Diction class hosts ‘Night of Italian Song’

Allison Jarboe, Arts Editor

How many times do you go through the day pondering how a song may be sung if you were French, or how you may pronounce certain words if you spoke Italian? The answer is probably zero–unless you’re a music major.

Tuesday, December 6, at 6 p.m. in Yarborough Auditorium, the diction classes performed their “Night of Italian Song,” to showcase the pieces they have been working on throughout the semester.

Sophomore worship arts major Emmalee Ewbank, said that that the evening was like an open concert. “It was a night open to the public, and was an hour to an hour and a half. It’s for our grade in our diction class.”

The diction class, taught by Dr. Rebecca Ballinger, assistant professor of voice, is required for music majors.

Sophomore music education major Amie Massey described some of what music majors learn in diction class.

“In diction we learn something called IPA, which stands for International Phonetic Alphabet,” she said. “We focus on how the word can be spoken correctly.” Other students expanded.

“We go through different words,and the way that their parts come together,” Ewbank said. “For instance, in Italian, if there’s an ‘i’ after a ‘c’ then it will make a ‘ch’ sound. There are so many different intricate details we’ve worked on.” Massey also discussed these details.

“There are many rules, and so that’s what we’ve been learning. So, for Italian there may be stress on certain parts of the word that we probably wouldn’t know, not being Italian. But, using the IPA, you’re able to find and correctly pronounce the syllabic stress, even if you don’t know the word or the language.”

Ewbank said that the class has learned about English and Italian this semester, and will address other languages next semester.

“Next semester we’re going to work on French and German. Even without having to become fluent in a language, we’re still learning how to pronounce its words correctly. We’re encouraged to be able to translate and know what we’re singing, but the class primarily focuses on how to say it,” Ewbank said.

Every student is given repertoire at the beginning of the semester and has chosen a song from this repertoire that they have worked on, and performed on Tuesday.

“When I presented, I said the lyrics first, going through all the words and speaking them correctly,” Ewbank explained.

“Then the second time I sang it. Everyone did this with their song they’d chosen to learn.” Massey said that the class did well with their work.

“I think every single one of us was prepared,” she said. “We had to finish our memorization before break, and so all of us knew the words, and knew the melody.”

She shared her biggest challenge during the performance. “When Tuesday came, we were speaking a monologue, which is just speaking the words how someone would normally say them, with proper pronunciation,” Massey explained.

“That was the hardest. Singing actually wasn’t be the hardest thing, I don’t think. Saying it, and saying it like you’re a real Italian, was the hardest part of the night.”

Massey also gave insight into how diction can be used in a future career. “We have a mixture of performance majors, and music educators, in this class,” she said.

“As performers, you’ll be singing songs in all types of language, and you’ll just be given a sheet of music, and given a few hours to prepare. Knowing the IPA, you’re able to look at it and know how to pronounce it. You’re not going to sound like an Oklahoman. You’re going to know how to tear the word apart in a different way, and will know how to pronounce it like a professional.”

Massey explained how the material learned applies to her career as well.

“For educators, one of my students will come up to me, saying, ‘I want to try out for a summer opera program, and here are all of my foreign language pieces,’ because in general auditions you perform an English piece and a couple foreign languages pieces. Then I’m able to sit her down and correctly give her the tools she needs to be a really good musician for her audition.”

Ewbank echoed Massey.

“There are a lot of different rules that come together, so we can pronounce it correctly, and all this applies to performance and knowledge.”

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