Kurt's Singing Voice

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Glorfindel on 12/6/2012, 5:39 pm

arina wrote:I think most of the NTBND is sung in low register.
Right, 95% of NTBND was low register.

'I'll Remember' also was sung entirely in low register.

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  fantastica on 12/6/2012, 7:31 pm

blackbird is all sung in lower register, as well as the madonna song in the S3 finale. we are just talking about solos here. In many duet/group numbers he sang in lower register exclusively too. love shack, BICO...

oh Marie beat me to it. I am too slow.

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White Christmas + Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Post  Glorfindel on 1/3/2013, 8:48 pm

REVIEW : White Christmas &
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas).


In good Glee tradition to get another Christmas album on iTunes the gleeks celebrated Christmas (and Hanukkah!) the best way they know how: by singing. In ‘Glee, Actually’ (which had actually nothing to do whatsoever with ‘Love Actually’), Kurt got to sing on 2 Christmas songs. In ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas he only sings 2 lines back-up to Blaine, but as Glee tradition also demanded Kurt was part of the annual Klistmas duet, and as Klaine likes to sing about snow, this time Klaine sang ‘White Christmas’ together.
I’ll start with ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’.


Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas :

The group number of ‘Glee, Actually’ was HYAMLC, sung by Marley (in the episode, Brittany in the iTunes version), the Puckerman brothers, Bram and Klaine. Glee just loves to let their (romantic) couples sing together, whether the singers fit together and whether the song fits the singers or not. HYAMLC is a victim of this narrow mindedness. Bram really do not sound good together, and Klaine has their (vocal) problems too. Thankfully Heather got replaced by Melissa in the episode, but Heather’s original verse and her little duet with Chord make painfully clear that some voices are not suited for an oldtimer song like this. The lack of vibrato in Heather’s, Chord’s and Darren’s voices is very obvious and it brings down what could have been a wonderful Glee Christmas song. Mad
Melissa saves the episode version, and I was very pleasantly surprised by both Puckerman brothers. Jacob Artist has a very distinct voice not everyone likes, but he has the techniques and vibrato for this song, and his voice meshes very well with Mark’s, who was the biggest surprise to me: he sounded like a crooner on HYAMLC. wub

Kurt unfortunately only sings some backup 2nd voice to Blaine in HYAMLC.
Because of his higher voice and Chris therefore being able to sing a higher (female) 2nd voice, plus that whole alpha male dynamic mess in Klaine, Kurt often ends up as the graceful back-up for Blaine. And I’m getting rather tired of it, tbh. It isn’t even necessary, because there are enough arrangement possibilities so that Darren can sing a lower (or even higher) 2nd voice or back-up for Chris (maybe that’s why I like ‘Candles’ so much). Every note Chris sings in HYAMLC is within Darren’s vocal range and vice versa. But yeah,….RIB also love their tiny stereotype boxes they put their characters and their voices in, I guess. Hopefully now that Klaine have broken up we’ll get some other duet partners for Kurt who may shake things up a bit.

Youtube :

Judy Garland:


Glee, episode version:


The harmonies :
In HYAMLC Kurt sings the lines:
Hang a shining star upon the highest bow.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

(Blaine starts at 1.35, Kurt at 1.45)

The second line (”And have yourself a merry little Christmas now’”) is quite simple: the harmony consists of all thirds intervals, the strongest interval in harmonies. Kurt sings his 2nd voice a third higher than Blaine’s lead melody.

The interesting part of this harmony is the first line. I made a diagram of it:



- When Kurt starts his second voice their first interval together is a sixth, then a fifth, before they reach the strongest harmony interval: the third. If you look at the graphic you will see that Blaine is taking big jumps upwards in his lead melody, while Kurt only takes little steps, thus ‘allowing’ for Blaine’s melody to come closer to his 2nd voice untill they can sing the little harmony in thirds.
- At ”…upon the highest…” Kurt waits one syllable longer than Blaine before following him down in the melody, missing a ‘step’, and therefore the intervals become fourths instead of thirds.
- Kurt only comes down 1 semitone instead of mimicking Blaine by coming down 2 semitones on ”...up-on…”. This causes the interval to be a bit wider/larger than the usual fourth, creating the feared tritone, aka the “diabolus” or “devil’s interval”.
bih
In the past (a couple of hundred years ago) the diabolus was considered a dissonance sent from the devil, as it caused a disturbing tension in a harmony, and it was forbidden by the clergy. Fortunately nowadays we are more used and openminded to these kinds of ‘jazzy’ harmonies, just like most of the things the Church tried to forbid or oppres.
Kurt and Blaine even create 2 of these devil’s intervals, the already mentioned ”...up-on…”, and on ”...high-est…”. If the Pope wouldn’t already condemn them for loving who they love these 2 boys would surely go to hell for this abomination. Rolling Eyes
- At the end of the line Blaine holds the note on ”…star.” while Kurt first sings a fourth, before ‘solving’ the harmony to a more satisfying third, by descending one more tone.


Kurt’s voice :
Chris sings with a voice mixte in HYAMLC. The melody stays well within his low register range, but he chooses to go to falsetto very early and unusual low for his high register. on the long, higher notes. He sings some of his notes (the beginning) in his low register, but as soon as he sings the long, higher note of ”…star.” he lets his falsetto ‘loose’ to get that lovely clear as a bell vibrato note that really just….. soars. wub

It’s getting more difficult to tell Chris’ registers apart, but I think I got most of it right on HYAMLC:
(bolded is low register)
Hang a shining star upon the highest bow.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

The way Chris uses his voice in HYAMLC is a mix of countertenor and female vocal techniques. The melody he sings is just a tad too low to only sing as a countertenor: he has to sing some notes in low register, so he uses his female techniques ability to switch smoothly inbetween his registers.
What’s interesting in this is that he doesn’t color his timbre as a countertenor would prefer: ‘lighter’, to suit and favor the high register timbre. He colors it ‘darker’, a kind of mixed timbre. It creates a very warm ‘lower’ high register timbre, or ‘higher’ low register timbre (depending on how you look at it blinkk), perfect for the atmosphere of the song.

It’s absolutely remarkable how easily Chris can switch registers, so easily that it is even hard for me to detect. Very, very few men can switch registers so easily and undetected. Not even all trained countertenors can do this. Here’s a song where you can hear a man doing it very well: Good Vibrations.
It is a blessing in disguise that Chris could not find a vocal coach that would work with him when he was a teenager, because now he learned all these techniques from female singers he tried to imitate unsupervised, whereas a vocal coach probably would have limited him and steered him in either the tenor or (more likely) the countertenor direction, cutting off his unusual explorations of the female vocal techniques.
I certainly do not advocate to learning how to sing without a voice coach, especially when you perform a lot or plan to, but sometimes the lack of a professional coach will create something unique that would have been diminished or even dissolved if that voice had been trained within the standard and commonly used teaching methods.
Chris developed this voice on his own, and when he got on Glee he had a vocal coach who did not force him into the parameters of the ‘normal’ established male voice types, but who helped him hone and strengthen his voice while leaving the uniqueness intact, and even improving and further developing that uniqueness. That took some firm thinking outside of the box for the music experts working with Chris on Glee (and if you look at the beginning of this thread you will know that it took quite a while for me, as a vocal coach subjected to many rigid vocal techniques traditions in my study, to start thinking outside of the box too when it comes to Chris’ voice), and I can only say “Bravo!” to his vocal coach (Tim Davis?). rooots

As I mentioned before, a song like HYAMLC should be sung with vibrato, and the more the better, imo. Chris has this vibrato in abundance, and when it shines through in this little harmony it lifts the song to a higher level. Just listen to his ”…star.”, the last syllable in ”…Christ-mas...” and the delicious long held ”…now.”: it’s absolutely beautiful. wub
I wish that HYAMLC had been either a Kurt solo or a Hummelberry duet, as Chris and Lea both have the voices fit for this type of song. I would have loved an intimate and melancholic HYAMLC at the Hummelberry loft, and them singing the original words of the song full of longing and hope, as sung by the wonderful Judy Garland. crycry




*******************************************************

White Christmas :

Christmas in Glee wouldn’t be Christmas without the ‘traditional’ Klaine Klistmas duet. At least, if you can call 2 successive years a’tradition’, which definition and validation of truly be called a ‘tradition’ I suspect varies based on a person’s age (2 years must seem like a long time for a 14-year old) or the expected profit from the iTune sales. Glee apparently values ($$$) this tradition so much that they threw in Burt and cancer to get Kurt and Blaine in the same area long enough to sing a cute 1½ minute Klistmas duet together. Yup, count me still bitter about that. :angry:

Was it worth it? Well, personally I think that both ‘Let It Snow’ and ‘White Christmas’ are good songs, but they are no ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’: that was a genius song for Klaine and rightfully a big hit. It had the great combination of having an oldfashioned song style, a lighthearted but paced beat, and a music arrangement that let both voices shine equally and play an ostensible harmless flirting game. That flirty banter between 2 boys truly broke some grounds, and to my knowledge BICO is to this date the only regularly played Christmas song on the radio and in shopping malls etc. that features a homosexual pairing. neutre
‘Let it Snow’ was a good song, with many variations in the harmonies and another job well done by the arrangers and Chris and Darren. However: it was set so fast that all those intricate variations got lost in a blur of words and runs, and unlike BICO, it’s not the kind of song to put on that easy-listening background Christmas cd you make each year for your annual family Christmas dinner.

The spoiler of ‘White Christmas’ being the Klaine duet showed promise of being a 2nd BICO: no better feel good Christmas song for Klaine than Irving Berlin’s melancholic classic, made legendary by the crooning, soothing voice of Bing Crosby (and that’s how the term crooner can be defined, kids). No fast jitterbug song like LIS, but a nice nostalgic duet to reminisce the good old Klaine days by, before it all went to hell because of a lighthouse. But the Glee version turned out to be a bit different as expected, didn’t it? Shocked
Instead of a sentimental melancholic song that would somewhat have fitted with the mindset of Kurt in the narrative (although ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ would have fitted with Kurt’s state of mind much better), what we got was a fast beat, jolly version of ‘White Christmas’. And that was a mistake, imo. Not even the clumsy cuteness of Kurt on ice could make us forget the cold reality of the present and the recent punches in the stomach for him, both ‘presented’ to him unexpected on Christmas Eve.
The Klaine duet ‘White Christmas’ was presented to us as a lovely Christmas present, but it felt forced and contrived, as felt the whole of Kurt’s vignette in ‘Glee, Actually’, tbh. I can’t shake the feeling off that the only reason this storyline for Kurt was written at all was to get that Klaine duet in the show. Giving prostate cancer to Burt, and Kurt not feeling comfortable in his own home over Christmas, just to sell a 1½ minute song….. no, imo it was not worth it. I would have preferred a Hummelberry duet instead.

But, pushing my personal musings aside, let’s get to the song:

Youtube :

The Drifters:


Michael Buble & Shania Twain:


Another version of the Drifters’ arrangement where a baritone and countertenor sing the solos: On The Rocks.

Glee, full version:


Glee, episode version:


The original version? :
When the spoiler came out that Klaine would be singing ‘White Christmas’, people of course started speculating on the version they would use in Glee. I joked that they better not use the Drifters version, because there is an obnoxious high countertenor part in that version. And to my surprise….. that’s exactly the version Glee used, lmao. ptdr
That is….. if RIB really were aware of the existence of the Drifters version when they picked this version for Klaine. The big question is if RIB got the idea of Klaine’s WC version from the 60 years old Drifters version or from the Michael Buble & Shania Twain cover of a few years back? If they got the idea from the latter version we enter the muddled waters of Kurt singing the female part of a duet against Blaine’s male part,…. again. dryy
I’m not going to go to deep into this, because we all have heard it before and have our opinions about it, but because of not knowing where the Glee version idea came from originally, there are 2 ways to take the WC version they chose for Klaine, when it comes to Kurt’s voice and its representation on Glee:

1) If they deliberately chose the Drifters’original for Klaine, it would mean that in episode 10 of season 4(!) Kurt sang his first already existing countertenor song (or part of a song) on Glee ever. Not a female song in a countertenor style (we’ve heard Kurt sing like that before), but a male countertenor part specifically made for a man. Which in itself is baffling that it took Kurt and Glee 3½ seasons to finally get that recognition for his voicetype.
If this is true, I guess congratulations are in order? Together with the stunning ‘Being Alive’ of the previous episode (which Chris begged to do in the original male key), by giving him a countertenor part in ‘Glee, Actually’, RIB finally seem to acknowledge that Kurt became ‘a man’. Oh goody: isn’t that what Glee is all about? mince

2) Since the Michael Buble & Shania Twain version of ‘White Christmas’ is quite popular (and who remembers the Drifters of almost 60! years ago anyway?), it is imo likely that RIB got the Klaine Christmas duet idea from that version. Fox loves the popular stuff, after all. This theory seems to be backed up by a vocal technically choice Chris makes in ‘White Christmas’, plus the arranging of the ending of the song. But more about that later.
And this is when that whole Klaine dynamic comes into play and muddles the waters. I will strongly say (again) that to me it doesn’t matter that Kurt prefers singing girl songs in their original key (and there is where he differs from Blaine) except when it comes to his professional career, and personally I love his female power ballads when they are solos. But the alarm bells start ringing when Kurt sings a clear female part of a duet with another man singing the male part. Because like it or not, the idea that the version chosen was a male/female duet changes the perspective on the song and the parts both men sing. It can be done, but must be handled with care, imo, because it usually evokes these 2 comments in the fandom:
- “Why does Kurt always have to be the ‘girl’ in the Klaine relationship?”. dryy
This complaint stemms from the sometimes quite blunt insinuations and implications of the writers how Kurt and Blaine are portrayed together and apart on the show, Kurt’s struggles with effemiphobia, and the concealed misogyny in Glee. I’m not going to comment on that further, but I agree that there’s reason for caution here.
- “Why does Kurt have to sing so high? Kurt ruins this song because he thinks he sounds like a girl.”….. the usual crap that happens every time Kurt uses his falsetto. :angry:
I really wonder if people had known beforehand that his part in WC is originally a legit countertenor part they would be this harsh in dismissing and criticizing the use of Kurt’s voice in this song? Sure, there will always be people who think that guys shouldn’t sing that high and/or don’t like Kurt’s voice, but at least they would have no legitimate ground to say something like the above.

So yeah, it shouldn’t really matter what version they [s]copied[/s] used as an inspiration on Glee, but unfortunately it kinda does. saispa



The Lyrics :
(The show’s version is in bolded and blue)

1) Blaine:
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the tree tops glisten, and children listen,
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

2)
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.


3) Kurt:
I-i-i-i'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the tree tops glisten, and children listen,
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

4) Kurt and Blaine:
I-i-i-i'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.

Kurt:
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright, (Blaine: Oh let them be bright.)
And may all your Christmases be white.

5) Kurt and Blaine:
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Dom-bi-dom-dom-dom, Dom-bi-dom-dom.


They cut the show version of ‘White Christmas’ very short: it only lasted for about 1½ minute. That’s not much, not even for Glee standards. Basically, they kept just 2 of the 5(!) verses on the show, and stupidly enough they picked 2 verses that have the same lyrics (instead of using Blaine’s first verse that had different lyrics, and then skipping to verse 4).
And of course all of Kurt’s solo lines were cut from the episode, so it looks more like Kurt is backing up a practically Blaine solo instead of a Klaine duet. Is anyone surprised?.... Nope, me neither. dryy
Adding a song this short that didn’t even have a real importance in the canon of the show makes you wonder why they bothered recording and filming ‘White Christmas’ (in New York, and for 11 hours!) in the first place, even forcing the narrative artificially to make this duet happen. Do I hear someone say: “iTunes $$$”?
Well, at least it gave us this nice song to enjoy. Let’s see what I can say about the verses and the harmonies in them.


The harmonies :

Solo verses 1, 2 and 3 :
1) Blaine:
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the tree tops glisten, and children listen,
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

2)
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.

3) Kurt:
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the tree tops glisten, and children listen,
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

The first 3 verses are quite simple: Blaine sings 2 verses solo, and then Kurt sings 1 verse solo. The only big difference is that Kurt is singing an entire octave higher than Blaine.
That octave jump is in the original arrangement, not invented by the Anders brothers or any other Glee music arranger, but we have heard Kurt’s voice been used like this before in Glee. Kurt has sung a male solo part one octave higher than the other males in the Regionals (full) version of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.
Because of the octave jump the total melody (notes’) range of the original (Bing Crosby) song is suddenly doubled. But there’s more.
Kurt does not start the 3rd verse (his 1st solo verse) on the start note of the original melody of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ (a D4): he sings a variation that the Drifters invented, and starts a sixth higher, on a B4flat. Actually, the only words he sings like the original melody in that first line are ”dreaming of a white Christmas”. On the word ”Christmas” he jumps up to a C5, and then glides back a fifth to an F4. Darren sings similar variations in his verses, only of course one octave lower.

What’s evident is that Chris must have been listening to the Michael Buble/Shania Twain version (which backs up the theory that RIB took the idea from that version), because he also adds the little yodels that Shania sings. Those yodels are not in the Drifters version. The yodels are on the bolded words: I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,”.
A yodel is created when a singer deliberately ‘flubs’ his switch to high register (and take note of the word “deliberately”). Instead of making that switch as smoothly and unnoticed as possible, the singer ‘loosens’ his voice control and ‘slips’ over the breakpoint, with the result of a little audible ‘hick-up’. This technically happens a lot when singers start learning to get over their breakpoint and switch more naturally: it’s actually a technical flaw. But when deliberately created and used it is a sign of a singer having excellent control over their voice. It’s very playfully done in ‘White Christmas’. neutre

Verse 4, a little harmony :
4) Kurt and Blaine:
I-i-i-i'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
(Kurt:
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright, (Blaine: Oh let them be bright.)
And may all your Christmases be white.)

For these 2 lines Klaine harmony Kurt is singing the lead melody, in that higher octave, practically similar to his first solo verse (the 3rd verse of the song). Blaine sings a lower 2nd voice, but because Kurt is singing so high already his lower 2nd voice isn’t actually low at all: it’s set higher than his own solo verses, in fact it starts exactly one octave higher than his solo verses.

Here’s the diagram for this harmony:



As you can see it has a lot of sixth intervals, and the gap between the 2 voices stays overall quite wide. The only time they really come together in thirds, and even a secundo, is in the beginning, when the lead melody makes big jumps down and up again.
If you may remember the sixth is the strongest interval after the third, as it is in fact a third interval reversed. Oh,…. I’ll have to explain this all over again, don’t I? unsure
(Only read the next part if you’re interested in intervals and harmonies. If not: by all means skip to the next paragraph.)
Okay: a third is an interval/harmony of 2 tones, e.g. C-E. The sixth interval is almost as strong as the third because it consists of the same notes only turned upside down: E-C. To laymen the mirroring intervals sound almost the same when heard in a harmony. Same can be said for fourths and fifths (e.g. C-F <> F-C), and secundos and sevenths (C-D <> D-C).
BTW: this flip-flop method is also a nice trick musicians can use to decipher the chords that go with the melody and harmony, as the important thirds intervals in a harmony are often the first 2 notes used in the chords of the song. Therefore turning sixth intervals into thirds provides more information on the chords and the song’s structure.

Verse 5, a few nice harmonies with some twists :

5) Kurt and Blaine:
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.

The first 2 lines (who weren’t in the episode version) are sung in a harmony of only sixths, therefore quite simple at first glance. But there is a little twist.
On the first line (”I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”) Kurt sings the lead voice, and Blaine has the 2nd voice in sixthts intervals below him. But then something funny happens: on the line ”With every Christmas card I write” Blaine takes over the lead melody from Kurt (but singing the melody one octave lower than Kurt!) and Kurt switches to a higher 2nd voice, again in sixths, but this time above the melody of Blaine’s lead. It took me a while before I figured that one out! blinkk
Kurt’s line in lead voice ends on an F4, while Blaine sings an A3. The next line in the lead melody starts on a G: for Kurt that is 2 semitones higher than his last note, but for Blaine that is 2 semitones lower than his last note. Therefore Kurt can hand over the estafet-baton of the lead melody to Blaine easily. But because they are almost an octave apart in their harmony Blaine continues the lead melody one octave lower than where Kurt stopped singing lead. The melody ‘crosses’ the harmony:
Kurt: lead voice in higher octave-------higher 2nd voice in sixths.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, X With every Christmas card I write.
Blaine: lower 2nd voice in sixths-------lead voice in lower octave.

The last 2 lines of this verse are another harmony again, and it is a very intruiging harmony because it stretches well over the octave! Here’s the diagram:



Just looking at the diagram you already know that their voices are far apart in this harmony. The words of ”May your days be merry and…” are sung with the 2 voices being a whole octave plus a third apart. One interval is even an octave plus a fifth: 1½ octave! For a male duet that is quite unusual.
And just look at the lovely little run Chris sings on the word ”…bright”.
Although I read a lot on the boards about Chris having to sing very high for this harmony, it is actually Darren who has to go really, really low in his vocal range to get these big intervals. He sings a solid A2 in this verse, and to my knowledge that is his lowest note so far in Glee. Well done! neutre

On the diagram I posted above I also draw the last 2 words of the verse. Most of that line (”And may all your Christmases…”) was sung in unisono in octave by the boys, Kurt of course singing one octave higher than Blaine. But the ”…be-e-e white” is a little harmony again, that ends in a satisfying major third. Again Chris sings a little yodel at the very beginning of this little harmony: emphasizing his switch instead of hiding it.

The last harmony :

"I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Dom-bi-dom-dom-dom, Dom-bi-dom-dom."

This is the only part in the song where the arrangement does not follow the Drifters version. Instead of singing a snipbit of the Christmas song ‘Jingle Bells’ as ending, Glee uses the ending of the Buble/Twain version, although with an added harmony. Another ‘proof’ that RIB indeed used that version as inspiration.
The last harmony is again a simple harmony, starting in fourths and ending in thirds. After all the large intervals in ‘White Christmas’ this harmony is closer together. Note that they are both singing in low register, as this is possible because of the melodies being around the same notes in their low register vocal ranges.
The ”Dom-bi-dom-dom-dom, Dom-bi-dom-dom” is a harmony of only thirds, Kurt singing a slightly higher (in comparison with the rest of the song) 2nd voice, and Blaine singing lead.


”Sing it high! Sing it low! “ :
On top of the controversy of whether Kurt was singing the girl part of a Klaine duet again (which might colour the perspective on this arrangement) there was also the big, big difference in height of the notes on which Kurt and Blaine were singing in ‘White Christmas’ that some fans had to get used to at first. And it is indeed, especially when you are not familiar with this version of WC, a bit of a shock when Kurt starts singing his solo verse right after Blaine’s lower verses. Even in the harmonies there is still this large gap between them in notes, sometimes even more than an octave. ohmy

Besides there obviously being an actual big gap harmony wise between the 2 singers, this ‘gap’ appears to be very big also because of Chris and Darren’s voices sounding so far apart timbre wise. This can mostly be explained by the fact that the lower male part in (the Drifters’) ‘White Christmas’ is meant to be sung by a baritone. Darren is not a baritone, so he has to go very deep in his vocal range to get the lower notes. And I like to go on record here that I think he does a very fine job with this in ‘White Christmas’. He has gained some depth and strengthened his lower notes over the past years, and it certainly shows in WC.
But I’m afraid I must bring back up again that one of the pitfalls for Klaine duetting together always has been that Darren’s voice sometimes lacks to support Chris higher voice, which might add to this feeling of imbalance or gap in ‘White Christmas’. A real baritone matches better singing with a high tenor or countertenor like Chris (listen to the little Furt duet parts in the Journey Regionals songs). Although as said: Darren really improved his lower notes. But this song tested the Klaine harmony skills to the limit, and it is a compliment to Darren when I say that it could have been a disaster, and it really wasn’t. Darren provided a very decent underlayer for Chris’ higher notes in ‘White Christmas’. hapitgh

In contrast to Darren’ low notes at the border of his lower vocal range, Chris sings a high semi countertenor part. I wrote “semi” because it isn’t as high as some may perceive. His highest note is one D5 (and some C5’s), and he has sung many F5/F5sharp notes, even a G5 before in the show. Surprisingly he sings most of ‘White Christmas’ in his low register. Just look:
(low register = bolded, yodels are underscored)

3)
I-i-i-i'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the tree tops glisten
, and children listen,
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.


4)
I-i-i-i'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.

(…White Christmas…)

5)
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write. (Yeah, yeah, yeah.)

May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be-e-e white.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Dom-bi-dom-dom-dom, Dom-bi-dom-dom.


As you can see Chris was singing mostly in his low register and not that extraordinary high even when singing in high register, but in comparison to Darren’s unexpected low voice (and possible also the shock of not knowing the 3rd verse started so high in the arrangement) it may seem that way, and their voices are definitely a long way apart from each other in timbre for the most part in this song.
And this ties directly into how some people found Chris shrill sounding on ‘White Christmas’, because they suspected that this song needed massive studio tweeking to get a decent sound of Chris and Darren’s very different timbres (high/low) together, or because WC was simply too high for Chris. Well, I think they’re wrong.
First of all: listening to this song with good earphones or stereoboxes, and/or downloading the good quality version from iTunes might help improve the sound a lot: the youtube videos often don’t have the best sound quality, and that can deform high (and low) notes.

There is certainly some studio editing/tweeking in ‘White Christmas’ (they really are addicted to that on Glee), but it is not excessive, and it wasn’t needed to make either Chris’ voice sound better in the high notes, nor to make Darren sound better in the low notes (and I personally think they went a little overboard with the tweeking in his “ba-dum”’s in BSDO, as they hardly sound like him). Nor was the tweeking necessary to ‘bend’ these 2 very separate voices/timbres more to one another so the song would sound more homogeneous. Both singers did more than fine with the material and arrangement handed to them.
And as said before: Chris didn’t have to sing so very high in his falsetto, it stayed well within his comfort zone, he didn’t even have to reach for them and his notes are clear and effortless. What he did do is add some playful yodels, which can be mistaken for him ‘stumbling’ or not reaching the notes freely, but those were deliberate choices of him, and I detected no strain or flaws in his singing whatsoever, certainly no shrillness.
It is mostly the unusual arrangement that took people by surprise, but from what I read on the boards most of them got used to it fast and then liked the song.

While I’m at it, I might as well address another rumour/opinion that I have read several times on the boards and tumblr: Chris allegedly losing his highest notes due to his growth spurt over the past few years.
Not true. No
Take it from me as a vocal coach: Chris’ voice is still as bright and clear as it ever was. No, scratch that: it’s actually clearer and brighter than it was before, because over the Glee years Chris has learned to support his voice with his breathing and abdomen muscles, so he can relax his highest notes better, and therefore there is hardly any strain in his falsetto anymore, hence the vibrato and broadness in them. Him getting that growth spurt that late in his adolescense did not make his voice drop significantly and Chris certainly did not lose the higher notes because of it.
By the time the growth spurt happened Chris was already used to training his voice and I’m sure he and his voice coach made sure he kept stretching his vocal range so he wouldn’t lose any of those highest notes. He may have gained some low notes though. It is maybe interesting to know that often in vocal training gaining more depth in the low notes also simultaneously causes a gain in the highest notes, when they are trained (to maybe a lesser degree) at the same time. It all has to do with control and relaxation: both ends of the vocal range require control and relaxation, so training those skills for either the low or high notes will have some positive effect on the other side too, as long as that other side does not get neglected in daily practice.

What is noticeable from that late growth spurt of Chris in his voice is that he got a slightly darker timbre, a more mature sound. Chris’ falsetto was endearingly innocent and clearly high-pitched when he sang his first ‘girl’ songs on Glee, but he was no match to the trained female singers (that was part of the charm, I guess). Over the years Chris learned to have more control and strength in his voice, and like Kurt, he grew into this confident young man who makes no compromises and knows that this voice he’s got is special. He flaunted it right in Carmen’s face with his high G5 in ‘Not The Boy Next Door’ and he tested it to its limits in ‘I Have Nothing’. hapitgh
His voice now has what is called ‘iron’ in it (at least that is a vocal technical term used in dutch, I don’t know how it’s called in english): it has gained a strong, ‘bundled’/focused piercing sound (if you may call it that, but piercing in a good way) that is a far cry from his more crystalline ‘girl-like’ enchanting ‘Defying Gravity’ falsetto notes.
And that is a good thing, although it might not be what people are used to hearing on a daily basis, as his timbre cannot be mistaken for a girl anymore (a girl’s voice being in the ‘normal’ listening comfort zone) an is more masculine than a high male voice might be expected. His voice has matured as Chris has. As much as we can’t deny that Chris has turned from a ‘milkmaid’ into a gorgeous man, there’s no denying that his falsetto has turned into a grown man’s voice/timbre, even in his highest notes.
So no loss of notes, just gain of timbre and maturity. fanny2


Final remark(s) :
If this thread has taught me (and hopefully its readers) anything it is how incredible wide Chris’s vocal range is, and how versatile he can be used in the songs of Glee. Last episode’s ‘Being Alive’ had me marveling because of the depth and mature sound in his tenor voice, and just this week on another thread I voted for ‘I Have Nothing’ as my favorite Kurt solo because of the haunting beauty of his countertenor voice, and yes: I love the high notes in that song. These 2 songs are set far apart in Chris’ vocal spectrum, but I love them both, as he handled them both with skill, heart and devotion. wub
And the same applies for ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Although at first glance these 2 latest Christmas songs were set in the higher part of Chris’ voice: after analyzing them, to my surprise they were mostly placed in the middle part of his voice, and that’s where his colfertenor reigns.
Chris has this uncanny intuition to know precisely which voice he should use for which song or song style. Strictly low register or high register, mixed voice ‘colored’ high or low, switching registers on low notes or using breakpoints on high notes, vibrato or no vibrato, rough or velvety, clear or hazy: he has many variations at his disposal and he uses them all.
Often the style or height of a song points him firmly in the right direction with that, but he sometimes goes against the obvious choice and makes subtle voice choices to get a certain effect, and so far he’s been right as it always added something to the song. Like his choice to let his falsetto ‘loose’ on the long vibrato notes in ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, and his little yodels in ‘White Christmas’. And choosing to constantly switch registers in both songs (aka his colfertenor), when the notes in/range of the songs gave him enough leeway to opt for singing mostly in his tenor or countertenor voice.
This intuition and ability to adapt his voice and timbre is maybe one of the most enchanting aspects of why I (and many others) love his singing so much. wub


As for Klaine in general and their Klistmas duets in particular:
I’m not a fan of Darren’s voice as I think he is limited (although very enjoyable in certain genres), but when praise is due I give it to him. Darren did great on ‘White Christmas’. His lack of vibrato was very noticeable in HYAMLC, but he can’t control on which songs he gets to sing and whether they suit him or not.
Why am I saying this?
I think that after 3 Klaine Christmas duets, and their few lines together in ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ and HYAMLC as added bonuses, it’s time to move on. Klaine singing together has its problems as much as it has its charms. Their songs together have to be arranged in a specific, limiting way to make them work, and often that results in Kurt having to hold back his vibrato, backing up Blaine and/or dialing Kurt’s voice back in the soundmix, and I simply want more for Kurt’s voice: other singers to harmonize with, and maybe a different (leading) role for him in those harmonies.

Chris has had very few duet partners on the show, and I know there are other singers on Glee he would sound better with than Darren (no offense to Darren, because the same is true for Darren when it comes to other duet partners for him).
Chris of course sounds amazing with Lea and I’m baffled that the last Hummelberry duet was 1½ season ago. I’m still very impatiently waiting for a Furt duet, as I know Chris and Cory would sound great together. A new love interest could also provide a new duet opportunity for Kurt, but there are so many other duetting possibilities that never really got explored with the old characters, like Santana and Puck. The little snipbits we heard of Kurt singing with Artie, Tina and Quinn, his duet with Mercedes….. there was so much potential lost. :(
RIB should look beyond deciding Glee’s duet partners depending on their romantic relationships, as imo it seriously holds back the music quality in the show (and it’s boring). As Kurt is also that gay kid who’s romantic endeavours are very limited on a Fox show, and in the narrative for a long time was too toxic and not ‘bro’ enough to sing with another guy plus too much of a lady to sing a leading man duet with a girl, his duetting opportunities have been very, very few and far inbetween. And I want this to change, dammit!
At the moment Kurt is in New York with only Rachel to sing with (and they hardly ever do!). I want Glee to explore everything that NYADA has to offer storywise and singingwise for Kurt. Give him new friendships in which being an effeminate gay is not an issue; and remember that he has a step-brother and some old friends who would love to bunk at the Hummelberry loft for a weekend on the town with an inevitable visit to karaoke-bar Callbacks. And let them sing together!

********************************************************



Last edited by Glorfindel on 1/23/2013, 9:59 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  ColferGirl on 1/4/2013, 2:53 am

Thank you for another beautiful review Marie. wub wub I always wish I had something intelligent to say or interesting to ask, but usually I can only bask in the delight of learning more about Chris's voice and understanding these songs more intimately. I appreciate your reviews so so much. After every one, I come to love Chris's singing voice and his songs even more. wub

I'm really glad you cleared up whether Chris could "lose" his higher notes. I'd heard that comment in other forums too, and wasn't sure if that was even possible. I'm happy to know straight from you that he's singing better than ever, in all parts of his vocal range. hapitgh

As for the final remarks...hopefully, we'll start to see Chris singing with more people.
Spoiler:
Santana is likely coming to New York soon, so there's a possibility she'll get to interact and sing with Kurt sometime. Same with Finn, if he ever comes to NY, which I'm sure he will someday. And of course, there's lots of hope for Kurt and Adam to sing together - I'm anxious to know what kind of singer Adam is, and if he'd be a good musical match for Kurt. I'd love if he was and we got a duet with them together. Considering how much RIB love romantic couple duets, and that all new couples this season have gotten at least one duet (Bram, Brochel, Jarley), the chance is high. And hopefully we'll get more Hummelberry songs too, of course. I'm feeling pretty optimistic about it. Smile
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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  arina on 1/4/2013, 3:24 am

Great review Marie as always! I cannot wait for the Being Alive one, but no pressure Smile

I am extremely sad about so few duets partners as well. Especially with this extreme big cast. No existing Furt duet probably bothers me the most.
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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Delight on 1/9/2013, 1:14 am

Thank you, Glorfindel, for your lovely and insightful song review neutre . Like ColferGirl, I also don't have anything interesting to say or ask. Furthermore, the Klaine aspects of these two songs make me kinda not want to think about them too deeply. It's weird and petty of me, I know, but I can't help it. In my opinion, Klaine hadn't had a good duet since BICO, and I really want to hear Kurt sing with other partners.

I admit that I'm one of the people who was taken aback by how high-pitched Kurt's part is in 'White Christmas' and was wondering whether Anders had butchered the song to make a duet out of a song that isn't a duet to begin with. It's only later that I heard the Michael Buble and Shania Twain version, and realized what it was meant to sound like and thought, 'Whoa, Kurt sounds better in his part than Shania Twain did in hers'.
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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/28/2013, 2:18 pm

*sits patiently and munches on Buncha Crunch (because I hate popcorn) while waiting for the "Being Alive" review* mrgreen

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Glorfindel on 1/28/2013, 6:33 pm

^Patience is a virtue, you know. fanny2


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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/28/2013, 7:31 pm

That's what my ex used to always say to me! Laughing

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Glorfindel on 1/28/2013, 7:35 pm

^Oops. moque

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/28/2013, 7:39 pm

I don't know why! I am the most patient person I know! whis

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Glorfindel on 1/28/2013, 8:04 pm

^Sure.




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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/28/2013, 8:16 pm

tonguue

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  fantastica on 1/28/2013, 8:20 pm

i have no patience. i want rush to Marie's home and ransack her studio.

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Glorfindel on 1/28/2013, 8:27 pm

^Oh my, I better hurry up then. fanny2

Wednesday is my day off. I've promised myself to lock myself up in my studio and work on it then.


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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/28/2013, 8:29 pm

Aw. We're like sharks circling you in the water! I'm sorry! *hangs head*

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  fantastica on 1/28/2013, 8:32 pm

i think my tactics worked. tonguue

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/28/2013, 8:33 pm

LOL!

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Glorfindel on 1/28/2013, 9:25 pm

fantastica wrote:i think my tactics worked. tonguue
Yes, mom, I'll go clean my room now. taunt02

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  fantastica on 1/28/2013, 9:29 pm

good girl. now here is some cat food for you. tonguue

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 1/29/2013, 7:43 pm

So, I remember Chris saying in an interview that he retained his high range in an unusual way. He said when he was around 13 years old and his voice started to crack, he'd purposely sing along to his favorite female singers everyday and go as high as he could. Also, in some earlier tweets from 2009/2010, he mentions being able to hit high notes in vocal warm ups (done in private, of course). A high C, a high A (or was it a high F? I'm not sure...)

And it made me think of a very interesting coincidence. Chris played Kurt, the youngest boy, in "The Sound of Music" when he was 14 years old in a community theatre production. Also, as a child, one of his favorite movies was "The Sister Act"...he didn't say which one, because he was too young to tell them apart. Both of these productions have boy roles that sing extremely high notes as the highlights of some songs.

The Sound of Music (at 1:33): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o48aZ_C52wc (I think everyone remembers this one)

The Sister Act Two. I am around Chris' age, and I too, remember watching this film as a little kid. The only thing that sticks in my mind to this day is that glorious high note. Everytime I hear it, I get tears in my eyes and a chill down my spine. It is stunning. The note is at 2:49 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdmw7VdFYjg

It just makes you think. I wonder if he used these moments as practices in keeping his range. neutre

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REVIEW: Being Alive, part 1

Post  Glorfindel on 2/7/2013, 8:37 pm

REVIEW: Being Alive.

“Kurt paces and frets and wishes he’d brought some of his props with him because he feels so naked performing without them. Rachel’s eyes are twinkling when she tells him the only prop he needs is his face because, honestly, it looks like it was molded by cherubs at God’s own atelier. He decides on “Being Alive,” and it’s perfect and he’s perfect and when he says, “I’m Kurt Hummel and I’ll be auditioning for the role of NYADA student” I burst into tears.”
afterelton.com/2012/12/glee-recap

After a whole season of trying to get into the college of his choice, the ultimate prestigious musical theater school NYADA; after being lifted to cloud #9 because of the praise he got from dean Carmen Tibideaux for his amazing audition song ‘Not The Boy Next Door’, and then being dropped into the deepest pit of despair with “I didn’t get in”; after waiting another half year while trying ot make a home for himself in New York, Kurt finally got another chance to re-audition for NYADA.
That is, after he got rejected yet another time for a reason that doesn’t make much sense to me and put Kurt further down for no reason at all, and then he got to re-audition in a way that made even less sense to me and put Kurt through more stress for no logical reason at all either. What the he…..?!? blinkk Well, as this is Glee, maybe we should just be thankful he finally got in, lick our wounds and call it a day. Mission accomplished after all, right? Brush your shoulders off and move on, please.
Anyway, Kurt got his 2nd chance at NYADA, and although many fans thought that his first audition NTBND was flawless and impossible to beat (and I still think this is the case) ‘Being Alive’ managed to at the least be on the same level of that ‘golden nugget’ (tonguue) performance. It was a completely different song, different style, different staging, different performance, different emotions,…. but the same performer. And that, my dear dean Carmen, is the deciding magical factor in both performances, although the writers made you forget this to get their cheap contrived drama.
Let’s get to the song before I spew all my snark while this review has hardly even begun. And I promise myself to make a mostly positive review, which won’t be hard, as Kurt’s ‘Being Alive’ deserves all the praise I will give it in this review.

The videos :

Raul Esparza:


John Barrowman (musical version with other cast members):


Glee version, episode performance:


Glee version, complete song:


The Lyrics :
- Bolded are the lyrics shown in the episode.

Verse 1:
Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep.
Someone to sit in your chair, to ruin your sleep,


PAUL: That's true, but there's more to it than that.
SARAH: Is that all you think there is to it?
HARRY: You've got so many reasons for not being with someone, but
Robert,
you haven't got one good reason for being alone.
LARRY: Come on, you're on to something, Bobby. You're on to something.


Verse 2:
Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well.
Someone to pull you up short, to put you through hell.

DAVID: You see what you look for, you know.
JOANNE: You're not a kid anymore, Robby. I don't think you'll ever
be a kid again, kiddo.
PETER: Hey, buddy, don't be afraid it won't be perfect. The only thing
to be afraid of really is that it won't be.
JENNY: Don't stop now. Keep going.


Verse 3:
Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare.
Someone who, like it or not, will want you to share a little, a lot (of being alive).

SUSAN: And what does all that mean?
LARRY: Robert, how do you know so much about it when you've never
been there?
HARRY: It's much better living it than looking at it, Robert.
PETER: Add 'em up, Bobby. Add 'em up.


Verse 4:
Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care.
Someone to make you come through, who'll always be there,
As frightened as you of being alive,
Being alive, being alive, being alive!


AMY: Blow out the candles, Robert, and make a wish. *Want* something!
Want *something*!


Repeat verse 1:
Somebody hold me too close,
Somebody hurt me too deep.
Somebody sit in my chair, and ruin my sleep,
And make me aware of being alive,
being alive.

Repeat verse 2:
Somebody need me too much,
Somebody know me too well.
Somebody pull me up short, an put me through hell,
And give me support for being alive, make me alive, (make me alive).

Bridge:
Make me alive, make me confused,
Mock me with praise, let me be used.
Vary my days, but alone is alone, not alive!


Repeat verse 4:
Somebody crowd me with love,
Somebody force me to care.
Somebody let me come through, I'll always be there,
As frightened as you to help us survive,
Being alive, being alive, being alive!



Full version vs. episode version :
As you can see, besides the comments from the other characters in the musical ‘Company’, in the Glee episode version they left out about 3 verses of the actual lyrics the character Robert sings. Which is always a pity of course, but in this case it’s even more of a pity because it takes away a lot of the build up of the song and the change of heart the character is going through.
The original (musical) song repeats the same 3 verses, and there is a 4th verse that is sung only once. The repeat of those 3 verses is the main ‘trick’ of the story being told: the character has different emotions when he sings them the 2nd time. The many repetitions, each with a slightly different emotion emphasized or added, is why this song is mostly an ‘acted’ song, although the singing techniques needed should not be underestimated.
The first time the character sings the verses he objects to a partner in life: they are obnoxious and make you lose your own privacy/identity. Giving yourself to another means opening up, being vulnerable and letting others in to hurt you. Therefore the character has chosen to be alone. These verses are sung more in general, as an opinion. But then, halfway through the song, also because of what the other characters on the show are saying to him, Robert realizes that being alone might be more comfortable at first glance, but it does not mean being alive. Feelings for someone else, even getting hurt or confused, might be preferable over closing your heart and not feeling life to the fullest. Alone is alone, not alive. The last verses are about Robert himself, what happened to him and what he wants, not a general opinion he has about love anymore.
Because of this realisation the 2nd time the verses are sung the pronouns are different. “Someone” changes into “Somebody”, and “you” changes into “me”. Instead of talking in general, in theory, as he believes it ‘should’ be (Someone to hold you too close.”), Robert starts talking about himself, how he got hurt, but how he also still needs someone (Somebody hold me too close.”). Those changed pronouns are essential to the change and realisation Robert is going through.

Now here are the lyrics of the episode version:

Verse 1:
Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep.
Someone to sit in your chair, to ruin your sleep,


Verse 4:
Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care.
Someone to make you come through, who'll always be there,
As frightened as you of being alive,
Being alive, being alive!


Repeat verse 1:
Somebody hold me too close,
Somebody hurt me too deep.
Somebody sit in my chair, and ruin my sleep,
And make me aware of being alive,


Bridge:
Make me alive, make me confused,
Mock me with praise, let me be used.
Vary my days, but alone is alone, not alive!


Repeat verse 4:
Somebody crowd me with love,
Somebody force me to care.
Somebody let me come through, I'll always be there,
As frightened as you to help us survive,
Being alive, being alive, Being alive!


In the episode version Kurt basically repeats 2 verses (and the chorus ”Being Alive”), with only the bridge as a build-up to the glory long note at the end. With the rest of the verses and the comments from the other musical characters taken out of the song, the only clue we get in the shortened version that something has changed for the character is the pronouns suddenly changing the 2nd time the verses are sung. The rest of the change has to be conveyed by the emotive powers of the singer.
By taking out this gradual realisation process of the character, by taking out verses that were in the full musical version, it interrupts that build-up and realisation point. The song is crippled. However, if the singer was aware he was singing a shortened version with some verses and lines left out, he could make a new build-up and realisation point with the verses that are left in the song, as he can ‘re-invent’ the song as it is presented to him to perform.
The Glee episode version is the same as Raul Esparza’s excellent 2007 Tony performance (see video above). Raul knew about the short cuts and he anticipated them and made a new build-up plan, re-creating the song as still ‘complete’ in build-up, emotion and story.
So in the Glee episode ‘Swan Song’ Kurt has the exact same arrangement and verses as that Raul Esparza’s 2007 Tony performance (and some solo versions of other artists). But we know that Chris also sang the complete musical version (without the other character’s lines) as the released iTunes full version.
And there’s the rub:
I doubt that Chris recorded 2 versions of ‘Being Alive’: the full iTunes version and the episode (Raul Esparza’s) version, because to me his versions sound exactly the same (the lines that are used in both versions, of course), and with the crazy Glee schedule I suspect they just let Chris record one version, the longer one, and cut it short to the 2007 Tony performance for the show.
Therefore Chris could only create a build-up in the ‘full’ musical version he recorded, but, because Chris did not record a separate shortened version, he could not anticipate and deliberately put a more tailor made build up in the edited/cut version, if he was even told beforehand that they would cut verses out (for the episode version) when he recorded ‘Being Alive’. If he was aware they would cut the song shorter and knew what verses they were going to cut, he could not use those verses as an emotional build-up, because when they would be cut from the episode the transitions from one kept verse to the next kept verse (while skipping a verse) would be too disjointed. There would have been a gap in build-up and emotional level because of the cut version inbetween being gone. The build-up line would be severed and have a ‘hick-up’. If Chris was not aware that verses would be cut (or which ones) the problem would be how to cut and edit the song without breaking the build-up apart.
It’s like taking 2 pictures outside within minutes of each other pretending to be taken at the same time, but the first picture is sunny while the 2nd picture has a cloud in front of the sun: you just know time elapsed between these 2 pictures.

I wonder if this played a part at all in why Kurt’s version of ‘Being Alive’ is a bit subdued in emotions compared to some other performers? Did Chris put in more build-up while recording and did they have to edit it down? Or was Chris directed (or figured that out himself, knowing of the 2 different versions) to sing with a more even build-up, so the gaps wouldn’t show in the cut version? Or was it just a very fortunate coincidence that Chris sang ‘Being Alive’ a bit more internal and subdued than many staged performance, out of personal preference or to get a more stripped down effect (like Carmen wanted)?
Sometimes I wish I could be a little fly on the wall of the Glee recording studio. Rolling Eyes
Anyway, it’s a good thing that Chris decided to sing the song more subtle, calm, more internalized, I’d almost say ‘resigned’ than most versions out there. His realisation process is more turned inwards, without too much anger and frustration shown on the surface of the singing (like angry growls or raising of his voice). If he had gone full blown in his emotions while singing (like he did with ‘Rose’s Turn’), the cutting of the song would have been really audible. And the song itself, its meaning, did not suffer from this more subdued singing. There is still build-up and a turning point. It’s just more gradually done than in the versions we are used to, but still beautiful and truthful to the spirit of the song.
[To illustrate: can you imagine ‘Rose’s Turn’ being cut up like that, e.g. leaving out the 2nd and 3rd verses, if it immediately it had jumped from the first verse (”All that work and what will it get me, Why did I do it. Scrapbooks full of me in the background.”) to “Well someone tell me when is it my turn?”. Because of the build-up (of anger) in the song the cut version would not have fitted together. It would have gone from being irritated and disappointed to full blown rage without the middle part. Luckily back in season 1 they didn’t cut most of the songs up like they do now.]


The Key :



“It’s gotten to the point where I have to ask them to lower the key of songs. I’m doing Being Alive in an upcoming episode and they had it in a higher key, and I was like, ‘Guys I get that you like when I sing high, but can I PLEASE sound like a man for the man song, pretty pretty please?”
- Chris Colfer on Broadway Names (CCN – 2012-11-30)

Finally our Kurtsie prayers were answered and Kurt had drunken sex with Rachel sang a male Broadway song. And one of the great songs too. Instead of Kurt singing a female musical power ballad, and again stepping into the high heels of Broadway divas like Barbra, Patti and Bernadette, RIB allowed Kurt to….. oh wait, no, I’m wrong: because that’s exactly still what RIB wanted Kurt to do. ‘Being Alive’ is a “man” song, sung by great singers as Raul Esparza and John Barrowman, but it has been covered by the divas I just mentioned as well. And apparently RIB (and or the music producers) wanted Kurt to sing it in the same key as the divas they worship so much.
Now, there’s no doubt that Chris could have nailed BA in a higher (female) key, and if I try to imagine it in my head, it would not have taken any power or emotion away from the song, imo. Hey, if these queens of the Broadway stage can make BA emotional resonant with the use of both of their voice registers (as most women do), than so can Chris. He has done it before with e.g. the iconic Kurt songs ‘Rose’s Turn’ and ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’.
But, the big, big difference between these earlier Kurt songs and ‘Being Alive’ is that they originally already are female songs, and BA is not: it is a ‘boy’ song (as Chris said). If Kurt had sung it in a female key it would be 2 times removed from the original. Male song >>1>> translated to a female key >>2>> sung by a man. That’s like a text in one language translated into another language, and then translated back in the first language again. blinkk

Chris begged to sing the ‘man’ song in a man’s key, and I am so glad he did.
By asking to lower the song, to sing it in its original key, Chris shows (again) that he has more insight than all of the Glee producers combined when it comes to Kurt and that he has great instincts when it comes to his voice. And I wrote “again” because this is not the first time Chris asked for a key change.
Although not everyone agrees with me on this (and as a voice coach I have had my concerns with it as well), Chris asking for ‘I Have Nothing’ in the original Whitney Houston key also showed good instinct. It gave something extra to that song, an extra meaning, that maybe was not executed 100% right, but was totally right in intention. It was a great way to honor a great singer, very thoughtful of Chris, and I’ve noticed that the more I listen to IHN the more I love it, partly because of this intent and backstory.
In some other songs Chris chose to color his voice and its timbre more to his low register or to his high register, influencing the atmosphere and sound of those songs in a subtle way. I don’t know if that’s purely the instinct of a singing actor, or if it was his deliberate choice every time, but he knows his voice and what it can do like no other. With Chris it’s all about bringing the emotions across, whether he’s singing, acting or writing. “Being a storyteller”, as Chris would say.
By singing ‘Being Alive’ in its original key Chris accessed a part of his voice that is perfect for the adult character Robert he’s portraying and the emotions he’s feeling. The low-middle part of his low register is rich, full and most importantly for this song: mature. Kurt is 19, officially adult and he went through a lot that forced him to grow up faster than many of his peers, but he is still too young to be cast as a Robert (and so is Chris with his 22 years). But his low voice combined with his acting skills gives his rendition of BA what it needs nonetheless: depth and power (vocally and emotionally).
If they had insisted on Chris singing BA in a higher key, it still would have been a beautiful Kurt song, and considering what Kurt just went through, it would have worked in the context of the song. But it would not have gotten the extra emotional layer of also being true to the character of the original musical, Robert. It would have stopped at Chris portraying Kurt singing a song. Now it’s Chris portraying Kurt portraying Robert, with a lot of Kurt’s own emotions mixed into it as well (as Carmen wanted), giving this song a multilayered depth that I, as a musical theatre nerd, can appreciate very much. hapitgh

Chris singing a man’s song ‘like a man’ is not the only good thing that came out of his request to sing ‘Being Alive’ in its original key. Besides of stripping down his angelic 3 octaves voice to a mere mortal 2 octaves tenor, and showing that Kurt can still be fabulous without the unicorn voice (I will elaborate on this later in this review), the lower key established something else, something we’ve been craving for a long time.
Because not only Chris got a chance to show off his rich low register, but so did Kurt. Ever since we got that nasty stinking WSS/not able to pass storyline on Glee, this has not yet been re-addressed nor resolved in the show (one way or the other). And although parking and barking a ‘man’ song on stage is not the same as acting a male romantic lead in a musical, ‘Being Alive’ comes pretty close. (And I still mourn for never getting WSS’s ‘Maria’ sung by Chris)
Add to that that RIB deliberately connected Kurt’s high voice to him failing to ‘act straight’ in season 3, I consider Kurt singing a male Broadway song completely in low register getting one step closer to resolution (and revenge) of that horrible storyline, even if this was (and take good notice of this!) solely something that the character’s actor brought about, and not one bit intended by the writers who attempt to write the show (on the contrary I’d even say). It will probably have no lasting consequences whatsoever for Kurt in the canon, as old storylines are seldom revisited (although they are readily copied and re-used) or even remembered, but as a Kurtsie I’ll put that little detail in the ‘win’-column for Kurt.



Complexity, depth and soul :
(ugh Carmen, how could you not see that in NTBND?)

”I just did Being Alive from ‘Company’ and that was so much fun. It’s such a great, um, emotional number and I think it’s one of the very few emotional numbers that are written for men.”
— Chris Colfer on the Bobby Bones Show (CCN – 2012-11-30)

It’s been a while since the episode aired, so some of you may not remember this, but when the song came out there were some people complaining that Kurt/Chris’s ‘Being Alive’ was nothing like Raul Esparza’s or John Barrowman’s versions, etc. (I believe that everytime Glee covers an iconic song and/or a song sung by an iconic singer, there are complains in and outside the fandom that “*insert character* ruined this song” and “*insert character* is not as good as *insert iconic singer*”). And no, Kurt’s version wasn’t like any of those other versions. My first response was: “Why would it be?” as each performer brings his own interpretation into a song, although he/she has to sty faithful to the lyrics and intention of the song.
My second response was: “Why is it different? What prompted the choices being made by Chris as an artist?”, questions I try to answer now.
Chris chose to mainly internalize the emotions of ‘Being Alive’, making it more intimate, and therefore harder to spot and pinpoint., although the emotions are definitely still there. I’ve already speculated above that the song being cut in the show might have played a (big?) part in this. But I’ve also got another theory why Chris took a more subdued approach to the song. Again, this is also speculation, and maybe it’s a combination of both reasons, or maybe it’s just me looking way to deep into this, lol, but here goes:

Surface: whistles and bells.
When Carmen told Kurt he had only shown surface in NTBND and ‘Wake Me Up Before You GoGo’ (really, who writes something like this? The Kurt Hummel I know would never pick a song like that for his 2nd NYADA application), and needed to lose the whistles and bells, that is exactly what Kurt did with singing ‘Being Alive’.
Some of that was literally forced upon Kurt by Carmen’s whim (and I’ll deal with Carmen later) to have him perform at a 5 minutes notice: no costume, no props, no backup singers, no choreography, no proper preparation. Those were all the outer trimmings of some of Kurt’s previous performances that the writer of this Glee episode focused on and decided to build Kurt’s alleged ‘flaw’ on (wrongly: if anyone showed only surface this episode, it was writer Stacy Traub, imo, but I’ll deal with her later too). :angry:

Glee has a tendency to show us what a character is going through by using cheap, very visible tricks, that may show the outside of an argument/situation but certainly not the inside (imo we owe it to Chris’ acting that we know so much about Kurt’s inside), and then hitting it into our heads with a sledge hammer. Therefore not only did Kurt have to show Carmen he could sing a song with more depth and soul and less surface, he also had to do it without any props to distract us and Carmen-a-reknown-voice-coach-who-apparently-could-not-see-the-depth-and-soul-of-NTBND-because-Kurt’s-golden-pants-made-her-lose-focus. On second thought: who can really blame her for that? fanny2 Maybe Kurt really should have done ‘Music of the Night’ in the nude: it doesn’t get anymore stripped down to the bare essentials than that (although that might have had the exact opposite effect than the intended no distractions, lol).
So we got just Kurt standing alone on the stage singing, with no smoke and mirrors, no whistles and bells: the traditional park & bark (which effect then got immediately ruined by adding the spinning camera trick: that was a director’s mistake). Narratively wise that would have been enough to drill home that with the props removed that Kurt apparently hid his feelings behind he finally was able to perform with complexity, depth and soul. Evil or Very Mad
But on top of the visual effect of Kurt simply standing on stage, Chris himself took the ‘not-only-surface-but-stripped-down-to-bare-emotions’ challenge of Carmen to another level. He made 3 very effective performing choices to remove even more of those condemning whistles and bells from his performance. I already covered part of this in earlier paragraphs of this review, but just to paint the complete picture, forgive me the partial repeat.

1) Again: the key.
Chris asked to sing BA in a lower (the original) key, because of the song itself being a “man’s song”. But it had the secondary effect (and how much Chris anticipated this I don’t know) that it took away the voice Kurt is known for and what makes him special: his falsetto and ability to switch between his registers. Besides not using his falsetto is reducing his voice to only 2/3 of his total vocal range, it also took away an extra layer and tool for Chris to use.
By limiting his voice by only using his low register in BA, Chris could not rely on his almost female vocal instincts of putting emotion in his song by singing softer in falsetto at certain moments and belting in low register at others. This removed a big part of his vocally emphasizing and building-up abilities. All the emotion and expression in his voice had to come from only one timbre, one aspect of the voice he (and we) got used to over the years.
Chris laid Kurt’s soul bare (and his?) by taking away what would certainly have made him very different from the famous male BA performers (and not the female ones like Barbra, Bernadette or Patti, who he didn’t want to be compared with this time) : his falsetto and colfertenor.

Now Kurt did not have his famous rare voice to bedazzle his NYADA audience with: he put himself at the same advantage/vocal range level as any other male singer, so nothing would distract from the emotions he could put in the song by merely singing and acting them. Noone in that beautiful auditorium besides Rachel, Brody and Carmen knew that Kurt has got some extra vocal tricks up his sleeve, tricks that were a big part of the misleading label they put on him in Lima, the label of being a unicorn that made him into a musical and social llama; tricks that are very special and rare but were never used properly in show choir.
The NYADA audience knew nothing about Kurt. All they saw was an ordinary guy, albeit with a daring fashion sense, knocking their socks off with a tenor/baritone song that suited him as well as those flashy pants he wore….. and they gave him a big, fat standing O.. crycry



“2) This is NYADA we’re talking about, after all.”
Time and again we were told by the narrative (and part of the fandom) that NYADA is so exclusive that only the best singers can get in. Rachel of course, she is the special one after all, but Kurt? This was the school that rejected Jesse St. James!
In order to be admitted Kurt did not only have to overcome Carmen’s depth and soul challenge, but he also had to do it with sufficient vocal techniques to be NYADA worthy. So Chris did his best, more than his best, to sing BA with all the right techniques he’s learned over the years (I’ll get back to that later, too). Singing Bel Canto (singing as beautiful as you can, using your voice as a mere musical instrument) is beautiful and praise worthy. However, it takes away the rough edges of the voice, and therefore can take away some of the emotions normal voice displays when used in all its aspects. Bel Canto techniques frees the musical voice but it limits the speaking voice and its expressions.
I’ll refer to ‘Rose’s Turn’ again: that song was one big ball of raw emotion, when Kurt was very upset. There were growls, shouts and ‘slips’ of his vocal techniques during singing to demonstrate how upset Kurt was. If ‘Rose’s Turn’ had been sung in the Bel Canto style a part of these emotions would have been gone, or severely subdued.
Now I’m not saying that singing as beautiful as you can stops a singer from being emotional, opera singers like Maria Callas would protest, but Bel Canto limits the outwardly expressed emotions, and therefore a singer has to internalize them, and show them to the audience (‘act them out’) in more subtle ways.
I believe that is what Chris did. He took meticulously care that he vocal techniques were practically flawless and up to par with what NYADA (and the fandom) expected from its students, and therefore he couldn’t go full out in acting mode. The way he performed pointed that out too: he was standing still all the time, only moving his hands in the bridge of the song. The acting part was solely in his eyes and his tone of voice.
So singing Bel Canto also stripped part of the whistles and bells from Kurt’s performance.

“3) Dedicate it to yourself, Kurt.”
Chris was not only singing as the character Robert, but also as the character Kurt. It was Kurt’s emotions he had to portray as well, on top of the character’s Robert’s emotions. Chris needed Robert’s emotions in the performance to be true to the song and its musical. But Carmen did not want to see Robert, she wanted to see Kurt’s soul in his performance. Rachel gave him the best advice to tell Kurt to dedicate ‘Being Alive’ to himself.

Kurt just went through a horrible break-up which must have crossed his mind while singing (”Somebody hurt me too deep.”), and he is finding out what it means to have a roommate who he let into his shielded and protected heart (“as frightened as you” and “sits in his chair”). Kurt always shielded his heart and feelings, because of what he went through. In Lima he lowered these protective walls for only a few people, and got hurt more than once because of that, esp. recently by his ex-boyfriend. But the liberating atmosphere of New York and his success at Vogue has made Kurt more comfortable and confident, and he’s less shielded as he was before. Kurt is realizing what it means being alone in a big city, and what a difference it makes having friends like Rachel and Isabelle there, even when he just lost his love.
All these emotions could be seen in Kurt’s ‘Being Alive’, if you went looking for them in his face during the performance. Lots of theatrical hand gestures, raising his voice, and other emotional ‘effects’ would only have emphasized a few of these emotions, and not the full range of them in the double layers that are there behind his eyes. Sometimes less is more.

Going full blown with his emotions in ‘Being Alive’ like Robert in ‘Company’ could have resulted in a great BA rendition, but it would have been too theatrical for the setting, as it would have created those smoke and mirrors, whistles and bells to distract the audience who is too stupid to see through them (not going to let this one go, Carmen, nope), and that was not what Carmen wanted. Had this been a stage performance in which Kurt was specifically asked to re-enact the musical, then the theatricalities would have fitted.
Kurt was not acting as Robert and hiding behind that: he was laying his soul bare to Carmen, and in the process also to himself. He said that he finally understood what the song meant to him. That immediately made the emotions of the song more internal than external, more Kurt than Robert, as he was contemplting the words himself when he sang them, and it was up to Carmen and the audience to pick that up. It was all or nothing for Kurt, and a revisit to his wonderful stance across the years: “Accept me for who I am or don’t accept me at all, but I will not compromise who I am.”
Chris choosing a more subdued way of singing and acting made it less ‘theatre’ and more ‘real’ for Kurt, imo. Plus it showed how absolutely gifted Chris is with his subtle, internal acting. He can say more with one look and a single note than others can in a whole song.
Carmen’s challenge for Kurt was to show more complexity, depth and soul, and Kurt gave her that, and then some. hapitgh


Carmen Tibideaux, dean of NYADA :

"Kurt stops by Carmen Tibideaux’s office to ask if she received his most recent application and she tells him that she very rarely accepts repeat auditioners, and also that while she was impressed with his range and the way he wears gold leggings under his tearaway trousers, she doesn’t think he has much soul. Which is probably the dumbest thing I have ever heard in my life, and Ryan Murphy just hijacked Heather Morris’ voice and spoke to me through my television, so I know a thing or two about stupidity. Have you seen Kurt Hummel’s face? Have you looked into Kurt Hummel’s eyeballs? When that boy sings, he lays his soul bare and your soul bare too. Even robots cry. Carmen Tibideaux, you are my favorite nun/lounge singer, but you are wrong on this one."
afterelton.com/2012/12/glee-recap

Okay now: trying to write this paragraph without spitting fire and having steam coming out of my ears is the reason why I have not been able to post this review, even when it was practically finished for almost 2 months. I know Glee has done some bad storylines and is not a bundle of continuity and logic, but somehow the way Kurt’s 2nd audition was handled, and especially Carmen’s role in this, really, really pissed me off. Maybe it is because I am a vocal coach, and because I have studied at a NYADA kind of college, and know what it’s like to audition, prepare for an audition, and judge an audition. I’ve been on both sides of an audition judges table: I know the criteria to look for and how to look beyond just what the eyes and ears can tell at first glance.
What Glee did in ‘Swan Song’ with Kurt’s audition was pure shit. There, I’ve said it. And to my great chagrin they not only tainted one of Kurt’s best solos for me, but also ruined a potential interesting character in the process: dean Carmen Tibideaux. I don’t want my anger about this color this review too much, because this song deserves a raving review and not the bitterness I feel about the storyline surrounding it, so I will put my thoughts on the storyline behind spoiler bars, before returning to praising Chris for his singing. Read at your own risk.

Spoiler:
Instead of making a long rant of this, I have simply put up the facts of the canon here, and then given my comments on how things like these get done in the real world. Not to say that I never encountered whimsical, incompetent and power-abusing conservatory teachers before in real life, because I have, but none of them were as bad as Carmen, nor could they have gotten away with what Carmen did at the Winter Showcase, without losing face and their good reputation.
Of course, all the blame goes to RIB+, especially Tracy Traub who wrote the episode (and didn’t only mess up with Kurt: everything was disjointed in ‘Swan Song’), but in the canon I’m forced to not be that enamoured with dean Carmen Tibideaux anymore. Kurt was right: she is a total bitch.
I’ll try to get through this without frothing at the mouth too much. blushh

- 3x18: ‘Not The Boy Next Door’:
After Kurt’s first audition Carmen told Kurt that “…I am certain that he [Hugh Jackman, who won a Tony for his portrayal of this role] would have been as impressed at what you did with that song as I am. A bold choice, young man. I congratulate you for taking such a risk today”.
These words, this elaborate praise from an extremely hard to please person, combined with the criticism of Carmen for Kurt in 4x09, does not make any sense. Carmen praised Kurt like this when it was made clear in canon that she barely ever gave praise (she even criticised Jesse’s audition!). But half a year later she scolds Kurt for not even being worthy enough to get a 2nd chance to audition. What happened?
There are only 2 possibilities here:
1) Carmen lied to Kurt in ‘Choke’, but why would she, as she doesn’t owe Kurt anything?, or
2) the praise she gave Kurt for NTBND was retconned to get contrived drama.
As this is Glee, what scenario do you think is more plausible?....right.

-Okay, let’s play along with the retcon:
Carmen was ‘impressed’ by NTBND (she did say Kurt was talented and could sell a number), but somehow still found Kurt’s performance only surface, lacking complexity, depth and soul, and she found this so terrible that she wouldn’t even consider giving him a 2nd chance in december, let alone admit him in the summer. Possible, but THEN SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE PRAISED KURT THE WAY SHE DID!!!
She should either have:
1) kept her mouth shut, say “Thank you, next!” and leave Kurt in the dark about how he did.
2) given Kurt praise for his bold choice and her enjoying his audition, but then she also should have listed and criticized what he did wrong in her eyes, and give Kurt a chance to work on that and improve for his 2nd audition, or at least not get his hopes up.
That is simple etiquette, and how things normally work in real life (and I don’t mean talent shows on tv).

- 4x09: Carmen’s office:
First of all: a smart guy like Kurt who loves musicals and Broadway (and did research for WSS, knew about Cassandra July’s past and spent time on the NYADA forum) would never send in an acoustic version of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ (WMUBBYGG) as his audition tape for a school like NYADA. But this is the show in which Rachel Berry didn’t know that Cats was closed ages ago, so…..
*deep breath in, deep breath out*.

Carmen’s words: “I thought exactly what I thought the first time you auditioned for me, last Spring: here’s a very talented young man who knows how to sell a number, but who is devoid of complexity and depth. You gave me surface when I was looking for soul.”
You have no idea how painful it was having to watch that scene again and again (omg, Kurt’s horror-stricken face!) to be able to write this quote down word for word, ugh.
So now we know that Carmen did not only dislike WMUBYGG, but she didn’t like NTBND either. Wow, who saw that one coming, huh? Kurt certainly didn’t as SHE PRAISED HIM WITHOUT CRITICISM at the time.
Besides the clear retcon and the stomping on maybe the best acknowledged and praised vocal talent that Kurt’s actor Chris is known for: this criticism was quite a shock for Kurt and kinda important in the narrative, so to be able to feel something for this storyline, why didn’t we actually see his “devoid of complexity and depth” performance of WMUBYGG? Because Kurt is not Blaine Glee once again tells its stories rushed, half-assed and without actual showing. (And wouldn’t this have been a hilarious performance?)

“I rarely give anyone a 2nd chance, and when I do it is on my terms.”
Carmen gave Rachel a 2nd and a 3rd chance, even after Rachel behaved very badly, first during her audition and later by constantly trying to contact Carmen (sorry, Rachel fans, but this is true). Carmen even went to Nationals solely (!) to see Rachel, as she left right after ND finished their set. Carmen also admitted the Ave Maria girl with the warning that she needed to practice (even when there were only 20 slots to fill), and when she concluded the girl hadn’t practiced she threw her out of NYADA in the very first 5 minutes of the new semester, instead of letting her re-audition before the semester started, so Ave Maria girl wouldn’t have moved to New York already and someone else could have taken her place. That girl had good grounds for a law suit on Carmen for that.
Anyway: Kurt was denied his 2nd audition, when we saw both Rachel (after very bad behaviour) and Ave Maria girl (when she occupied a coveted slot with questionable abilities) being given a 2nd chance. That’s not handling the power and responsibility of your position very well, Carmen. La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle) – Verdi’s Rigoletto

-Carmen only saw NTBND and WMUBYGG: she never saw Kurt’s emotional ballads:
Not true, although the canon and the stupid writing wants us to believe otherwise.
There’s the argument that Carmen could only rely on those 2 songs to make an estimate of Kurt’s ability to show complexity and depth, instead of us, viewers who saw all of Kurts performances. Well, there’s 3 things that go against that reasoning :
1) Kurt must have had to sent in several songs along with his first NYADA application form. There’s no way that a school like NYADA would not demand mp3s or videos of performances of an applicant. The acoustic Wham song Kurt sent in for his request for a 2nd audition even confirms that. So Carmen saw more than just these 2 songs.
2) An audition for a school like NYADA would have consisted of at least 2 musical numbers, usually 1 ballad and 1 uptempo song. For musical theatre it also could consist of 1-2 ‘park and bark’ songs, and 1 performing song, with staging, dancing and acting. If NTBND was the stage number and also the uptempo number, there would still have been a ballad in which Kurt could have shown more complexity and depth. But why waste time on that when we can dedicate precious screentime to Beiste being beaten up by her husband?
3) Even if Carmen only saw NTBND, she is a trained vocal coach and therefore must have been able to see beyond the props, the dancing, the gold pants, and she would have seen how much that song meant to Kurt and how he went deeper than simple surface. I know this because I am trained to do this too, and I’m just a modest vocal coach, not a big shot theatre name with impeccable (and feared) skills like Carmen Tibideaux.

- Kurt hides behind his props:
Let’s see….. we can only look at Kurt’s auditions and staged performances here, imo, not the ‘spontaneous’ ones. And then we have had:
- Mr. Cellophane, auditioning for ND: no props.
- Defying Gravity, auditioning for a solo in ND: no props.
- Le Jazz Hot, staged performance for an assignment: props.
- Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, auditioning for the Warblers: no props.
(- Candles, Regionals performance with the Warblers: no props.)
- Some People, auditioning for a solo in ND: dancing (is that using props, or simply owning the stage?).
- Ding Dong The Witch is Dead, preparation for the NYADA mixer: props.
- I’m The Greatest Star, auditioning for the school musical West Side Story: props.
- Music Of The Night, auditioning for NYADA: props.
- Not The Boy Next Door, auditioning for NYADA: props.

So, the only times Kurt used props was when he was either singing a musical threatre song or auditioning for a musical theatre school. The times he auditioned for a simple solo or admittance to a choir he didn’t use any props. That doesn’t sound like Kurt hiding behind props to me, but more like knowing the material he’s working with and being smart.
Also regarding this:
It’s a bit ironic to have musical theatre school NYADA be the place where a park and bark performance is prefered over a staged performance….. dryy

-Why did Carmen put Kurt on the spot at the Winter Showcase?:
This makes the least sense of all.
Why would a reknown dean of NYADA risk her and NYADA’s reputation at their prestigious Showcase, in front of all those critics from the showbusiness, for a boy she was not sure off and very firmly rejected earlier? Was she enchanted by Kurt’s beautiful blue eyes? Did her cold heart thaw by the way he hugged bff Rachel? Even so, she would have not risked a potential failure and embrrassing performance at the school’s Winter Showcase.
The more logical way would be to have told Kurt at the Winter Showcase that he would be granted to audition for her in her office or an empty classroom after the concert was over. It would have been less cruel to Kurt also.
And this brings me to the theory I’ve read (and that even Rachel mentioned) that Carmen wanted to test Kurt’s quick adaptation skills and stress management level. Why would she have a need for that, when Kurt already proved how he was able to sense what might work and what not, thinking quickly on his feet and working under stress, at his first audition? Rachel was the one who couldn’t adapt and handle the stress at that given moment and time (although I would never encourage anyone to change an audition song a day before the audition either).
If Carmen deliberately put Kurt on the spot with a 5 minutes notice to ‘shake him loose’, to make him lower his shields and get to his vulnerability, she was severely mistaken in her thinking and educational upbringing. This hardly ever works in real life. A forced, unprepared performance is not the same as a spontaneous impromptu performance. The latter can be a vulnerable, completely free and emotionally touching performance, but the former never can achieve all that.
If anything, a stressful and unwilling performance like this, a performance that weighed heavily on his future career, as Kurt was offered this as his very last chance to get what he really wanted, would have him shaking in his designer boots, flowing over with adrenaline, and he would have to regain control over his body again by pulling up his shields even higher than before. It takes great willpower and energy to overcome such strong emotions in a moment like that and perform nonetheless. Kurt having been able to simply walk on stage and getting sound out of his mouth would have been a great achievement alone. Even knowing that Kurt overcame it all (it’s Kurt after all, Glee’s paragon of resilience) and triumphed: that’s a shitty way to treat a student, and as a vocal coach I’m offended on behalf of my fellow teachers).
These things only ever turn out well on tv and in the movies, guys.

With the ridiculous way Kurt’s 2nd audition storyline was written and executed in the episode, I can only come to the conclusion that in canon Carmen is a fickle, icecold, power-drunk weak excuse of a dean and vocal coach. No offense, Whoopi, I still love you in ‘Sister Act’.

And all this stupid contrived melodrama could simply have been avoided by Carmen refusing Kurt for a 2nd audition for another reason, a reason that was already embedded in the canon and still (!) needs resolution: Kurt not being able to pass for straight on stag,e combined with his high voice, and Kurt pigeonholing himself in the restricting flamboyant too-gay to-function niche with NTBND (and even WMUBYGG). If Kurt could not reach beyond the limitations his high school peers and teachers brainwashed him into, then why would Carmen give him another chance? Carmen still could have had a change of heart and granted Kurt a 2nd audition (but not at the Winter Showcase!) after seeing him interact with Rachel or getting more background info from Rachel. Problem solved, and Carmen would still be a tolerable and even awesome character.
This would have been a great, satisfying storyline, and it even would have gotten rid of some loose ends from season 3. But that would have required of the Glee writers to actually look back in the canon and have some grip on the characterisation of these pawns they move around carelessly at their weekly Life board game. dryy



Part 2 of this review in the next post.


Last edited by Glorfindel on 2/8/2013, 10:05 am; edited 1 time in total

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REVIEW: Being Alive, part 2

Post  Glorfindel on 2/7/2013, 8:38 pm

REVIEW: Being Alive, part 2

Breathtaking vocal techniques :
It is no secret that when Chris started on Glee he had not had many vocal lessons. He was not inexperienced and he had had some incredible accurate instincts to develop his (countertenor) voice, but he never got the chance to hone it to perfection with the help of a vocal coach. And, crazy talented or not, even the best singers profit from a vocal coach (hey, I want to keep my job, okay?). Over the years we saw Chris blossom and grow, his body, his face, and his voice as well. His countertenor voice got clearer and stronger, his highest notes more open and relaxed.
His tenor voice got stronger too, but because of the emphasis in Glee on the higher part of his voice, we hardly got to hear it, especially in season 3 when it was linked to his effeminacy, and we certainly got to hear his chest voice at its fullest potential (‘full blown’). His ‘4Minutes’ was way back in season 1 and almost forgotten (not by the fans, but by RIB). In season 3 NTBND was the song that came the closest to showing his low register, along with maybe ‘I’m The Greatest Star’, but both songs were up tempo songs, and were kept ‘light’ in timbre, except for a few, more intense, emotional parts.
So you could say that Kurt’s ‘Being Alive’ was awaited with anticipation by his fans.

Vocal coaches love to teach vocal techniques by using ballads, slow songs, so the techniques can ‘sink in’ without the student having to concentrate on keeping up with a fast tempo and remembering the many words in the lyrics. It also allows for long held notes, and training the breathing techniques necessary to hold those notes.
‘Being Alive’ stripped down Kurt’s emotions bare, as Carmen wanted, but it also stripped down his vocal techniques bare, by being a slow ballad. Besides limiting his range and emotive powers, there was no hiding his voice behind a fast, fun beat, or an arrangement with whistles and bells that can mask any vocal technical flaws. Chris had to bring his A game with this song, especially considering that it was his 2nd audition for NYADA, a college that let in Rachel, but refused Jesse, and we all agree that’s a really high bar (ignoring Brody: I think he got in by showing his abs and knowing RM’s modus operandi that will not be far from the truth).
When I first listened to BA the vocal coach in me smiled (while the fangirl in me was doing cartwheels and was uncontrollable crying all at the same time), because this performance reminded me of actual auditions and final exams performances I witnessed and participated in. All the vocal techniques that vocal/singing students get judged upon were carefully displayed; all the usual flaws were taken care of. An excellent showcase of how far Chris has come and what he has learned over the years from his very competent vocal coach on the Glee set.

Timbre in vowels, and keeping the low register:
One of those techniques displayed was strengthening and emphasizing the lower timbre of his voice. Chris deliberately ‘pushed down’ his higher timbre, to sound deeper and more mature, to sound closer to the character in the musical ‘Company’, and maybe even Kurt who is growing up fast.
Some vowels have a ’lighter’ timbre by nature, although it differs from person to person. For Chris this is most noticeable when singing an A, È (ai) or I: they tend to ‘jump’ a little higher in timbre. Others, like an E, O or U have a more natural ‘deeper’ timbre.
In ‘Being Alive’ Chris emphasizs the deeper sounding vowels, using them as ‘anchors’ to solidify and model all his other vowels after. At the same time he makes sure that the vowels with the natural higher timbre don’t ‘escape’ that lower timbre: he ‘pushes’ them down. This can be heard very clearly in his last ”Being Alive”. He not only ‘pushes down’ the ”…live.”, but also ‘weighs down’ the high note at the beginning on ”Be…”, to not let it pop out and escape.
This is a technique that requires good breath and vocal control, and a constant concentration throughout the song.

Directly connected to this is the effort Chris had to put in to keep singing in low register. The song doesn’t go too high (‘only’ to an A4) but the melody does crosses over Chris’ mostly used breaking points a number of times. I already explained a couple of times why it is difficult for Chris to stay in low register as opposed to a ‘regular’ tenor. Combine the urge to switch on his usual breaking points with deepening a ‘light’ timbred vowel at the same time, and you can understand that maintaining that ‘darker/deeper’ sounding timbre suddenly became even harder to do.

Pronunciation / Articulation:
Chris usually talks very fast, causing him sometimes even to stutter (actually, I think he thinks faster than he can talk) and it can be hard to decipher the words he’s saying. He also has a slight lisp. But in ‘Being Alive’ he takes a lot of effort to make every word comprehensible, emphasizing them. You can hear every vowel and every consonant.
The danger of pronounciation while singing lies in finding the right balance between OTOH clearly seperating all the words and OTOH stringing the words together. Over-articulating can lead to staccato (short and separate) sung lines, while not articulating enough leads to ‘whining’ and incomprehensible sentences. So the trick is to clearly pronounce the words while still keeping them together in a steady flow of sound.

Related to that is the way a last word in a line should be ended. Especially in a slow ballad like BA it is very noticeable when this is not done properly. Some words end on a ‘sustainable’ sonsonant, like an M, N or S, other words on a ‘stopping’ consonant, like a K, P or T. An R causes its own problem by clenching the tongue and uvula together when pronounced wrong. Ending on vowels can end with a pinch/squeek when not executed right.
It is quite logical that a word ending on e.g. a P should be sung on the vowel right before that P untill the very end, because singing the P too soon causes the tone to stop immediately, before the note should be ending. Good examples in ‘Being Alive’ would be “…sleep” and “…deep”. You can hear Chris prolonging the note on the vowel, before rapidly and firmly ending it on the consonant. These words are the easy ones.
The more difficult words are the ones ending with a consonant that doesn’t stop by itself: the M, N and (especially for Chris considering his lisp) the S (a fricative consonant). People tend to sing on those consonants instead of the vowel right before it, e.g. ”…clossssssse” or ”…innnnnn” or ”lovvvvvvvve”, because it’s easier on the jaw muscles (remember: a body is lazy in nature, always trying to save energy). It’s one of those things that always irritates me when I hear people sing who do it wrong. Chris sings those words ending on a ‘sustained’ consonant the way it should be: on the vowels, only at the end of the words does he close his mouth on the consonant. Well done. hapitgh

Breathing and abdomen support:
A good breathing control is at the basis of all good vocal techniques. It helps to keep the throat relaxed, to stay calm during singing, and to give the sound proper support by using abdomen muscles to keep the diaphragm low while ‘pushing’ the air outwards. Chris has shown good breathing control before: his most famous demonstration of that was his glissando over 2 octaves in Le Jazz Hot.
In ‘Being Alive’ his breathing is calm and strong. He uses his abdomen muscles to support his tone, and his throat is relaxed. An immediate result from this is that the tones can resonate freely deep in the chest, creating a deeper and stronger sound. Another positive effect is that you can hardly hear him take in air inbetween his singing (something that always annoys me in Lea’s singing), and he doesn’t need to take a new breath every few seconds. If he does take in air very shortly after another it is done as an acting choice, an effect (”…a little. *breath* …a lot.”), or to keep the flow of the melody and rhythm going.

There are 2 moments in the song that show off how long Chris can sing with one breath. The first one is at the end of the bridge (at 3.30) when he goes from the last line in the bridge directly on to the next verse (“…not aliiiiiiiiiiive>>> Somebody crowd me with love”). That takes about 14 seconds! More importantly than just sustaining his singing that long, is that the long note in the middle plus the long note at the end are sung open and strong, without any signs of strain. Anyone can hold his breath for 14 seconds, but singing that supported throughout those seconds takes breath control and stamina. To compare: Lindsey held the long note right before the end of her Anything You Can Do (at 2.15) for about 11 seconds.
The second time Chris held a long note in BA is of course the glory note at the end. It is not a high note (an E4) but it has to be strong and supported. Chris holds this note (including the word before) for another 12 seconds, and still that note is so relaxed his natural vibrato kicks in in the last seconds (same goes for the long note after the bridge btw).
If this was recorded in one take, from the bridge to the ending (and I think it is considering the tight recording schedule of Glee), it’s remarkable. wub


There’s more to tell about the vocal techniques used by Chris in BA, but these are the clearest ones to hear. Other techniques are Chris being pitch perfect and sustaining all his notes, the short and the long ones (they don’t ‘droop’). His recurring vibrato is a sign of good relaxation of his throat and upper chest, and his overall tone is strong. He has a great ‘offtake’ at the beginning of his words, especially on the often used word ”…too…”. And his little flaw is gone: his tendency to sing a little ‘sigh’ on an H. It only pops up on ”…to put you through hell.”, but I think this was done deliberate, as an acting choice.
All in all ‘Being Alive’ showed me how far Chris has come in developing his singing skills. As endearing, daring and beautiful his earliest songs like ‘Defying Gravity’ are, to see the difference now with ‘Being Alive’, sung only 4 years later, is astounding. NYADA worthy indeed. hapitgh



Final remark :
‘Being Alive’ is a great Kurt song. I love it because it’s a beautiful song and Chris did a remarkable job on it. I love it because I love the melody and the lyrics of the original. I love it because for Kurt it marks an important turn in his life, and it also sets a new standard for his voice, being the first male Broadway power ballad he ever sang on the show, as a ‘man’, as Chris said. It only took them 3 ½ seasons to get there, woot, woot. Next stop: a male pop song, please.
I will not let the context in the actual episode ruin my enjoyment over the song. I can enjoy ‘Ben’ if I don’t think of the episode and the context it was in, and I still think that NTBND was Kurt’s best audition song, despite the retcon made now and Kurt’s heartbroken “I didn’t get in”.
To me NTBND still was the better audition of the 2, because it showed off his whole vocal range and his rare unicorn skills. In a way it was Kurt conforming to a mould, but so was BA. In fact, maybe Kurt always will have to press himself in a restricting mould when he wants to succeed in the musical theatre business. I want Kurt to fit into the moulds he has to fit in to get his education, to make a career and a living for himself. In ideal circumstances he will be able to fit in both the hero tenor mould and the angelic countertenor mould while doing that. But I also want people to recognize his potential and use it, free him from the common standard and enable him to keep doing his own thing. Maybe he can find a more comfortable niche of his own, or create so much buzz that they will adapt the roles to and for him, instead of the other way around (something I can see Chris doing later in life).
This could be an interesting story arc for Kurt, but I doubt Glee will use the potential it has right in front of them.

As long as Kurt does not fit in a ready-to-wear mould, as long as the mould he (mainly Chris) created for himself is not a commonly accepted mould, there will be controversy around his voice. As much as I didn’t want Kurt’s voice limited to his higher range last season, I do not want it limited to his low register this season, at NYADA. On the other hand I don’t want Glee to give Kurt male songs like this and force him to sing them in a female key, like they almost did with ‘Being Alive’. My review on his next solo will elaborate on that, I’m sure. fanny2
And this is something I thank Chris’ vocal coach and Chris himself for: not compromising, but doing it all. These 2, together with the music producers when they get the chance, who thankfully listen to Chris when he suggests something, are gradually finding out how to use that lovely voice to its maximum capacity and to fit it as best as possible in the also limiting mould of Glee.
For a while I was afraid that Chris could not uphold and maintain 3 different voice types (tenor, countertenor, colfertenor) and a few times I saw him stagger while dancing on the high rope he created for himself. Well, he didn’t wobble one little toe or finger when he sang ‘Being Alive’. His tenor voice is steady as a rock, and so are his other voice types.
NYADA is lucky to have him, and so is Glee.


Smile


Last edited by Glorfindel on 2/8/2013, 12:30 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  Ranwing on 2/7/2013, 10:11 pm

bisou

Marie, thank you so much for that beautiful and oh, so insightful critique. It's always so wonderful to have someone who really understands both the technical and artistic sides of singing to show how truly remarkable performances like BA were.
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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

Post  MoviesAreLife on 2/7/2013, 10:12 pm

Thank you so, so much! I am in love with your reviews and insight on Chris' voice! wub

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Re: Kurt's Singing Voice

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