A revival

Apart from a few performances, including a staged reading of a musical, I had all but stepped away from singing for the past couple of years, and in retrospect, there does not appear to have been any good reason.

Having realized how deeply I’ve missed exploring the musical side of my creative life, I am thrilled to be fashioning my way back into a consistent practice. I plan to take as many group classes as I can this fall, hit up some open mic nights, and perhaps wrap the year up with an intimate performance—stay tuned!

I’ve spent the past week reacquainting myself (and my neighbors) with my voice, and preparing for a placement audition for evening courses. Part of this process has been watching and listening to myself sing—an exercise I’ve historically found incredible cringeworthy—but one I’d like to do more, and share more of.

Here’s a practice video of me singing À Chloris, a classical song composed by Reynaldo Hahn in 1913, with French lyrics written by Théophile de Viau. There are some inaccuracies in my timing to the backing track, but I was eager to share, so I went for it.

P.S. major props to content creators who use iMovie to produce videos. It’s more time-consuming than it ought to be!

I hope you enjoy.

A Chloris

S'il est vrai, Chloris, que tu m'aimes,

If it be true, Chloris, that you love me,

Mais j'entends, que tu m'aimes bien,

(And I'm told you love me dearly),

Je ne crois point que les rois mêmes

I do not believe that even kings

Aient un bonheur pareil au mien.

Can match the happiness I know.

Que la mort serait importune

Even death would be powerless

A venir changer ma fortune

To alter my fortune

Pour la félicité des cieux!

With the promise of heavenly bliss!

Tout ce qu'on dit de l'ambroisie

All that they say of ambrosia

Ne touche point ma fantaisie

Does not stir my imagination

Au prix des grâces de tes yeux.

Like the favour of your eyes!

The Reluctant Musician

The year was 2001. I was 11 years old. Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” had hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and congruently, was being played on every radio station, a few times an hour, all summer long. I would sit in the passenger’s seat of my dad’s car, and boast how much my lung capacity had expanded since I started singing the bridge (where layers of Alicia’s voice cascade in harmony for 15 seconds) as though it were a sound made with one breath.

I believe it was that December that my parents gave me a keyboard as a gift. My parents recall that I pleaded for this particular keyboard for Christmas; my memory is of it being a total surprise.

I like to imagine that many a musician’s journey begins with the wondrous discovery of an old instrument in the attic, sparking a inextinguishable passion for making sounds. Ever the reluctant musician, this could not have been further from my reality.

I was quickly enrolled in piano lessons, so as not to let the shiny new keyboard go unused, and I did actually enjoy it. I still vividly recall the terror I felt as I was bout to step out on stage for my first recital. 

My piano teacher was a kind and patient older gentleman, who I was really growing to like. Naturally, music students are often encouraged to sing along as they learn to read music; I was no different. Immediately following the lesson in which my piano instructor first asked me to sing, he remarked, “You should really take voice lessons.”

“He obviously thinks I that I am so bad at piano that he doesn't want to teach me,” I thought. Insecurity prevailed, rendering me incapable of seeing another possible intention. Years later, I reflected on that interaction, and realized that the kind and patient piano instructor might have actually paid me a compliment—at worst, he might have simply seen an opportunity to coax a new student into taking an additional course at the music & dance school.

Fast forward fifteen years. I relieved a friend (who was downsizing in preparation for a major relocation) of a forlorn guitar. The guitar remained neglected for over two years, until I dusted it off for my first lesson. Since then, once a week, nearly every week, I sit with my instructor as he bestows a bit of his seemingly endless musical knowledge upon me. Those lessons have been an absolute sanctuary.

As my journey with music progresses, my sense of what I am capable of—in every respect—evolves. I’m excited to see where this path may lead.

A common, yet foreign tongue

Performing is like a foreign language that I have heard spoken countless times, and can often seem to interpret, yet I have been finding beyond my abilities to speak. While watching someone perform, I often feel as though I am engaged in conversation, but more often still, I merely bear witness to the often personal exploration of the performer.

As empathetic beings, humans enjoy being voyeurs to the stories, experiences, and therefore, truths of other beings, insofar as we can interpret their transmission. Though this experience may not always seem accessible, this appreciation is not a privilege exclusive to the cultured, it is a byproduct of our humanity. Seeing someone else's truth beautifully, meaningfully and capably conveyed in live performance is quite unlike any other art form. I envision an ephemeral network of understanding being formed during the relaying of the messages broadcast. In breathing in the experiences implicit to performance, an artist may later reimagine what they've interpreted in their own dialect of the same tongue.

It seems to me that, even more delectable than observing, would be to become a vessel for that expression of humanity and being understood anew, or more deeply than I thought was possible.

Like any language, the best way to learn is to be immersed. For me, this means watching and studying as many live performances as possible: being in the audience to support a friend in realizing their own craft, more often listening to subway performers I might otherwise rush past, spending hours descending into the endless YouTube rabbit hole, and sometimes splurging on tickets to see a great artist.

As my voice grows, my many fears of failure ebb and flow in greater magnitude. I am discovering more about the nature of performance, and (hopefully) am growing closer to expressing myself freely and openly on stage.

One step at a time!

xx C.