Sell What You Sing (or Dance)

Tonight in chorale rehearsal we spent a lot of time on the Irving Berlin medley we’re performing for our spring concert. Now I’m feeling all jazzy. No one makes me want to put on a top hat and do a time step more than good ol’ Irv.

Lots of things I learn in chorale can be applied to the dance, which is why I appreciate it so much and won’t give it up. For example, our director often tells us to “sell what you sing” — meaning sing with conviction, energy; don’t just sing the words. Because if you sing a bright, syncopated tune like “Puttin’ on the Ritz” with a straight face and zero bounce, it just doesn’t fly. In fact, it just sucks all the fun right out of it. No, no, no. You have to sell what you sing. Make the audience want to join in or wish they knew the words. Make them want to get up and dance. Leaving them humming a tune all the way home.

So after two hours of selling what I sing tonight, I sang that song all the way home. Then I went looking for the clip of Fred Astaire performing it. I LOVE this. The clip doesn’t include his singing; just the last part of the awesome dance. The bulerias portion, if you will. That last minute or so when he’s picked up the pace, giving it his all, throwing down that contratiempo and finishing with a bang.

Singing, dancing, tap, flamenco, whatever. It’s all about selling it. A song is just a melody, just like a bunch of steps is just a dance. But a performance is an experience. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

Do a little dance, find a bigger voice

Can you find me in this picture?

After taking eight months off from singing with the chorale to focus on the dance, I thought it would take me awhile to clear the cobwebs from my throat, be able squeak out some sounds and manage to hold a note. But last night at rehearsal, it dawned on me that singing was just a little easier than I remember. I already knew that having a music background helps in my learning the dance, but could it also be that the dance has helped improve my vocal technique?

I remember I used to come home from chorale practices exhausted and headachy, like someone had squeezed all the air out of me to a sad tune. Gone are my days of feeling and sounding like a deflating bagpipe. Last night I wasn’t looking ahead in my music to find the long notes and figure out where I could sneak in a few breaths to be able to make it to the end. No, one breath was all I needed. I left rehearsal feeling strong and energized, like I could have sung another three hours. And it makes sense: If your body is in better shape and your stamina is increased, of course you’ll have a stronger core and increased lung capacity, which make singing with the choir all that much easier.

Don’t you love when all the little random pieces of your life seem to come together?

BulerĂ­as y Bach

Sing out loud, sing out strong.
Before I was a dancer, I was a singer. I’ve been singing anything and everything since I could speak. I have mainly my mom to thank for this; there was always music in the house, all kinds. Mostly oldies of the ’50s and ’60s, and the ’70s is still my favorite decade for music probably because it’s my first memory of current music on the radio. And in the ’80s and ’90s, I went through my Madonna phase, the new wave phase, hip-hop, gangster rap, grunge, punk, alternative/goth (which mom called my “forces of darkness” phase) latin, a little metal, you name it. As much as I hate to admit it, I even like some old school country. I rarely discriminate when it comes to music and I can never listen to just one kind in one sitting. Call it Musical ADD, if you will. Take a look at my iPod and you’ll see what I mean. Continue reading “BulerĂ­as y Bach”