Tuesday, May 10, 2011


...and other resulting consequences

Rhode Island's own Eden Casteel, a lyric coloratura soprano (and a very good one - check her blog out and give a listen) and librettist, wrote a snarky little post that is actually a great teaching moment for high school musical stars who are seeking to continue doing musicals at the college level and beyond.

Luckily, we had no microphones on stage when I played my role as Jud Fry in Cumberland High's production of Oklahoma during my junior year in high school. Eden's fourth paragraph goes thus:

Did you know that if you have no idea how to sing or project your voice without a microphone, you are completely out of luck if the battery goes dead in the middle of your two-measure solo? Did you know that when you use microphones you tend to forget how to execute basic blocking, and sometimes you sing with your butt to the audience? Did you know that about half the time, microphones short out or crackle and pop loudly? You didn’t know that? I didn’t think so.

Now, Oklahoma was the only musical I ever did. Auditions for The King and I during my senior year fell on the week of my father's funeral. Oh well (well, at least that was my attitude at 17; turning 47 pretty soon, I'm sure I'd have a different 'tude now)!

However, the reason I point out Eden's paragraph regarding microphones is that the same message could AND SHOULD AND MUST point very easily toward cantors at Holy Mass. I've had people tell me, "Wow! You have a good strong voice!" more times than Bill Gates has collected dollar bills. That's because thanks to Mrs. Nectar Lennox, my high school choral director, learning to project was not an option. It was REQUIRED! And it's helped to the point where I can sing, facing a pipe case, over a generously-registered organ (I mean 8'-4'-2' foundations, a four-rank fourniture or plein jeu, and possibly a good chorus reed, plus a good deep pedal registration - I LOVE a good 32' resultant or contra bourdon!) without any amplication. I use the mic to announce hymns only - organ mic on, announce hymn, organ mic off. Simple as that!

Nowadays, unfortunately, it's all about the mic. It's all about (in the words of Happy Bunny) "let's focus on ME!" In high school, it's all about wanting to be Britney Spears, prancing around the stage with a damn headset wrapped around her head. At Mass, it's about wanting to be heard over everyone - the priest, the choir, the congregation, and maybe even loud enough for the diocese next door to hear ya!

So, I reiterate this message to cantors: For the sake of good liturgy, step away from the microphone. And for the sake of good liturgy AND good hygiene, please, KEEP YOUR DAMN ARMS DOWN!


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