A great day. Here begins ‘Jane Sings’. A blog about all things singing. The good, the bad and the hopeful.

It’s half term and as there are no students to teach today I have been ploughing through poetry by Sylvia Plath. I have been searching through her work in order to find a suitable poem to be set to music. I knew about Plath as a person and have always had an interest in her but have never really taken much notice of her work. Her personal life always intrigued me, the relationship with Ted Hughes, her education and her battle with herself. I watched the film ‘Sylvia’ with Gwyneth Paltrow playing the troubled poet and read her novel The Bell Jar but hadn’t been drawn to her poetry. Until now. A friend had introduced the idea of putting poetry written by women to music and Plath seemed the natural choice. I came across ‘Poppies in October’. It instantly left an impression, which is important when thinking about an audience who will only hear it once and need to feel an immediate understanding with the text and with the song as a whole. It is very different to reading poetry on a page where the reader can pause to ponder or revisit a line. Audiences are bound to the time frame given by the composer.

I listened to Plath herself reciting her poetry on YouTube. One of them was particularly haunting – ‘Daddy’. Her ‘oo’ vowels are so round and owl like. It’s hard enough getting singers to sing with good lipped ‘oo’ sounds, never mind when they are speaking! It’s a lesson to us all! Here it is…