Stacey Kent: how to interpret your lyrics

I’m at a party, being called upon to ‘sing us a song’ by a group of Aussies, Irish and Brits. As an aspiring jazz singer, 19 years old, I pick my favorite tune by Abbey Lincoln – a fantastic singer, of whom no one in the room ever heard of.

The song starts and I sing the slightly tragic “People On The Street, taking all the heat… “ How I love the drama. Then comes “sleeping on a bitch out in the park.”

They all burst out laughing.

Turns out I should have sung bench. BENCH. Not bitch.

Yes, I’m a quick learner…

A singer that really takes interpretation to heart is the London based Stacey Kent. With a catalog of 10 studio albums, a Grammy nomination for Breakfast On The Morning Tram (2007, Blue Note), she now approaches an album sale of 2 million (waaaah!).

Stacey is a master in making stories her own, and with her crystalline voice, she’s big in intimacy. When I listen to her versions of songs from the American Songbook, I’m always impressed and enchanted by her genuine style. She becomes one with the lyrics.

For that, you have to have a huge understanding of languages. Know the meaning of every little word. Know the metaphors.

So, here’s my tip for you: always keep your dictionary at hand. Because… uhm… one little word can make a room laugh or cry.

And what I also learned from my memorable appearance at that party?

Never, never, NEVER rely on your phonetic English when you want to be a professional singer.

With love,

Ilse Huizinga

My album tip for you:

Stacey Kent – The Boy Next Door (2003, Candid)

Stacey Kent on Wikipedia:


About the Author:

Ilse Huizinga is a jazz vocalist from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, thus, every day she rides her bike on wooden shoes through fields of tulips and windmills while eating Gouda cheese and drinking Heineken. Ilse loves vocal jazz, photography and travel. Ilse is listed in “The jazz singers, the ultimate guide” as one of the 500 best jazz singers of all times. Yet, she somehow manages to do her own grocery shopping! Besides performing and recording, Ilse coaches jazz singers around the world. If chasing her is a bit too much for you, and you'd still like access to all of her knowledge and experience, check out her Jazz Singers Academy.
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