Thursday, November 12, 2009

Singing will save you!

Only a desperado would try to catch a train in Melbourne during a heat-wave. Boarding a train each day as I do, with thoughts about next year’s repertoire always on my mind, I consider myself lucky to find a seat. Seats are at a premium on trains but not in Hamer Hall where we will be bringing something Faust-like next year. Even though this work we bring you has Faust in its title, it really is only loosely based on the Faust of Goethe, but it is truly special. Special in the sense that Hector Berlioz is truly one of the world’s special composers and The Damnation of Faust one of the world’s special works. Some of you might think that I’m becoming obsessed with the word special and well you might; it’s a free world. I, for one am not concerned about a little bit of mania; after I all I work with people who have the greatest musical instrument of all – the human voice. Voices are all unique; like finger-prints. Each voice has a quality which is special and unique.

Consider the numbers of animals which identify their young by calls, cries, chirps, peeps and the like. On seeing the movie about the emperor penguins I was gob-smacked by the way the mother penguin could distinguish her off-spring’s cry. Millions of baby penguins all shrieking and the mother heading unerringly to her own baby because of sound. Please be tolerant with me when I refer to that as a type of singing. Unless we sing our lives are incomplete. Let me explain! ‘Since singing is so good a thing I wish all men would learn to sing,’ said William Byrd. I know that sounds sexist because it says ‘men’, but it does refer to all humankind. Very few people would disagree that singing is fundamental to our health and well-being. Education, therefore becomes crucial ( I mean music education ) to our health and well-being.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because children are listening to pop music at school they are receiving a music education. Indeed, just listening to music of any kind is not music education. Singing is the one true road towards music: singing songs of all sorts from all over the world. Obviously we have millions of songs from which to choose and from which we can teach children musical concepts. Rounds, canons and the like can be great fun and incredibly stimulating. Dancing such as we did during our production of The Little Sweep here at Victorian Opera this year was huge hit along with the singing. Everybody took part willingly and had tremendous fun singing and dancing at the same time. Recommended on the Insight Show on SBS as a way to maintain the brain’s activity, dancing featured strongly – I sound my barbaric Yawp.


  1. This is so true. My academic husband is currently researching the effects of singing on health for people of all ages: not only is singing good for us, but as an educative tool it is also the cheapest musical instrument we have! And for many of us singing specialists, singing is regarded as a right of all humans, not just the precious few. And, as Sloboda says: "music is a fundamental human resource which has played, and may well play again, a vital role in the survival and development of humanity". I could say lots more! Cheers all. Jess

  2. ... and singing is bloomin' good fun. I mean ya sing a Bach 8-parter and ya say to yaself, 'this is a piece of cake. I know where he's going with this.' And the blighter pulls a trick out of left field and does something totally unexpected. It confuses the heck out of ya. Ya get a real kick out of finding something totally unexpected. And it sounds wonderful too. It really grabs ya in the gut. Trust me.

    Even more fun if ya sing a capella (which means with a hat on).

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