My voice is always under construction

20130828_140159Included in my bucket list for this year is to enroll in Philippine Opera Company. I took voice lessons last July.  See I told you, there is power in making a bucket list.   I wanted to sing opera. Because I did not have much background in classical singing, I thought learning  from an institution for opera would be a good idea. Here are some of  little things I learn in voice lessons that have practical value.

It’s so difficult to breathe

Breathing is what we do most but it’s not an activity that all of us have mastered. When you are learning how to sing properly, that’s the only time you become conscious on how you breathe. It is difficult for me to learn how and when to breathe but it’s easy for me to learn how to stop breathing. I just look at the person I don’t like then I stop breathing (LoL)

Walking helps you relaxed while singing

If you are too tense in singing like me, you should walk, and do some movements to distract you from thinking too much on how to produce the right sound.

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There is an inner ear

I knew I had an inner voice, inner self, inner goddess but that was the first time I heard I had an inner ear. Sometimes when you try to listen on how you sound, you think that it does not sound  good enough but it can be your inner ear discouraging you. Hence, if you want to learn how you sound, you really have to have someone who can listen to your voice.

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There are so many things that happen in your mouth and in your body when you sing.

Who says singing is easy? It is not as easy as it sounds.

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Grunting is positive

It gives you support in singing

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Be grounded.

By pointing your fingers down while singing, it reminds you to use your entire body and to get some support.

Music knows no age. 

Jackie Evancho and Charlotte Church makes me feel embarrassed because I am only learning how to sing opera in my adulthood. But according to my voice teacher, it’s not recommendable to let kids sing classical or make them sound like Sarah Brightman. It can destroy your voice later in life. Anyway, my teacher is three years younger than me. Sometimes you learn more from those who are younger than you (#truestory) It’s never too late to learn something new.

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Your voice is unique.

opera1We often think that imitating your favorite singer’s voice is a measurement of a great voice. While I was rehearsing some classical songs, I listened and watched performances in Youtube and I ended up frustrated. I just couldn’t sound like one of them. I had a thin voice and it was different from how my teacher sounded. She had a thick and rich voice while mine was small. But she said the thinness of my voice is a distinctive quality of my voice. I have to love my voice and accept all its flaws and learn its advantages. By imitating, my voice sounded unnatural. By being true to my voice, I felt lighter and at ease.

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Note:  All photos are taken in Philippine Opera Company

Opera Haus 3657 Bautista St.

Three Minutes of a Dream

I have a lot of big dreams. Almost all of my dreams are beyond my reach. And even I have ten lifetimes or a hundred, I will never have them. But it’s alright. Our big dreams may not come to life, the way they appear like movies in our minds but we can always have small versions of our dreams.

One of my small dream versions is to perform in Alberlardo Hall of UP College of Music. I think performing in a place where the most talented musicians in the country are made is a validation that I can sing. In truth, you don’t have to be a performer or a musician to be on Alberlado Hall’s stage. As long as you can afford to rent the venue or to enroll in the college extension program, you can be on stage.  That’s my small version of CCP Theatre or Araneta Coliseum.

I read my voice teacher’s text message a couple of times. At first, I overlooked the venue of my voice recital. The second., I slowly read Al—be–lar—do Hall. Then read it again. How I was going to sing in a large venue? Can my voice occupy this hall?

Am I enough?

Within my fourteen sessions of voice lessons, I realized I was tone-deaf. I needed a regular ear cleaning. Like any music course, I had to learn through hearing. It would have been easy if I could listen to my teacher sing and copy the way she did. But for the entire semester, I haven’t heard her sing, not even a single note. I had to rely on what she played in piano.

For my recital piece, I was ambitious enough to choose Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Think of Me. For people who have been taking voice lessons, the song is amateurish. But for newbies like me, it was already challenging. I thought I could give it a try because the song was for middle range voice. The only problem was the last notes were complicated and terrifyingly high. My teacher scolded me a couple of times including my last rehearsal. On one session, she said that it was stupid for me to repeat the same mistakes. It was a relief when she told me that was the hardest part of the song and that some students would let the pianist take charge of the last part. It was supposed to be sang in a cappella. But my teacher was a purist and she pushed me to sing the way it was written in the music sheet.

It was hard. I know that that is an overstatement. But for someone who can’t read notes, it really was.  Aside from the fact, I had no one to imitate. Emmy Rossum did not sing the complicated notes. Of course, Sarah Brightman sang it perfectly but Sarah Brightman had a lot of inflections in her singing. It was difficult to follow which notes she was singing.

The day came. I wanted to sing but at the same time I wanted to disappear. A few minutes, before the show I saw a familiar face.

“So, it’s your recital?”

He flashed his Matinee idol smile.

“Good luck.’

Then he tapped me on the shoulder and my heart grew wings. If my song was based on real life, he would be my phantom and I would be his pupil. I was going to say that “my teacher said you were such an adorable boy.” But swallowed those words thinking that it was actually me who wanted to say he was adorable.

As we waited for the pianist to arrive, my teacher said:

“Did you practice the four notes? You should sing it correctly.”

With the serious tone of her voice, I felt the pressure. I was willing to take the risk of singing the wrong note. Then I thought of my pianist, how professional he was and how small I was compared to his music genius. I could not just sing any note. I had to sing the right note. I have liked him since the day I watched him played the jazz version of Bahay Kubo.  I did not want him to Think of me and think of my mistake.

I entered the stage. I wish I could hide the tension in my voice. It was almost a dream. I could not see the faces of my audience. My contact lens were failing.

The vision was hazy. It was a small version of a dream. I sang a song that I never thought I could ever sing. I sang a song with a man whom I could never have but within three minutes of our lives we were united.

It all ended.

As I lay on my bed and started to create new dreams, I turned on my phone and read: “Congratulations, Jackie. I was waiting for the wrong note. You sang all beautifully and correctly. I’m at 116.”