Thursday, January 24, 2008

Training Manual for The Soprano

The Soprano: A Manual for  Training the Voice

By Anthony Frisell

Branden Books

ISBN:  9780828321822

140 Pages



Anthony Frisell, world-renowned teacher of voice for singers wishing to pursue careers in the field of international opera, has updated and reissued his three voice manuals: The Tenor Voice, The Soprano Voice and The Baritone Voice. They are intense, in depth and completely responsive to those individuals who wish beginning and advanced training for a serious career. My review is geared toward The Soprano Voice, however, the basic concepts are the same for all three voices.


For far too many individuals who surround themselves with music and perhaps even learn to imitate some of today’s stars, they begin to consider a singing career. While reality shows abound implying that there is an easy path to success, this is just not true. The professional singer must be trained, practice and learn to protect their new voice!


To find the path to success, Frisell first explains the “Mental Image Approach.” That is, “all vocal exercises must be indirectly applied, through mental concepts.” (p. 7) The beginner then realizes what is expected to attain professional status. It was not at all surprising to me that even though I’ve been singing in various groups most of my life that I had never learned to sing correctly. Learning and maintaining vocal standards is a lifetime study in a professional environment and by a master!


There are fixed rules that form the correct mental image. Grand opera began in Italy and the first rule requires that all vowel sounds, in order to ensure singer communication to her audience, must ensure purity of vowels. Specifically, “each of the five Classic Italian vowels, u (oo) i (ee), e (eh), o (oh), and a (ah), as pronounced by native Italians, must be mastered in their purest form throughout the entire voice range.” (p. 8)


The next fixed rule applies to Control for without control our voices are unreliable. The book covers breath-force dynamics, range, flexibility and shading of tones—all results of control.


There is also a requirement that professional singers must become familiar with the rudiments of music and the ability to play a musical instrument, preferably the piano.  Additionally, it is necessary to learn several foreign languages.


For many of us, we do not understand how and why we can reach some notes sometimes, but not at others. This is simply explained by the requirement to identify the vocal registers for the individual. Frisell notes that “to master the art of refined singing one must know the function of the two vocal registers and fully develop them, so they function together as a single unit of quality and strength.” (p. 11) This is not easily done. However, Frisell effectively takes each of the issues in this process, identifies and explains them, and then proceeds to illustrate how the single unit is developed.


Using a keyboard illustration, the breaks for females are identified. The lower register are those that come from the “chest voice” while the upper range is the “head voice.” A ruling principle is provided because there is constant antagonism between these registers. “The conflicting muscular responses that occur, between the two vocal registers, when attempting to produce pure, superior vocal tone, represent the natural responses to the energy of the motor force (breath tension) being applied to the muscles of both registers.” (p. 16).


For an individual to advance from routine singing to a professional, there are years of muscular control development through exercises, practice, and by listening and studying those professionals already proficient in opera. This manual takes you through the mechanics of this study and provides an outstanding array of exercises, detailed illustrations of where the sound should be located, how the tongue and throat are affected, etc.


Frisell has provided “a personal guide to acquiring a superior singing technique.” Indeed, the only thing lacking is that Frisell is not there, helping the individual in this effort. This is a must-read for serious students of voice. As a final contribution, Frisell has included a copy of a recent article entitled, “Is There an “American School” of classic voice training? If so—has it failed American singers?”


By the way, the author gives master classes and is located in New York City. In my opinion, only very serious students need apply! This man will either accept you as a potential great singer...or you will come to know the answer to the question he poses in the above article.


G. A. Bixler For IP Book Reviewers


Friday, January 18, 2008

Forgotten Promises by Denise Skelton

312 Pages – Available March 1, 2008


Denise Skelton, in Forgotten Promises, has added a little heartache and loss, a lot of romance, and an interesting suspenseful scenario and created a delightful and memorable story! Her words have an entertaining flair and her characters provide a wonderful diversity of reality, which come together to immediately capture the reader’s interest.


Caught in the loss of their beloved spouses through tragic deaths, Tyler Green and Holly James are working hard to make new lives on their own--until they become neighbors. Each was attracted to each other; both were too afraid to consider another relationship.


Abby, Holly’s daughter, though, is not afraid to love again and she very much wants a father! Her Godfather, Ben Harrison, loves Abby as if she was his own child and has stepped into the role of father whenever he can; but no matter how hard he may try, he cannot fulfill Abby’s needs for a full-time father. So, quite naturally, Abby started to consider on her own who might fill her needs.  It just happens that her new neighbor seems perfect!

Besides Abby, both friends and family are concerned about Tyler and Holly. Through well-meaning efforts, a variety of strange happenings begin to occur—some are funny; some are likely to make Holly or Tyler think they are losing their minds! Of course, readers are well and thoroughly entertained by their antics!

In the meantime, Ben Harrison, at one time had attracted a young woman who was criminally insane. Having served time in a prison and then been transferred to a hospital, Janet has never given up her fixation and has even imagined that Ben has visited her at times and is in love with her and waiting for her. Finally, she plans to break out and find him, but she winds up leaving dead bodies along the way as she searches for Ben.

When she has finally found him, it is a day on which he is taking Abby to school. Janet unknowingly assumes Abby is his daughter and believes she is the reason why Ben has not continued to visit her. So her plans must be altered—and they must include Ben’s daughter!


Through all of the not-so-subtle antics of Holly’s friends, Tyler and Holly do begin to date and their relationship slowly develops. However, it is through the actions of Janet, in a climatic ending that feelings are cemented.


I enjoyed meeting Skelton’s can either love them or hate them!  And if you love or hate them, it’s because of Skelton’s ability to provide accurate and interesting dialogue and description. Her characters are drawn from different backgrounds and their stories reflect the lifestyles necessary for their personalities to elicit these strong feelings from readers.


Advertised as a romance, in my opinion, this book is so much more. The action is lively and the suspenseful developments from Ben’s stalker keep readers on edge. The love, laughter and family with a parade of true-to-life characters, creates a novel that I highly recommend!  Plan to Enjoy and have fun reading this one!



G. A. Bixler for IP Book Reviews


Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Review of Great Literature

Edited by Adolph Caso

Dante University of America Foundation

Calling all literary readers and writers! This is a must-read for you! Romeo and Juliet, as edited by Adolph Caso and published by the Dante University of America Foundation.

This is not a text; no, it is so much more. Personally, I found it a most rewarding adventure into my favorite activity-reading! Long before we had copyright laws that constrain creativity rather than elicit it, the storytellers of the times were able to hear a tale of wonder, enjoy it, explore it and then regurgitate it into an even greater masterpiece or, sometimes, into a moving poem, an artistic rendition of the story, or even a musical!

All of us have picked up a book and upon reading the first few pages may think that they have read it already-the theme is similar-but then the book takes off into an entirely different tale.  Here, however, Adolph Caso brings to his readers what I have come to think of as "the evolution of the Romeo and Juliet story."

Caso has brought together the works of Masuccio Salernitano, Luigi DaPorto, Matteo Bandello, all Italian writers, inasmuch as the story originated in Italy--and William Shakespeare. You see, Shakespeare did not create and write Romeo and Juliet! Did you know that? 

According to the Introduction, written by the editor, "a variant on the theme of Romeo and Juliet can be traced to the literatures of Greece and Rome, it received a unique and modern rendition with Masuccio Salernitan's thirty-third short story... It was amplified and modernized by Luigi DaPorto... given its definitive form by Matteo Bandello," and "immortalized by Shakespeare with his great masterpiece." (p. 7)

So what this book provides is the ability to study the same story, by four different authors.  Personally, I prefer the story written by Matteo Bandello.  By the way, Maurice Jonas translated the stories. I felt that Bandello's story probably more closely followed the actual story (Was this ever based upon a true story? I don't know).

The main thrust of the storyline is that while two families were feuding, a young girl of one family and a young man of the other family met purely by accident and fall in love!

All of the Italian versions place Juliet's age at 18, while Shakespeare moved the age to a much younger one.  All of the Italian versions indicate that Romeo and Juliet are both dead at the end, while Shakespeare's rendition also includes that the man to whom Juliet was to be married, as arranged by her father, was also dead.

The style of poetic writing by Shakespeare is, of course, completely different from all of the others, and, indeed, is expansive in telling the story. It includes beautifully written passages that most of us have heard at one time or another:

          But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

          It is the east and Juliet is the sun!...

As well as,

          O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?... (pps. 121-122)

This change in writing style by Shakespeare is exactly why I feel the book is a must-read for literary readers and writers.  For it is in the reading, study and digestion of the evolved Romeo and Juliet that we may see and understand all that this beautiful story has to tell us.

Indeed, for those unfamiliar with the works of Shakespeare, this is a wonderful way by which you can begin--for the earlier versions ensure that you are totally familiar with the storyline before you begin the story as written by William Shakespeare.

I highly recommend Romeo and Juliet, not only as a wonderful novel, but also as a wonderful study in the writing and evolution of great literature.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sequel to First Book: More Than Angels - A Wonderful Followup!

Ice on Fire - A Best Seller Waiting to be Published!

Ok, I admit it--I loved to read and review manuscripts and be the first reviewer!

Especially When the Book is Headed for The Best-Seller List


Take a Look! 


Ice by Fire

By Deborah J. Ledford


363 Pages



Deborah J. Ledford, in Ice on Fire, merges music, mystique and murder in an unforgettable suspense thriller that will keep you turning pages!


Trapped by memories of her past, when her father murdered her Taos Pueblo Indian mother, Katina Salvo has led a sheltered life, living almost as a hermit with, first her Aunt Sylvia, and then her business manager, Petra Sullivan, who has also become a close friend and almost a surrogate mother.


At the same time, however, her gift of music has led to writing song after song and recording many of them so that she has arrived at the top of the charts without ever appearing or being seen by the thousands of fans who love her. Quite unusual in today’s world!


And then one fateful day, Katina was there in Petra’s office when her mail was delivered—and she discovered that not all of her fans loved her! In fact, her life was being threatened! Then she discovered that the authorities were already involved—too much of her own life was being kept from her!


It was only on the last album that Katina’s picture had first appeared to the public. She knew it was preparatory for her first live concert, even though she still was not quite certain that she wanted to perform in public. After all, when she generated more publicity, then it was very likely that paparazzi and other reporters would soon discover that her father murdered her mother—and was in prison. Could she deal with the interview questions that were bound to follow?


By the time of her scheduled concert, bodyguards surrounded Katina. She was scared and she had a right to be—for there in the front row, she saw her aunt’s ex-husband, who had once loved her mother and hated her white father--and her--for taking her away from him.


But her aunt claimed she saw her ex-husband on the night of the concert. Was her uncle, Taima, really a ghost like everybody claimed?


Whether it was Taima’s appearance or the exhilaration of the crowd who were finally seeing and hearing their idol, the concert erupted into a riot and Katina was left with only one man to protect her, and then he was severely wounded—by Taima, she had thought.


And then the worst news came, Katina’s father had been paroled and was out of prison. Once again, her supposed friend, Petra, had kept important news from her! Confused, fearful of both her father, uncle and whoever it was that was writing death threats, Katina went home to her Aunt Sylvia, there to prepare and face, on her own, the one(s) who wanted her dead.


Ledford is an outstanding writer who has already won a number of awards. Her characters are beautifully created based upon different heritages and reflect the strength and courage needed in this exciting tale. This is one of her first novels and has the potential to become a best seller!


Floyd “Mountain Walking Cane” Gomez, an advisor of creative affairs for the Taos People, has approved her manuscript for authenticity.


There are just hints of a romantic life for Katina and I found this a refreshing change when no significant romantic/sexual scenes interrupted the action. There are symbols, such as the dress and necklace she wears in the concert and, then again, when she confronts her enemy, which establishes the main character’s commitment to her heritage.  Ice on Fire provides a close, more up-to-date look at the lore and mystery that is part of the Indian life, rather than the usual historical novel.  This book is pure suspense and thrills!


I was also afforded the privilege of reading the first two chapters of another of her new novels, Staccato.  In my mind, she’s already established herself as an author that meets requirements for a suspense thriller must-read author. Look for her on Gather.Com now and in bookstores soon!



G. A. Bixler IP Book Reviewer