Ever watched Dutch singer Greetje Kauffeld sing The Hungry Years? To me, it’s the live performance of a lifetime. She’s being accompanied by the sublime Metropole Orchestra in the famous Amsterdam Carre, in 2007. (You can watch it at the end of this blog).
I hear such divine inspiration, delicate exposure and deep melancholy. She’s backed beautifully by a majestic orchestra that follows her in a true dynamic way. It’s a dream.
The way she lovingly caresses the words she sings, the way she sustains her tones and builds a little magic bridge to the next phrase. Sheer brilliance.
And then there’s that final moment when she leaves the stage, that little detail when she waves her hand towards her chest and you just know that she has given her all for this song.
I’m always moved to tears by her personal rendition of this song. I know I’m a hopeless romantic, and I admit I just love being shaken and stirred, but this is something so beautiful, I had to share it with you.
The royally honoured Greetje Kauffeld started her career as a singer in the fifties with The Skymasters, sang at the Eurovision Songfestival in the sixties and to this date also remains a popular ‘Schlager’ singer in Germany. She often mentions Doris Day as one of her primary inspirations.
“Each song is a story to me. I live the lines I sing.”
This becomes so apparent when you listen to her interpretations. She completely identifies herself with her lyrics.
You just can’t help yourself joining her in the rollercoaster of life: upwards with forceful emotions, downwards with vivacious melancholy, while in between you’re likely to jump for joy.
Now… what can you learn from this wonderful performer? Yes, anything – I can just hear you say that!
Greetje is always in tune, her interpretations are strictly her own, her sound is breezy and personal, her connection with her audience is warm, intimate and loving. And there’s one thing that always strikes me as one of her trademarks – that’s her sensational phrasing; her capacity to sustain long notes over to the next phrases. She builds bridges.
Just listen to her when she sings “…we lost, along the waaaaaaaaay hooooooow could I be so blind…”
Oh, man! That’s such a thrilling moment to me! Melody, harmony, timing, orchestra, sound and intention. Everything comes together. I love saxophonist Piet Noordijk’s reaction, the Dutch saxophone player with whom she shares the stage…
Now, let’s get to work.
Look at your next song and see where you can build little bridges towards your next line, or towards a climax. Sustain the last word of your sentence and hold that note as long as you can, then glue it to the first word of the next sentence. You possibly have to change the melody to match the harmony of the song.
It can be great fun. Make sure that you find a balance. The sentence after the loooooong note still has to be understandable to your audience. If you find yourself having to rush that sentence, simply sustain a bit shorter. But do try and stick them sentences together, to build that bridge.
You can also choose to start the first word of the next sentence a bit earlier.
Record yourself to get a grip on what you’re doing. You know I’m a big fan of recording yourself! And if you fall, if you fail: pick yourself up, dust yourself off – start all over again!
Looking forward to hearing you sing!
With love, Ilse
Greetje Kauffeld on Wikipedia: