Updated: Nov 14, 2021
I spoke with my dear friend and voice teacher Jesus R the other day about the kind of songs a singer for hire does at funerals and weddings. I started thinking that repertoire really shapes a musician.
For a funeral I know which one I would pick for mine (the sad one), but most people have never heard that version, plus it’s not arranged for a soloist. I’d have some legwork to do to make it mine, which I do plan on since I really like it. Listening to recordings of some of the recommended songs like Panis Anjelicus, the Lord’s Prayer, and Ave Maria reminded me of how little fondness I have for the Classical style on the whole.
But those kind of gigs appeal to me: pull on a pretty gown and go sing some set songs at a church. So I’d better meet the listeners’ classical expectation, right? Tons of vibrato? I don’t think so. It’s just not me. Some tasteful subtle vibrato sure.
One of the biggest takeaways from the Singing Success retreat I got was that personality and veracity are what make a great memorable singer, not necessarily a golden tone, though that’s the ideal. Consider someone like Bob Dylan. He is who he is and people love that. Everyone won’t be your biggest fan, in fact you must expect that some people will just hate you for whatever reason. Don’t be surprised by it, but don't change for them. There is a niche for all of us- a group of people who we will resonate with that will love and support our art. They’re out there somewhere, and it’s our job to be our best selves and produce as much music and emotion for them as our lives will fit.
The tricky part is finding who we are in the first place and what songs best suit us. My plan is to sing the classical melodies with my own true spirit, maybe tailor the tempo a bit. I will seek proper and correct pronunciation. I’m working on a more balanced and resonant voice, listening to artists from all sorts of genres now and can hear that certain something I seek in them all, but now the trial is to make that happen in my own voice. Consistently. The person who has a sound I enjoy in classical songs is Lexi Walker.
So my homework from my friend to start is to learn about 5 or so songs for weddings, 3 ish songs for funerals. He even said it’s smart to prepare for a worst case scenario where you must sing the song a capella with nothing! He is a pro!