OONER OR LATER, singers (and all musicians!) must learn how to locate the “energy” of each phrase. Without a true knowledge of phrasing, vocal lines sound heavy and boring. One of the common “traps” into which amateurs fall is placing too much emphasis on the final tone, which ought to be light.
A great way to learn proper phrasing — and much else — is to accept training in the Ward method. When I studied the Ward method in Washington D.C. I especially liked how the teacher made us perform dancing motions for the musical phrases, assuring a floating, flowing, beautiful performance.
The Catholic University of America sponsors Ward training sessions during the summer:
Here’s how to apply online, if you don’t care for USPS:
Much valuable information about the Ward Center is here:
They are offering Ward I, Ward II, and the Chant Practicum (formerly known as Ward IV). The one who runs the program is Fr. Robert Skeris, one of the world’s leading scholars of Gregorian chant. This year, Amy Zuberbueler (whom I recently met in San Antonio) is one of the professors. Limited scholarship assistance is available.
AT THE CONSERVATORY, WE PIANO STUDENTS had an inside joke: “OK, why don’t you sit down and play something?” You see, guest lecturers would present all kinds of theories about phrasing, agogics, technique, and so forth — some even wrote books. But there really was no need: if they simply “sat down and played something” we could quickly discern what they knew about interpretation.
The Ward Method is remarkable because it’s been tested. Time and again, thousands of children would assemble in large churches for Ward demonstrations and sing together flawlessly. A serious chant scholar, Joseph Lennards, said that no other method could even come close to such perfection. The Ward method uses the classical Solesmes method, which was based on actual singing experience, not hypothetical possibilities.