Gateways Are Not Gates

John Glenn PatonBy John Glenn Paton

Gates may be open or shut. But a gateway invites you in, gives you a friendly access. That’s why three of Alfred’s collections of classical art songs are called “Gateway” books—they invite you to come in and explore a repertoire that, frankly, requires a bit of introduction.

The first two Gateway books gave voice students the basic repertoire they needed in Italian Art Songs and German Lieder. Our third and newest, Gateway to French Mélodies, gives them a helping hand with a style that students often find a bit scary. French is full of pitfalls for singers: unfamiliar vowel sounds, multiple silent letters, and consonants that are sometimes heard and sometimes not, even in the same word. In the Gateway books, such problems are solved by the phonetic system for pronunciation called IPA that is now taught in nearly all university music departments. The IPA pronunciations are placed right next to the printed song, where the teacher and student can look at them together. Translations are there, too, along with notes about interpretation. There’s no need to flip back and forth between different parts of the book or even to buy a separate book.

We expect a lot from classical singers. They are supposed to sing in at least four languages, even if English is the only one they learned in high school. And they have to know the meanings of the words they sing if they want to reach the hearts, not just the ears, of their listeners.

Singing in recitals in my student years, I used to hope that there was no one in the audience who really spoke the language that I was trying to sing! My goal with the Gateway books was that today’s voice students should understand their songs better than I did as a student. Shamefully, I didn’t always understand the meanings of my songs very well. The resources just didn’t exist then. But with the Gateway books, students and teachers have everything they need to prepare for a meaningful performance that makes an emotional impact on their listeners.

Wishing you the best in all your musical endeavors,
John Glenn Paton

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