BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC APRIL 6TH, 2005
This week I was confronted with a nasty flu virus and, originally, was not able to write a Master Class evaluation for the Top 9. However, feeling a little rejuvenated over the past 24 hours, I thought I would submit comments based on my memory of the Top 9 performances. I never tape the shows, as I think it hinders the objectivity of the evaluation. First impressions are essential, I feel, and repeated viewings of the performances are inclined to be too analytical. No performance is perfect, but some mistakes are more evident on first impression and they form the basis of my critiques each week.
That being said, I would like to add that musical theatre is a special art form and requires impeccable attention to detail. The songs are classic, brilliantly written compositions and, for the judges to assume otherwise is absolutely ludicrous and laughable. It takes a very special talent to perform these song selections and, although some of the singers rose to the challenge, many others fell very short of ever seeing their name in the “neon lights of Broadway”
To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below and, voila, with the touch of a click, you will be forwarded to your favorite singer’s link! Enjoy and please let me know what you think!
Bo Bice “Corner Of The Sky” from “Pippen”
Strengths: As always, Bo, you have a wonderful way of injecting your soulful rock style into every genre of music. You moved with professional ease on the stage and it is always such a joy to see a performer in his element. You command the stage and, even though you were not as familiar with this genre of music, I felt that you presented the song with a genuine and heartfelt performance.
Critique: Bo – first of all, you admitted that the genre was completely foreign to you and that’s fine. However, you segued with the comment that you basically selected the song randomly, as if it didn’t really matter – since the genre was not suitable to your rock style.
However, this is far from the truth! There were numerous songs from which to choose and, barring clearance rights, you would have been more than outstanding in this category with the correct song choice. Songs from the musicals “Hair”, “Rent”, “Godspell”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, – to name but a few – would have been fantastic.
“Corner Of The Sky” had me worried because the original version is a tenor solo; therefore, I was concerned about the key selection for your baritone range. I knew you would have to select a lower key and, quite frankly, the lower version doesn’t resonate as well as the higher one. The melodic line sits for an extended period of time in one area of the singer’s range.
However the original tenor key allows the upper voice to efficiently permeate the orchestration. Your voice sounded muddied and almost lost in the lower keyed melodic line. Your voice would have been better served with a key one tone higher than what was selected for the Top 9 showcase. Something to think about, Bo! Watch your key selections. If the melodic line sits too low, then incorporate more “head tone” in to the lower range, for a brighter resonant vocal sound.
Additionally, when you perform these Broadway lyrics, it is very important to communicate the text in a very nuanced and expressive manner. This is what great singing – not just Broadway singing – is all about and I felt that you were not as successful as you have been in previous weeks.
I know you can communicate more efficiently; you have proven to be very effective in this regard when you sing the rock genre. Therefore, you really need to allow the vocal technique to showcase and strengthen your dynamic range – the “louds” and “softs,”-in order to add greater depth and meaning to all your performances – not just the rock performances.
Also, be very careful to secure your vocal projection with the proper technique. Reference last week’s critique for hints and suggestions. Good luck Bo!
Anthony Federov ” Climb Every Mountain ” from “The Sound Of Music”
Strengths: Anthony – I have to say that I really liked this song choice for your performing style. Because it is associated with the “Mother Abbess” character in the “Sound Of Music”, it is only natural to associate this song with a female singer, namely a mezzo-soprano. However, this really worked and, as well, the lyrics really addressed your personal artistic and spiritual vision. Good for you. This song was a courageous effort and I applaud you for this, Anthony.
The key was the best you could possibly choose, as this song navigates a very wide singing range. It’s a tough call! The singer must have a very strong mid – range and for a male singer, this range is more suitable to a baritone – which you are not. However, you have some very good technical training in your background, Anthony, and you used this technique judiciously throughout this number. Good work, once again!
Critique: Anthony – it would interest me to know if, prior to selecting ”Climb Every Mountain, you had the opportunity to choose from a wider selection of songs. As I said above, I really enjoyed your vocal interpretation of this song, however, that being said, there are so many songs for the tenor voice in the world of Broadway musicals. The list is endless, really! For instance, you and Bo should have switched song selections, as the range of the Bo’s song was thoroughly suited to the registration of your voice and vice versa.
However, you didn’t and so, we must work with the performance at hand. Once again, I felt that your voice was very strained and tense throughout this number. Your throat was audibly constricted and your mouth and jaw followed the same rigid path. You have to remember to keep your throat open, Anthony, and really allow the diaphragmatic breathing muscles to support and enhance your vocal sound.
Additionally, remember to support your lower vocal range more efficiently. You have to allow the muscles to flex and anchor your lower vocal range in the beginning of this number, as we had real problems hearing you above the orchestration.
Remember – a voice well supported will resonate more efficiently than a loud, poorly supported voice. The voice floats on the air and enjoys more carrying power when the technique, in combination with the relaxed facial features, is in perfect harmony. Incorporate a lot of head tone into your lower voice for additional brilliance. What a difference this will make!
This is why you had problems with your upper voice toward the end of this song, Anthony. The correct technical support was not evident from the beginning and then, when you needed to sing into the upper range, the physical and mental preparation were not prepared for the challenge.
As a result, there were a few minor pitch problems that would have been rectified with a more relaxed facial demeanor. Hope all this technical mumbo jumbo assists you Anthony. I love your voice and miss the beautiful and rich presence that was so evident in the early stages of the competition.
Good luck next week! And don’t let the Idol judges cloud your perception of your innate vocal ability and artistry.
Constantine Maroulis ” My Funny Valentine” from “Babes In Arms”
Strengths: Well, this was an interesting and seductive performance this week, Constantine. You love the camera don’t you? (chuckle) Actually, I think it is very entertaining to watch you chase and pursue the American Idol camera. You know how to play the game, Constantine, and you play it well!
This week, as in last week, you sang with fantastic bel canto style – even and seamless throughout your range and with vowels sustained with clarity and purity. This was a great song choice for you, Constantine, and you innovatively added all the necessary nuances for this song. All the expressive shadings were just excellent, even if your lower range did not resonate as efficiently as I know it could.
Your voice has a very distinctive timbre and, although your vibrato can cause you pitch problems from time to time, this week you managed to control this negative element. You utilized your vibrato judiciously and wisely and allowed this element to augment and increase your expressive and dynamic range.
Generally, your diction was crystal clear and the consonants distinctly articulated, without sounding excessive for this style of music – again another technique that is grounded in your theatrical experience. You communicate your lyrics as you would speak them and, as a result, the communication and delivery of this song was outstanding.
You bring a very special dimension to the American Idol stage, Constantine, and are one of the few performers, I feel, that can change his or her modus operandi from performance to performance. Good for you! Bravo and congratulations on a splendid rendition of this great classic!
Critique: The first thing you have to understand, Constantine, is this: the exaggerated theatrics necessary for effective stage performances do not translate effectively to the television camera.
All the intensity and emphatic concentration must be scaled down a few notches when you are performing for a televised audience. The entire audience is up close and personal when we view you or any performer on television and, therefore, the exaggerated movements and stares and mannerisms that are necessary to reach a large audience in a theatre or auditorium must be minimized.
Now, I know you have to consider your live studio audience, but remember, millions of people are viewing you from their television set and that translates into millions of votes. With your extensive theatrical background, the discipline and concentration are to be applauded; however, be very careful that you adjust your persona for the television camera.
The camera adds – always remember that – so, you must try to adopt a more relaxed approach in your performances over the next few weeks that will appear more natural and genuine on the television screen.
Also, be very careful to support your lower range as efficiently as possible. I loved the change in nuance as the song progressed; however, your vocal sound has to be just as resonant in your lower range as in the upper. Remember to support and “place” your sound in the correct position of your vocal masque – the area of the mouth. Feel the sound resonating in this area and, as well, implement more head tone.
Also, enunciation of the consonants is a key element to ensure that the vocal sound maintains more energy and the lyrics are clear and precise. Never let this process take a back seat when you sing softer or when you sing into the baritone range of your voice, as your vocal sound will disappear and become inaudible.
This was the biggest technical problem with your performance this week, Constantine, so work hard to alleviate this technical glitch in your future performances.
Anwar Robinson “If Ever I Would Leave You” by “Camelot”
Strengths: Anwar –this was a fantastic selection for you and you performed this beautiful Broadway composition with exceptional style and artistry. You wisely selected an appropriate key that would highlight your naturally resonant upper range!
Originally composed for a Robert’s Goulet’s classically structured baritone voice, this song has a wonderful melodic line that positively allows the singer’s voice to soar with an expressive and communicative singing style. And, this is what you did Anwar! Your voice was truly enhanced and energized by the melodic score of this song and, yet, you added your distinct interpretative elements throughout the performance of this song.
Additionally, your technical skills were reinforced because you were singing in your naturally resonant vocal range. You exhibited outstanding diaphragmatic technique, Anwar, and your phrasing and bel canto sustaining ability were absolutely brilliant. Congratulations and welcome back to the show, Anwar!
Critique: This week was a come back week for you, Anwar, and it is wonderful to see that you are taking the advice of the judges and selecting songs that are key and style appropriate for your voice. However, I would like to continue on my obsessive path of encouraging you to continue to develop your technical range-in particular your lower register.
As I said last week, you need to accurately assess and correct the technical problems in your lower register, as it will enhance your ability to sing with greater depth and flexibility in your future performances. Patience is essential. This skill does not happen overnight and is not likely to happen during the course of this American Idol season.
However, I feel that you are not that far removed from discovering your baritone soul. You just need to focus your vocal sound in your vocal masque and add the very important “head tone” vocal element for additional brilliance and pitch perfect security.
Scott Savol “The Impossible Dream ” from “Man Of La Mancha”
Strengths: Scott –week after week, I have complimented you on your naturally pure vocal instrument. You possess a wonderful vocal gift and you are one of the few singers, actually, that have selected songs that have been consistent in style and tonality for your vocal instrument.
This week was no exception. This was a superb song selection for you, Scott, and the key spoke to your special ability to resonate your voice freely in the tenor range. Like Anwar’s selection, this song was originally written for a baritone singer. However, because the melodic line of the song rests for a great deal of time in the baritone’s upper range, then this song translates well to a singer with tenor capabilities.
Additionally, you injected the appropriate emotion and passion into this moving song. The lyrics are fabulous, aren’t they? Good choice for you Scott! Congratulations!
Critique: Scott – as I said last week, you must make a concerted effort to examine your posture when you perform on stage. In the interest of space and time, please refer to previous Master Class articles to assist you in correcting this technical problem.
Additionally, you throat was painfully constricted this week and, as a result, your voice could not resonate as freely as in previous weeks. Your usually clear and centered pitch missed the mark this week as well. You must remember to keep the throat open and relaxed, the mouth round throughout all the pure vowel formations and the jaw visibly relaxed.
This song requires a classical approach, I feel, because it has many very difficult technical elements that need to be addressed through the correct diaphragmatic support. Also, it is an extremely communicative song and what was lacking were the essential nuances and expressivity to sustain and deliver this song to its full potential.
There are louds and softs all over the place in this song and they must be there or the song will fall flat. For instance, the section with the words “This is my quest, to follow that star. No matter how hopeless etc.” should be sung with power and passion.
Yet, when the singer reaches the section “That my heart will lie patient and strong, when I’m laid to my rest”, the song must be dynamically softer. This requires a strong technical support system and an inherent musical vision.
Finally, your stage presence was not as secure as in previous weeks and that was a real shame as you were making huge inroads in this technical process over the last few weeks. Once again, I caution you, as well as the other singers, to judiciously rehearse your stage movements to compliment and assist you with your vocal performance. Part of your problem, Scott, is your poor posture; if you could correct this, then I feel you would enjoy a noticeable difference in your Idol showcase.
Nikko Smith “One Hand, One Heart ” from “West Side Story”
Strengths: Nikko – you always have a wonderful sense of style when you perform and this week was no exception. You sang this lovely Leonard Bernstein selection with genuine and heartfelt passion.
This is not an easy song to sing, simply because the melodic line is uncluttered and pure in composition and texture. I enjoyed your innate ability to add a soulful R& B style to this lovely song. It speaks to your innate artistic ability and your ability to take risks with each performance.
As I stated last week, you were certainly increasing the boundaries of your comfort zone on the American Idol stage and I am sorry that I won’t be able to see you perform in the weeks to come! However, it has been a pleasure to review your performances each and every week, Nikko! Congratulations on being such a resilient and steadfast performer! Here’s to the future!
Critique: Nikko – the clarity and precision that we have come to enjoy in your vocal production were noticeably compromised this week. Your voice sounded breathy and lacked the pitch centered head tone quality that has been such a wonderful part of your vocal showcases each week.
You must remember to really anchor your vocal sound with the correct diaphragmatic breath support and not allow the air to escape with your vocal sound. Fatigue and/or tension can cause this to happen, as the body needs to be rested and athletically conditioned to sing with the proper technique. If not, the rib cage muscles become lax and the airflow is not maintained in proper fashion.
Also, as much as I did enjoy your soulful take on the song, I felt that perhaps you went past the correct artistic boundaries in your interpretation. The melismas (riffs and runs) became cumbersome after a while and, actually accentuated the breathy vocal production of this song. It just became too complicated, Nikko.
This song is almost like a hymn, really, and is sung during the death scene from the musical ”West Side Story”. Therefore, the lyrics almost transcend the melody here and must be communicated in a very real and convincing manner. I would have loved to hear a more nuanced approach from you, Nikko, one that truly expressed the lyricist’s original intent.
That being said, I wonder why it is you selected this particular song? There are so many great songs that would have suited your voice so well and would have made your performance more memorable. I think the song ”Home” from ”The Wiz” would have been fantastic and would have been appropriate for your voice range and style.
Other musicals you should have considered are ”Porgy And Bess” “Guys And Dolls” “Pippen” – to name a select few. There is a wealth of music from which to choose in the world of musical theatre. Oh finally, what about George Gershwin! Fabulous music for your voice! Start digging and discover the treasure trove of musical theatre. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Best of luck in your future career, Nikko!
Vonzell Solomon “People ” from “Funny Girl”
Strengths: Once again, Vonzell, your vocal gift was clearly and magnificently evident throughout this song. As I have said so many times in previous weeks, the timbre of your voice just shimmers from top to bottom.
Your vocal showcases have been wonderfully consistent for the simple reason that you have trained and conditioned your voice through the correct technical process. You have phenomenal technical control when you sing and this, of course, increases your artistic confidence and stage presence. So, once again, I have no technical issues with your performance this week.
You exuded a wonderful and genuine charisma on stage this week. This was a challenging song choice for you –or for any singer for that matter – and vocally you performed this number extremely well.
Congratulations to you for the successful attempt to sustain the final note with such depth and resonance. This is why it was so important to select the perfect song key for your vocal register. It allowed you to take vocal risks with this number. It gave you the interpretive flexibility during the preparation and performance of your song. It was a perfect fit! Brava on another fine performance!
Critique: As I previously stated, I had no real issues with the technical performance of this number. However, the artistic side left me a little cold. Have you ever heard Barbra Streisand perform this number? It is a Master Class in vocal communication. She takes this song to unbelievable heights. The nuances and the expressiveness are absolutely incredible and this is the goal of all great musical theatre artists. It is never one dimensional singing; there are numerous musical levels and layers hidden in all Broadway music, particularly in the song ”People”.
Yes, as Paula Abdul pointed out, you nailed the wonderful glory note at the end of the song, but that element is not what is integral to the successful performance of this song. The correct delivery of the lyrics is what is so important in this song and, I felt that, from a lyrical standpoint, the true emotion and passion were not suitably convincing throughout your performance.
The reason Barbra Streisand doesn’t sing a sustained upper register note at the end of this song is because it doesn’t feel correct in her soul as an artist when taken in context with the rest of the song. It’s unnecessary. I have heard Ms. Streisand end this song with a pianissimo (soft) vocal sound that leaves you breathless and, more important, moves listeners to tears. And, for the record, Barbra can sing and sustain the upper register notes just fine, Ms. Abdul.
Vonzell, you are a fabulous performer! However, always remember that sometimes less is more and more is less in the art of performing all kinds of music, not just musical theatre. With your technical experience, you should be more than capable to add a more nuanced flavor to your singing style. It does take work and it takes a special kind of technical control, but you must begin to develop your dynamic range sooner than later.
Good luck, Vonzell.
Nadia Turner “As Long As He Needs Me” from “Oliver”
Strengths: What a beautiful and heartfelt performance this week, Nadia! You looked like a star on the Idol stage and, for a moment, I thought I was watching another show. Your confidence and artistry were transcendent.
This was a great song choice for you and the key was very suited to your vocal range. You certainly have a knack of finding the right song vehicle for your Idol showcase. When taken in context with the musical’s storyline, you performed this song to artistic perfection and conveyed the desperation and hopelessness that is the foundation of this passionate song
You voice sounded very smooth and rich during this number. The resonance of your voice was beautifully supported and, yet, there was still that “Nadia huskiness” that addressed your unique vocal quality.
You had a musical sense of phrasing when you performed this number and you allowed the powerful emotion of the lyrical content to ride on the melodic structure of this song. There were a couple of glitches along the way that will be addressed below, but all in all this was a stellar performance. Brava Nadia!
Critique: Now, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why you clipped your notes at the end of this number. I will give you credit – your “head turning” performance technique in combo with the orchestration was a pretty good idea, but it didn’t really work. We needed to see the desperation and angst in your face and the final line needed to be sustained and phrased according to the original arrangement.
The final line is “As long as he needs me” and therein lies the problem. You clipped the words: “he needs me”. I can only imagine that the reason behind this was your inability to vocally produce a solid vocal sound through all the “ee” vowels. The “ee” vowel needs to be sustained through a round and relaxed mouth and jaw.
You have to discard the natural tendency to spread the mouth when you sustain this vowel. Shape your mouth like the “ah” vowel and enunciate the vowel “ee” and you will notice an immediate difference.
However, your throat must remain open and relaxed and the diaphragm must take the reins to focus and shape your vocal sound through this phrase line. And, do not let the consonants interfere with the process. Articulate those consonants, cleanly and quickly, in a vertical motion.
However, if this was an artistic versus a technical decision, then I have to disagree here. The finale of the song signals a powerful ending and, by clipping the final three words, the song lost momentum and fell flat at the end of what I thought was the best performance of the evening. So, work on those “ee” vowels Nadia! Until next week!
Carrie Underwood: ” Hello Young Lovers ” from “The King And I”
Strengths: Carrie –your voice resonated just beautifully during this song. You selected a very good key for your song choice, as I didn’t notice you struggling with your bottom range as in previous weeks. Smart lady! You made certain that the song highlighted your vocal strengths which lie primarily in your mid to upper range.
I thought you looked absolutely radiant this week and it is very evident that you are discovering your comfort zone on the Idol stage with each passing week. This is not a “get down and let’s get the crowd going” number, so, in this sense, the performance of the song was appropriate for the style and genre of the music.
I know I sound like a broken record, but you have really honed your technical skills extremely well, Carrie. Your facial features are always open and relaxed and it was clearly evident this week that you were working very hard to resonate your vocal sound in your vocal masque. This is the true bel canto style.
Additionally, your articulation of the consonants is exceptional. This, to me, is one of the hardest things to convey to young singers and, when I hear a young artist succeeding at this special skill, I have to stand up and applaud and cheer and thank the heavens that perhaps this is not a lost art.
This was another exceptional vocal performance, Carrie! And, you didn’t sound or look old fashioned to me. You looked just right! Congratulations once again!
Critique: First of all, as much as this week’s song sounded marvelous for your particular vocal timbre and range, I still think that you may have missed the opportunity to select more memorable song selections. Songs from the musical “Oklahoma”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Guys And Dolls”, “Crazy For You”, “Beauty And the Beast” – the list is endless – would have afforded you phenomenal performing opportunities and perhaps allowed you to successfully unveil your carefree and genuine personality. Songs with a sense of fun would have been the way to go, Carrie, and the musical theatre repertoire is steeped in this style of music.
Also, as I have stated to many of the singers this week, this particular style of music has to be performed with a more expressive and nuanced style. The words of this song should convey how loud or how soft you are going to present your voice at certain stages of the performance.
There has to be an ebb and flow in dynamic range when you sing this song. You have to become that character in that sense. You have to internalize her feelings as she speaks to the “young lovers” and then allow this internalization process to highlight all the shadings within your dynamic range.
Therefore, your singing, as beautiful as it sounded, was still too one-dimensional and, at times, had a country flavor that was not appropriate for this style of song. You needed to adopt a more classical approach to this song and then I know you would have traveled a superior artistic path.,p>
You tend to be reserved on stage and I can’t figure out whether this is your customary performing style or whether you are still acclimatizing to the Idol stage. Regardless, you must attempt to make more significant inroads in reaching and moving your audience. We need to see and feel your artistic soul, Carrie. Good Luck!
Rosanne Simunovic is the Voice Instructor and Conductor for the Timmins Youth Singers. If you have any further questions our comments, please at e-mail her. If you want to hear how she applies her technical methods to a variety of musical styles music, have a listen to one of her double disc CDs, Scenes from a Dream, a live compilation featuring outstanding performances between 1984-2000 with the Timmins Youth Singers and renowned classical, Broadway, and pop artists. Enjoy!