Monday, December 03, 2012

Letting go of limiting beliefs

I could listen to Bach all day.  And now I believe I could sing it all day too.  But first I had to stop saying that is was something I couldn't do. 

As singers, we do this:  we love a piece and we get a score and sing through it, just for fun, whether it is a piece that would work professionally for us or not.  Every light lyric soprano has sung "Vissi d'arte" with great relish late at night in a practice room.  Just because it is wonderful, and there is no reason to deprive ourselves of the sensation of singing that transcendent collection of notes just because you never be hired to do the role!  And that is how I started with Bach.  I love St. John, St. Matthew, and Magnificat.  I love actually all of it.  So I started singing through. 

Year after year I took out my Bach scores, and sang through the arias, experiencing various levels of frustration at my limited ability to negotiate the various melismas and awkward jumps.  At one point in my vocal development, I believed there was no reason for a lyric soprano to have coloratura, and stopped working on flexibility nearly altogether.  I look at that as lost time.  And that was probably the origin of my limiting belief about Bach.  

Not long ago I realized that if I had coloratura when I was younger, there is no reason I shouldn't have it now.  There should be no losses of ability as my technique grows, only gains.  So, with the help of my teacher, I set out to rediscover it.  As a result, I've gotten all my notes above the staff back in shape as well.  In the spring, I decided to stop saying there are things I can't sing.  It was silly.  Maybe Wagner would be a wildly unrealistic choice for me right now, but I will not say I can't sing it.  Actually, I truly believe there are a lot of things I can do and will do that I never imagined were possible.  We can do hard things.  So I decided to take out a couple of Bach arias and work them up for an audition.  Lo and behold, I got hired.  My experiment was working. 

In the age of the Baroque specialist, sometimes it seems like it makes sense to leave this music to them! But I realized yesterday that in a large space with winds and strings, even Bach requires excellent resonance and a full but flexible voice that cuts through the space is welcome.  I am always happiest to be enveloped by the sound of singer rather than having to strain to hear them.  And in the end it is really just about singing the music as beautifully and truly to the composer's wish as possible.  If you can sing it without sounding effortful, and it gives you joy, why not take it out for a spin?  

I still have lots of limiting beliefs lurking-- when they arise, I've made up my mind to stop.  Just STOP. Don't try, just do it.  Replace the belief that you can't do or sing something with encouraging phrases about what you can do.  You may just be surprised. 

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