Caught in a Moment of Preparation


This week – I’m preparing for my vocal exam next Wednesday. Asking questions of myself; how can I better this? Am I using my time effectively?

I recently found myself at an enriching crossroads, where I reached a point in my development and I was unsure where to take my music from there.

I have been singing with the conscious effort of being correct. But I cannot do this when I perform. I need to lose myself in the music that I am performing. I am singing the dots, rather creating a line and sewing the phrase together.

    “Nowadays, we tend to rely on sound rather than shape. But music is not about sound. Sound is simply its material, (as paint is for painting). What music is about is gesture, colour, shape, form and, especially, emotional intensity.” [The New York Times, Rodger Norrington. 2003].

Pascal “paints” his pictures using his photographs in place of paints. The way he uses them makes his work individual and unique and this is what I want from my singing. But maybe not quite this wild ( He He He )

My voice is like paint, but if I don’t involve good technique of brush strokes, or make decisions myself on how I want to paint I’m only copying someone else’s interpretation and not my own.

So I turned off my iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. I lost myself in music such as Debussy and watched master-classes and interviews of idols. e.g.

Barbara Bonney master-classes:

     “You are supposed to like yourself. That’s the thing, you are supposed to like yourself and who you are because if you don’t how can they like you, (you know). So it’s not about saying ‘Oh I am the best in the world’. It is about saying I accept myself, I trust myself. I enjoy being me, I love having my voice. And all I can do is share that with you through the music that someone else has written. And that I have the privileged of singing for you.” – Barbara Bonney.


I need to practise every different option for every phrase: swelling, diminuendo, crescendo, attack, softly float… So when I get to perform I have more ideas to play with. It isn’t about practising and creating a structure that I must follow every time I perform. It is about preparing for every scenario so when I sing from my imagination I can spontaneously react to my emotions at that second rather than thinking.

“You have to be prepared for everything the conductor wants you to do, but on top of that you need to be ready for everything you want to do.” – Barbara Bonney.

It is me who is expressing; it is my imagination; it’s Charlotte’s version of Rusalka, Mimi, Tosca … It is my version of the story and I need to be brave enough to tell it how I feel it should be told at that specific space in time.  I can’t change the notes it’s more about adding more emotional intensity.

It always keeps it interesting; therefore you are not a copy of yourself every time you sing. Every time you sing it is completely fresh. Maria Callas said “I practise, practise, practise, I go on stage, I turn off my brain, and I let it go, I see what happens, I improvise the entire evening.”


This is where I am at with my pieces, I have learnt them, I have practised them and now I need to explore every dynamic option so that when it is my time to perform I can let go and sing from the heart .

77 thoughts on “Caught in a Moment of Preparation

  1. I hope for your exam after all that practice you lose yourself in that perfect moment where everyone in the room disappears — every thought disappears — and when the passion takes over there is only the song and when it ends for a moment — there is only feeling and no words to express the emotion. Good Luck and Have Fun. 😀

  2. I think you have been going the right way about perfecting technique and diction. In a song which has words which are meant to be heard and understood, it is sad when those elements are lost in the attempt to give a ‘fresh’ interpretation. Many singers of varied genres lately have become almost incomprehensible in that quest.

  3. There it is…sing from the heart…it is a learned discipline to care more about what the song says than how it sounds, yet that is what it means to sing from the heart. Commit it first to the mind, then sing it from the heart. Good for you!

  4. Reblogged this on wanderingquilter and commented:
    This young lady is a studen in Glasgow, and has a wonderful voice. as you read her article, you will see what a great grasp she has not only on performing, but on life in general. Thank you, Charlotte.

  5. Great thoughts, Charlotte. Studies of how people become experts show that the ‘practise, practise, practise’ results in chunking – this means that the all that conscious learned stuff becomes compact subconscious nuggets. At the moment you have to bear in mind breath control, posture, pitch, timbre, line, diction and god knows what else, every time you open your mouth to sing. These will became more and more automatic and you will find yourself freezer to let your heart go. It is a difficult to do what you are doing as it is for a baby to learn to talk, all just have to work as persistently as they do.

    I loved the master-class, who was the young soprano? There is the most attractive and very delicate vibrato in her voice, like a soprano Calleja.

    1. Hi Hilary, I am afraid I do not know the Soprano personally. But I agree about the comment you made about her vibrato – the colour provides warmth and a delicateness which is necessary for the role of Mimi in La Boheme.

      That is definitely the next step, to loose myself to the music yet retain all the training in technique I have learnt. One day I’ll succeed in this.

      Best wishes

  6. I think you have to start with the technical and learn the ‘rules’ but only so that you can eventually chuck them all and express yourself from the heart. 🙂

    1. I agree Marey, this is something you can apply to other art forms too! At the moment I am also studying particular styles of composition. At first I thought that it was quite restricting because I couldn’t write from the heart as I had to bear in mind every little rule.

      But it has enabled me to combine these structures in my own compositions, so now I’m slowly starting to see a difference.

      Best wishes

  7. This is such a beautiful post. Thanks for including the Barbara Bonney video; I had never heard her before! I hope you don’t mind – I am practicing hand-lettering, and I’m supposed to copy text that I find inspiring. I’d love to use the sentence that goes, “It is me who is expressing… it is my version of the story…” and play around with it. Thank you for inspiring me today.

  8. I am not expert about singing but from seeing singing contest here in the US (“The Voice”), they also say the same thing here. You sing from your heart basically. You are into the song not just singing it. I think that is true for every thing we do.

    1. Kylie Minogue has just started on the Voice in the UK her personality has made such a change to the show, much more warm and sincere. It will be interesting to see the new mentors advice to their selected artists.

      Best wishes

  9. Barbara Bonney, what a wonderful singer. And, of course, she’s right. I love music that makes an emotional connection. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it does have to contain emotion. I think that is why I love the blues so much. But all art is like that. There must be emotion behind it. But it can’t be just emotion faked an thrown at us just for the sake of emotions.. That’s when things devolve into sentimentality.

    1. Hi Don

      I agree whole-heartedly with your statement. False emotions in fact push your audiences away, similarly with singing loudly just because there is “a forte” (f – loud) on the page. It must be sung with meaning otherwise you are merely blasting your voice at the audience with no direction at all.

      Best Wishes

  10. You do sing from your heart!

    Received the package and listened to your CD. You sound incredible! Will check out the other disks soon. Love the art! I will be framing it.

    Thank you so much. I will do a blog about the gift and you! Best wishes.

  11. Bravo Charlotte ! You are an artist,, you have understand that is necessary to know the rules first and after writting your own rules !! ;-))…..I have learn all the story of Arts, and after I creat my art. Good work and nice day.

      1. Thank you. So gracious & thoughtful. I do not have a lot of time to read, but yours is one of the blogs in my WordPress reader that I often go to for inspiration.

        – Sylvia

  12. Even though I am rock n’ roller, Frank Sinatra is a favorite singer of mine, for though many singers are technically good, what made Frank great was his phrasing. He sang with emotion behind in words. A singer, like an actor, must feel and believe the words.

    1. Hi Terry

      It is all about belief! Do you believe in the words you speak/sing? Do you believe that you are in the scene? There are thousands of questions you must answer in your heart in order to depict a character in a way which draws your audience in and helps them to believe in your performance.

      Frank Sinatra was a fabulous performer in all aspects of his performances. I often watch him on YouTube for inspiration.

      Best wishes

  13. This is fascinating stuff. As a fully qualified shower warbler, as in should never be allowed to sing in the presence of others, I really admire those like you with a true gift, and especially those who work so damned hard at nurturing that gift to share with others. Go girl.

  14. What a fantastic article. You are on the ball!! I write best when I’m half asleep and I think its because my brain is switched off and the words flow uninterrupted through my fingers. I love the painting too. Thanks!

  15. Though music is sometimes written by others as singer/player of instruments you put heart into it to make it your own.
    Fingers crossed. From what I just read you learned a whole lot. Paint with your voice a song that will forever be remembered.
    Keep smiling

    1. I get more nerves for an exam than I do for a big performance! I think it has to do with knowing an audience is behind you wanting you to do well and forgiving your slips, whilst enjoying your performance. Whereas a judge/adjudicator is looking for all your faults and errors 🙁 providing a critique to help you improve and develop .

      But recently I have been told that judges/adjudicators are a just a different kind of audience. They want to see that you can perform without losing your technique and whilst displaying the emotion of the moment.

      Everyone wants you to do well, so give them a performance they’ll enjoy and start trying to forget about the marks. If you think and perform solely the music you’ll do great as ‘correct singing’ can be mindless and fixes your emotions on what you think is right rather than thinking “Why am I singing this phrase…”

      Best wishes

  16. I know very little about opera, but have learned some things about voice from being in choirs. I found the master class clip very interesting though I had no idea of the words sung. The young woman has a beautiful voice.

  17. Hi Charlotte. Some excellent insights here … good advice for anyone. Your singing is first choice of course, but you might consider art and graphic design as your secondary occupation. You are VERY GOOD at either. Have a nice weekend. (Hope you are warmer than we are over here … it’s negative 15 degrees (F) here today with a terrible windchill. But the sun is bright on all the white snow so, at least it’s pretty 🙂

    1. Hi Cheryl, if I couldn’t perform I would definitely have taken fine art or textile design further, I love to spend my down time filling my flat with art and making cards. The weather here in Glasgow at the moment is heavy rain and 7•C ( not sure what that is in Fahrenheit ).

      Best wishes

  18. These are some great thoughts Charlotte. As artists we do have to create things that reflect who we are. That is what gives us an edge to build our own audience. But the first person who should be applauding from the seats should be ourself. If we don’t like what we have created how can we expect anyone else to?

    1. That’s no problem at all Doda, it is taken from a “Music in History” reading I was analysing and it struck me that this answered the puzzle I was trying to crack. My favourite bit is about how sound is merely an artists paint.

      Best wishes

  19. For me, I know I play my best when I’m able to listen or just “observe” myself performing. To not get too judgmental about any given note – just listen to where it leads. Impressionist music and lyrical, slow sections in Spanish guitar music is great for that.
    – M

    1. That’s really interesting! I tend to perform my best when I completely lose myself and for that four minutes I am not in the room, I am transported to another world and it is one of the best pleasures of performing 🙂

      Best wishes

  20. Hi Charlotte! Thank you for visiting and following my Ann Arbor Vegan Kitchen ( blog!! I’m excited to discover your blog too! Really looking forward to seeing more of your upcoming articles!!

    1. Hi Vicki, thank you for popping by. I’m cooking more from scratch this year. I’m not a vegan but it is interesting to see what you can prepare on a restricted shopping basket 😉
      Best wishes

  21. Hi Charlotte, you have always been focused with anything you undertake but your singing lives within you and you have always sang with true emotion often moving some of your audience to tears on some of the sadder renditions and laughter on your lighter pieces so I believe you already have the talent to feel your music and this shows with every performance I have been privileged to watch. Xx

  22. Hi,best of luck for your exams. It’s a really nice post. I feel you one should keep doing what one feels is the right thing, it’s not necessary that everyone would perceive the things the same way. The best part about art is that it’s subjective and it gives value to what you feel. When I was the chairperson of the college committee, I used to take interviews for the selection of singers and dancers. The only question I used to ask them was, are you a performer? or an artist? 😉 🙂

      1. Artist do things for their own creative satisfaction, performer for the satisfaction of his/her audience. 😉 It’s a hard task satisfying both but I think you are doing a great job till now. 😀

        I just wanted to quote this,“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.” —Doris Lessing

      2. There are quite a lot of rules rather than laws in classical music. I am inching my way through and I’m very gratefully getting a place at such a good training Conservatoire.

        Best wishes

    1. You’re welcome Fliss 😉 I have to write lyrics for my song compositions and it’s always great to read inspirational poetry. I just wish I had more time in term time.

      Best wishes

Leave a Reply to Charlotte HoatherCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: