DOES THE SINGER HEAR HIMSELF?
This question was put to Mr. Witherspoon, who answered:
“The singer of course hears himself, and with study learns to hear himself better. In fact I believe the lack of this part of vocal training is one of the greatest faults of the day, and that the singer should depend more upon hearing the sound he makes than upon feeling the sound. In other words, train the ear, the court of ultimate resort, and the only judge—and forget sensation as much as possible, for the latter leads to a million confusions.
“Undoubtedly a singer hears in his own voice what his auditors do not hear, for he also hears with his inner ear, but the singer must learn to hear his own voice as others hear it, which he can do perfectly well. Here we come to analysis again.
“The phonograph records teach us much in this respect, although I never have considered that the phonograph reproduces the human voice. It comes near it in some cases, utterly fails in others, and the best singers do not always make the best or most faithful reproductions.”
“The causation of beautiful singing can only be found through a pure and velvety production of the voice, and this is acquired in no other way than by a thorough understanding of what constitutes a perfect beginning—that is the attack or start of the tone. If the tone has a perfect beginning it must surely have a perfect ending.”
Thus Mr. Yeatman Griffith began a conference on the subject of vocal technic and the art of song. He had had a day crowded to the brim with work—although all days were usually alike filled—yet he seemed as fresh and unwearied as though the day had only just begun. One felt that here was a man who takes true satisfaction in his work of imparting to others; his work is evidently not a tiresome task but a real joy. Mrs. Griffith shares this joy of work with her husband. “It is most ideal,” she says; “we have so grown into it together; we love it.”
As is well known, this artist pair returned to their home land at the outbreak of the war, after having resided and taught for five years in London, and previous to that for one year in Florence, Italy. Of course they were both singers, giving recitals together, like the Henschels, and appearing in concert and oratorio. But constant public activity is incompatible with a large teaching practice. One or the other has to suffer. “We chose to do the teaching and sacrifice our public career,” said Mr. Griffith. During the five years in which these artists have resided in New York, they have accomplished much; their influence has been an artistic impulse toward the ideals of beautiful singing. Among their many artist pupils who are making names for themselves, it may be mentioned that Florence Macbeth, a charming coloratura soprano, owes much of her success to their careful guidance.