Courtesy of the Spartanburg Herald Journal
By BENNY LEE SMITH Staff Writer
Converse College senior Tiffany Thornton gave a strong vocal performance Monday before 100 people at the college.
But that same song sounded much better 40 minutes later after Metropolitan Opera legend Marilyn Horne worked with her during a special master class.
“Sing louder,” said Horne, an inductee into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. “Don’t worry, it’s just us chickens here.”
Horne spent two hours inside Daniel Recital Hall at the college critiquing vocal techniques, expression and speech deliveries from four Converse music majors.
Before critiquing the students, Horne warned the audience that her comments were not meant to “step on anybody’s toes.”
“I only know what I know because my ears have been trained for a long time to hear good music,” Horne said.
The four young women (Thornton, April Nelson, Michelle Evans and Sara Beth Earnheart) took the stage not knowing what to expect.
“It was scary,” said Thornton, a senior. “But she helped by putting things in a different way than what I have been taught by teachers.”
The students introduced themselves, then talked about the meaning of the songs they were about to sing. Then, the music started.
All solos, also called arias, were in either Italian or German.
Thornton’s performance was well-received by the crowd. Even Horne told Thornton, “You have a good instrument (voice).”
But Horne then immediately went into teacher mode, working with Thornton on how to better her performance.
Although Horne was supposed to practice with Thornton for 30 minutes, she went over that because “she is so close to getting this right.” I want her to leave here singing it the right way,” Horne said.
Horne did the same with other vocalists.
Nelson, a Converse College alto vocalist, gave a lot of vocal and facial expression during her somber aria about a girl being enticed by a skeleton figure called death.
But again, audience members seemed to appreciate the performer’s song more after she had worked with Horne on stage.
“Don’t manufacture your sound just because people think you are supposed to sound that way,” Horne told Nelson. “Be yourself.”
After working with the singers, Horne entertained questions from the audience for about five minutes.
The Music Foundation of Spartanburg brought Horne to Converse College this past weekend to perform. Horne stayed to teach the class.
Horne, 67, travels often to performances and teaching engagements mainly in the United States. She spends time between her two homes in New York and California.
Benny Lee Smith can be reached at 582-4511, Ext. 7216, or firstname.lastname@example.org