Singing: Personal and Performance Values in Training

Singing: Personal and Performance Values in Training

Singing: Personal and Performance Values in Training

Singing: Personal and Performance Values in Training


What is it in singing that makes for high quality, deeply moving performances? Quality and depth, vocal stability, and stamina all depend on firm foundations being laid at the outset of a singer's development. The key to truly effective procedures of serious voice training and the best model of singers' education is the recognition and understanding of the unique nature of the singing instrument.

Compared with other musicians, a singer begins serious study relatively late. Even at institutions of higher education a singer begins work with only a partially formed instrument. It is development of this most personal instrument that forms the focus of Peter T. Harrison's book. These factors are among those that present the complex challenges for singers that are unique in the musical training world. They also give rise to searching ethical questions.

To date no science or methodology has been able to prevent a growing existential crisis regarding what the author perceives to be declining standards and values in both training and performance. The author maintains that, while the primary responsibility for setting standards and effective curricula lies with the musical institutions, what constitutes excellence in singing, and what is required to achieve it, are in urgent need of clarification. He proposes a progressive training model that arises logically from holistic principles.

A sequel to The Human Nature of the Singing Voice, in which the author explored a holistic basis for teaching and learning this is a challenging book, addressed to all those who have responsibility for singers' voices, not least singers themselves. In so doing Peter T. Harrison addresses substantial ethical issues.


I am very happy and flattered to have been asked to write the foreword to Peter Harrison’s new book. in doing my job, I have observed singers and singing all my professional life, and this book deals with subjects which have not been aired in this way before.

It is definitely not a manual on How to Sing, and in fact Peter points out that there is not one single vocal exercise in the book! It makes me very glad that his first premise is that the human being was designed to sing as well as to speak.

In the first section he deals with the physicality of singing with diagrams and very clear explanations of the throat and the respiratory system, but then goes on to talk about the very important issue of a singer finding their own true voice and individuality. I remember hearing an interval discussion from Live at the Met on a Saturday afternoon with Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson and Marilyn Horne, who all said that their voices would be too idiosyncratic and individual to get jobs in opera houses today! Peter states rightly that the unique sound is so important and conveys emotion on its own. His work on the history of singing, and particularly Bel Canto, shows that sometimes we have lost our priorities.

An exploration of the means of communication and projection, touching on the thorny topic of support, leads on to a section devoted to all aspects of studying to become a professional singer. It is much more than just developing a vocal technique, but in his wonderfully wide scope includes dancing, clowning, Alexander Technique as well as acting skills and, of course, the knowledge of languages which every working singer now has to have.

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