‘Imagine Martti Talvela standing behind you with a huge club in his hands’
The Finnish soprano Hanna Rantala pays tribute to her teacher Tom Krause, who has died, aged 79.
photo: Marion Kalter/Lebrecht Music&Arts
Tom Krause was one of my voice teachers. I attended numerous master classes and learned to know his gentle, humorous and wise way of teaching and living. He wasn’t only a great singer and artist, he was a warm-hearted human being and a wonderful teacher. In the beginning of each master class he would often state, that we’re all together on an exiting adventure towards learning how to sing.
I had a tendency of using too much air when I sing. His solution went as follows: he told me to imagine Martti Talvela (big and hairy Finnish bass) standing behind me with a huge club in his hands. Every time I let out too much air, he would smack me in the head with the club. I learned to keep air to myself and give instead my voice to the listeners. He would often refer to his colleagues. For example when singing high notes he would often say “You must always take it from above, like Auntie Joan says”. With auntie Joan he meant Dame Joan Sutherland. It was quite an experience for a Finnish country girl like me to work with someone who had actually worked with such esteemed singers.
His goal was to find freedom in the voice. He often said “the universe is expanding, so let’s join and expand with our breath”. He would often say that a singer’s worst enemy is the brain. A singer must be like a happy village idiot, who doesn’t have a care in the world. One of his favorite vocal exercises was to the words “Hallo, mein Freund”. He was the one who taught what I think every singer should know: a singer is a medium of music, nothing more. Singer’s ego must never come between music and the listener. I remember vividly one lesson I was listening to. He was teaching a baritone Escamillo’s aria and suddenly he burst out into song. He had one hand in his pocket in a non-chalant fashion and he sang the first phrases of “Votre toast”. Never have I seen or heard a more convincing Escamillo, and this from a 75 year old man. He hadn’t lost his charisma or voice and I will always remember and cherish that moment. I am infinitely grateful I got to study with him. I wouldn’t be the singer I am now without his help. He will be greatly missed and mourned by scores of students from all around the world.
(c) Hanna Rantala/Slipped Disc