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Todd Decker

[Gumm, Frances Ethel]

(b Grand Rapids, MN, 10 June 1922; d London, England, 22 June 1969) Singer and actress, mother of Liza Minnelli

She began her career at age three in a family vaudeville act. As a child, she was billed as “the little girl with the great big voice.” The musical short Every Sunday initiated Garland’s long-term connection with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when she was 13. After taking a featured role as Sophie Tucker’s daughter in Broadway Melody of 1938, Garland became a major musical film star following the release of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and a series of teen-oriented musicals with Mickey Rooney. Her first adult role, in For me and my Gal (1942), introduced Gene Kelly to Hollywood. Under the direction of Vincente Minnelli, who became her second husband, Garland made a final appearance as a teenager in Meet me in St. Louis (1944...

Article

Karel Steinmetz and Geoffrey Chew

(b Plzeň [Pilsen], July 14, 1939; d Prague, Oct 1, 2019). Czech pop singer, actor, and painter. The best-known and most successful Czech pop singer of the 20th and 21st centuries. In his youth Gott aspired to become a painter, and after completing his schooling in Plzeň, he applied to study art in Prague. After failing to be admitted, he trained as an electrician, and during his training devoted himself also to singing. He began by studying as an opera singer (lyric tenor) with Konstantin Karenin, a pupil of Chaliapin, at first at the Prague Conservatoire and later privately. In 1962 he was engaged at the Semafor Theatre in Prague of Jiří Suchý and Jiří Šlitr, where he achieved great success singing the songs of Suchy and Slitr; in 1963 he won the Zlatý slavík (‘Golden Nightingale’) poll for the first time, with the hit Oči má sněhem zaváté...

Article

Polyphonic setting of secular or devotional poems in Middle Dutch (14th–15th centuries) or early standard Dutch (16th century). The genre is sometimes referred to with the less precise term ‘liedeken’ (little song), which is found in 16th-century printed collections of both monophonic and polyphonic songs. The earliest Dutch polyphonic songs date from the late 13th century, are for two or three voices, and are often cast in a forme fixe. In the later 16th century in which the genre flourished, through-composed, often imitative settings up to eight voices are found. The complete corpus of songs, which is described in Bonda (1996) and included in the online catalogue of Dutch songs (www.liederenbank.nl), consists of almost 500 settings representing more than 330 song families. This also includes compositions with mere textual incipits in Dutch and settings with mingled texts including Dutch. Unity within this repertory depends on the musical environment in which the songs were created, the textual relationship with genres of Dutch poetry, and the musical correlation with monophonic songs in Dutch....

Article

Voice  

Sally Sanford

The quintessential human instrument, capable of unsurpassed tonal and melodic expressivity and nuance. Vocal sounds reflect individual anatomical differences as well as cultural, stylistic, and technique influences. The vocal mechanism is made up primarily of cartilaginous and other soft tissues. Vocal production involves coordination of complex physiologic processes, engaging the lungs and respiratory muscles (wind source), the vocal folds (vibrator/oscillator; also called vocal cords), the pharynx, mouth, nasal and head cavities (resonator), as well as the tongue, lips, teeth, and palate (articulator). The lips also radiate sound outward. The great capacity for variation in each of these areas, and for variation in more than one area at the same time, leads to a strong association of the voice with individual identity.

1. Phonation and vocal mechanism.

2. Acoustical analysis of the voice.

Phonation refers to the production of sound waves in the larynx (voice box). Phonation takes place during exhalation as the respiratory system supplies air through the vibrating vocal folds, which interrupt and break the air stream into smaller units or puffs of air. The resulting sounds are filtered through a resonator system and then transmitted outside the mouth. Singing, speaking, humming, and other vocal sounds usually involve practised regulation of air pressure and breath-stream mechanics, and balanced control of the inspiratory (chiefly the diaphragm) and expiratory muscles (chiefly the abdominal and intercostal muscles). This muscular antagonism requires some degree of experience or training to develop. Various methods are used in breathing for singing (often termed ‘breath support’ in Western vocal pedagogy) and different breath strategies will affect the vocal timbre and intensity. Singing tends to require greater lung capacity than normal speech, because musical phrases tend to be of longer duration than spoken phrases. Singing also often entails much higher air pressure than speech, sometimes reaching 40 to 50 cm (water gauge) at the top of the soprano range compared to a range of 4 to 9 cm for normal speech. The airflow is controlled by opening and closing the glottis, the space between the vocal folds. With sufficient subglottal air pressure, if the vocal folds are close enough, the Bernoulli effect will assist in their adduction....

Article

Biancamaria Brumana

(b Florence, 16 July 1804; d Paris, 20 Aug 1863). Italian composer and singing teacher. He settled in Paris about 1830, the year when Antonio Pacini published a collection of six romances dedicated to Maria Malibran. Known as the ‘Bellini of the romance’, Masini wrote over 400 works in this genre intended for the high Parisian society of the July Monarchy. His works were often collected in luxurious albums offered as a gift on the first day of the year. Among Masini’s favourite poets to set to music are Émile Barateau, Amable Tastu, and Laure Jourdain; only a single Masini romance is based on a text by Victor Hugo (Le papillon et la fleur). The success of his romances (published mainly by Latte, Meissonier, and Colombier) was enhanced by the collaboration with famous illustrators such as Jules David and Achille Devéria. The latter provided lithographic illustrations for the editions’ frontispieces, conceived in harmony with the texts and musical settings. Masini’s melodies are elegant, transparent, and light-hearted. They give voice to a Romanticism tinged with melancholy and delicate hues (as one can appreciate in ...

Article

Donna Arnold

(b Makaryev, Kostroma Province, Russia, 20 March/1 April 1896; d Lakewood, NJ, 9 Oct 1985). Russian émigré choral conductor, founder of the Don Cossack Choir. He studied at Moscow’s Synodal School of Church Singing, and afterwards joined a Don Cossack regiment in the Russian Civil War. Defeated by Bolsheviks and exiled from Russia in 1920, his regiment was interned at a miserable camp near Istanbul. Ordered to found a choir to raise morale, he arranged repertoire from memory and, remarkably, transformed 36 amateur singers into a world-class ensemble. Once liberated, the Don Cossack Choir began a high-profile international career that spanned six decades.

Its concerts, sung in Russian, comprised Russian Orthodox liturgical works and folk, traditional, and soldier songs. Jaroff arranged most of the music. Conducting with minimal hand movements and penetrating facial expressions, he evoked extremely expressive rubatos and dynamic changes that enthralled audiences. The Don Cossacks were particularly renowned for their brilliant technique and superb octavists (whose vocal range extended to an octave below the bass) and falsettists. Jaroff’s unusual inclusion of falsettists was crucial to the choir’s compelling signature sonority and made mixed-choir masterpieces from the Russian canon feasible. Extra-musical factors, especially the very short Jaroff’s strict control of his Cossack giants, fascinated and delighted their fans....

Article

Claire Levy

(b Haskovo, 29 June 1896; d Sofia, 31 July 1978). Bulgarian singer, internationally famous as a schlager performer, nicknamed the ‘Knight of the Upper F’. As a child he was a solo singer in the church choir in the town of Stara Zagora. Later on he went to the military school in Sofia and in 1920 took professional vocal lessons. In 1923 Leshnikoff went to Berlin, where he received a scholarship at the Sternischen Konservatorium. In 1927 he was appointed at the Grosses Schauspielhaus – a review theatre – and in 1928 joined Comedian Harmonists, a newly formed male vocal sextet, to perform the first tenor part. Becoming one of the most popular groups in Europe before World War II, Comedian Harmonists developed a style, based on aspects of German schlager, bel canto opera singing, pleasing tunes influenced by traditional lyrical songs, and Afro-American-derived patterns associated with the blues, gospel, and close harmony vocal techniques. Their records were released by labels including Odeon, Electrola, Columbia, and His Master’s Voice. In ...

Article

Karel Steinmetz

[Carmen Mária Štefánia (Beatrix) Farkašová-Čelková]

(b Bratislava, 20 Oct 1931). Czech singer of Slovak origin. After completing her studies at the Gymnasium in Komárno (1950), she was unable to proceed to higher education owing to her political unreliability, but she completed a theatre course at the State Conservatory in Bratislava, and worked as an actress in the 1950s in theatres in Žilina and Bratislava. In 1958 she moved to Prague, where she acted and sang in the Alhambra and in the Rokoko and Semafor theatres. However, she established her career primarily as a singer of chansons, building her repertoire from songs by Petr Hapka and Jiří Šlitr, with texts by Petr Rada and Pavel Kopta, who also provided Czech texts for her to numerous French chansons. In the early 1960s she appeared at the Olympia in Paris, and in Switzerland and the German Federal Republic, where she also made recordings for the radio and appeared on television. She sang more frequently at significant foreign festivals such as Ostend, Wiesbaden, Cannes, and Sopoty, and in countries outside Czechoslovakia (Argentina, Cuba, Canada, and others), than at concerts in Czechoslovakia, though she played minor roles in many Czechoslovak films. Up to her retirement, on health grounds, in her 80s, she gave full-evening recitals in the Kalich and Ungelt theatres in Prague, and in other venues, accompanied on the piano by Petr Malásek. Outside the Czech sphere she has sung chansons in the original languages and has been nicknamed ‘the Prague Edith Piaf’ or ‘the Czech Juliette Gréco’, though as a singer she has retained a very distinctive Slavic style....

Article

Karel Steinmetz

(b Ostrava, 7 June 1953). Czech folk singer, poet, and composer. After completing his studies at Gymnasium (1971) and at a school of librarianship, he entered the field of popular music as a writer of lyrics (he has written song texts principally for singers from Ostrava). As a guitarist, violinist, flautist, and accordionist he is entirely self-taught. In the 1980s he began to appear at Czech festivals of folk music, singing songs of his own with their distinctive texts. Gradually he has become one of the most popular of Czech singers. He mainly sings his own songs, but also translations of songs by the Russian composers Vladimir Vysotsky and Bulat Okudzha, and settings of the poems of Aleksandr Blok. He has set, and sung, poems by the Czech poets Petr Bezruč and Jiří Šotola. His songs owe their popularity largely to the fact that he sings of ordinary people living ordinary lives; they are lyrical and epic, and often ironical and extremely funny. Nohavica is fond of using the dialect of the Ostrava and Těšín region. He has also produced successful translations of opera libretti for works performed at the Ostrava Opera (for example, Mozart’s ...

Article

Karel Steinmetz

(b Vsetín, Moravia, 27 June 1929; d Vsetín, 11 Feb 2017). Czech folk singer. Trained in dressmaking, she worked between 1945 and 1949 as a furrier’s seamstress. From 1950 until her retirement in 1985, she was the manager of a shop selling gramophone records in her native town. Her musical talent, inherited from her parents, was evident from her youth, when she began to appear as a singer in local choirs and folk ensembles. From 1952 she was a soloist with the Brněnský rozhlasový orchestr lidových nástrojů (BROLN, ‘Brno Radio Orchestra of Folk Instruments’), with whom she performed hundreds of times in the then Czechoslovakia and also abroad (in Vietnam, China, Mongolia, the USSR, Korea, Cuba, Belgium, the UK, Senegal, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, the USA, Canada, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, and Denmark). She also performed with various folk ensembles (Vsacan, Jasénka, Kyčera, and the dulcimer ensemble Technik, whose leader, Jan Rokyta, decisively influenced her later development as a singer), and between ...