Saturday, June 24, 2017

Voice Lesson One

To improve consistently,
  • Warmup every day. Five minutes is often enough.
  • Workout thrice weekly. Forty-five minutes is enough.
  • Vocal rehearsals, lessons, and concerts count as workouts.

Warm-ups only remind you how you sing best.  They will keep your voice in shape on quiet days and prepare your voice for busy days.  By themselves, daily warmups won't make your voice strong, fast, flexible, enduring, or accurate.   More on how to do these later.

Workouts will improve the voice, but only if you keep doing them.   Doing just one workout a week is enough to tire you and get you some improvement, but several in a week will definitely improve your singing.

Please do not sing far too much.  Singing when your voice and body are tired open the door to get bad technique and vocal injury.   For beginners, three workouts a week is almost too much.  As your voice gains strength and stamina, it will thrive on three to four or even more workouts weekly.  Just don't push yourself too hard too fast.  The above is going to get you where you want to go.

Yours, Gary.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Insomnia vs. "Yeomen of the Guard"

When I get insomnia, usually triggered by doubts and worries in real life, my creativity takes weird turns, both in the dreams and visions that come at night and the ideas I get during the day.   Lots of remedies, such as the ones here, are helpful.   I've only recently started using #25, journaling worries when the mind is too anxious and active to rest, adding items to my to-do list and calendars and notebooks, and giving the things that are running around in my head a time to be addressed.

Here's an example from early June when I was uncertain about how much more work I'd have to do to memorize and play Fairfax, my part in Marylhurst University's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Yeoman of the Guard".   The memorization techniques that worked perfectly for me 30 years ago left me blank and going up on my lines in rehearsal, so I had no idea how much more work I'd need to do to catch up.   Yikes.  Most of my sleep-deprived dreams were about the lines and scenes of the play, but many of them were about the characters actions after the play.   Here they are, organized as a fan-fiction narrative. I make no apologies for continuity or dramatic errors, since this is, essentially, a delirium.

SPOILER ALERT:  see the opera, read the script or a synopsis first.   I'm told by attendees that they found the opera's end too tragic, so here's a small consolation:

Yeoman of the Guard, Act III


To free his children from a detestable marriage and life-long anonymity, Sergeant Meryll confesses to releasing Fairfax two months earlier.  He and Leonard are sentenced to beheading in half an hour.  Dame Carruthers-Meryll, newly wed to the Sergeant,  leaves to arrange their rescue.  

Wilfred reveals a living but apathetic Jack Point.   Phoebe jilts Wilfred.  Jack refuses to teach Wilfred jesting.  Kate,  having no sense of smell and respect for Wilfred's care of injured prisoners, mollifies Wilfred and cleans him up nicely.

Phoebe, with Jack's help, stalls the beheading until Dame Carruthers-Merryl appears with proof that Sergeant and Leonard Meryll are innocent of treason.  They are restored to their due positions to everyone's joy.


3.1   Trio "A Fate Worse Than Death",  Phoebe, Leonard, Meryll
3.2   Aria:  "My Own Name", Leonard
3.3   Ensemble: "Hail the Wedded"  
3.4   Aria:   "Not today",  Dame Carruthers-Meryll
3.5  Aria:  "Dear Jack", Kate
3.6  Duet:  "'Every Dirty Job", Kate and Wilfred
3.7  Song:  "Alas, my love",   Jack
3.8  Chorus:   "The Pris'ner's come"
3.9  Duet with Chorus:  "Brave Men of England",  Meryll, Leonard 
3.10  Duet with Chorus:   "Alas My Love", (reprise)  Phoebe and  Jack
3.11  Scene:  "These two scrolls"  Dame, Lieutenant, and Ensemble
3.12  Ensemble:   "Joy Unalloyed"

Synopsis, Act III

Two months after Act II, on the Tower of London green, Phoebe, Leonard and their father, Sergeant Meryll lament "A Fate Worse Than Death": to keep their secret, Leonard may not claim his own name or position, Phoebe must marry a man she loathes, and the Sergeant is to be wedded this hour to the old Dame Carruthers.

Kate gives the Sergeant an envelope addressed to Sergent Meryll's son, Leonard and fetches Sergent Meryll and Phoebe to the wedding.  Leonard, not invited to the wedding, finds a letter inside to Jack Point and another to himself from Colonel Fairfax granting him a thousand marks and an offer of employment.  Leonard still wants "My Own Name" and the Yeomancy he'd earned.

Sergeant Meryll returns with Dame in wedding gown.   Leonard congratulates them while the Dame reminds him to keep his true identity the secret, since everyone has concluded the real Leonard Meryll ran away with a broken heart when Fairfax claimed Elsie as his bride.   Phoebe returns, pursued by and fending off Wilfred, to warn Leonard and the couple that their guests are coming and eager to congratulate them.  Phoebe insists that Jack is dead, but Wilfred says he is not:  he cared for Jack after the collapse, using the healing skills an assistant tormentor must ply.  Wilfred exits to fetch Jack as proof. 

The Lieutenant, Kate and crowd enter to "Hail the Wedded"  Sergent and Dame.  The Sergeant, desperate to resolve his children's sorry fates, turns to the Lieutenant and resigns his post as Sergent and confesses to freeing Colonel Fairfax himself two months ago.  Sergent Meryll claims that Leonard simply stayed away as asked, while Pheobe accepted his word that Fairfax was her brother Leonard.   Leonard steps up to confess that he himself knew of his Father's deception and is equally guilty. Phoebe lets them.  Dame Carruthers-Meryll berates her new husband for this foolish act of sacrifice, but the man is adamant he will have no more deception.

The Lieutenant reluctantly condemns the two men of high treason and the required penalty of death by beheading in one-half hour.  After warning the Yeomen and crowd that aiding their beloved Sergent will bring further deaths, he disperses the crowd and Yeomen, and himself escorts the two men to the tower for their final confessions.

Dame Carruthers-Meryll entreats Phoebe to delay the beheading because she has a plan to free both men, but it will take every minute available and more to prepare it.  The Dame proclaims she will not become a widow,  "Not Today" on her wedding day,  and heads off on her mission.

Wilfred brings a listless, sour shell of the jester Jack Point.  Kate reveals she put a note about Wilfred tending Master Point into Dame Carruthers' bill to the Fairfax family for the cost of their wedding.  Jack has no interest in anything, but allows Kate to read the letter from Elsie aloud. In "Dear Jack", Elsie thanks Jack for caring for her mother, teaching her manners, and prays for Jack's future well-being. 

Phoebe tells Wilfred she needn't marry him, since her father's confession exonerated her.  Wilfred reminds her that he knows of her actual guilt, but Phoebe rants that she will not we wedded, but would rather be beheaded or banished instead, even with Jack: since they don't love each other and both know what lost love it, they're perfect for each other.  Jack then tells Wilfred he cannot now teach jesting, it's not in him to teach the jailer to jest. 

Angered at the loss of a tutor and a wife, Wilfred declares he'll be a great tormentor and accosts Kate, who accepts his advances willingly.  After all,  Kate says, she admires his gentle care for the wounded prisoners. Further, she has no sense of smell and Wilfred isn't half as dirty as the chamber pots and "Every Dirty Job" that needs doing.  They exit to give Wilfred what he needs most: a bath.

Phoebe asks Jack for help in stalling the beheading.  Jack says he's no good for jesting, only composing melancholy rhymes and melodies, and sings a verse of his newly made "Alas My Love", but quips some nobleman will likely steal it away, too. ("Greensleeves" was anonymously written about 1510 and dubiously attributed to Henry VIII.) 

The funeral bell chimes.  While the people chant "the Pris'ners come", the block and headsman arrive.  The Lieutenant with Yeomen lead in Leonard and Meryll.    Asked for last words, Meryll at the block praises "Brave Men of England", joined by Leonard, then the Lieutenant,  the Yeoman and finally the crowd.

To stall, Phoebe speaks of their love of family and love of duty, then begins to sing "Alas, My Love", but falters. Jack completes Phoebe's chorus and carries on, improvising verses.  As the listeners join in and Jack is starting yet another verse, the Dame returns.

The Dame shows the Lieutenant "These Two Scrolls": the June tenth order for Fairfax's execution on July tenth, 1517, and the July tenth order for his immediate freedom.  The Lieutenant agrees that he'd gladly have complied had the second reached him that day.   The Dame argues that since the Sergent was following legal orders when he freed Fairfax on July the tenth, her husband and step-son are innocent of treason.  The Lieutenant agrees, cancels the execution, restores Meryll's rank and freedom, and orders that the real Leonard Meryll be inducted into the Yeoman of the Guard this very minute.

As all share "Joy Unalloyed", the block and the ax-man leave, Phoebe thanks and embraces Jack for his life-saving performance, and Kate escorts in a surprisingly clean Wilfred, with flowers in his hair and beard.   Leonard, now dressed as a Yeoman, receives his halberd and sword from his father, then thanks the Dame for saving his life.  Sergent Meryll finally, admiringly, embraces his new wife .