We began our second to last day still in Pazardzhik. In the morning T our guide and teacher gave us two hours to ask her questions, listen to her demonstrate different styles, and talk to us about the importance of vocal technique.
This is what I recall from T's talk: In the days before there were large state music schools, people simply sang the way they sang, without much thought for how it sounded and what singing in this way might do for their vocal chords' health. They were singing for pleasure, not for recording etc.
As training singers began to learn proper vocal techniques, more and more began to move traditional songs and styles into proper placement in the throat. They learned to use their skills to reproduce the raw, village sound without blowing out their voices. T said that this is what keeps her singing in her large range at the anne of 54. (She and I are only a few months apart in age but of course have lived very different lives.)
T spoke at length about how to increase one's vocal range and keep it healthy at both the top and bottom ends. As a soprano, I loved listing to her demonstrate how to maintain and grown the upper end of her voice while not losing the lower end.
Later that afternoon we drove the nearby village of Patelenitsa for a local festival. This small town is something of a suburb of Pazardhik but has it's own population and customs. Rainstorms interrupted the planned start of the festival, but after a few hours of drying the microphones with hairdryers, they started. A woman born here but now living in Calgary was home for a visit and wanted to meet the American singers. She introduced me to her mother, a member of the local choir.
RIGHT The local choir singing in the rain with their accompanist whose accordion is shielded by the umbrella-wielding conductor.