TENORS AND HIGH C’S
On July first, Eli’s Heart was released on Amazon. On July third, I began to write my third book, which I’ve entitled You Are My Song. Today, August twenty-second, I completed the first draft of the book. It’s not a short book; probably between How I Grew Up and Eli’s Heart in length, though I haven’t done an official word count as yet. I am surprised at how quickly I wrote the first draft. It will not be ready to be released for a while; I need to re-read and tweak and obsess for a while before that can happen.
The story is of a young tenor who aspires to sing opera. I introduced Jamie Logan in How I Grew Up; he played opposite Melanie Stewart in their high school production of Carousel. I like my character Jamie. He has a naturally beautiful voice, he has innate musicianship and an ability to learn quickly, and no ego. He’s friendly, generous, outgoing, considerate. Oh yes, and unusually good-looking. He and Melanie have a strong connection, and they both wonder if they could be in love. But no, Jamie has a jealous girlfriend he later marries, and she doesn’t want him to sing.
When You Are My Song begins, it’s four years after Jamie’s graduation from high school, and his marriage has failed. I had to laugh at my readers’ reaction to that; two of them commented they weren’t surprised to learn of Jamie’s and Sarah’s divorce. I wasn’t either. Though I had not planned to write this book, it seemed to come into my head as soon as I let go of Eli’s Heart. The final steps in book preparation are stressful, and I’ve come to understand the expression “writer’s remorse.” But once the book is out there, it’s out there, for anyone who so chooses to read and hopefully enjoy or at least like something about it.
Some of Jamie’s experiences parallel experiences I shared with another tenor, my late husband Sam, who sang professionally for several years early in our marriage. Jamie’s lack of ego is unusual in a tenor. It’s a challenge to be a tenor in the world of opera; everyone wants to hear the tenor’s high notes, and if he doesn’t deliver, there are inevitably negative reactions. There’s a reason many of us love the tenor voice. There’s an intensity to the tenor sound. The response to that sound and those high notes is visceral. It’s a thrill to hear a tenor sing high notes with power and beauty.
My theory is the tenor ego may be a way to counter the combination of insecurity and fear. Today I can sing a high C; can I sing it tomorrow? That’s the standard in opera world. That’s why we find videos on YouTube titled “Guess the Tenor by the High C!” and “Tenor Sing-Off – Faust High C – 15 Tenors.” Even more, we love to hear a tenor who can not only sing that C, but hold it forever and play with the dynamics. All of these things are probably contrary to the laws of physics, or medical science, or something. But the poor tenor is stuck with it.
And woe to the tenor who asks for an aria to be lowered a half-step because he is exhausted from touring, or has a cold, or knows he won’t have the C for that performance. I think some die hard opera fans have pitch pipes in their pockets so they can announce at intermission, “You do realize that was a B he sang in the aria tonight?”
Of course, there is so much more to what makes a good tenor; evenness of scale, sensitivity to the music, the ability to shape a beautiful phrase, use of dynamics, command of many languages, connecting to his fellow artists and to the audience among them.
I’ve given Jamie all of that, and more. Here’s his introduction to the reader in my first book, How I Grew Up, remembering the narrator is Melanie Stewart:
“Alice [Melanie’s sister] was right; Jamie was a very handsome boy. He had very dark hair, but fair skin and startlingly blue eyes. But it was more than that which made him so appealing; Jamie was someone everybody liked. He was friendly and kind, and always had a ready smile. Jamie had a truly beautiful tenor voice and he loved to sing, but he wasn’t conceited about it. When people complimented him on his singing, he always seemed a little surprised. He was just doing something he loved to do, and if people liked hearing him, well, that was great.”
That was Jamie at eighteen. My new book begins when he is twenty-two and follows him through the next seven years of his life, and Jamie goes through a lot in those seven years. While you’re waiting for You Are My Song, if you haven’t read How I Grew Up or Eli’s Heart, you can order them in paperback or e-book format on Amazon, or people in the Poconos can purchase them at a slightly discounted price at the Pocono Community Theater. I’ve loved writing these books. I hope you enjoy reading them.