Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In celebration of the female voice

I did it again.
Something I swore I would never do again.
But I couldn't help myself.

I was at Mass at the cathedral of my city. The choir is always tip-top. But on this occasion, the leader outdid herself. Her singing caught me by surprise. It touched me in a way I could not believe.
After Mass, I went in search of her to say what a beautiful voice she had.
She smiled sweetly at me and said 'thank you'.
She was a much older woman than I expected from the sound of her voice. She was also very beautiful. I suspect she 'became' beautiful in my eyes because of her voice.
She regarded me with the same curiosity that I had become accustomed to when I used to compliment beautiful women wherever and whenever I saw one.
But she was gracious and seemed to appreciate my boldness.

There is something so incorrigibly beautiful about the female voice.
A lot of sopranos have won the hearts of millions with their talent. Think Maria Callas. The 'Forces Sweetheart', Dame Vera Lynn. Lynne Dawson who sang the 'Libera Me' from Verdi's Requiem at Princess Diana's funeral.

My own personal favourites are Marita Solberg, a little-known Norwegian soprano (have a look at her below singing 'Solveig's song' from Edvard Grieg's 'Peer Gynt') and Korean soprano Sumi Jo (singing Caccini's 'Ave Maria' below) and frankly, anyone who can hit the top notes of Mozart's 'The Magic flute' :-)

I suppose it is the high notes that strike a chord with me (sorry about the pun:-)
It conveys a certain purity...
Which transcends all that is earthly.

By the way, I get the same tingling sensation hearing a 'soprano' boy sing too. The careers of several male singers have been launched by their childhood high voices as boy choristers. Good examples are Anthony Way and Aled Jones. The opening scene of the film 'Empire of the sun' embodies all that is beautiful about this type of voice (see below) with the rendition of the Welsh lullaby 'Suo Gan'. There is a heartrending scene in this film where the protagonist Jim Graham spots some Japanese soldiers preparing for a kamikazi mission. He starts to sing this lullaby, which is heard by everyone at the camp. Even the ruthless Japanese officer in charge of the camp is reduced to tears on hearing this.

It has been said that the boyhood soprano voice is much purer than the adult woman's soprano voice. I forget who said that. They were some sort of expert. I am not. I just appreciate something beautiful when I see or hear it. The boy's voice might be purer because he is a child. But I find an adult woman's voice 'richer' though. Perhaps because she can convey emotion much better than a child? I dunno. It is all the same to me though - whether it is a boy or a woman or a girl or a 'castrato', if they can hit some high notes, they've got my attention :-)

I appreciate singing because I used to be in a choir myself. Although I have quite a low speaking voice, I was surprisingly soprano and not the expected mezzosoprano or contralto.
This reminds me of someone like Justin Timberlake who until he starts singing some pretty high notes in his unique falsetto voice, you just would never guess he could or would.

One of my female cousins had a scarily low speaking voice as a little girl. She was this sweet little thing, and then when she opened her mouth this deep voice would come out from seemingly nowhere. It never failed to amaze and amuse me. Now a lovely young lady, she has sadly lost that voice. But I suppose it is funny at age 3 to have an unusually deep voice. Not so funny at age 25.

That high female singing voice that soars far above our heads makes one want to reach up and 'touch it'. At least that is usually my reaction. I have the trait of 'seeing' music, so for me it makes sense to describe music in a visual way.
Superbowl 1990, Whitney Houston (RIP) comes to mind. As does her hit 'I will always love you'.
It is particularly pertinent in a religious context. Often, a piece of music such as Mozart's 'Laudate Dominum' instills in the listener a sense of awe and enchantment. I have added a fourth video below, which is a recording of a version of this piece sang by Cristina Piccardi.
How beautiful is that?

What is it about the high female voice that makes it so entrancing?
It is said that Albert Einstein once proclaimed, 'Now I know there is a God in heaven' after hearing young Yehudi Mehuhin play the violin.
That is kinda how I react to hearing some high-voiced people display their God-given talent.

And finally, who can ever forget this moment on British TV when the then 47-year old Scottish woman named Susan Boyle walked out on stage to sing 'I dreamed a dream' from the musical 'Les Misérables'?

I begin Lent by celebrating the female voice. It is truly beautiful.

Incidentally, I also love the male voice. But strangely enough not necessarily the male singing voice. Could it be related to the distinct possibility that many of my male entourage are...how shall I put this politely...erm...tone deaf? :-)

And when I do react to a beautiful male singing voice, it is (unsurprisingly) very different to my reaction to a female voice. But that's for another post.

It is said that women are generally not visual when it comes to mate selection (as least not as much as men).
Aherm... I concur.

Let's just say I am rather auditory in this regard. And I know I am not alone in this.
Confess all, ladies :-)


Andrew said...

I completely agree. I find it hugely attractive when a woman can sing well. Your post reminds me of the scene in The Shawshank Redeption when Tim Robbins plays a piece from a Motzart opera over the load speaker, and all the inmates out in the yard are transfixed by the beauty of the singer's voice. While it might be unrealistic to assume all men will repond this way, there are undoubtedly those who do.

spacetraveller said...


Great to get a male perspective on this. By the way, I love The Shawshank Redemption!

I tend to sing when I am at my happiest...and I know many women do.
Do you guys do that?
The ones I know do...but it is not always beneficial to the rest of us especially when said men are a little...inebriated :-)

There are times when alcohol is definitely not your friend :-)

just visiting said...

Let's just say I am rather auditory in this regard. And I know I am not alone in this.
Confess all, ladies :-)

I've met a few men who could entrance a woman simply by the sounds of their voices. Many people have a tendency to speak from their heads or throat. These men had voices that came up from their chest. They understood resonance.

In a related note, my maternal grandmother used to do vocal scales every morning. She had a beautiful speaking voice, and an enviable ability to command young children without ever yelling . She was able to project her voice in such a way that it could travel across a play ground without raising her voice.

spacetraveller said...

@ JV,

"I've met a few men who could entrance a woman simply by the sounds of their voices."
Hahaha, we must be hanging around the same crowd then!

Just how do these guys do that? It's not like their voices are particularly deep, or loud or anything...it's just this quality they seem to have that I can't put my finger on...

Is there such a thing as 'voice game'?

If there is, then I am done for, because I am rather susceptible to that :-)

God help me.