Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Opera was my first love, and it will be my last! (However, can we quickly talk about The Voice final!)


Firstly hello and thank you for coming back for more. I am very pleased that you are intrigued enough to see what I have to say. I must thank all those who berated me for calling myself mediocre in my first post. This just goes to show that singing is such a personal thing. We are not all going to like and enjoy the same things. Some people will have agreed with my self-deprecation while the rest of you gorgeous individuals will have disagreed wholeheartedly. Both opinions are fine by me. So to the job in hand.

I did not watch The Voice final on Saturday night. I was preoccupied with the greatest singing competition the world has ever seen. The competition from which all other competitions could learn a thing or two. No, not Eurovision, although that comes a very close second; The Cardiff Singer of the World. This is a competition for international opera singers and, before you close this blog and move onto the one about some woman from New Zealand's garden (it's very popular apparently), you don't have to know anything about opera or classical music to enjoy it, I promise! I may write about this wonderful competition at a later date but I think I said all that needs to be said about that on Facebook at the time. So, to quote John Miles (sort of) "Opera was my first love, and it will be my last", but I really want to talk about The Voice!

I caught up with the final on Monday while ill in bed. (Foolish you might say, to be in such a vulnerable state yet still put myself through that programme). Well, the great thing about the iPlayer is you can fast forward all the boring bits and cut straight to the chase - but then you know that. You are all far more technically minded (after all, you found this blog!). Anyway, I can safely say I totally understand why Andrea Begley won this years series of The Voice. This may come as a huge shock to some and not so much to others. Some of you will be so incensed that you are vowing to unfriend me from Facebook and stop reading my tweets after such a revelation. I beg you to bear with me. 

Granted I didn't necessarily agree with all the choices made by the judges in the blind and battle rounds (technical terms for those who didn't watch). There were opportunities missed with some excellent singers not getting through e.g. Ricardo Afonso and Liam Tamne. I realise that, for the singers involved in this show, the competition was a big deal and they had a very small amount of time to show what they could do. However, why do so many singers think it is important to add a riff to every phrase? (By riff, for those not au fait with the term, the singer will use 8 notes when 1 will do.) DO NOT GET ME WRONG - I love vocal tricks as much as the next person and I really wish my voice would allow me to mess around with a phrase without thinking about it; it is a true skill. I have many talented friends who can do the most incredible things with their voices. I simply refer, here, to those singers who, from the outset, can not help themselves. There is a tendency amongst singers today to mess about so much that nobody has any idea what the melody would be if they just sang it without the riffs. And that includes the singer singing it! 

I do think there is a lot to be said for stripping things back. Andrea may not have been the most exciting singer on that show but her singing was the most honest and pure I have heard in a long time and I think the reason she won is because the general public are not stupid. They recognised the calm, ethereal quality she conveyed which is something we are not as used to experiencing these days in the world of pop singing. It harks back to a simpler time when we wanted to hear the heart of a singers voice and not just how high they can go or how many notes they can cram in on their way up there. Whether you like her or not she is in control of her instrument (shaky first audition aside) and does not rely on any tricks whatsoever. There is nothing taxing about listening to her. You don't have to think, you can just let it wash over you. It is beautiful and effortless and she sings tunes! And perhaps that was the key, the people who actually vote on these programmes just want to hear a nice tune sang well. I have no doubt she will have a career after this, particularly in her native Northern Ireland, and will sell millions of records in much the same way Daniel O'Donnell and Susan Boyle have done. Both of whom, love them or hate them, CAN sing. 

Would she have won if she wasn't visually impaired? We will never know so frankly there is no point going there. What I will say, though, is we singers who are blessed with 20:20 vision have our own demons to contend with which can often culminate in an over the top performance with much gurning and armography. As a visually impaired singer I imagine, and can only imagine, she quite rightly sings within herself without all the extraneous bits and bobs. Would she be the same performer if she weren't visually impaired is probably the better question but I have no intention of answering it! 

As to the other singers. We may hear more from Mike Ward and Matt Henry but I think it unlikely they will have long careers (but what do I know). Having said that I do think Sir Tom Jones was quite canny putting a Country singer through. We, in the UK, have never really embraced American style Country and Western music so has Tom, sorry, Sir Tom, found a gap in the market that could be filled by a relatively good looking boy from Salford? Maybe. Many have tried to make Country and Western music popular over here. Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Tammy Wynette to name three. And who could ever forget Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy, Breaky Heart"? I know I never will, unfortunately! Mike did not have the best voice in the competition and some really talented singers missed out due to his inclusion. He does have potential! He has a lovely tone and with more stage experience he could be one to watch. His inexperience really showed in his tuning and his diction. I can only guess he meant "my arms" when he sang "my yarms". Unless yarms are an exotic fruit I have not heard of in which case I apologise. Matt Henry gave it a good go! A lovely soulful voice. The choice to start off stage, walk through the backstage area and on to the stage while singing the opening verse of Babylon was quite inspired. He and Jessie J really tried to gear his performance towards pleasing the TV audience and after all we, in theory, are the ones voting. I was surprised he went out in fourth place but then there really was nothing different about him. He sings well and, though he may not have the fame and fortune he perhaps craves, should be able to make a nice living from singing. He seemed like a thoroughly nice chap too, so I wish him well.

Ah, Leah McFall! There is NO doubt this girl can sing! She has her own unique style both vocally and visually (and we all know how important that is nowadays!). The problem (I say problem, perhaps niggle is a better word) I have with her is she sings with at least 5 different voices none of which seem to go together in any way. I am not talking about colours here. As singers we strive to paint our songs with as many colours as is necessary. Leah sounded like Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Shirley Bassey all rolled into one, and the three don't mix. That said I do find what she can do incredible and amazing things should and must happen to her in the future. The collaborative piece she did with Will.i.am showed exactly the sort of music she should be making (and who she should be making it with). Was Leah's performance a little too sophisticated for an audience who expect to see Strictly Come Dancing on their telly boxes at that time on a Saturday night? Probably, considering the result.

Thus ends today's sermon! I encourage people to comment/argue/agree/disagree/etc to their heart's content. These are only my opinions. I don't pretend to be an oracle. I know what I like and (those of you who know me will concur I am sure) I don't mind telling people what I think. If you would like to read more I will always post a link on Facebook and Twitter when there is anything new to read but if you want to be sure you won't miss it you can subscribe via email and there is one of those RSS feed things too. I don't think you can subscribe via email on a mobile but it does work via iPad (or the like) and PC. I must go and lie down now after all that technical talk.

Until the next time....

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