Sunday, December 01, 2013

John Alexander and singing

I saw this photo of John Alexander, the Artistic Director of the Pacific Chorale, and felt the need to write a post.  I had the great pleasure and honor of singing with John during four brief but wonderful seasons in the Pacific Chorale.  During those four seasons the Chorale sang repeatedly with the Pacific Symphony, as well as the Long Beach Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, and one memorable series of concerts with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa.  In addition to that the Chorale did 3-4 concerts per year on its own program, so we were singing quite a bit.

I learned a great deal from John by simply observing and listening, and this photo reminds me of one of the things that I learned from John and greatly appreciated and admired.  As part of his rehearsal technique, John would "sing" out how he wanted the Chorale to sing.  And when I look at this photograph it brings back to my ear the countless hours of hard work that John required and we as singers gave willingly.  But moreover, this one image shows something that is the key to how John gets the Chorale to sound so good: his mouth.

That may sound odd, but I look at this image and see how John has a full and open mouth, and he was obviously demonstrating something to his singers when this photo was taken.  That is how good choral sound is created.  An open mouth like this, with the entire jaw lowered, allows the sound to be open as well, and not pinched or thin.  It allows for the palate of the mouth to resonate, which in turn, causes the head to resonate, which creates that total warm, clear, round choral tone that John wants from his singers.

Thank you, John, for teaching me more about choral music in four short seasons than I had known before.  Thank you for being a continued source of inspiration, even though I no longer have the honor of singing for you.  Thank you for the young choral directors you've inspired that will carry on this wonderful art.  And thank you for making us work hard to achieve the wonderful sounds you were able to inspire us to sing.

1 comment:

Dan McGowan said...

I sang with (for) John for nearly 4 years at CSUN. He inspired me and "forced" me not to give up at least once during that 4-year stint and I'm forever grateful to him for that.