I am not really listening to Felix Mendelssohn and His Hawaiian Serenaders. I just thought that was funny. I am actually preparing to sing “Lift Thine Eyes” from the Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”
This is a trio for soprano, mezzo soprano, and alto. It is one of those pieces often described as “in a real alto range.” This is always said in a warning tone of voice. The reason for this is that there is a widespread belief that there are no “real” female altos. This belief is so widespread that it is very difficult to claim to be a real alto. Women like me who can sing an octave below middle C often feel that we are about as real as altos get. After all, plenty of boy altos don’t have a really good D below middle C. Yet no one suggests that they are mezzos who aren’t very good in the upper register.
In fact, I don’t think this happens to any other musicians. Are saxophone players questioned in a skeptical tone of voice as though they are actually tuba players pretending to be saxophone players? Hardly. The mere fact of owning an instrument and being able to get sounds to come out of it qualifies one as a player of said instrument. Female altos are suspected of deception about which instrument they own. After all, the skepticism is never about whether a singer is a good alto, only about whether she is a real one. Maybe only her hairdresser knows for sure.
In any case, I am singing the alto part. #2 daughter, who hasn’t yet settled the alto/mezzo question, is singing the mezzo part. And a dear friend of ours is singing the soprano. All three of us surprise people when we sing. The soprano surprises people because she is a small, self-deprecating lady with an enormous, gorgeous voice. #2 daughter is tall, but young and skinny, so people are also surprised by the size of her voice. I am not small, skinny, or self-deprecating, so I am not sure why people are surprised by my voice. I have always said that, as performers, #1 daughter looked as though she was about to be executed, #2 daughter looked as though she was the star, and I looked as though I was supposed to be cleaning the stage and decided to sing instead. This may be the basis for the surprised reaction. On the other hand, it may be astonishment at hearing a real alto.
There turned out to be an error in the directions for Siv’s sleeves, so I had a bit of frogging to do. On the other hand, it was cool this morning, with a mist over the fields, and I brought in the first cantaloupe from the garden, with Mendelssohn playing in my mind. So you won’t hear me complaining.