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Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Voice

When we were in the Parrsboro area in Nova Scotia last week, we found the very small town of Parrsboro itself an exceptionally interesting place. It has seen more prosperous days - when coal mining, lumbering, and shipbuilding kept the area thriving. Now tourism is a big draw in the summer, since the area boasts the natural wonders of the world's highest tides and famous fossil cliffs. We found as well a surprisingly large group of interesting and knowledgeable people. They run the museums, professional theatre, 'Rock Shops' [with extensive mineral collections and good prices] and the Bed & Breakfasts in the grand old wooden homes built in the booming days in the late 1800's.

The last night of our trip we ended up at a B&B run by a music teacher and his wife, who just happens to be an opera singer. After our ample breakfast and some persuasion, she was gracious enough to sing for us. She stood in the living room so that the archway from the dining room formed a frame that made her seem 'on stage' to us. After chatting for a few minutes, she opened her mouth to sing and produced a sound so powerful it nearly blew us out of our seats.

She sang beautifully, and while she projected her voice with such force, we marveled at how long she could sing without taking a breath. My mother was a trained singer, and I remember her often telling us to sing from our diaphragm. This is a very large muscle tucked under your rib cage. When you breathe in deeply to fill your lungs, that's the muscle you use. Try it. Trained singers increase their lung capacity and learn to strengthen their diaphragm and control the amount of air they release to pass through their vocal cords.

Being conscious of your mouth positions, say slowly: ‘please talk loud’. Now take a deep breath, consciously use your diaphragm muscle, and say the same expression again. Are you surprised that your voice is more powerful, and that you could easily make yourself heard above a crowd? Again being conscious of your mouth positions, sing: ‘please sing loud’. If you’ve been learning as you’ve done this exercise, you’ll now have figured out the difference between talking and singing sounds. But I probably won’t be able to resist doing an entire post about sounds one day anyway. Rie

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