The Art of Singing and Vocal Declamation

Publication details: 1908. New York: MacMillan.

Who was Sir Charles Santley? Sir Charles Santley was an English-born, Italian-trained opera and oratorio singer who became the most eminent English baritone and male concert singer of the Victorian era. Santley appeared in many major opera and oratorio productions in Great Britain and North America, giving numerous recitals as well. He led the cast in the first Wagner opera to be performed in London, Der fliegende Holländer, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He was one of the most famous students of Manuel Garcia Jr.

What is The Art of Singing and Vocal Declamation? According to Santley, the purpose of this book was “to warn those who are about the enter the arena of what they will have to encounter, and at the same time to encourage them to fight valiantly” (Santley xvi). The book contains advice for young singers on topics ranging from the choice of a voice teacher to practice habits, diet, studying vocal works, acting, and working with colleagues.

Great Quotes from The Art of Singing and Vocal Declamation:

Dedication: To Pauline Viardot Garcia

Dear Pauline,
Although an unworthy offering to your great genius, I dedicate this work to you; as whatever good it may contain is chiefly the result of the influence of that genius, and that valuable instruction I received from your lamented brother Manuel… (Santley v)

“A great deal of fuss has been made of late years by persons professing to teach the production of the voice on scientific principles. The result of a recent action in the Court of King’s Bench ought to serve as an eye-opener to those deluded individuals who hope to have voices made and brains provided for them. The evidence of two eminent scientific witnesses proved to the judge and the jury that the so-called scientific principles were a delusion; in fact, they were totally opposed to all that has been discovered with regard to the organs employed in singing. This is but one instance out of numbers of scientific methods in vogue.” (Santley 23)

Some of the pranks I have head of being played on pupils are so egregiously ridiculous that it is scarcely possible to imagine any human being such a ninny as to allow himself to be gulled into entertaining the idea of reaping any benefit from their exercise.” (Santley 23)

Manuel Garcia is held up as the pioneer of scientific teachers of singing. He was—but he taught singing, not surgery! I was a pupil of his in 1858 and a friend of his while he lived, and in all the conversations I had with him, I never heard him say a word about larynx or pharynx, glottis, or any other organ used in the production and emission of the voice. He was perfectly acquainted with their functions, but he used his knowledge for his own direction, not to make parade of it before his pupils, as he knew it would only serve to mystify them, and could serve no good purpose in acquiring a knowledge of the art of singing.” (Santley 24)

“My experience tells me that the less pupils know about the construction of the vocal organs the better; in fact, as I heard a master once remark, ‘Better they should not be aware they had throats except for the purpose of swallowing food.’ I am confident that greater harm has been done by mixing up ‘singing’ and ‘surgery’. ” (Santley 24-25)

Your voice is not your possession; it is a seed entrusted to your care, to cultivate that it may grow up a fruitful tree… Your duty is to cultivate the tree grown from the seed entrusted to you as long as a drop of sap flows in it, that the fruit may become as perfect as human efforts can make it. The question arises, Are you fulfilling the duty imposed on you? If you reflect on it and your conscience tells you you are not, if you are honest you will set your shoulder to the wheel and face the difficulties which confront you with courage and zeal, and work on until you become worthy of the name you covet.”(Santley 30)

The length of time occupied in exercise, regulated according to the physique of the student, should be from thirty to forty minutes at a spell, including an occasional pause of a minute or two for rest and meditation; the actual exercise of the voice would thus occupy from twenty to thirty minutes. Three, or at most four, such spells…are sufficient for each day.” (Santley 44)

“Nothing must be allowed to interfere with the regularity of the hours devoted to exercise of the voice; you cannot be an artiste and a votary of Society at the same time.” (Santley 44)

Hover the cursor over any quote to pause it.

Note: The quotes I have selected do not necessarily reflect my own views on the subjects they address, and they may not be scientifically accurate. They were chosen because they are representative of the author’s views. –Dr. Nielsen