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Musical

Theatre Singing

Scott Harrison
Sing’Theatre Singapore 2018

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‘Legit’/Classical Musical Theatre

Technique, Style and Form

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Who Am I?
•  Scott Harrison BA(Hons) PGCLTHE FHEA FRSA
–  Lecturer in Singing and Musical Theatre, Trinity
Laban Conservatoire London
–  Lecturer in Singing and Musical Theatre, Royal
Conservatoire of Scotland
–  Senior Musical Theatre Consultant, Associated
Studios London
–  Head of Singing and Music, West End MT
–  Consultant Vocal coach for ITV
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Todays Schedule

LEGIT MUSICAL THEATRE
9:30 – 12:30
CONTEMPORARY MUSICAL THEATRE
1:30 – 4:30
POPULAR MUSIC
5:30 – 8:30

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‘Operatic’
‘Golden Age’ Style

Bel Canto Technique


‘Cry’ Quality

Use of Vibrato

Operetta
Rounded Sound

Early 20th Century

Classical Singing

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•  Music then text •  Text then music
•  German ‘Fach’ system •  Character driven casting
•  Oratorio Form – Aria, Recit, •  ‘Book Musical’ style
Chorus storytelling
•  Created out of necessity to •  Created out of singing
be heard over orchestra teaching tradition

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Classical Opera
Modern Opera popularized by: Maria Callas, Anna Netrebko, Luciano Pavarotti,
Placido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Enrico Caruso, Joan Sutherland, Natalie
Dessay, Leontyne Price, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato.

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•  Pier Francesco Tosi –
Observations on the
Florid Song (1743)

1.  Wrote the first ‘complete’ technical guide for the singer including
the importance of Acting, Social Decorum and Entrepreneurship
2.  Was the first pedagogue to insist blending ‘Head’ and ‘Chest’
registers rather than ‘singing with a natural sound’
3.  Technical training outlined the practices of the day including:
Appoggiatura, Messa Di Voce, Trills, Portamento and Passaggi.
4.  Felt that modern musical tastes of his day were tasteless…

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1.  Considered the ‘Father of Voice Science’
2.  Trained as a professional Baritone, and gave up
after some bad reviews after playing Figaro
3.  Taught in Paris and also at the Royal Academy of
Music in London
4.  Invented the Laryngoscope
5.  Book was the first to raise the importance of
‘The Glottis’ and document the movement of
Vocal Folds in action while singing.
6.  He made distinction between 3 ‘registers’
Chest, Falsetto and Head

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•  Soprano – female protagonist, character often
has typical ‘female afflictions’
•  Alto – ‘Witches, Bitches and
Britches’ (sometimes reassigned to Counter
Tenor)
•  Tenor – Romantic male protagonist
•  Bass – Comic relief

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How and Why did Musical Theatre come into being?

Cultural Emergence By Accident?



UK:
British Music Hall
Operetta
Influences from Opera

The Black Crook
USA:
Yiddish Theatre
Vaudville
Showboat
Princess Theatre Shows

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Key Facts:
•  Harry Palmer and Henry C. Jarrett hired a Parisian
ballet troupe to perform at New York Academy of
Music.
•  A fire ruined the academy leaving the ballet troupe
without anywhere to perform.
•  A popular Broadway Theatre called Niblo’s Garden was
ran by actor manager William Wheatley (1816 – 1876)
•  Wheatley was planning on taking a melodrama and
using large production values and music to make it
more commercial
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Key Facts continued:
•  The details are not fully known, but it is believed
Palmer and Jarrett approached Wheatley to
discuss loaning the dancers for his production.
•  Playwright Charles M. Barras originally objected
to having his play adapted in such a way, but was
paid an extra $1500 to agree to the changes.
•  Original production was said to have cost
$25,000 and ran for 474 performances.
•  The opening night had a running time of 5.5
hours!
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The Black Crook 1866

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•  Emerged from new ‘saloon style’ bars in Public
Houses in the 1830s
•  Saloon’s offered live musical entertainment
for a small entrance fee or for inflated drinks
prices for the patrons who attended.
•  Mass movement of people to the cities
increased this kind of leisure activity, as less
people attended ‘Pleasure Gardens’, and
menageries which had previous been popular.
•  Often referred to as ‘Song and Supper’ Rooms

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•  The first British Musical Halls were established officially in 1850 and
the tradition carried through until the early 1960s.
•  The Canterbury Hall was opened in Lambeth in 1852 and was the
first purpose built Music Hall.
•  By 1875 there were 375 Music Halls in Greater London alone.
•  Distinct from regular theatre in that the audience would eat, drink
and join in with the performers throughout the evening.
•  The style of songs changed throughout Music Halls history…
Starting first as well known tunes (such as Pop Goes the Weasel)
they soon made way for more complex stories and lyrics.

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•  A prevailing type of Theatre in the cities of America
which comprised of a mixed bill of entertainment acts
including Singers, Dancers, Burlesque, Magicians, one-
act plays and Minstrels.
•  Audiences were often Mixed Gender, and it was this
that separated it from other forms of entertainment.
•  The halls were alcohol-free.
•  Generally pandered more towards middle-class
audiences
•  Vaudeville often consisted of travelling companies of
performers to various towns.
•  https://youtu.be/vZo4imTt4Og
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•  Jerome Kern collaborated with
Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse
and Oscar Hammerstein II to
create shows for the Princess
Theatre
•  New style of play where the
popular music of the time was
written to be integral in the
development of the drama.
•  The ‘Book Musical’ was born.
•  Nobody Home, Very Good
Eddie, Oh Boy, Leave It To Jane,
Oh Lady Lady, Oh My Dear!

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Legit Technique Overview
•  Text is of highest importance
•  Training in ‘SINGING’ was a singular practice,
however writers needed ‘ACTORS’ to connect
with the characters and stories in the new
Book Musical format.
•  Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass now had a
wider variety of archetypes.

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•  The only ‘legitimate’ singing teachers – Bel
Canto Technique
•  Teachers taught the established knowledge of
the day – Opera = safe
•  Writers crafted songs around the voices they
knew they would get
•  Singers crafted their technique around the
songs they would be given
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•  Breath – Often used the
idea of ‘Rib Reserve’ to find
Oscar Shaw from original cast of Very
Good Eddie
breath for long legato lines.
•  Tonal – Classical Vibrato
and long vowel sounds.
•  Articulation – Much more
precise than Italian or
French Opera… TEXT IS
PARAMOUNT!

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1.  Accent Method Breath
2.  ‘Thin Fold Connection’
3.  Smooth Onsets
4.  Rounded Vowels/Dropped Jaw
5.  High Soft Palate
6.  Weeping/Sobbing/Crying/Whining
7.  Tongue NOT too low (needed to articulate)
8.  Larynx free to move around but relatively LOW
9.  Quality Mix approx 70% Opera – 30% Speech

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Legit Exercises
GROUP EXERCISE

Accent Method Breathing Work

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Legit Exercises
GROUP EXERCISE

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Legit Exercises
GROUP EXERCISE

‘Bottle Exercise’

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Examples

Lets listen to Examples of both Opera and
Musical Theatre Legit singers.

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•  At the end of the 1950s, Musical Theatre was going
through another major transformation.
•  2 world wars, a new political landscape, new developments
in technology, and the passing of several of the seminal
composers from the era including: Jerome Kern (1945),
Cole Porter (1964) and Oscar Hammerstein (1960) allowed
for a new generation of composers and their personal
styles to be imparted on the Book Musical.
•  As well as all this, there was a huge social shift in the 1950s
and 1960s as a response to the wars of the previous 50
years, the baby boomers were coming into their element
and perceptions about race and gender were beginning to
change for the better.

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Martin Luther King Made his famous “I have a Dream”
speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
http://genius.com/Martin-luther-king-jr-i-have-a-dream-annotated
[15/11/2015]

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The Ford sewing machinists strike of Later became the source of the 2014 Musical ‘Made
1968 in Dagenham, London. in Dagenham’ and the 2010 film of the same name.

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•  In 1960 the Old Bailey heard a case against Penguin
Books which was being tried for publishing the book
‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’ (1928 by D.H. Lawrence. The
book was essentially the 1928 version of 50 shades of
grey, with many ‘unprintable’ words. This charge was
brought around by the Obscene Publications Act
brought in a year earlier in 1959.
•  Penguin Books won and this started a movement
towards ending dramatic and literary censorship in the
United Kingdom.
•  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FrVNTPvhGg

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•  Since the 1700s all theatre productions and new scripts had to go
through the scrutiny and obtain a license from the Lord
Chamberlain’s Office – a move designed originally to stop political
satirist from making the crown and government look stupid.
•  By the first half of the 20th Century the Lord Chamberlain’s Office
was seen as the final arbiter in what was ‘morally’ good theatre,
and this was gaining a larger resistance from the artistic world who
wanted to fight against censorship.
•  Several successful prosecutions against individuals in plays which
had not been approved by the LCO in the mid 1960s had gathered a
critical mass of negative public opinion in a decade which many
consider the sexual revolution.
•  The Theatres Act in 1968 finally removed censorship in this way and
allowed theatres to produce material without prior approval.

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•  Better technology meant that the sets, orchestration, costumes and
spectacle improved.
•  The social changes of the era meant that society was more in touch
with realistic perspectives on sexuality and love. This is reflected in
the more realistic depictions of love and relationships in the
musicals of this period.
•  The musical no longer NEEDED to be comedic… People coming to
the theatre were happy to see the book musical as being a darker
entity and so they did not need their happy endings.
•  Music continued to follow the pop trends of the day (as it had done
before this era) which allowed the definition of the Musical Theatre
sound to widen
•  However, many composers from this era still wanted to stay true to
the roots which had been laid by previous composers regarding
sound.

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Format cont…
•  Many plots were formed around realistic
situations which were familiar to the middle
class audience who would have attended:
•  Workplace
•  Family Life
•  Retelling of classic literature
•  Events in recent history (Second World War etc…)
•  Not all musicals from this era can be
considered “Book Musicals”…
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Types of Musicals
•  Book Musical
•  Concept
•  Verismo/Epic Musical
•  Revue
•  Jukebox Musical
•  Rock Opera

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Composers and Writers from the Era

Frank Loesser Meredith Wilson


Dorothy Fields Charles Strouse
Bock and Harnick Cy Coleman
Jerry Herman Jule Styne
Lionel Bart Mitch Leigh
Neil Simon Kander and Ebb
Burt Bacharach Stephen Sondheim

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Post 1975
•  The Rise of Webber/Rice and Boublil and Schoenberg
•  Epic/Verismo Theatre requiring an essence of legit, sometimes called
‘contemporary legit’ to heighten drama.
•  In contrast the ‘Concept Rock Musical’ of JCS, and shows such as Joseph
and Evita inspired by Pop and Latin music, requires singers to diversify.
•  Women’s rights continue to grow and their place in society starts to
solidify.
•  This is reflected in roles such as:
–  Eva Peron
–  Mrs Johnson
–  Dot
–  English Girl (Song and Dance)
–  Kim
–  Ti Moune

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Rock and Pop Musical
•  The success of early concept rock shows such as
Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair paved the way for
a number of shows in the late 80s, 90s and 00s.
–  Smokey Joe’s Café
–  The Who’s Tommy
–  Contact
–  Mamma Mia
–  We Will Rock You
–  RENT

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Contemporary Technique Overview
Rock/Pop + Verismo/Epic =


Raise the level of spectacle in line with the
technological advances

Shows continue to be designed around popular
music culture

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Contemporary Technique
•  More speech, less line!
•  Full voiced sounds more
predominant, particularly in women
to show strength and independence.
•  Development of contemporary ‘Belt’
Quality
•  ‘Belt’ develops into a musical style
also!
•  Complex rhythm and speech
patterns
•  Contemporary ‘legit’ requires
technical adjustments for the singer

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GROUP EXERCISE
Contemporary Exercises


1.  Comfortable speaking
pitch or semi-tone below
speaking pitch.
2.  Uh-Oh – Concerned
3.  Extend the vowels

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1.  Find ‘thin fold’ connection within your
Modal/Chest register.
2.  Add desired resonance (such as Twang)
3.  Find desired larynx height
4.  Check breath is not excessive

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1.  Find your Lyrical Modal
2.  Allow the soft palate to release slightly
3.  ‘Wail’ like a new born child (Oral NOT Nasal)
4.  Slowly raise pitch trying to maintain Lyrical
Modal through range in a Wail

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1.  Belting is controlled
shouting and perfectly
safe.
2.  Take a short ‘surprise’
breath
3.  Lift larynx
4.  Elongate neck line
5.  Ground the body
6.  Small Glottal Onset
7.  Add Twang to taste
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Lets talk about ‘Mix’…

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