Sophisticated Singing

Do you think the average person knows what sophisticated singing is? Since many people thought that Obamacare was different than the Affordable Care Act, I guess not. The folks who think of boxing as a cultural experience are not probably the same ones who enjoy refined vocalism…….although, perhaps, there are a few who have very broad tastes and manage both.

Sophisticated singing – subtle, versatile, unique, detailed — is hard to find even in places where you would expect it to be. Sometimes at the opera house the singing was so awful it was hard not to laugh. Occasionally in a concert performance the singers’ voices were so stereotyped as to be outrightly boring. I’ve been to cabaret performances where the singer was very impressed with his or her own singing, but unfortunately, no one else shared that opinion. I’ve seen a few Broadway shows where the leads were embarrassingly bad but they were famous, and brought in audiences, so you were expected to tolerate that, for the sake of the good of the show overall (or for the sake of the producer’s profit margins). I have heard dreadful over-singing and seen gross over-performing, mostly by people who had no clue what professional expectations are in their particular art. I could go on.

It is much rarer to find sophisticated vocal and musical expression, but it is out there, in both very public places and in small, out-of-the way places you might not even know exist, in the city and outside in small towns.

I know that there are those with sophisticated palates who can tell you what ingredients are in a dish, and in what proportions, just by tasting it, and those who, through smell and taste alone, can name a wine’s grapes, vintner and maybe even age. There are art critics who know the subtle strokes of authenticity of a painter, or the characteristics of an antique vase. Every area of culture has its devotees and experts. There is a great pleasure in being able to recognize and appreciate refined, elegant, delicate and precise execution of anything and to understand what it takes to create such wonderful expressions of life. Those who know singing only from listening to the Top 40 radio stations and seeing things on YouTube or over the web probably don’t know what they are missing or care. I, however, am very glad when I get to see and hear a performance of great beauty, joy and skill, prepared with thought and care and executed with commitment. It’s a very satisfying feeling.

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