Vocal Technique
Books by Shirlee Emmons

Prescriptions for Choral Excellenceimage of Prescriptions for Choral Excellence
by Shirlee Emmons and Constance Chase
Oxford University Press, January 2006

COMMENTS on Prescriptions for Choral Excellence:

Hilary Apfelstadt, Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, The Ohio State University: “This book provides a wealth of vocal information for choral conductors, ranging from matters of basic technique to physical health and the effects of various medical conditions on singing. Facilitating good singing in the choral ensemble benefits everyone and serves to break down barriers, true or false, between the singer as a ‘soloist’ and the singer as a choral musician. This should be an essential addition to every choral conductor’s reference library.”

Donald Simonson, Professor of Music, Voice Division Chair, Iowa State University:
 “Adopting a unique format, Emmons and Chase have authored a text for every choral director and student of choral singing. Providing clear and concise answers to the fundamental questions of vocal technique and choral leadership, this is a text that will be read and re-read again and again. It should be a staple in every choral musician’s library.”

Marshall Goldsmith, executive coach and author of The Leader of the Future:
“The doctor is in! Prescriptions for Choral Excellence is the medicine that choral directors and singers need for success. Applying the latest principles and techniques of leadership psychology, this detailed guide is an invaluable resource for meeting many of the demands that all directors face.”

REVIEW of Prescriptions for Choral Excellence:

American Music Teacher, August/September 2006, Catherine Roma

      As a conductor with more than thirty years' experience, I found this book to be rigorous, comprehensive, and dynamically user-friendly. The practical ideas it offers as "diagnosis" and 'prescriptions' are indispensable for choral conductors at any level and ensembles of all varieties....
The book presents an abundance of practical tools...
     The book draws on respected research, and is rooted in years of experience from two seasoned professionals with extensive vocal and choral backgrounds....
      I will return to Prescriptions for Choral Excellence frequently when faced with common everyday problems from shaping sound to creating warm-ups to match and remedy particular vocal challenges. This book will be a constant companion, a viable, reliable tool to read and reread for specifics and reminders related to mental preparation for the singers or helpful hints on memorizing....This is a must read for choral directors at any level as well as for singers and teachers of singing.

Researching the Song, A Lexicon of Literary Allusions in the Great Song Literature image of Researching the Song
by Shirlee Emmons and Wilbur Watkin Lewis
Oxford University Press, December 2005

COMMENTS on Researching the Song:

Richard Miller, Professor of Singing, Oberlin Conservatory of Music:
 “This comprehensive lexicon will prove of assistance to the studio voice teacher and to singers at all levels of accomplishment. Communication of the essence of poetry and drama is essential to the singing art. Researching the Song offers explanations of the mythological, historical, and literary references that serve as foundation for the Lied, the mélodie, and other art-song literatures. A valuable addition to the singer’s library.”

Russell Oberlin, countertenor, Thomas Hunter Professor of Music Emeritus, Hunter College of the City University of New York:
“From the first entry AAWHERE to the last ZWEIG, this remarkable, scholarly lexicon will prove a treasure trove of inestimable value to singers, teachers, and everyone interested in a thorough understanding of the many, and often obscure, literary references found in the poetry of the world’s greatest song literature.”

Lindsey Christiansen, Professor of Voice, Westminster Choir College of Rider University:
“The authors of this encyclopedia of song have offered a labor of love in explaining every conceivable reference, allusion, and personage found in the song repertory, each with bibliographic citation. This book will replace a whole shelf of reference works for singers, accompanists, and their teachers and is a Dictionary of Cultural Literacy for the song lover. Our deepest thanks.!”

Dr. Robert C. White, Jr., Adjunct Professor of Voice, New York University and Mannes College of Music:
“For the first time ever, a reference work designed to help singers discover the mythological, historical, geographical, and literary references in poetic song texts. The user-friendly Researching the Song by Shirlee Emmons and Wilbur Watkin Lewis is a must for the library of every singer, voice teacher, accompanist, and program planner.”

REVIEWS of Researching the Song:

American Library Association, 2006
            "This lexicon of Western classical art song explicates literary references (mythological, historical, geographical) and technical terminology associated with the poetic texts of this vast repertory. Intertwined alphabetically with the more than 2,000 topical entries are biographical sketches of poets whose lyrics classical composers have made into song....The authors' presentation is well researched, concise, and clear; adn their rationale for bringing the topical and biographical material together within a single volume has much to recommend it in terms of convenience.... Recommended."

Choral Journal, July 2006, Donald Callen Freed
     This unique and comprehensive lexicon is a must for students of the art song, and choral musicians, and should be a standard reference. Emmons, a noted scholar on the art song, along with Lewis, focuses on the texts of songs, which are sometimes given less attention by musicians.
     Entries (over 2000) are alphabetical, and include poets, poetic subjects, categories and types of poetry and song lyrics, and song collections. Explanations are given about mythological, historical, geographical, and literary references to standard art song, and South American, Greek, and Scandinavian song. At the end of each entry is the list of songs to which the entry refers....The entries cover all sorts of song subjects.
      The work is full of detail, even for short entries, and features excellent cross-referencing. It should be a standard quick reference for teacher and student, and is an excellent addition to any reference library....the book is also an excellent starting point for singers who are developing themed recitals....Emmons and Lewis have triumphed in both format and accessibility, making the subject matter of text much less daunting."
      Emmons and Lewis have triumphed in both format and accessibility.

American Music Teacher, August/September 2006, Robert Basefield
      Researching the Song is an extremely useful volume for singers, voice teachers, and other aficionados of the art song repertoire. It provides an abundance of information that would previously have required a much more extensive research effort. This new book by Emmons and Lewis will undoubtedly become a standard reference tool.

The Journal of Singing, September/October 2006

      In 1979 Shirlee Emmons and Stanley Sonntag illuminated classical song literature , and its performance, with the publication of their landmark volume The Art of the Song Recital. The book...has become a standard in voice studios and vocal literature classes. In the chapter entitled "Research," Emmons and Sonntag plead with recitalists to investigate literary and musical sources as part of their preparation. The entreaty was the seedling for Researching the Song. Emmons and Wilbur Watkin Lewis...credit Sonntag with conceiving the idea for a lexicon devoted to the mythological, historical, geographical, and literary references found in the art song repertoire, and for initiating the research. After Sonntag's death, Emmons and Lewis took up the torch and spent ten years crafting this volume....
      The breadth of information contained in the volume...is impressive. Most of the annotations contain sources; the bibliography found at the end of the volume is a veritable gold mine for extended research into art song....
      The lexicon will prove indispensable to voice teachers, singers, and all who are interested in classical vocal repertoire.

Notes (Music Library Association publication)

      This is a volume that is perfect for 'the quick answer' but it is also one that is enjoyable when looking up one term or name and then following the bountiful cross-references that lead the reader to some, if not all, the necessary pieces of the puzzle relating to a particular song. RESEACHING THE SONG should become a dog-eared volume in many reference collections and in many vocal studios.


Power Performance for Singers: Transcending the Barriers image of Power Performance for Singers
by Shirlee Emmons and Alma Thomas,
Oxford University Press, 1998.

COMMENTS on Power Performance for Singers:

Richard Dale Sjoerdsma, NATS Journal:
“The authors conceptualize power [when] applied to singing [as] an inner strength that lies beyond talent and skill, a strength of mind-body link exhibited in thought and action....This unique and useful book...provides another treatise equally as important and captivating as her earlier work....The Art of the Song Recital....Both pragmatic and objective, based on valid psychological principles, Emmons’ and Thomas’ Power Performance for Singers is a highly recommended contribution that occupies a unique place in the literature. It is at the same time a practical manual for aspiring singers, a self-examination refresher course for seasoned professionals, and a sound pedagogical guide for teachers of singing.”

Prof. Curt Peterson, University of Colorado, Boulder:
“I decided this semester to require Power Performance as a textbook for all of my students. I am seeing amazing transformations among those who are taking the work seriously. For example, this past Thursday we held our annual undergraduate voice competition. Five singers from my studio competed in the strongest field I have seen in my time at the university. I should tell you that I began a new studio 2 years ago when I arrived at CU. My students were selected from the "leftovers." Some might call them the "dregs." I wish that I could report that all five went on to the finals but that was not the case. Though one did advance to the finals, the true power of Power Performance was most noticeable in the four who didn't. Each of the four performed at a much higher level than he ever had, but that is still only part of the story. I had the opportunity to visit with each of them the next morning. This is where I really recognized the impact that Power Performance is having on them. Each student was able to take pride in what they had accomplished while seeing clearly where they need to improve. There was less of the expected disappointment and depression and much more honest evaluation. All of them left the conversation with a clear idea of what they need to work on in order to improve their performance. I didn't have to tell them. They knew, and they also knew how they were going to fix it. To me that is the key to real progress.”

Tristanissimo, the biography of Lauritz Melchior
image of Tristanissimo
by Shirlee Emmons

COMMENT on Tristanissimo:

Manuela Holterhoff, Wall Street Journal: “This is the best singer’s biography I have read.”

The Art of the Song Recital image of Art of the Song Recital
by Shirlee Emmons and Stanley Sonntag,
2nd ed. Waveland Press, 2001.

COMMENTS on The Art of the Song Recital:

John Wustman, collaborative pianist, Professor of Music, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana:
“I found myself totally captivated and enlightened by the wealth of material and its brilliant and encyclopedic presentation...I shall consult it with great confidence and frequency for both my collegiate teaching and professional concert activities.”

Ned Rorem, composer:
“Indispensable...Exhilarating...The trembling desire for the near-moribund song-recital seems to float in the air again, and this book offers the first tangible lessons in how to cope with the desire.”

Richard Dale Sjoerdsma, NATS Bulletin:
“I cannot find superlatives sufficient to describe my enthusiasm...this book is the definitive work in its field.”

The Opera Journal: “The definitive work on the song recital—and the only book of its kind written by a singer/accompanist team—The Art of the Song Recital is a practical “how-to” book of clear, methodical, and useful information on every facet of the recital art.”

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