How is your breathing?

Mine is dreadful.  I am always taking a breath in the middle of phrases when singers around me seem to be carrying on regardless.  And last week’s rehearsal, with the soloists adding their glory to our singing, showed me up really badly.

For example, I noticed that in a piece where I could just about manage two bars’ singing before gasping for breath, the soloists were typically singing for four, five or even six bars, apparently effortlessly and without any strain on their bodies.

How do they do it?

Then Anne and I went to hear the Sydney Philharmonia Choir sing JS Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Great C Minor Mass (sub-plot – is MWC really good enough to sing music like this – we are? wow!!) and the soloists there showed me up even more, only I was not actually singing – well, maybe just very, very sotto voce, under my breath. Sarah Macliver, Fiona Campbell and David Greco (yes, the same David Greco who has sung with MWC) effortlessly filled the huge cavern of the SOH Concert Hall with bar after bar of delightfully resonant sound, sometimes in long flowing phrases and sometimes in florid repeating runs up and down the vocal register.  And all without apparently taking a breath in the middle of a phrase.

How do they do it?

Even more amazing is the story of Charity Tilleman-Dick, an American singer who has just died at the young age of 35.  She had embarked on a career in opera when she was diagnosed with a condition which required a double-lung transplant.  While she was re-learning how to, amongst other things, breathe, the new organs failed and she had to have a second transplant.  She recovered both her health and her career, which lasted until her premature death.  

Click here if you would like to read more of her story and hear her sing – yes, with uninterrupted, long, flowing lines showing that she really did learn how to breathe again.  Quite an inspiration to those of us who are challenged in the breathing department.