The Organ

Singing in English (High Voice)

Mary King: Singing in English (High Voice)
Boosey (Voice Coach Series)
ISMN: M060117619;ISBN: 978-0-85162-542-3

The Singing in English volume in the Boosey Voice Coach Collection (the others being Singing in French and Singing in German – all available in high and medium/low editions) contains 20 songs spanning three centuries of songs in English. These cover a wide range of styles from Baroque to Classical and Romantic, folksong arrangements to modern art song. Selected by distinguished singer and vocal coach Mary King (Head of Voice at London’s South Bank Centre and well known for her work on the TV series ‘Operatunity’ and ‘Musicality’), each song presents the singer with many technical and musical challenges.

Preceding each song, the text is printed without music, with notes by Mary King on both text and music. A further page of notes (entitled ‘Skills’) contains practical suggestions on singing the text and overcoming some of the problems encountered when singing in the English language. Other useful hints and exercises relate to both interpretation and technical difficulties that may be encountered. The phonetic references used frequently throughout the notes are clearly and concisely explained in a Pronunciation Guide found at the back of the collection.

While this publication is not a manual of vocal technique, guidance is also given regarding the use of breath, pitching, vocal qualities and tone colour; and the importance of avoiding vocal constriction is stressed, especially in specific parts of certain songs. This technical advice is offered in an accessible and practical way, certain to complement rather than conflict with any particular teaching method, thus providing a valuable addition to the song library of both singers and their teachers.

The format used makes clear its intention to encourage both singer and teacher to consider the text before turning to the music. We are all, possibly, guilty of sometimes ‘rushing into the tune’ before making a full study of the nuances, and maybe on occasion the true meaning, of what we are singing about! This innovative approach should give us pause for thought, and must lead to a deeper understanding of the words: surely a key to a richer and more complete interpretation and performance of these fine songs.