Saturday, March 7, 2009

Singers with Sore Throats: Beyond "Normal" Remedies

After numerous long rehearsals for the Brahms Requiem performance, my throat is not doing so well. It dries out especially after we sing Movement VI, which is very vivace and fiercely fortissimo. Not to mention, I have had somewhat of a sore throat this past week, which is causing my voice to crack a bit. What great timing with the concert tonight, and a singing test this coming Thursday in my Music Therapy Skills class.

It is hard to know who to listen to when hydrating by drinking lots and lots of water is recommended by some, and frowned upon by others. Luckily, I know of some unique, and somewhat out of the ordinary techniques that work quite well for throat misfortune...

Lipgloss might sound like a silly remedy for singing difficulties, but it can be truthfully helpful, especially if your mouth dries out easily. When your mouth dries out, your lips dry out. They then stick together, which makes it hard to sing. I find, contrary to popular belief, that all lipglosses are not sticky, and that lipgloss often helps to moisten the lips.

I recommend CoverGirl Wetslicks Amazemint Lipgloss. It's laden with Crest Peppermint Oil, which not only provides a "minty breath sensation," but a solution to respiratory problems. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which numbs your throat when contained in throat lozenges. Menthol in lipgloss, however, provides an aroma that carries up to your nasal passage. This aroma, in turn, makes it easier to breath, and thus easier to sing.

You may wonder where I came up with this crazy idea of using lipgloss to help me out when singing. Well, I'd say I was inspired at her Toronto show on August 27th, 2005, when Tori Amos pulled some lipgloss out of her piano, and told us women in the audience: "Even on stage you need lubrication, girls."

On stage, Tori also drinks what I refer to as "magical lemonade" to rehydrate herself. This soothing and refreshing potion also known as "Duncanade," named after Tori's former chef, Duncan Pickford, is similar to an electrolyte replenisher, and keeps her drooling throughout the show. Here's the recipe:

Start with 2 L. water
2 lemons, chopped, seeded and pithed (1 whole lemon per L. of water)
Blend with 1 1/2 L. water
Strain and discard pulp
Blend that with 10-12 oz. honey that's been blended with 1/2 L. water
Add the remaining 1 L. water
Add ~ 4 pinches of salt (1 pinch for every 1/2 L. water -- more if you sweat a lot)
24 drops of essential lemon oil (6 for every 1/2 L. water)
1/4 t. cinnamon
Strain again

This magical lemonade works wonders for me. The honey in it feels smooth going down your throat, and best of all, provides instant salivation. Duncanade is also extremely tasty -- not too sweet, and not too sour.

Lipgloss and this magical lemonade are just two solutions for singers with sore throats. I recently came across some interesting information on the benefits of pineapple juice for singing -- pretty juicy info, if you ask me! Also, if you're interested in additional guidance, be sure to check out Amber's latest post on natural remedies for sore throats.

Despite how my throat's been feeling, these remedies give me confidence that my performance tonight will go smoothly. I encourage any scratchy-throated singers to try out the lipgloss method, or brew up a batch of Tori's magical lemonade -- I'd love to hear how it benefits you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Brahms' Requiem: A night out at the Symphony

Tomorrow night at 8:00 PM a triumphant rendition of Brahms' German Requiem will sound throughout Chrysler Theatre, located in the St. Clair Centre for the Arts. The University of Windsor Singers and Women's Chamber Choir will join the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in this delightful, classical performance that blends nostalgia with a hope for wholeness:

"Brahms’ bold and poignant German Requiem lovingly embraces remembrance while echoing a profound desire for completion."
Maestro John Morris Russell will lead chorus, orchestra, and audience alike through Johannes Brahms' seven movements. The voices of competition winning soloists Miriam Khalil (soprano), and Tyler Duncan (baritone) will soar throughout the theatre.
A pre-concert talk titled Instrumentally Speaking will prelude the Brahms' at 7:00 PM, followed by a rendition of The Unanswered Question, a short orchestral work by Charles Edward Ives.

There are a few tickets still available starting at only $13, so I encourage you to bring your friends and family, and enjoy a night out at the Symphony!

As a recent member of the University Singers, this will be my first time singing in front of such a large crowd. At the end of November we did perform in A Festival of Christmas at Assumption Church, but Chrysler Theatre is a much larger venue, seating 1,200 -- I'm nervous, yet excited!

Being a part of the University Singers has been a fabulous experience thus far. Our group gathers for "class" every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 - 12:50 PM, and is directed by Jeffrey Walker. Although students receive a half credit for each semester, Singers is not your typical academic class. Rather, it is a hands-on, practical opportunity through which I continue to improve my site-reading, vocal, and listening skills. I recommend it not to those looking for an Arts credit, but for those who yearn for dedication and accomplishment.

We rehearsed the Brahms' for the first time with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday night, and again Thursday. Chrysler Theatre presents a whole new realm of sound -- much more crisp and resonant than room 126! Our final three and a half hour dress rehearsal is tonight, and we will be doing a run through of the lengthy piece in its entirety.

Preparing to perform Brahms' German Requiem has been quite an experience, and, at the sound of the last trumpets, one well worth it to be part of something so grand.

Music in a click?

Some of you may have read about my adventure to some of Toronto's used record shops. Recently, I’ve been thinking about why it is important to me to have physical copies of CDs on hand. I always have a ton of fun when I go out and look for new music to buy, and have I’ve come up with a few incentives that I hope will encourage you get out there and make the most out of your music purchases.

Quality: One major problem with digital music files such as MP3s and M4As is that they are compressed. Even files with bit rates as high as 320kbps do not meet the quality of CDs. FLAC files are the highest digital format available, but they are rarely up for sale. FLAC stands for “Free Lossless Audio Codec,” meaning that the files are compressed without any loss in quality. Interestingly enough, when FLACs are found for sale, it’s never somewhere like the iTunes store. Rather they’re offered on the artist’s website, and not all artists will offer such a deal. Thus while good quality does exist in the digital world, it’s a fact that the most convenient way to good quality is to buy the CD, or if you’re looking for even better quality, the vinyl!

Special Features: You miss out on lots of fun things when you purchase music online! A lot of albums now come with stickers, posters, or other goodies. Also, some CDs are embedded with cool technology. Not only does this provide an incentive for purchase, but it provides something interactive for fans on top of the music. Consider Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero -- when it’s warm, the CD changes colour to reveal a binary code that, when translated into ASCII, leads to a website. Pretty hot!

Collectible: Fans are always happy to come across a promo CD or single from their favourite artist. Sure, you can download rare b-sides on Limewire, but that sort of stuff is often not for sale in digital format. If it’s new, perhaps iTunes might offer a certain track for a limited time, but even so, it’s not the same as having that precious, limited edition single in your hands. Plus, if you have a rare collectible, and are lucky enough to meet your favourite artist, what better item to have autographed?

So, next time you think about paying 99 cents for a new song on iTunes, forget it! Physical albums are much more interactive, and, with digital, you’re not getting your money’s worth. There are so many more opportunities when you have the music in your hands!