Inside every amateur singer is a Callas or Pavarotti struggling to emerge. I had been singing in choruses most of my life, and whenever I forgot myself and ceased to blend, I was rebuked in no uncertain terms. ``There's a laser beam in the bass section,'' our director would say. ``If you can hear yourself, you're too loud.''
One day I decided enough was enough. I would escape from the tyranny of the chorus and study to become a soloist.
``All right, begin,'' said Samuel Samoff, who had toured the country at one time with a small opera company. I worked my way up the scale: ``do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.''
He grimaced, doing his best to hide it. ``You must breathe from the diaphragm, not the chest. Relax. Now try again. And smile!''
Singing, apparently, was a form of exercise and had a lot to do with posture. You stood straight, held your head high, neck back, made a fish mouth, and directed your stomach muscles to fire. If aimed correctly, your voice bounced off the roof of your mouth to glissade in twin paths down the concave slopes of your cheeks, emerging in a single liquid cascade of sound.
``Beautiful!'' Samuel said. ``Really very good.''
It was amazing. Why had no one taught me these little tricks before? Letting your stomach swell while shooting your breath out was a process that challenged nature, but it was effective - like turning on a hose. If the hose pinched a bit on ``re'' and ``mi,'' it opened up again on ``fa-so-la.'' ``Ti'' was spray, however, and ``do'' no more than a dribble. Still, it was a start, perhaps even the beginning of a new career. What surprised me was how loud my voice was.
At dinner that night I entertained our guests with song. Starting ambitiously high, I had to take the low road when the high section of ``O Sol e Mio'' began, but the point was made. There was voice here, a force to be reckoned with.