Blanche Marchesi: the education of the voice I

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In the twenty-fifth chapter of her book Singer’s pilgrimage, Blanche Marchesi expressed her considerations regarding the education of the voice in the art of singing.


The teacher

The singing teacher ought to be the jealous guardian of that treasure placed in man’s throat by nature, the human voice. The mission of the teacher is to save it from destruction, to develop it to perfect beauty, and to stop decay, if any signs of decay are forthcoming. All the dangers that threaten the human voice come from the fact that the voice is a part of the body, and must submit to physical laws which, when ignored, take their full revenge.

The question why the human singing voice is apt to be ruined has been put before me many a time, and nobody seems to have thought of the most simple reason. Animals use their voices in one way only, they sing, groan or squeak, but only do the one thing during their life. Man is given speech, with which to express himself, and myriads of human beings never have used any other way. A normal human, using his speaking voice normally, keeps his voice as long as his health permits. But man is also given the capacity of singing, and if, for speaking, everybody uses the suitable sounds, in the very moment that same voice is used for singing purposes the production of these sounds must be submitted to laws of Art, without which it cannot be made lasting.

There is nothing more sad, in my opinion, than to hear imperfect or bad singing, nothing more painful than to hear artists wrestle with their voices, fight with their poor instruments which they do not know, the secrets of which were never revealed to them, or to hear beautiful voices doomed to be ruined, or in which one can easily detect the surely approaching catastrophe. In this coming chapter I will have to reveal all that has come to my knowledge.

Text excerpted from Singer’s pilgrimage, Blanche Marchesi, Boston, 1923.