A trip to the library has made a new girl of me…

Musical Theatre refers to singing in a classical style as ‘legit’. However, it has bothered me for a long time that the classification is too broad. Therefore, I was pleased to read the following in the library today:

Legit can be further divided into traditional legit and contemporary legit.

Robert Edwin, A Broader Broadway, NATS Journal of Singing, 2002-2003, Volume 59, page 431.

Edwin goes on to say that traditional legit is ‘…heard in many of the pre-1960s musicals…’ and that contemporary legit ‘…can maintain some of the classical requirements such as vibrato from onset to release, chiaroscuro, and sostenuto, but can also include pop and rock-influenced sounds.’

I think this division of legit into traditional and contemporary is very useful for singing teachers and students. For example, if there is a microphone available, a singer of legit material may be able to sing both traditional and contemporary legit in concert. Conversely, if there is no microphone, it may be prudent for the singer to perform only traditional legit material (to sing contemporary legit may result in overloading the voice when singing the pop & rock influenced sounds without amplification).

Legit does not mean the same thing to me as singing classically. Classical singing to me requires the perfection of chiaroscuro, alignment of vowels and consonants and the seamless use of ‘chest’ and ‘head’ voice registers. Classical singing divides into many styles that have their own techniques, ornamentation and conventions. In contrast, I feel legit voices should come as close as they can to classical but not jeopardize the expectations of the audience.

The audience of musical theatre expects the triple threat.

I believe singers and singing teachers should not maintain a rigid dichotomy between classical and contemporary. For example, two weekends ago I was called in to workshop a new opera. The music the composer presented to me, in my opinion, included legit, jazz and traditional belt styles. In my opinion there was no classical singing required. I explained my choices of vocal style to the composer and she was happy with this. Furthermore, during the workshop performance I used a microphone for the contemporary styles. I hope these decisions enabled the composer to hear her music in its best light. I think in this circumstance classical singing would have not fulfilled her intent.

Finally, here are a few examples from You Tube. I would categorize the first as classical, the second as traditional legit and the third as contemporary legit. I would do so to enable myself, as a singer and singing teacher, to make informed decisions about style and to choose the vocal techniques to enable myself or my student to be true to style.

Classical Singing
Traditional legit
Contemporary legit Soprano- this is not the way G&S would have been sung in the 19th Century. The breathiness, use of chest higher than a classical singer would and scooping is the reason I have placed this video in the contemporary legit category. I love it though!

Published by Deborah Wai Kapohe

I am a classical singer and guitarist. I have created a project called 'The Lilli Lehmann Project'. The project, lasting from 2020 until 2023, aims to refresh my voice and prepare me to be a singing teacher. The scope of the project is that I am studying Lilli Lehmann's singing book, bibliography, recordings and her reviews, as well as other historical vocal pedagogy. I have chosen this platform in order to blog about my discoveries, demonstrate techniques and exercises, and perform pieces of music. I have done so because I wish to be transparent. I think that if a student is prepared to learn from me then I should stand up to public scrutiny.

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