Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Skye Song School comes around again !

I am finally home, the sun is shining and everything looks green and springlike. Blossom is appearing on my plum trees and the miniature rhododendron shrubs are all flowering. What a wonderful welcome home after a month in vocal exile !

Skye Song School begins next Monday, so I am resting and recovering in readiness for a fun filled yet intensive couple of weeks with the singers - having said that, the admin still needs tackling, but I have some days left to do the files and print offs.

This will be the first year without Penny, who has attended all but the first year, and leaves a mighty hole in the first week of singers, and Annabel will be greatly missed as she actually passed away during the first week last year. These are sad memories, but also happy memories - all the funny songs with which Penny entertained us over the years leave a sizable mark, and her performances will always be part of the timeline and history of the Song School.

My recollections of her Ballad of Jenny, The Warthog, The Elephant, I did it for Love and many many more will live with us all, and her Many a New Day from Oklahoma which was last year's song will stay with me for ever. Her complete disregard of the weeping females around her as she told them to musically 'pull themselves together' was heroic and very very funny !

Penny was solely responsible for introducing yours truly to a whole new world of light song. Ballads of the 30's and 40's and songs from Noel Coward, Ivor Novello and the 'lesser spotted' songs of the Gershwin brothers. I am so grateful for her kindly and comprehensive education in this genre of music about which I was a raw beginner ! All my students have benefitted from this education, my wider knowledge of light early 20th century song has given me a pool of songs to give them, and indeed pass on to my past pupils who now also teach in all four corners of the UK !

Thanks Penny, for many things.

A great performance from Penny February 2014

Song School 2015........bring it on !


Friday, 20 March 2015

One dedicated lady.

The choirs and ensembles this evening were very impressive. There is one teacher here who must work her fingers to the bone. She has a Chorus, a group of ensembles encompassing all ages, and in her teaching practise are adults as well. She does concerts and festivals and exams, plays for them and is there to support every day........I know only too well what commitment that takes, and how much energy it takes ! The only thing I can see that she doesn't do is a G&S show in the summer !

Her pupils are so well taught, yet she is always keen for advice on how to improve her youngsters technique. I don't think she is a solo singer herself or has had truly technical training, but my goodness she does a good job. I would love to tweak some of her pupils technical singing, there is such talent just waiting to burst out. She asked me last time I was here if I would consider coming and Masterclassing for all her singers for a day but somehow it never happened, so this time when we were having lunch I mentioned it and said I would be happy to do a day for them, she quickly texted the treasurer of her choir and he sanctioned her request ! So at some point this year I will make a trip here to Argyllshire and have the pleasure of working with them at close hand.

The ensembles ranged from girls SSA to Men's Barbershop Choir, Ladies Ensemble ( who sang The Seal Lullaby, my good Yorkshire friends will be interested in that, and I told them to let the piano have the main role !) and a Mixed Voice quartet called Veuve Clicquot who were tremendous and won with a magnificent 91 marks. The other choir which won an earlier class were called Bar None - a community choir which like Inner Sounds excludes nobody, and there is no audition. They had a wonderfully enthusiastic young male conductor who arranged the pieces especially for them, and what a delight they were - bright, breezy, well drilled and they sang with such healthy open tone. I loved it.

Tomorrow it is the Kindergarten Action Songs and the youth choirs - I wonder how many expensive props and costumes will be scattered amongst the babes in the action song class. My last lot of tinies, if you recall, had extras worthy of La Scala Milan !

Brava ! Brava !

Copy and paste this link and read about Fiona MacDonald, one dedicated lady.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Talented teens by the dozen ! Mid Argyll does it again !

I have just adjudicated the finest class of 8 14 - 17year old singers I think I have ever had outside youngsters from the JRAM. I am at the Mid Argyll Festival in a small village near Lochgilphead and clearly they have some of the finest classical singing teachers in this relatively small and remote part of Scotland.

There was so much talent on the stage I was seriously impressed and my marks ranged from 86 - 91 ! The choices of songs were just perfect, we had a superb Sento Nel Core sung by a young man with a beautiful and very settled high baritone, who gave such tasteful and elegant decorations as well has having a solid and secure open tone quality which made the hairs on my arm stand on end ! There were two versions of Panis Angelicus both of which were quite small but perfectly formed with just the most excellent phrasing, and a lovely performance, from a young lady with a huge voice, a very very fine try at the Faure song, Prison. There was a wonderfully Mozartian Voi che Sapete from a young mezzo with the most lovely control over her technique. It really was almost a showcase of just how good teens can be with the right teaching. I told them that they must never take their teachers for granted, and that they did not realise just how lucky they were in this small and beautiful corner of Scotland. Even the least experienced singer in the group sang a delightful The Path to the Moon with such warmth and affection for the poem, even though it was clear that she was terrified and her nerves just got the better of her today.

It is such a joy to work with these talented young folk, and be able to talk to each in some depth about their individual performances. In Hong Kong of course the classes are so large there is no time to speak to each singer, and I feel they, quite naturally, lose a little of what one feels about their efforts : the time constraints are just too great, but it is to the detriment of the youngsters, so I am back in my comfort zone of being able to speak directly to the singer and offer encouragement and help where I can in a human way and not just on paper.

I am back In the big hall tonight after dinner, for a large open class of own choice songs which from what I can see range from Gaelic folksong to Amarylli via some Showtunes...........what a task it is to try and compare their performances and come up with a winner and runners up when the styles are so divergent.

Onwards and upwards !

The view from the lounge window of the hotel as I write ! Quite different from my HK hotel !


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Lots of photos, and not much music !!

I am very near the end of my 'half' festival now, and we had a superb Farewell Dinner last night and given a gift and warm thanks for our work. I feel much more human this time around, although I realise it is half the length of time, the work is still intense and in the evenings we all flop into our rooms with strains of 'Over the Mountains' or 'The Frog' ringing in the ears and brain.

Actually there were 13 of us at the dinner, so clearly this year a significant proportion of adjudicators have come for a shorter time. Very sensible ! I am posting the same photo that made my lovely lady pupils gasp at how gaunt I looked, last time, and I'm hoping this one looks like the normal me and quite in the pink still ! I think the pen is the same type !

I still have to work on Monday before I leave on Tuesday so although I have packed there are strategic holes in both my cases for the few things which are still hanging in the wardrobe !

This was an interesting advertisement for an eating place which was on the way to the venue where I last became 'Lost of Hong Kong'. I'm not sure I will be visiting it !



After a very nice coffee with another Swiss vocal adjudicator I visited the local shops to buy some bits and pieces including this exotic cake which was called a Purple Sweet Potato and Chestnut Tart ? I felt it was worth posting, although in trying it I was disappointed that is tasted of almost nothing ! All colour and no flavour sadly, still I shouldn't be eating it at all, at least much of it went in the bin !


This next item was bought for me by a delightful Chinese adjudicator from Hong Kong but who now lives and works in California. She wanted me to try a Water Apple ! It was sweetish and cool and watery and vaguely appley, and really rather nice - I ate all of that ! The actual pattern on the bottom of the ridged fruit was hollow, no seeds or pips - how on earth does it reproduce ?


Now for the best of days ! Six of us did the Lantau Budhha visit and after paying respects to this remarkable statue, and visiting the Monastery on the island which now also hosts the Hong Kong Airport, we went on a boat trip out of the traditional ( and rather exotically fragrant ?!?!) village called Tai O. The fishing boat was out quite by chance, and although we had been told about the famous white Dolphins which live in this part of the South China Seas. They are extremely rare, and perhaps only 1600 left around Hong Kong. Well I will let you enjoy these wonderful photographs taken by an Indonesian colleague with a camera the size of Inverness !

What a complete breathtaking joy it was.





Here is our truly international group,

One Singaporean, on Indonesian taking photo, one Finnish lady, one Bulgarian lady and two Brits !