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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Vocals

Monday YouTube Fix: Lisa Hannigan

Andrew Hitz

Last night, my wife and I saw a performance by the Irish singer Lisa Hannigan here in Washington DC.  It was simply put the greatest vocal performance I've ever witnessed and that includes the likes of Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, and many other famous singers.  We were both truly stunned. In fact, when I looked at my wife after the very opening song she exhaled as if she had been holding her breath the entire time.  I then realized that I too had been almost scared to breathe.  The music was so ethereal and the message of the song so piercing that to interrupt it with even a breath seemed inappropriate.  The beauty, resonance, and character of Lisa's voice is impossible for me to put into words.  There is a stunning innocence with a simultaneous grit that takes your breath away.

The worst note ending of her performance was quite possibly better than the best I've ever played in my career.  Every note was hand delivered to the next with an attention to detail left the audience speechless.  I was a better musician by the end of the evening, simply by being present.  It was a master class in every sense of the word.

When people say there is no money in music I can't completely agree.  When you sing or play an instrument to the level of Lisa Hannigan you will make a living performing.  Period.  I do not know of a single exception.  She is a breathtaking talent that you should see perform at all costs.  Below is a clip from the wonderful Tiny Desk Concert series from NPR.  I think you will hear what I mean in the very first tune.





Monday YouTube Fix: Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Mark O'Connor & Edgar Meyer

Andrew Hitz

I guess this clip is predictably awesome.  I don't care what these four musicians are playing, if they are playing together it is going to be special.  Even 'Hush Little Baby'! As people who are at the absolute top of their profession, all four of these guys are used to being the center of musical attention.  Yet in this clip, each one is both contributing and not even remotely over-stepping their role within the ensemble.  This is unheralded yet imperative quality in any musician.

This is such a simple version of an incredibly simple tune yet there is something very special about it.  Oh to have been in the audience for this performance.



Going to the Source

Andrew Hitz

No matter which instrument we play, we are all trying to imitate the same thing: the human voice. While it is imperative that we all listen to great examples of people playing our own instrument, it is equally important to listen to great vocalists.  Whether it is a classical singer like Dawn Upshaw or a more pop oriented singer like Lisa Hannigan, analyzing their performances is like a master class.  Everything just sounds so natural.  There is so much there to emulate.

Making music sound natural is the key to everything. In fact, the folks in this business who make tubas or clarinets sound as natural as the Upshaws and Hannigans of this world almost always end up making a lot of money doing it.