Act 11: Slowly 11
Taking a deep breath in, I slowly racked my brain.
Numbers which referred to the songs being sung in musicals was naturally slightly different from normal songs. Being a song used inside a play, it had to be fundamentally focused on storytelling. In other words, the delivery of lyrics which revealed the emotions and stories of the characters was treated exceptionally importantly.
Due to that, there was a bit of difference compared to pop songs which could be sung however one pleased with their own timbre, as long as it sounded nice to the ears.
That alone changed the vocalisation method required in pop songs and musicals.
‘And opera is the same thing without mics.’
As such, what I had to do now was very simple.
It was to share my story, ever so accurately and clearly.
Letting out a deep breath, I slowly began building up a mountain of air inside my stomach.
In fact, I was already used to these things.
After entering a university, singing opera arias would be a common event and opera, just like musicals definitely contained songs which focused on conveying stories.
A clear delivery of lyrics was a common aspect.
‘In other words, it’s an issue I have already pondered about.’
Making a smile inwardly, I gently formed space inside my mouth.
Delivery of lyrics – pronunciation.
Singing with a good pronunciation did not require anything special. There was no need to overuse the muscles inside the mouth, nor was there a need to use large amounts of breath. It was the same as how announcers, who placed a lot of importance on pronunciation, did not open their mouths wide.
The only requirement was to be faithful to the basics.
As long as you could keep enough space for the air to enter and come out after running around in a circle inside your mouth, a good song would be a natural result.
“On the side of a mirror-like river–“
Letting out the breath as is, I sang the first verse.
The mouth moved precisely to form consonants, while the neck brought forth vowels from the bottom. After meeting each other, the vowel and the consonant formed a sound before becoming a word, and echoing inside the club room as a song.
Meeting eyes with Lee Suh-ah, who was fully engrossed in observing me, I slightly raised the corner of my lips.
Should I give a little bit of a twist here?
In order to sing in an opera style, it was fine to continue singing like this. Everything just had to be like a circle, flowing beautifully.
However, to add a slightly more modernish colour to it, it was important to add a tiny point to it.
Even if that resulted in the resonating space slightly faltering and even if it were outside the general view on beauty, a point that was created after slightly biting on the pronunciation could add a different taste to it, like the kick of a soft drink.
Hearing the sudden emergence of a pointy sound, I could see the club members twitching their bodies.
Enjoying the reactions of the audience, I continued the song with a smile.
The story of a dog that fell for a goldfish appearing beneath the water level. The serious, yet foolishly enjoyable story.
By the time I came to myself, the song had already ended. Quickly regaining my focus, I made a foolish smile just like what the script desired, before stepping away to the side.
Then, I gave a bow.
As the small gasps of admiration and sounds of applause entered my ears, I turned towards teacher Hong Yoojin with a beating heart.
I don’t think it was that bad, but I wasn’t sure if teacher Hong Yoojin would give a positive evaluation, as a musical major.
While scanning me from top to bottom, she suddenly formed a frown.
With a dubious heart, I pulled my neck down and stole glances at the teacher when she slammed the table down with her hand and opened her mouth.
“You shouldn’t sing like that.”
She stared at me, who became stiff, and crossed her arms. After looking at me with a cold gaze for quite some time, she suddenly broke out into a grin as if she couldn’t endure it.
“…that was what I was planning to say to teach the kids what shouldn’t be done, but you ruined my plan.”
Blinking my eyes, I soon understood what was happening.
Ah, seriously, she scared me there for a second.
An empty laugh escaped through my lips as soon as the tension left. With her eyes facing me, she naturally asked a question.
“Hey, but you were really good. There seriously wasn’t anything to point out. Have you learnt musicals before?”
“…No, I haven’t.”
“Is that so…?”
Facing her eyes which glared at me in order to tell the authenticity behind my words, I felt something prick at my conscience.
But it’s not like I can tell her the truth and say that I had done it a few times during university, right?
Taking her eyes off of me, the teacher waved her hand.
“Good. I was planning to carry out a lesson while pointing out the bad parts of our awesome protagonist but since that plan was soiled, I’ll point out the good parts instead.”
Standing up from her seat, she placed her hand on my shoulder.
“First of all, his pronunciation was good.”
As expected, the pronunciation was the first thing that was covered.
While I was nodding to myself, she continued her explanation.
“When singing, there are times when the pronunciation crumbles. No matter what, since the resonance is a lot stronger than when you’re speaking normally, it echoes a lot and isn’t clear to the ears.”
She then said, “Hello–“ normally, before repeating it again in a singing style.
“Just like that, even if it’s the same word, it is harder to listen when you’re singing. That’s why you need to focus a bit more on pronunciation in musicals.”
Hearing the loud response from the crowd, she turned her head back to me in satisfaction.
“Also, the gestures were good.”
While I was tilting my head and thinking to myself, ‘What did I do again?’ the teacher gave a smile.
“You guys will probably be performing at the grand hall. You guys have all been there, right?”
“How big was it?”
Faced with the sudden question, Yun Soojin-sunbae forced out an answer.
“Very big, right. It’s probably more than a hundred metres or so from the stage to the very back of the audience seats and…”
Crossing her arms, she continued her sentence.
“Would they be able to see minute changes to the facial expression from a hundred metres away?”
The club members widened their eyes as if they came to an understanding.
“Will detailed movements of your fingers enter their eyes when they’re a hundred metres away? No, it won’t. That would be impossible. So, you guys have to make bigger movements so that they can see it from a faraway distance, and both the body gestures and facial expressions must be diligently expressed. In that sense, Yunjae did a great job. The excitement on his face was very obvious which was good.”
…But I was just smiling because their reactions were funny…
In faint embarrassment, I scratched my hair when the teacher started another point while raising her third finger.
“And finally, acting.”
With her crossed arms, the teacher tapped her arms a little and opened her mouth.
“Since musicals are, in the end, plays, acting is also required. Obviously it is necessary during your lines, but it’s the same during songs.”
It was an area which I slightly lacked confidence in.
Due to singing in ensembles and soloing normal songs for a long time, I forgot everything about how to act. It was fortunate that the number just then didn’t need any acting but…
“Actually, it’s difficult to explain what exactly you need to do to get better at acting. Regardless of what I say, the only solution is in fact practice and talent.”
Stopping there, she raised a finger up to the sky.
“So, I’ll at least teach you guys on how to practise it.”
I could see the club members drawing their chairs in and leaning their upper bodies forward.
“Perhaps it’s just me because I’m an opera singer myself, but there’s a feeling I get every time I receive a script. This thing, is actually very similar to music sheets.”
Opening the script that had been left on top of the table, she pointed at some of the letters.
“Look here. There are lines here and there are directions inside the brackets, right? Things like, ‘With an upset expression’. Aren’t these the same as musical symbols placed on music sheets? Slowly, passionately, and things like that.”
It was a great differentiated teaching method, based on the fact that there were many opera students present. While I was nodding to myself, the teacher continued her explanation.
“But when we sing, we don’t only rely on the music sheets. We look up how others have approached the song, how the song came to be and the time of its creation… After looking into the background information of the songs, we try to analyse the intention of the composer.”
Turning her head around, she stared at us.
“Then we should do the same for acting, right? Why would this character say something like this? What situation are they in? There’s a need to empathise with those sorts of details and otherwise, there’s no way you end up with a decent acting.”
Empathising, and emotions.
Hearing those words, Lee Suh-ah and I looked at each other.
Embedding emotions into songs.
Finding a common aspect out of those somewhat different areas, I caressed my chin and entered deep thought.
‘Is this why Sir Dickson told me to try musicals?’
While I was immersed in my own thoughts, teacher Hong Yoojin’s distant voice entered my ears.
“Now, you understood all that, yes? Pronunciation, gesture and acting. Don’t forget those and good luck practising them. Great job today!”
“Thank you, Miss~”
Due to preparing for both the club activity and the Subscription Concert, several days quickly flew past busily.
And even the lesson with teacher Ku Mingi, which was held once a week, went by fast.
“That just then was slightly sharp, right? ‘Amiss—’, can you try that one more time?”
“Good. Well done.”
After the practice came to an end, I was putting the music sheets back into my bag, when teacher Ku Mingi suddenly opened his mouth, while sitting down on the piano seat with his eyes on me.
“You seem quite busy these days.”
With a flinch, my hands that had been packing the bag up came to a stop, as I entered a deep contemplation.
Why. What’s the intention behind that question?
Since he was, after all my lesson teacher, even casual words like that resulted in me thinking, ‘Did I do something wrong…’ before anything.
I was racking my brain when the teacher continued his words after a dry cough.
“I heard you joined a society?”
“Ah, right. The society.”
Maybe he was asking just because I seemed busy.
Letting out a sigh of relief, I explained.
“That… I joined a society that does musicals. Since we decided to carry out a performance in this year’s festival, I’m a little busy practising it… but that doesn’t mean I’m slacking off with the prac test practices.”
Seeing me laying out excuses for no reason, he touched his chin.
“Musicals huh… Are you interested in musicals?”
“Rather than saying that I’m interested… I just wanted to learn about a new field of study.”
He observed me for a long time before slowly raising himself up from his seat.
“Studying new things is good, but please continue studying about opera as well.”
Throwing glances at the teacher, I thought with a heavy heart. It seemed that teacher Ku Mingi wasn’t very fond of musicals.
Well, that was possible too.
Amongst some old fashioned teachers, there were those that considered opera to be the best and since that was a result of a difference in perspective, there was nothing I could say regarding that.
I carried my bag behind my back and was about to bid him farewell, when the teacher abruptly opened his mouth.
“Oh right, can you hand this over to teacher Kwak Jungsoo?”
Receiving a document wallet, I stared at him with curiosity but when our eyes met, he merely returned a smile before letting go of the documents.
“It should be okay to give them to him when you’re going for your club activities.”
“Yes… Goodbye, then.”
Unconsciously receiving the files, I bid him farewell. And while staring at his distancing back, my body came to a stop from a sudden thought that popped up in my head.
“Wait, I thought he didn’t know which society I joined though…?”