Yesterday I was tidying my house and I put on the Magic at the Musicals radio station. Whilst hoovering my living room, one song caught my attention. I had to turn my hoover off right away. It was the song ‘Gethsemane’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, sang by Steve Balsamo… What a voice! Once the song had finished on Magic at the Musicals, I went straight to YouTube and found Balsamo’s 2004 rendition of the song, at the Rotterdam Ahoy in the Netherlands. After listening to it on repeat for about an hour, it got me thinking… how hard really is this song to sing?
Upon dissecting the song, I realised just how many tricky techniques were hidden behind the beautiful vocals!
Soft Tone Vs Belting:
Balsamo starts the song with a stunning soft tone to his voice and as the song moves on, his vocals change to a strikingly resonated belt. It reminds me a lot of certain parts of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. Throughout Gethsemane, he moves in and out of this wonderful soft tone and powerful belt seamlessly. If you want to learn the song, this is definitely something to be aware of, as it brings light and shade to the vocals.
This is a technique that appears here and there throughout the whole song. It is the shaking sensation (oscillating pitch) the voice makes, usually at the end of musical phrases and sustained notes. It is a gorgeous technique to sprinkle into songs as and when you can. Be careful not to over do it though. I always think of vibrato as the icing on-top of a cake. Too much icing and the cake will be too sweet, but not enough icing and the cake won’t be sweet enough.
Operatic techniques such as low larynx and lengthened vowels run through a lot of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals and that’s what I personally love about them. He has found a way to incorporate one of the oldest vocal styles into main-stream musicals.
Emotional connection to the song:
This song comes at a pivotal and heart-breaking moment in the storyline. It is when Jesus is calling out to God asking why his mission has to come to an end and why he must suffer his awful fate. The emotions of sadness and anger need to run the whole way through this song with diverse use of vocal effects such as vibrato, tonal quality, dynamics and diction all whist maintaining supported, strong vocals.
The falsetto note Balsamo hits on, ‘Why’, is a G5. He then carries on belting and when the second lot of falsetto comes along, on the word, ‘Die’, he starts on a G5, then extends it up to a G#5. For me, this is the best part/version of this song! There is something so poignant about the placement of this note in the song and storyline. The strength of the falsetto coupled with the fast pace of the orchestra at that moment in the song is just magical!
Falsetto in itself though, is arguably one of the hardest vocal techniques for a man to master and if it is done wrong, it could seriously damage the voice. A few things to be aware of when singing this type of falsetto note is: your support, your breath control, nasality and the note having a high resonance placement. If Falsetto is something you want to learn as a singer, don’t hesitate to contact Vocademy and we will be happy to help.
With all these techniques in mind and how they move so quickly from one to another, I believe this is one of the hardest songs for a man to be able to sing.