of us to cut back.

The usual daily recommendation for water is eight to ten 8 ounce glasses. Some say  1/2 ounce (or more) per pound of your body weight. Or 8 ounces for every hour you are awake. For a 150 pound individual those recommendations would translate into 64-80 ounces, 75+ ounces and 128 ounces. I figure that means at least 2 liters or 67 ounces per day.

Yes, it’s possible to over-do it, but most of us are still short of these healthy levels and nowhere near the amount it takes to harm yourself, which is something like one liter within an hour. The body can’t process that much.

How do you know if you’re taking in enough water? The easiest way is to look at your urine. If you are dehydrated it will probably be dark. The rule is “Pee pale!”

You may need more water than average if:

  • You have diarrhea or vomiting
  • You are at a high altitude
  • You exercise hard or sweat a lot
  • You live in a dry climate
  • You consume a lot of caffeine, alcohol or salt
  • You’re a singer!

So aim for 2 liters of water throughout the day, and keep your voice healthy!

Beginner’s Guide to Musical Theater

From comic strip characters (Annie, Li’l Abner) to real people (like Fiorello LaGuardia, Maria Von Trapp, Eva Peron), wars (in Shenandoah and Miss Saigon), novels (Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera) and Bible stories (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar), musicals are more than just song and dance.

The Best-Loved Musicals

Note that the film version of a musical may be quite different from the original. Songs are often cut, added, transposed, re-ordered or given to a different character.

  • My Fair Lady
  • Evita
  • Hello, Dolly!
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Anything Goes
  • West Side Story
  • Oklahoma
  • The Sound of Music
  • Cats
  • Les Miserables (often just “Les Mis”)
  • Wicked
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Music Man

An interesting one that isn’t very well known is Lost in the Stars, which is based on Cry, the Beloved Country.

1776 isn’t one of the big ones, but it’s one of my favorite. You may think a musical about the Continental Congress and the signing of the Declaration of Independence would be as interesting as junior high History class, but it is quite entertaining, even while quoting from historical documents, like George Washington’s letters to the Congress from Valley Forge. And the hero is – wait for it – John Adams! Who knew?

Important Composers of Musicals

Cole Porter

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Irving Berlin

Stephen Sondheim

George Gershwin

Some are better-known as a composer/lyricist pair, such as:

Lerner and Loewe

Rodgers and Hammerstein

Gilbert and Sullivan

Famous Music Theater Singers

The Broadway singer has a bright sound which helps get the words across. Not always as beautiful or as “round” a tone as the classical singer’s. Their priorities are clear words and emotions, along with character. Even ugly voices have a place. Madame and Monsieur Thenardier in Les Miserables are ugly people, and their voices show that.

  • Betty Buckley
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Robert Goulet
  • Julie Andrews
  • Pearl Bailey
  • Carol Channing
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Ethel Merman
  • Barbara Cook – She sang the songs in many of the film musicals without credit.
  • Mandy Patinkin
  • Rex Harrison
  • Florence Henderson
  • Zero Mostel
  • Topol
  • Bob Hope
  • Kristin Chenoweth
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Jimmy Durante
  • Dick Van Dyke
  • Patti LuPone
  • Jeanette MacDonald
  • Alfie Boe

You may want to check out Auditioning for Musical Theater.

Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Singers

A jazz singer does not have to have a perfect voice. The feeling and the musical style are more important. Vocal imperfections can even be a plus, as it makes the singer memorable, like Louis Armstrong’s rough voice. “Scatting,” or improvising with nonsense syllables, is an important skill. These are the big names you should be familiar with in the world of jazz. (Some have also sung in musicals.)

  • Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)
  • Cab Calloway (1907-1994))
  • Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)
  • Nina Simone (1933-2003)
  • Ethel Waters (1896-1977)
  • Della Reese (1931-    )
  • Bing Crosby (1903-1977)
  • Dinah Washington (1924-1963)
  • Jane Monheit (1977-    )
  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
  • Judy Garland (1922-1969)
  • Sara Vaughan (1924-1990)
  • Bobby McFerrin (1950-    )
  • Nat King Cole (1919-1965)
  • Mel Torme (1925-1999)
  • Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)
  • Diana Krall (1964-    )
  • Lena Horne (1917-2010)
  • Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002)

Behind the Judges’ Table

What are those adjudicators thinking? Don’t you wish you knew? Well, I can give you a good idea. First of all, they’re human and frequently distracted. If they yawn, they may be thinking, “I really need another cup of coffee,” or, “These things are always so long. I wonder what time it is.” But if you’re lucky, they may be thinking, “I love hearing new people. Let’s see what this one has to offer.” And that may very well be the case. These are teachers, agents or conductors who truly enjoy singers and vocal music.

If you’re listening in on their thoughts you may also hear, “What in the world was he thinking, singing that piece. He’s not ready for it. I wish I could hear him sing something he’s good at.” Or perhaps, “She sings it pretty well, but I can’t see her doing that part.” So always sing what suits you.

If you seem a little “green” and inexperienced, that’s not the end of the world. But do thank the judges and be pleasant and appreciative to your accompanist. This will not go unnoticed. Opera managers have been known to ask the stage manager just how singers behaved backstage. Snooty prima donnas who can only appear nice onstage are cut.

Excuses and complaints will not be appreciated. If you have a cold and want to sing anyway, don’t tell them about it unless they ask.

What to Wear

The visual impression you make can be very important, so think carefully about your clothing. What you wear can telegraph a message you are unaware of, like: “I really don’t know anything about the world of opera,” or “I don’t care what you think of me.” The last thing you want to do is offend them!

Let’s start with what is expected at something like the district NATS auditions. At this level you are learning all about singing for judges, including the unspoken rules about attire. Judges may write comments about your clothing because it’s an opportunity for you to learn what is expected.

One thing to always keep in mind is that what you wear should show respect for the person listening. This is not the time to “make a statement” or to “be edgy” or “look really hot.” Don’t try to be noticed by wearing an extreme or bizarre outfit. If people can only think “That’s outrageous/punk/ugly” the whole time you’re singing, that’s all they’ll remember about you. This is like a job interview, and you should be demonstrating that you respect the auditioner and appreciate their time.

In general, judges absolutely do not want to see:

  • Your tattoos
  • Jeans
  • T-shirts
  • Clothing with words
  • Tennis shoes
  • Sweats
  • “Goth” makeup
  • Belly button
  • Flip-flops
  • Piercings (More than one per ear)

Men should think in terms of dress pants with a button-down shirt and a tie. Jacket is optional. Closed-toe dress shoes, not sandals. When auditioning for an opera company or conductor you should wear that jacket.

Ladies, since you have so many style choices, you can go wrong in many more ways. Ideally you should choose a dress no shorter than 2 inches above the knee. Pantyhose are preferable to bare legs and leggings are out. Heels look nice but don’t go too high, especially if you’re not very comfortable walking in them. Don’t show too much skin, like spaghetti straps. Some singers feel that looking sexy will get the judges’ attention, but judges can be very turned off by it, perhaps even offended that you would try it. You want to go for elegant and sophisticated.

Formal wear is appropriate for some elite competitions. Basically, if it’s the finals of something like the Metropolitan Auditions or if it happens in the evening in a concert hall with an audience, a tuxedo or gown is probably expected. Ladies, you can go one degree more revealing, like a V-neck or leg slit.