Monday, November 22, 2010

My Huckleberry Friend

I've spent much of my evening preparing a program for my student's studio class tomorrow night.  There are a lot of "firsts" in this particular recital.  It's the first time I've done repertoire based on a theme, which happens to be The Great American Song Book.  It's the first time the entire studio class will be jazz standards -- nothing classical.  There isn't a G'ia il sole dal gange, Clair de lune or Nymphs and Shepherds to be found.  The Vagabond has been told to take a hike.  And, AND (and my former students are going to kill me)... we're going to have treats.  Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, but then again, everybody still has to dress appropriately, so I haven't lost total touch with reality.

Actually I'm looking forward to this class a great deal.  There's much to learn from singing jazz standards and learning how to merge standard, healthy vocal technique with a different genre.  And lest you think that singing standards is easy, learning to improvise -- that is, deviate from the notes and rhythms on the page, while staying in the same key and not getting hopelessly lost -- doesn't come naturally to most singers.  But it's a wonderful exercise to let go and experiment a little bit.  Try different things out and see what works for each individual singer.  I'm not sure all my students would agree with the wonderfulness of this exercise, but believe me, it's good for them.  LIKE JAZZY SPINACH.

Usually when I toss together a program, it's just that: I toss together a program.  For tomorrow, though, I thought I'd give them a little background behind their composers and their songs.  I hope they find these little blurbs half as interesting as I did.  Tonight I learned that Rex Harrison refused to pre-record his numbers for the film My Fair Lady (because he said he never spoke them the same way twice), so he wore what was the first wireless microphone hidden in his tie.  I learned despite all the great standards that have come out of the show St. Louis Woman, it basically tanked.  Written as a showcase for Lena Horne, she dropped out, protesting the depiction of her character.  I learned Fats Waller played a birthday party for Al Capone at gunpoint, that Skylark was written about Judy Garland, that Cole Porter's wife tried to arrange (unsuccessfully) for him to have lessons with Igor Stravinsky (because classical musical was more prestigious), that the classic ballad My Foolish Heart was panned along with the film, and that the famous line "my huckleberry friend" had nothing to do with Tom Sawyer. He just liked how the word sounded.

It's the same with standards.  You sing them how you like them to sound.
I can't wait.

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