<< -- 2 -- Roderic Dunnett SING ENGLISH SONG
Varcoe's forays into the byways of repertoire light a beacon for fellow-professionals
-- Purcell, Arne (both familiar enough), then Thomas Linley, via S.S. Wesley
and Sterndale Bennett to what Frank Howes hailed, in a riposte to
that German adage, as the English Musical Renaissance : heralded by Parry
and Stanford, the fruitful era of Somervell, Delius, Butterworth, Gurney,
Quilter, Warlock and Grainger.
Varcoe's intelligent approach to text, both broad-based and specific,
makes Sing English Song a valuable reference work for the amateur
singer, for members of choirs and choral societies, for oratorio performers,
for Lieder singers, for young college students and for even school-age
aspirants to university choral scholarships and/or a career in music.
It has an added value for native speakers of English whose origins lie
outside Britain, whether in the USA, Canada, Australasia or South Africa,
and for aspiring singers whose first tongue is not British, be they German,
French, Slavonic or Italian speaking, Chinese or Japanese : indeed, it really
deserves to be widely translated as well.
The entire first half of the book is riddled with useful advice, both
commonsense and technical, on the way a singer should approach English poetry.
Varcoe pays special attention to the elusive gradations of what he terms
'the vowel continuum' in English, to the vexed problems of English dipthongs,
the aspirate and glottal stop, to nebulous English semi-consonants that
are a ready trap for foreign singers and which all too often, even today,
get incorrectly Italianised, to the implementation of ritenuto, accelerando
and rubato, and to issues of emphasis (whether arising from accentuation
or meaning). Context is crucial : he constantly cites well-chosen, and often
brain-teasing, examples, before offering a solution. Such guidance is simply
invaluable to those who face the bewildering inconsistencies in English
which Romance, Slav, Germanic and even Hungarian generally lack.
Copyright © 26 November 2000
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
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