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The world according to Kurt

July 11th, 2011

Filed under: MUSIC


Kurt Elling reminds Patricia, masterclass participant, how to breathe from the diaphragm.

Two decades ago I took singing lessons for two years, from one boastful Mr Ian Field. An old woman of a teacher – he was a baritone who claimed how easy it was for him to learn how to be a tenor, but was also a hurdler for Australia in the 1952 Olympics. I ask you. Anyway, I learnt more from one formidable Mr Kurt Elling in 45 minutes than I did in those laborious lessons, and this is why. I’m an adult now. I think.

Yesterday at the last day of North Sea Jazz Festival 2011 (ashamedly my first, and certainly not my last), there was a clinic held by Kurt Elling. In it, he was going to reveal the inner machinations of the jazz singer as a musician, real-time composer, conductor and front(wo)man for what is for many people “difficult music.” Kurt says: “Your job is to play an avenue through the music, that has never been played before.”

Three darling novices, no more than 20 if they were a day, sang for Mr Elling. No one was spared from a delightful tearing to shreds, by way of the maestro’s humour, insight and helpful advice.

Rule number 1: Be analytical, precise and detailed

Rule number 2: Be intuitive

Rule number 3: Be kind to yourself

Rule number 4: Remove all obstacles, such as an unused microphone stand. “Above all, if you’re singing with your eyes closed and  bopping your head around, the last thing you want to do is poke yourself in the eye with the mike stand. You don’t want to scare your audience.”

But the best rule of all was this:

“Music will teach you to be an adult. You need stamina. A plan. To be charitable to you. And to overcome yourself. I promise you, you will grow.”

Now that’s what I call a call to action for young people (and not-so-young people). I’m getting off this computer and going to tinkle some ivories now.

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