Around two weeks ago, one of my teachers from a particular subject gave all of us an assignment: Read a book about singing. She brought many of her own books so we could get an idea of what books she means, we could also choose within what she brought (the library has many of them), most of them did not really seem interesting to me, too much technical and anatomical stuff, a bit of that is essential, but too much of that seemed counter effective to me. Then I saw this book, and read the first three pages while everybody else was checking the other books.
“Singing and Imagination: A Human Approach to a Great Musical Tradition” is a book by Thomas Hemsley, he was an English baritone and teacher born in Coalville, Leicestershire in 1927. He had an extensive singing career and by the time he retired from singing, Hemsley was at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London and also Dartington International Summer School. He had in his repertoire around 150 roles and performed in many prestigious opera halls.
Hemsley believed that the basic and essential steps for good singing are not as many as it may seem, they are quite simple, but to be able to apply them one needs concentration and experimentation, it is also quite different from person to person. The book does not dwell in the scientific and medical approach of singing, yet, it does not belittle the value of appropriate scientific investigation, but he did believe that modern methods of training have gone too far in the direction of the materialistic approach.
What truly stimulates the voice to action is the urge to express something (give expression to thoughts and feelings through music).well established as a director, teacher and lecturer; he taught
I actually found the book very helpful, each chapter concentrates on an aspect of singing, more like one of the micro processes that goes on when a singer sings, all of them happen so fast once you are up on the stage that it is difficult to work on them separately, but there are ways to be more aware of what happens once one starts to sing.
The impulse to sing in the tradition in which Hemsley concentrates on, is the urge to express feelings, to release emotions through vocal sound and music, and to share and communicate such emotions. He describes this as our raw material, the expression of emotion that is moved through our inner energy or ‘life-energy’, without this source singers rather condition themselves to the production of simple vocal noises.
Throughout the book there are many quotes from other singing experts that he uses to either prove a point or further develop some of his arguments, of course they are teachers we have read about already, like Lamperti, Averino, Manén and many others, I found this very good, because it takes very good extracts from these author’s books, which also make you curious to read their books, thus enhancing your knowledge of the instrument and profession.
The author himself says more than once that imagination is not enough to be able to sing well, there are many other factors within this; like posture, impulse, intention, preparation of what will come, breath, colour etc. However, singing in all its aspects and at all times should be guided by the imagination, the feelings, and the intuition.
Hemsley’s thoughts can be resumed in this phrase: Your mind is the key to start off the process of singing.