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A GREAT SINGER ON GREAT SINGING

 

Jerome Hines Challenges Voice Scientists and Singers

An Interview by Joseph Shore for

The NATS Journal Jan./Feb.1995

 

Jerome Hines needs no introduction to singers or voice teachers. For over fifty years his name has been synonymous with great operatic singing. Clearly, singers like Mr. Hines, would offer voice science a wealth of material for study. He also provides a wonderful role model for singers.  On November 3, 1993, five days before his 72nd birthday, I talked with Mr. Hines about singing and vocal training. 

  

Shore:  Jerry, first of all, I  want to wish you an early happy birthday and thank you for taking the time to talk vocal shop. 

Hines:  Thanks, it's my  pleasure.

Shore:  Jerry, I believe that great singers show how the vocal organs work at their peak efficiency. Therefore, I believe that studying great singers is very important to voice students. They need to learn by observing the peak efficiency of the great singer's art. When you were a young singer, did you learn by listening to other great singers?

Hines: To a certain extent.  My first record I bought was Jussi Bjoerling and I was thrilled to death. Then I began to listen to Pinza. The singer who influenced me a lot for a while was Titta Ruffo. I remember one day, I asked Maestro Curci, "Which sounds better?" and I sang the way I thought Titta Ruffo would sing, and then the way I thought Pinza would sing. And Maestro Curci said, "Look young man, your voice is so beautiful, if you do something wrong it still sounds right. Its very hard to teach you." Of course I was at the stage of trying to imitate this, imitate that and I admired both Ruffo and Pinza. One is a baritone, one a bass and they sang completely differently. And I would think I emulated more in the direction of Pinza. I was imitating that rounder sound that he would make.

Shore:   If I may add, you certainly have surpassed him in vocal technique and beauty of tone.

Hines:   I'll tell you who influenced me a lot on recordings. It was Mardones. His was the most impressive of all the bass voices I've ever heard. Pinza's was the most beautiful in color.

Shore:   Jerry, in just a few days you are going to be 72. You are still singing wonderfully. Many people are surprised at that. I am not. I'm grateful for it but I'm not surprised. Great singers keep their voices if their bodily health permits. Nevertheless, a lot of people want me to ask you the big question. How have you kept your voice all these years?

Hines:   It's a question that everybody does ask me and it's not a  simple answer. First of all many of the things I do are things that other singers do and they don't last as long. So its not exactly the answer. No matter what techniques and what disciplines you go through, I think there is one factor more intangible and that is the motivation to pick yourself off the ground when you've been totally bloodied and smashed and say, "Let's fight some more." At a certain point people  would just say, "Oh, come on, I've just had it. I can't take anymore." I recall saying that to myself in 1971 or '72. Why did I continue after that when everything seemed at an end? I was down to one performance a season at the Met. My big competitors were out of the picture. London was out. Siepi was going out. Tozzi was going out. I said, "Here's the handwriting on the wall. Its time for me to go out. I'm not doing that well."  What made me pick myself up?  For me, the spiritual background, my Christian faith, helped.  So the motivation part is all essential in keeping my voice, but then there are the human factors of discipline. One of which is vocal technique. When I made my 30th year at the MET--eventually you know I made 41 years--the New York Times called me and said, "We're doing a story on you, Dorothy Kirsten, and Robert Merrill. You all debuted in 1946."  We three were being interviewed and I said, "I don't think it's a coincidence that two of the three study with the same teacher, Samuel Margolis." Bob Merrill is still going and singing quite beautifully. I just did FAUST on Sunday night and it went awfully well.  

 

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