VALUE OF HONEST CRITICISM
“Frequently the trouble with the young singer is that her friends too often tell her how wonderful she is. This is a hindrance instead of a help. She should always have some one who will criticize her honestly. The singer cannot really hear herself, that is, not until she is well advanced in her work. Therefore she should always have the guidance of a teacher. I never think of giving a program without going through it for criticism. The office of critic is a very difficult one, especially if you are to criticize some one you are fond of. Mr. Maclennan and I try to do it for each other. I assure you it is no easy task to sing a program knowing some one is listening who will not spare you, and will tell you all your faults. I know this is all very salutary, but it is human nature to wish to hear one’s good points rather than the poor ones. I sometimes say: ‘Do tell me the good things I did.’ But he says he does not need to speak of those; I only need to know my faults in order that they may be corrected.
“It is so easy to overdo a little, one way or the other. For instance, you make a certain effect,—it goes well. You think you will make it a little more pronounced next time. And so it goes on, until before you know it you have acquired a definite habit, which the critics will call a mannerism and advise you to get rid of. So the artist has to be constantly on the watch, to guard against these incipient faults.”
Asked what kind of breathing exercises she used, Mme. Easton continued: “No doubt each one has her own exercises for the practice and teaching of breath control. For myself, I stand at the open window, for one should always breathe pure air, and I inhale and exhale slowly, a number of times, till I feel my lungs are thoroughly clear and filled with fresh air. Then I frequently sing tones directly after these long inhalations. A one-octave scale, sung slowly in one breath, or at most in two, is an excellent exercise. You remember Lilli Lehmann’s talks about the ‘long scale’? But the way in which she uses it perhaps no one but a Lehmann could imitate. What a wonderful woman she was—and is! She has such a remarkable physique, and can endure any amount of effort and fatigue. Every singer who hopes to make a success in any branch of the musical profession, should look after the physical side, and see that it is cared for and developed.
“STUDY THE PIANO!”
“If a girl is fond of music, let her first of all study the piano, for a knowledge of the piano and its music is really at the bottom of everything. If I have a word of advice to mothers, it should be: ’Let your child study the piano.’ All children should have this opportunity, whether they greatly desire it or not. The child who early begins to study the piano, will often—almost unconsciously—follow the melody she plays with her voice. Thus the love of song is awakened in her, and a little later it is discovered she has a voice that is worth cultivating. How many of our great singers began their musical studies first at the piano.