Our exploration of audio instruction for singing in the NLS Music collection has one final stop: art song and opera! And who better to inspire us in our musical endeavors, particularly during African American History Month, than contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993)? In addition to being the first singer to record African American spirituals with a major American record label in 1923, she became the first black singer to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in 1955. Listen and be transported by this 1924 recording of Anderson singing “My Lord, what a mornin’,” courtesy of the National Jukebox. Log in to BARD or contact your local talking-book library to learn about talking books and braille books about Marian Anderson available from the NLS collection. You can also learn much more about Anderson’s musical life and legacy in three excellent blog posts that our colleagues here at the Library of Congress have written in recent years:
- Marian Anderson’s Spirituals
- The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial
- Marian Anderson: Realizing History Through Song
First, we have a remarkable series of nearly 200 lessons on individual art songs, including Italian arias, French chansons, and German lieder. Don’t worry: there are some English songs too! Each lesson includes a performance of the song, a reading of the lyrics for diction guidance, an English translation of the lyrics (when necessary), and a recording of the piano accompaniment by itself so that you can practice singing with it. Opera singer and educator Nico Castel, who passed away in 2015, provides instruction for all lessons in the series.
An easy way to browse all the lessons in this series using BARD or the NLS Voyager catalog is to search for “MusAcom,” which is the company that produced the series. You could also search for “Nico Castel.” As an example, this series has lessons on several songs from the collection of 24 (or, in recent editions, 28) Italian songs and arias that was compiled by Alessandro Parisotti in the 1880s but which many teachers use to this day. For certain songs, lessons are available for multiple vocal ranges. For example, a lesson on the aria “Per la gloria d’adorarvi,” by Giovanni Bononcini, is available for soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone voices.
- Vittoria, mio core! by Giacomo Carissimi–lesson for soprano (DBM01840) and lesson for mezzo (DBM01839)
- Già il sole dal gange by Alessandro Scarlatti–lesson for soprano (DBM01926) and lesson for tenor (DBM01942)
In addition to these standard Italian arias, Nico Castel also provides lessons on four songs by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999), who was blind and composed in braille music code:
- De donde venis, amore by Joaquín Rodrigo–lesson for soprano (DBM01922)
- De los alamos vengo, madre by Joaquín Rodrigo–lesson for soprano (DBM01923)
- Con que la lavare? by Joaquín Rodrigo–lesson for soprano (DBM01921)
- Vos me masteis by Joaquín Rodrigo–lesson for soprano (DBM01924)
Okay, let’s say you’ve learned your songs and want to practice but your lovely pianist friend isn’t there to play with you. The NLS Music Section has you covered! Nico Castel’s lessons all include a piano accompaniment track you can use to practice, but we additionally have six collections of piano accompaniment tracks that you can use to practice your lesson or prepare for your performance:
- Everybody’s Favorites for High Voice (DBM01219): Sixteen piano accompaniment tracks for a delightful assortment of songs from Purcell to Beethoven to Debussy.
- Sacred Oratorio Arias for Tenor (DBM01216): Ten piano accompaniment tracks for tenor arias selected from sacred works by J.S. Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Verdi.
- Brahms Songs for High Voice (DBM01215): Piano accompaniment tracks for 10 songs.
- Mozart Arias for Soprano (DBM01217): Piano accompaniment tracks for 8 soprano arias selected from Mozart’s operas.
- Schumann Songs for Low Voice (DBM01214): Piano accompaniment tracks for 15 songs.
- Richard Strauss Songs for High Voice (DBM01213): Piano accompaniment tracks for 15 songs. Digital cartridge only.
- Hugo Wolf Songs for Low Voice (DBM01218): Piano accompaniment tracks for 14 songs.
If you’re curious about what else is in our music instruction collection, you can browse our Music Instruction Catalog on the NLS website, contact the Music Section to request large-print copy, or listen to the catalog in audio format on BARD (DBM03542) or on digital cartridge. If you don’t see what you’re looking for in the catalog, please contact the Music Section by phone (1-800-424-8567, option 2) or e-mail ([email protected]).