Friday, 7 November 2014

A Long Week Done

What a very long week it seems to have been ! I was away in the South of England for a funeral last weekend and had to leave the house at 3am...........I'm getting too long in the tooth for that sort of thing! I also didn't arrive home until after 1am, after a delayed flight 36 hours later. This had a distinct knock on effect to my teaching week !

It was a beautiful funeral service for Joscelyn Johnson, a gracious and delightful lady about whom I wrote some time ago. She and her husband The Rev Canon Charles Johnson were instrumental in the reason I moved to Paradise. She was a great age, and had lived a full and happy life and so there was much about the service which was happy and almost triumphant - except she was a lady who did not like fuss and bother, so 'triumphant' almost seems too large a word ! Warm and familiar hymns combined with traditional as well as interesting readings made for a day I would not have missed. The choir, under the direction of my daughter S sang quite beautifully, having worked very hard on an anthem which was new to them, and, I must say, to me too.

It did mean, however, I was tired when I started my, already bursting week of teaching, and by Monday teatime I did not have a single crotchet left in me, so cancelled some pupils and rescheduled for later in the week. By Wednesday I was beginning to feel more human and less jet lagged but I am very glad that by lunchtime today my long week had come to an end. Hence my lack of posts this week ! No brain room left for anything other than pupils, food and sleep !

It has been a very good week and we are on course for the concert on November 21st. I have chosen a few funny items for the concert and seemingly a quiver of Flanders and Swann songs, including a new one for M who is going to sing The Ostrich. I have never used this one before so I suspect it will be a lovely moment for singers and audience both. Another choice song with be Sung by my newest student E, who will be singing a delicious tenor version of the gorgeous Amarylli. He is so very expressive and his newly born tenor voice is developing so fast.

Young M will sing her first solo with chorus backing, so to speak, having finally got to the point where her voice is large enough to cope with a small chorus section in the repeat of her Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler on the Roof.

It is warming up to be a great evening !


Amarylli Mia Bella



Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Harry's great transformation !

It's amazing when a young teenaged boy suddenly transforms from treble to tenor ! We had our first rehearsal for the November concerts this evening, and one of the choral pieces I have chosen is the superbly funny Flanders and Swann classic, The Transport of Delight.

I have used this song many times over the last 30 years with all variety, shapes and sizes of vocal ensembles it has been my joy to work with. It, like many F&S songs, adapts itself from being a solo, a duet, a quartet of chaps to a gaggle of 18 year old girls via an amateur group with members of all ages from 8 to 80 !

I have chosen to end the first half of the evening with this song giving I, of The Mikado persona, and young H who made the most fantastic barman in the aforementioned show, the two characters - the Driver and Conductor of the London Omnibus ! For the first time H is singing his lines in his newly arrived tenor voice which is strong, loud and resonant, albeit a babe of a voice !

He has suddenly woken up as a man singer, with the ability to act, be witty, and sing with a sense of authority. He has waited and waited for the treble to break, and unlike many boy choristers he was desperate for the moment of his voice breaking. Thankfully his voice is 'sliding' rather than crashing down, which means he will most likely be able to sing all the way through the breaking journey.

I have seen it many many times in my teaching career, and every time it gives me such a huge thrill to hear a voice being born, made even more joyous when the young man is as over the moon as H seems to be.

Not so long ago I was posting about his cuteness when singing the little child song, 'The Kangaroo', as a talented 9 year old............and here he is now, singing with all the vigour and confidence of a pint sized Bryn Terfel !

Days of The Kangaroo !

The suave barman, and almost tenor............




Watch this space for the photo of the full broken voiced H !


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ellen's Aria from Peter Grimes

It's a wild, wild day here on The island of Paradise. It was forecast and everyone has battened down the hatches. I haven't seen any mail vans, so hopefully my alto post lady will have had a much deserved day off. The bridge was closed most of the night and some of today, so I'm very glad I had nowhere official to go ! Tuesday is one of my home teaching days, so I could hunker down, keep the stove topped up and enjoy being warm inside !

Lots of the youngsters are still away on holiday so my days are a little jumbled still, but in a way it is 'a change is as good as a rest' scenario !

Last week, for the first time in a few years I gave the profound and tricky aria ' Ellen's Aria' from Britten's opera, Peter Grimes, to K. It is a genre and style she has never tackled, but given her huge facility for drama and characterisation, I felt it was worth the risk. Very often, when I demonstrate to the student whilst they listen and make a decision whether they like it or not, that decision is quite straightforward and most often a style of vocal music which is easily accessible to the ear and brain. Britten is a totally different case. It is such wonderous music drama, based around the story and so fixed by the speech rhythms of the English language, but it can also be tricky to understand and many times full of clashes which can be hard on the ear.

In this aria Ellen is talking to Peter Grimes' boat boy, and her whole short scene has a rumble of storms and wild water, yet she is being warm and kind to the poor child. K listened with an intelligent approach and open mind and went away from her lesson more than willing to 'give it a go', and mildly excited by the thought of such new music.

A few days later I received a text from said K, which simply said 'I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!' How gratifying is that, and what a joy to know that sometimes I feel that I can choose repertoire which suits the person first, as well as the voice alone.

Infact, I think the key is 'the person first'. Get that bit right and the rest falls into place like a row of falling dominos !

Opera North production of Peter Grimes


Monday, 13 October 2014

A letter to J

I have just had a very excited J for a lesson. She could barely contain her excitement during her scales, and when she is so excited she laughs all the time ! Not so good for vowel shapes, but excellent for her spirits ! J has certain learning difficulties, which manifest themselves both physically and intellectually, she has cerebral palsy. This has never held her back from taking both Grade 1 and 2 exams, and now working towards Grade 3, or has stopped her being in the annual show. She is dedicated, persevering and an all round breath of fresh air in my music room.

She is a glowing example of what one can achieve when one has difficulties which will never improve, but with which one will always have a battle. She radiates joy almost all of the time, and has become an integral part of Inner Sound at every level.

Today was her last lesson before a wonderful holiday to Italy ! She leaves next Sunday for this trip, which will be, for her, amazing and thoroughly appreciated. She was at great pains to tell me though that she would indeed be able to practise right up until Saturday, as they don't leave until Sunday !

Singing is very important to many people, for the personal pleasure it brings, and the acquired ability to let oneself 'go'. Infact to have permission to be anyone one wants to be ! For J, that right to express herself and have such physical enjoyment is almost therapy - I would go as far as to say it is at least as important as, and maybe more important than anything the NHS ( however fantastic that is !) could offer her !

Opening up one's voice and letting rip is one of the most basic and primitive ways of self expression - it takes years to train as a classical singer, but the feeling of letting rip is just a strong when singing opera, musical theatre, rap or Jewish mouth music ! The key is the feeling of freedom.

It is one part of my job which through all my teaching life I have valued more than rubies. I know many inspirational teachers of all subjects, but I'll take a bet that none of them know what it feels like to be bombarded with sound waves from an uninhibited student who is having a ball ! Now that is priceless.

Have a fantastic holiday J, and come back even more full of joy than you were today.