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July 21, 2011

'In-between' vocal ranges challenge

San Francisco Chronicle:

Every summer the young singers arrive for the Merola Opera Program and fit into the neatly marked categories - the sopranos with their clarion high notes over here, the basses with their deep, resonant rumbles over there. And then there are the uncertain ones, the questioners, the singers looking for their niche. Soprano or mezzo? Baritone or bass? They're listening hard for the cues and pointers that will help them understand what it is their voices want to do.

Boudart Harris has seen the confusion firsthand. From the time she started singing, she regarded herself as a mezzo-soprano, like her mother. She has a fairly deep speaking voice, as well as the sight-reading skills that can be a boon to the altos in a choir, who often have to navigate the tricky inner voices of a choral texture. But there were signs pointing in another direction - a higher one. Her voice teacher at Cal State Long Beach suggested she experiment with the soprano repertoire and was pleased with the results.

Sometimes a voice will proclaim very clearly what it does best, but it won't lie squarely within the bounds of one of the standard vocal types. There is plenty of good repertoire for such "zwischen" (or "in-between") voices, but they can be hard to shoehorn into traditional categories.

The quest is partly pragmatic and partly psychological, Greenawald says - especially for singers who have invested a lot of time and training in a particular area of repertoire. "For some of them, switching voice types is sort of like saying, 'I've been Caucasian all my life, now I'm going to be Hispanic.' It's that much of an identity shift for them. And they have to be emotionally ready." Read more.

Posted by acapnews at July 21, 2011 12:00 AM

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