“The singer should breathe as easily and naturally as animals and people do when they sleep,” he began. “But we are awake when we sing; correct breath control, therefore, must be carefully studied, and is the result of understanding and experience. The best art conceals art. The aim is to produce tones with the utmost ease and naturalness, though these must be gained with patient toil. A child patting the keyboard with his tiny hands, is unconsciously natural and at ease, though he does not know what he is doing; the great pianist is consciously at ease because he understands principles of ease and relaxation, and has acquired the necessary control through years of training.
“The singer acquires management of the breath through correct position and action of his anatomy. The body is held erect, chest active; the network of abdominal muscles constantly gain strength as they learn to push, push, push the air up through the lungs to the windpipe, then through the mouth and nasal cavities.” Mr. Bispham illustrated each point in his own person as he described it.
“When the manner of taking breath, and the way to develop the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, is understood, that is only a beginning. Management of the breath is an art in itself. The singer must know what to do with the breath once he has taken it in, or he may let it out in quarts the moment he opens his mouth. He has to learn how much he needs for each phrase. He learns how to conserve the breath; and while it is not desirable to hold one tone to attenuation, that the gallery may gasp with astonishment, as some singers do, yet it is well to learn to do all one conveniently can with one inhalation, provided the phrase permits it.
“I give many vocalizes and exercises, which I invent to fit the needs of each pupil. I do not require them to be written down, simply remembered. At the next lesson quite a different set of exercises may be recommended. I also make exercises out of familiar tunes or themes from operatic airs. It will be found that technical material in the various manuals is often chosen from such sources, so why not use them in their original form. Thus while the student is studying technic he is also acquiring much beautiful material, which will be of great value to him later on.
THE STUDY OF REPERTOIRE
“Repertoire is a wide subject and offers a fascinating study to the vocal student. He must have both imagination and sentiment, also the ability to portray, through movement and facial expression, the various moods and states of feeling indicated by words and music.
“In taking up a new role, I read the story to get at the kernel or plot, and see what it means. The composer first saw the words of poem or libretto, and these suggested to him suitable music. So the singer begins his work by carefully reading the words.