Sunday, January 31, 2010

Singing With an Orchestra Running Barefoot

In my strange Avocational Singer mind, there is a connection between singing with an orchestra and running barefoot.

You've seen me make connections between singing and other subjects, and this one may seem like a stretch, but if your mind operated by the same sort of unusual logic that mine does, you would be able to make a connection between singing with an orchestra and running barefoot too.

Here's how my logic has connected the two:

I would love to sing with an orchestra some day.  It has always been a fantasy of mine.  I came close to that experience a few years ago when I sang the Pergolesi Stabat Mater with Cantigas Women's Choir.  We had a little "orchestra" for that:  A couple of violins, a double bass cello, an organ, and maybe a couple of other instruments.  It was modest, but it was enough for me to get the feel of what a wonderful experience it was to sing with an instrumental ensemble.  I have never forgotten how wonderful it was to have that experience, and, of course, I would hope to have it again.

I also wrote about my fantasy of this in a post a while back "Anatomy of a Dream."

If I was a young singer in my early 20s, to have a dream to sing something with an orchestra would seem like a reasonably attainable goal, something that might be accomplished without too much struggle.   However, to have this as a goal for myself, at age 48, seems a more formidable task. Especially to have this as a goal at age 48 without having quite yet learned  how to sing -- one little detail that seems a bit important to the quest -- well, that does seem to make it seem all the more out of reach.

Nevertheless, not believing that one should rule out possibilities, no matter what the obstacle may appear, I still carry a hope within my heart that I may accomplish this fantasy in some way or another.

Now, here's where I had to stop and take stock and figure out what need to happen in order for me to be able to sing with an orchestra.  Here's where I had to look at strengths, limitations, realities, and come up with a plan.

First things first, of course, I would definitely need to be able to sing.  I have not given up hope of finally figuring my voice out, even at this late stage of the game.  So, lessons are a must, and an absolute dedication to daily training is a must. I cannot predict what success will come of that, but it seems to be heading in the right direction and I can only hope for the best as far as developing a voice with a good technique that can even be heard while singing with an orchestra.

But another thing I decided would be of great advantage was some sort of  "fountain of youth."  Yes, a "fountain of youth" would come in very handy indeed.  You see, in order to avail myself of any opportunity to sing something with an orchestra, I might find myself in the position of having to compete for a spot with someone youthful, and youth could edge me out of any such opportunity. Unless I should come by a fortune from which I could hire myself an orchestra, it seems desirable to find some way to stem the tide of my own aging as I wait for my vocal technique to establish itself.

I looked around, and the closest I could come to finding a "fountain of youth" was exercise.  An athletic opera singer friend of mine, Robin Flynn ("The Athletic Perfomer") just referred me today to an article in the New York Times on "How Exercising Keeps Our Cells Young", so incorporating an exercise plan seems like a reasonable move for a singer concerned with her age to include in her training regimen.

I was already working at Kung Fu, but I felt that I needed something aerobic.  They say that if you are going to stick with an exercise program, you'll have more success if you find something you love to do.

Well, I've mentioned here that I love to run, so, after many many years of intending to get back to running,  I had decided during this past year to begin again.  To help myself along, I signed up for a 1/2 marathon. As I embarked on my 1/2 marathon training plan,  I seemed to be well on my way to stemming the detrimental effects of aging, and keeping some of these effects somewhat at bay.

But a villain arrived on the scene -- the villain of an injury that has blocked me from my fountain -- plantar fasciitis.  I was unable to complete my training for the 1/2 marathon, and am now in the process of healing this injury so that I can begin anew.

In my quest to find a way to heal my injury, I have stumbled upon information about running barefoot. (A favorite new blog: Running Barefoot)   The people that run barefoot claim that our running injuries increased when we put on fancy running shoes that immobilize our feet.  The theory makes sense to me that by putting on these running shoes, we deprived ourselves of the sensory nerve feedback from our bare feet, which is necessary in order to learn how to run with a form that protects us from injury.

I have read anecdotes of people using barefoot running to recover from plantar fasciitis, or at least find a way of running that prevents the injury from coming bak.  I am dying to try this out.  And I have made a resolution that I will give barefoot running a try soon.

So, to put it all together: I've decided that I really want to try barefoot running, so that I can begin training again for next year's race, so that I may preserve some aspects of youth, so that I may one day compete for a spot to sing with some orchestra somewhere in the future of my life.

That is really nutty logic, and some of the assumptions I've got in the train of thought have just got to be faulty, especially since there is no limit to what possibilities exist, and it can't predicted how or why or where I might have an opportunity to sing with an orchestra.

I mean, after all, isn't it hard enough just to learn to sing, without adding all these extra burdens?

But today, I think I may have found a way, finally, to have the experience of singing with an orchestra.  I have discovered opera and oratorio karaoke!  I have been having a blast downloading a few files from the itunes store today, and singing with real orchestral accompaniments.

I have been deeply moved by the experience of singing with these accompaniments.  I am thinking that this may just satisfy my need to sing with an orchestra after all.  Or at least, should I never arrive at an opportunity to sing with live instruments, I have something to cut the edge off any kind of disappointment about not being able to do this.  It may just be the next best thing.

I still plan, as soon as my foot is a little better, to try out all the barefoot running stuff.  But maybe not in order to have a "fountain of youth" after all, but just because I love running and the stuff I read about barefoot running is appealing to me.  No pressure.  Let singing be singing, and running be running.

Visit Frescamari's Practice Room to hear me singing some Opera Karaoke:  "On a New Karaoke Kick: "Stride la vampa" -- "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" -- and "Voi che sapete"


  1. I can't wait for you to have a healthy foot so you can incorporate some barefoot fun! :-)

  2. Thank you for the hint re: Amazon! I haven't sung classical in 30 years and got an itch to try it again, and was wondering where to find a track to practice with! Now I'll be squawking out "Mon Coeur, S'ouvre à Ta Voix" to my heart's content (and neighbors' dismay!)

  3. Glad to have been of assistance, Alicia. And maybe your neighbors will ENJOY it! (There's some opera singer that lives in the apartments behind me and all of us love it when he's singing.)