First off, I have to say I LOVE singing in French.  This is crazy, because in voice studios we are taught that French is one of the hardest languages to sing – and then there’s the grammar! But whether it’s because French was my first foreign language, or because I have a long-standing love affair with the cuisine, the country, and the City of Light, I adore the round vowels, the liquid consonants, and the lilt to the end of the sentence.

For me, early French is to modern French as crunchy peanut butter is to smooth.  The diphthongs are a bit twangier, the consonants are pronounced, and the nasal sounds are unapologetically up the nose.  All this just makes the richness and salty-sweet complexity of the language more interesting because it’s punctuated with these crunchy bits of articulation.  That said, it’s still a challenge to put to music.

Take the nasal vowels as an example – French is full of them, and they are really exaggerated in early French.  But this is a problem.  Singers sing with a high soft palate – the feeling of yawning, or being about to sneeze.  That’s what gives us nice “round tones” that ring and soar freely. But nasal sounds are produced from a compressed tongue and palate.  Try it yourself: say something in a nasal voice and notice how your palate descends to meet your tongue – now try to sing a high-ish note! That pinched sound is what we have to avoid.  What we do to compensate is an elaborate compromise.  We find the precise position where the vowel sounds right to the ear, but doesn’t shut down our voices, often substituting darker color for the nasalization, and changing position depending on how high or low the note is in our voices.  It’s tricky, but when it works, the sound is free and the language is still clear.  And it is so fun to sing!


Next week:  The instruments

POSTPONED: April Fundraiser

Dear Valued Patrons,
We regret to share that due to concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone our April 19th fundraising event, Ecco la Primavera. We expect to reschedule this event for a weekend between July and September – stay posted! Please know this decision does not reduce the Newberry Consort’s need for your support. Indeed, now more than ever, we hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us not only minimize the losses from this postponement but also contribute to our future events.

If you currently hold a ticket for this event, refunds are available upon request. Otherwise, the cost of your ticket will be applied to the rescheduled event. If you are a current ticket-holder for this event, Consort General Manager Hannah De Priest will be in touch with you directly very soon.
You can always donate to the Newberry Consort online  or via check. Our mailing address is The Newberry Consort, P.O. Box 60212, Chicago, IL, 60660-0212. Please reach out to if you have any questions or leave a message at 773-669-7335 and one of our staff will be in touch with you.
We appreciate your understanding and very much look forward to welcoming you to Newberry Consort concerts in the future. Till then, wishing you all good health and safety in these uncertain times.