There’s a lot to be learned from watching someone else perform, and online video has made a trove of riches available for study. Your first viewing of a clip will yield valuable first impressions, but repeated viewings with a more analytical approach will yield exceptionally useful insights. Even inferior work can teach us useful lessons if it is thoughtfully examined; ask yourself, what could have been done differently?
With this principle in mind, my plan is to feature video clips on the site from time to time, and to offer my comments about the work and the performer’s success at exploiting the opportunities the song presents. Here’s a clip of Carrie Underwood singing the title song from The Sound Of Music.
I have no desire to join the legions of haters who materialized when it was announced that Carrie, an accomplished musical performer with little theater experience, would play the starring role in this live telecast. I daresay that the producers of the broadcast felt vindicated in their choice by the large number of viewers their program attracted, and I sincerely believe that the success of the broadcast is a good thing for our industry. That said, I do also believe there are lessons to be learned from Carrie’s performance, which makes a strong case for the importance of well-developed singing-acting technique.
I’m going to focus on the first minute of the clip, so take a couple minutes to view that several times. As you do, pay attention to the editing of the song, and the moments when director Beth McCarthy Miller chooses to cut from one shot to the next. Do you see how the video cuts to a new camera angle at the beginning of each new phrase – at the “ding?” The director recognizes that the audience craves some variation, some new information or point of view, with each new phrase. The responsibility for this doesn’t rest solely with the director, though; the performer shares some responsibility in the task of creating Variety, the “V” of SAVI.
Here are the lyrics of the introductory “verse” of the song, the lines that precede the first “refrain” and the memorable title phrase.
My day in the hills has come to an end, I know.
A star has come out to tell me it’s time to go.
But deep in the dark green shadows, there are voices that urge me to stay.
So I pause and I wait and I listen for one more sound,
For one more lovely thing that the hills might say!
I’ve arranged them so that each new line begins with a “ding,” the onset of a new thought, and this differs slightly from the published libretto.. In deciding how to lay out the lines on the page, I’ve made some interpretative decisions about their inner logic which I’ll explain in due course. First, though, I want to get you involved in the discussion. What is interesting to you about this clip? What pleases you or puzzles you? What does it teach you about the craft of singing acting? Take a few seconds and jot down your thoughts in the comments area, below. I’ll be back in a subsequent post to probe the choices Carrie has made in her individual phrases more deeply.