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The Art and Science of Great Teaching: Celebrating the Legacy of William Vennard: Sound Recordings

A one-day symposium made possible by a USC Libraries Dean’s Challenge Grant and cosponsored by the Thornton School of Music.

Compiled by Irena Preda

Developing Voices: From the Studio of William Vennard. New York: Carl Fischer, 1973.

Side 1

The first lesson is with Mary Alice, a soprano with an underdeveloped chest voice.

They work on mixing the chest and head voices, finding a “middle voice”, closing the “gap in her register” and “uniting the two extremes of her voice”, primarily looking for a “soft-cushioned, velvety” versus a hard chest voice.

Exercises to add or end up in “almost a speaking voice” are implemented, before working on Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan.


Side 2

There are two lessons in this recording.

After a 6-month absence the re-commencing lesson of soprano Mary Alice focuses on expanding the chest voice in certain areas of the voice.

At 9 min 30 sec the first lesson of Laura Kate, a mezzo-soprano, begins.

The focus is on brightening the sound and ease of production. They also focus on “intensifying / placing the voice, bringing it forward” and the “sensations of freedom”.  Imaginary H instead of a glottal plosive is encouraged for initiating the voice.

Hear thou my cry is the excerpt used to work on this.


Side 3

Two lessons: the second and the third year of study of mezzo-soprano Laura Kate.

The main things addressed here are the tongue position (alleviating contracting on high notes), the position of the larynx and carrying some of the chest voice into the top of the octave. Forward placement is worked on, as is expanding the range.


Side 4

Working with the tenor Victor Henry, they address the lack of freedom/working too hard for the production of the voice. “For the sake of longevity” they go about “saving the upper voice” and making it more expressive by relating it to falsetto. The way they achieve this is through exercises starting in the falsetto and finishing in the chest voice.


Side 5

There are two lessons in this recording.

Victor Henry – tenor

Thou Shalt Break Them is the excerpt used here.

Diction, consonants to enunciate and singing the octave intervals are addressed in the beginning of this recording. After 15 months of study and a 6-month absence due to performing, work on head voice is continued. Modifying the vowels |i| and |Ⅰ| for high tones, “covering” and choosing/intending the correct color/shade of vowel above the stave are also discussed.

Thomas Roger - baritone

Second year of study, improving intonation, freeing up the voice and making it more clear are the objectives.

Still ist die Nacht is worked on.


Side 6

Thomas Roger – baritone

Singing a full tone and “placing” it exactly where the falsetto is, as well as stabilizing the low range are worked on in this recording. In his third year of study, adjusting the thinking to the new tonal concept and keeping the voice freed while focused, energized and spinning throughout the range is addressed. The “idiot-approach” is also discussed in a rather amusing manner.

After completing his Master of Music degree and a tour with a nationally known chorus, we hear an excerpt of a lesson after the singer returned for a refresher.

Recorded Lessons

7-inch reel-to-reel tapes (one per cell), not currently transferred

Verne Eke / Abel Ned Kaye Elhardt / Daisy Helen Don Ellsworth / Ernest Baker
1962: 10/6, 10/13, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/17, 12/1 1965: 6/22, 6/29, 7/6, 7/13, 7/17 1968: 2/5, 2/7, 2/12, 2/14, 2/19, 2/21, 2/26
1963: 12/8, 12/15; 1963: 1/12, 1/19, 2/23 7/24, 7/27, 7/31, 8/3, 8/5, 8/11, 8/13 2/28, 3/4, 3/6, 3/11, 3/13, 3/18, 3/20, 3/25
3/2, 3/16, 3/23, 3/30, 4/6, 4/27, 5/4, 5/11, 5/18, 5/25, 6/1 8/18, 8/21, 8/27, 9/1 4/1, 4/3, 4/15, 4/17, 4/22, 4/24, 4/29, 5/6, 5/8, 5/15
6/8, 6/28, 7/5, 7/12, 7/19, 7/26, 11/6, 11/13 9/3, 9/8, 9/10, 9/18, 9/20, 9/27 5/17, 5/20, 5/22
11/20, 12/4, 12/11; 1964: 1/8, 1/15, 1/22, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26 9/29, 10/2, 10/4, 10/9, 10/11, 10/16, 10/18, 10/23 9/23, 9/30, 10/7, 10/14, 10/28, 11/4, 11/11, 11/18, 11/25
3/4, 3/11, 3/18, 4/1, 4/8, 4/15, 4/29, 5/6, 5/13, 5/20 10/25, 10/30, 11/1, 11/6, 11/8 12/2, 12/16, 12/18; 1969: 1/6, 1/13, 1/15, 2/4
1968: 2/12, 2/19, 2/26, 3/4 11/13, 11/18, 11/29, 12/2, 12/6, 12/9, 12/11, 12/13 2/12, 2/19, 2/26, 3/5, 3/12, 3/19, 3/26
3/11, 3/18, 3/25 12/16; 1966: 1/3, 1/8, 1/10, 1/12, 1/17, 2/2, 2/9 4/9, 4/16, 4/23, 4/30, 5/7, 5/21
4/1 2/14, 2/28, 9/3, 11/5, 11/12  
Rafael Enriquez / David Quick: 1967: 2/14, 2/17, 2/21, 2/24, 2/28, 3/3, 3/7 8/18; 1967: 4/29 Sally Etcheto / Heide Nell: 1970: 9/23, 9/25, 10/7, 10/16, 10/28

 

Lectures

1968 Church Music Workshop, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, TX)

Vocal Pedagogy

1A (duration: 29:28)

  • Beautiful choral tone through making individuals good singers
  • Vocalising same for groups as individuals and differences
  • Good pedagogy for individual is good pedagogy for choir as well
  • Douglas Stanley
  • What a singer should do
  • Posture - erect spine (not straight) i.e. how to hold the instrument
  • Head position and stance (weight manipulation)
  • Breathing - sub-glottal pressure, elasticity of air


1B (duration: 18:21)

  • Breathing (continuation from 1A): - shoulder/upper chest vs. rib/costal/lateral vs. belly/diaphragmatic/abdominal
  • Shoulders and muscles
  • Starting the tone with an imaginary IhI and the glottal plosive


2A (duration: 30:21)

  • Muscles - internal & external intercostals   - conscious/voluntary control vs. direct control
  • The mechanistic approach vs. the psychological/inspirational premise
  • The (w)holistic approach - Gestalt - evoking the total response   - central vs. peripheral approach
  • The personal relationship between  - pupil and teacher   - choir and choirmaster
  • Addressing the teaching to the whole personality
  • Voice = the expression of a living personality
  • Vocal music = foundation of music, beginning of music history
  • Love - singing is an act of faith - believing in the response
  • Libido as a psychic energy vs. sexual energy (Freudian psychologist - desexualised libido)
  • Libidinous relationship - love for oneself (faith in oneself), suggestion and acceptance of suggestion (hypnosis)
  • Affirmative relationships vs. the “Don’t do this” approach


2B (duration: 23:29)

  • Cumulative relationship (adding new achievements gradually)
  • 2 kinds of singers: thinkers vs. believers
  • The psychology of a “shopper-student”
  • Authority and investing faith in someone - the importance of building faith in -in the choir  -in the singer/studio
  • Lowering the larynx - by yawning/yawn-sigh


3A (duration: 30:52)

  • Not taking sides in big debate subjects
  • Mechanistic & psychological instead of one or the other
  • Teaching by demonstrating/example/imitation & putting hands on the student (manipulation)
  • Mechanistic tricks to teach breath - the “blowing out candles” method, fist/unyielding object on the epigastrium
  • Attack of the tone - imaginary IhI vs. the glottal plosive start
  • The Bernoulli effect and the breath pulse in Baroque runs


3B (duration: 18:49)


4A (duration: 29:27) [to be uploaded]

4B [to be uploaded]


Advanced Vocal Pedagogy

1A - 4B [to be uploaded]