Singing as Sport

How about considering singing as a sport? I think singing shows could do well to have a “voice over” of performances like they do at the Olympics, with the TV commentators.

Commentator #1: OK, folks, this cadenza coming up, with all the melismas, is a 3.5 in difficulty. If she does it in one breath, she might get all the points, but if she has to stop in the middle, she will lose some for that.

Here it comes. (We listen.) Oh! She cracked the high note! That will cost her 1 point and may put her behind Contestant #4, who just came in with a total score of 47.6 out of the 50 possible. (We listen again). Wow! That was the longest riff I have ever heard! She must have gone on for at least 90 seconds there! That will certainly redeem her from the lost points of the crack.

Commentator #2: That’s right, Bob. Contestant #5 has a reputation for dramatic variances of her phrasing and high notes. The phrasing is always her strength but about half the time her high notes are not what they should be, sometimes going all the way to not coming out at all. She’s been working on that with her voice coach, but when she’s under pressure, she seems to lose some control.

Commentator #1: OK, here comes the big finish. (We listen). That was a bit disappointing. There wasn’t much volume there and the last note didn’t really sound open or free.

Commentator #2: Yes, Bob. I agree. I think her throat is getting tired and starting to constrict. That last note was slightly grabbed and I thought maybe it might also crack, like the high note did. It will be interesting to see how she does.

(We wait).

Commentator #1: OK, here are the scores: 40.6, 43.7, 41.8, 44.5 and 43.0. That puts her in second place! Amazing. The pressure is on now for Contestant #6!

OK, I know. It’s crazy. But, really, some of these competitions aren’t far from that. Imagine a group of opera singers standing on stage, all singing “Vissi D’Arte”, one after the other, with the commentators explaining what it was in each phrase that was difficult or required a certain kind of execution. The public might learn a lot and develop an appreciation for something they don’t get exposed to or ever have a chance to study.

My point, really, is that the physical training for singing is closer to being a sport than to any other activity. If you don’t have the coordination, the strength, flexibility, stamina and extended behavior that high level professional singing demands, you will not be able to express very much of anything beyond ordinary conversational topics. Learning other things like languages, diction, phrasing and fine adjustments in the way we shape vowels, is different from learning to control the sound itself for its own sake.

If we ever figure that out, it might be that we could give points for “school figures” but that we would have to measure that against the “artistic content”. Don’t laugh. Figure skating was an activity long before it was ever “scored” in a competition!


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