Sunday, August 15, 2010
I wanted to use this entry in Advice to the Playersi to give some advice to those of you that sing. Singing in concerts, recitals or on-stage, there is an important concept that I want you to bear in mind.
You are acting.
The difference between a singer with great technical skill,, and one that really "sells the song", is often simply a question of mindset. Of course I want you to hit the right notes, of course I want you to hold a note for a specific amount of time, but I also want you to answer some critical questions before you sing.
1) Who is singing? Yes, yes it is you, but who really sings this song? Young, old, married, single, a witch or a Princess? The more specific the image of this person, the easier it is to convey the song to the audience.
2) Why are they singing? A classic definition of a musical, is that the emotions the characters have become to intense that they must burst into song. What is that underlying intensity? Madly in love with someone? Angry? Desperate, alone? I always tell my actors to be sure and know why you are going on-stage, beyond it being a part in a show. What is it that your character has to say here and now.
3) Who are you singing to? Not just the audience, be sure you have a very specific group and setting in mind. If you sing Happy Birthday to your best friend, it has a certain tone and color. If you sing it to a aging, frail parent, it will change the delivery, even though the notes are the same. And singing it to someone you really don't like, again a total change in the song.
Let us consider a song that most of you know. In Les Miserables, the musical, Jean Val Jean sings a great song entitled "Who Am I" If you listen to the Colm Wilkinson recording, you can hear the thought process and change he goes through. It starts off reflective, self questioning. The character, a convict who is hiding his true identity wonders who he has become in denying his actual self. Then at the end of the song, he admits to a court full of people who he actually is. Different sound, a sound of release, no more hiding the truth. And more open, as he is now not asking himself who he is, but telling others who he is. It is a great example of character, purpose and audience.
So whether you are a singer who acts or an actors who sings, remember to make acting a part of the equation.
The Actors Sensei