WATCH: Voice Coach and Opera Singer Reacts to ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’
I stayed up ridiculously late Friday night because I fell into a YouTube click-hole. By the time the sun was coming up Saturday morning, I was just closing my eyes.
What had me so enthralled? Well, I'm a little obsessed with reaction videos, particularly videos of people around my age or younger discovering some of my favorite songs and bands.
Around 9 PM Friday, YouTube recommended I watch a video of classical composer
Doug Helvering reacting to and analyzing Iron Maiden's haunting masterpiece 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' from their 1984 album Powerslave. If you're into reaction videos too or you're a musician who can appreciate a breakdown of the technical aspects of a song, I recommend giving Doug's video a watch. You can find it here.
Well, you know how it is when you're watching YouTube late at night. One video ends, and the next recommendation plays. I eventually ended up on the channel of professional opera singer and voice coach Elizabeth Zharoff, and full disclosure: I'm smitten.
Zharoff's about my age and already knows far more about music than I ever will. She brings a great deal of enthusiasm to her reaction videos, and even though I was dead tired and aching for sleep, I could not take my eyes (or ears) off of what I would consider her best video so far - a reaction to and analysis of 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.
First, a quick literature lesson in case you're not familiar. The song is based on an 18th Century poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. You may remember reading it in high school.
The main character is a sailor who stops a young man who's headed to a wedding and tells him the terrifying tale of a sea journey gone wrong. The sailor and his crew were lost on a becalmed sea after the sailor shot down an albatross that had initially brought the boat good winds and fortune. After it became clear that the ship and its crew were cursed due to the slaughter of the bird, it was hung around the mariner's neck like a cross as increasingly awful and horrifying things happened.
(By the way, a wandering albatross can have an 11-foot wingspan and weigh up to 30 pounds, so dude wasn't walkin' around with a pigeon around his neck.)
The poem gave two great gifts to history: the line "Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink", and one of the best damned Iron Maiden songs ever written.
Well, now it's kinda given us a third gift: Zharoff's reaction video.
Now, it's not the first Iron Maiden reaction video on her channel. Back in November, she reacted to 'Hallowed Be They Name' and had nothing but praise to heap on Bruce Dickinson. If you're an Iron Maiden fan, chances are you already considered him one of the best rock singers, if not the best.
However, it's so great to watch her January 25 'Mariner' video because you're watching her fall madly in love with Bruce and it shows in her eyes and smile throughout the video.
It's not just her vocal crush that's endearing, though. Her analysis of his technique made me notice things about Bruce's performance I'd never really thought about.
For instance, she talks about the fact that Bruce's habit of lifting his arm and taking wide stances during certain bars isn't just for showmanship. It's a technique used by singers to help them belt out those notes you and I can only dream about hitting when we sing in the shower. Apparently, lots of singers try to find ways to hide that, but Bruce embraces it and makes it part of the show.
She also has a lot to say about Bruce's annunciation and the way he opens his mouth so danged wide to achieve certain sounds that many other professional singers struggle with or try achieve while being demure.
"He doesn't necessarily have what I would consider, like, the most beautiful tone," she says, "it just has incredible power." She goes on to say she admires the way he can mold that power into words so rapidly to keep up with the music.
Zharoff also breaks several times to praise the range Dickinson can display in a single word, and his skill at conveying a number of concepts and emotions in simple but effective ways.
Honestly, there's way too much of her review for me to unpack here. You just have to see and hear it for yourself.
If you're like me, you probably keep YouTube rolling in the background sometimes while working or doing things around the house. I highly recommend actually taking time to watch this video rather than just listen, because you get so much out of seeing Zharoff's expressions when Bruce does something awesome.
Note: Zharoff frequently pauses the song to offer analysis or gush about how awesome it is. If that sort of thing bugs you, try listening to the song before you watch so that you're not frustrated. However, I think her enthusiasm is infectious, and her analysis is not only interesting but educational (in a fun way).
By the end of the video, you'll have a much deeper appreciation for the song and the power of Bruce Dickinson's voice.
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