If there is a word that has been a theme in my lessons and coachings and rehearsals over the past few months, I think it might be “generosity.”
JD first mentioned it a few months ago during a French coaching. In the days following Pavorotti’s death last summer, when video and audio clips of his singing were everywhere, she was struck by the overwhelming generosity with which he sang. “He never kept his voice from the audience,” she said. It seemed to her that he was always pouring out his entire voice, always giving it, never hiding it, and the audience could tell.
This kind of vocal generosity is two-fold, I think. One element is technical: singing with an open, unrestricted throat, a mouth and jaw that know how to freely and easily form language, and a fully engaged breath that allows the sound to pour out unimpeded. This is the sound that makes you say, “Wow, what a voice…” Moments of vocal disconnect are few and far between with this kind of generous singing.
The other element is, of course, mental. Or maybe even spiritual. It’s the ability to open your heart to your audience, to give freely of your artistic self, without fear of rejection or expectation of reward. That could be the definition of generosity, right? This is the kind of sharing that makes you think, “Wow, what a singer…”
In the greatest singers, like Pavarotti, both elements are present. Generosity of voice, generosity of heart. There are some days when it’s easier than others to be generous of heart, and some days when the voice is more unwieldy than others. But with practice, generosity can become the normal state of things. (This obviously applies to other areas of life, too, right?)
Our director mentioned generosity the other day as we were staging the finale. He encouraged us to “practice being generous with the audience,” even though we currently don’t have one. Things like keeping your eyes bright, or feeling the love and joy and excitement of the music passing through you into the theater, or even just smiling when you sing - these are things that can be practiced. The more you practice them, the more truly they come through once the audience - the recipients of your gifts - are finally present.
Tonight is our piano dress rehearsal. I am a bit heavy of heart today, and my voice feels funny, but I am going to practice generosity tonight. Practice, practice, practice… Who knows, maybe there is someone there who needs what little I have to give.