Saturday, 21 November 2015

A 'Special Moments' Winter Concert

We had our Inner Sound Winter Concert last night. The weather has turned chilly and snowy, so just in time I think ! We have had to cancel so many Christmas Concerts over the years that we have given up on anything after mid November as a viable option. In this part of the world folk travel so far to rehearsals it becomes impossible if the snow is falling, the gales are blowing or the rain is hammering. All of those scenarios are very likely this far north of Watford !

The concert went very well indeed, and I was so proud of all the singers. In many ways there were some very special moments in this particular concert. All the ladies who are taking recital exams aired some of their pieces, so embedding the song in a different and secure place, and they all exceeded expectations and performed with class and panache ! The younger exam candidates did exactly the same, outing their songs and being hugely applauded in the process - always a big plus !

A small J performed so beautifully and with real confidence having had a minor hiccup at the last concert, losing her already fragile nerve a little. This time she soared and smiled and did it ! What a small triumph, and well done for conquering the fear and 'doing it anyway' to quote a well known book ! Another J, sang her My Fair Lady solo and became the second huge conqueror of the evening ! She brought joy to the song, and therefore to the listeners.

The biggest 'special' moment of the evening without doubt was the performance of young S, our member who only 12 weeks ago had major brain surgery for a tumour. What a wonderful and moving moment when she got up and sang with such power, expression and full heartedness. There was barely a dry eye in the house, especially amongst the older members, parents of teens and anyone who knew how serious the situation had been such a short time ago. If I am honest I was hard pushed to play and keep my feelings under control, I can only begin to imagine the feelings of happiness which her parents experienced.

In the end I would like to give a large and bear like virtual group hug to all and a huge well done to all who performed and hope we all can be thankful for those moments which made the whole evening one to remember.





Sunday, 15 November 2015

Coconut Man and a sense of Jamaica from J

What a week, MBE service at St Paul's, Storm Abigail and two more days of teaching, and my boiler broken..... - like the old days except it was most definitely a one off week !

As the exams loom ever closer the preparations become more intense. Actually these preps are going well, and when my young man J came over from the Black Isle he pleased me very much, and he withstood a 45 minute lesson. He is only 11 or 12 ( I can't quite remember !!), so quite a feat of concentration for both of us !

He is singing a very entertaining programme, so even if all the technique doesn't quite fall into place he will give the examiner a smile and a half ! He played a funny Italian pizza chef in The Gondoliers, and built up his part as each performance went by, and on the final night he was playing a small Harrison Ford style chef !

His Grade 2 songs are that Sound of Music classic, Doh a Deer, which he swings along with great gusto, The Miller of Dee, and his final .....'I care for nobody no not I, and nobody cares for me' is worthy of a panto villain ! His third song is the delicious Caribbean calypso 'Mr Coconut Man' and this is positively Jamaican in its verve and life ! He knows it all very well, and although I suspect, as with all small boys, the practise is somewhat sporadic, it is so worth the long 2 hour journey in the dark, dank, wet and windy months of November and December. His voice is going places without doubt. When I first taught him there was much tone that was fluffy, low and a little asthmatic. It has grown, found its centre and now really flies. He reached a top G on Thursday - a note he has never before managed, as I feel he really is a boy alto naturally, and he was so excited he high fived me !

Our concert is next week but sadly J will not be able to sing with us, at the moment the travel home after a rehearsal or concert is just too much - but watch this space, I am sure as he gets older we will relish his wit, humour and intelligence as part of Inner Sound productions once more !

Keep it up J - give the examiner a big beam at the end of her morning - she would have to have a heart of stone not to smile !

PS - I am reliably informed by his lordship that having read this post, he says it was a top B flat !!! I stand somewhat corrected (possibly....)

The chef with flair and a penchant for building up his part !


Thursday, 12 November 2015

End of the trip and Storm Abigail approaches.....

The final moments of the trip were both awful and delightful is one ! When Sara and I finally caught the 8.02pm Bognor Regis train from Victoria, and bearing in mind it was a Tuesday, not Friday or Monday.......the train was still chocka block full of commuters going home after work and we could only find two odd seats after moving through four or five standing only carriages. It is a difficult, and at times thankless task, this commuting lark and when I moved to Paradise and travelled each week to the RAM in London, I vowed to stop on the way over from here to Inverness Airport take masses of wonderful and artistic photographs and call it 'Commuting - my way'. I never did but it seemed like a good idea at the time !

After spending a few minutes with a very tired and bleary eyed Cecilia, who had manfully stayed up for our return, then promptly fell asleep on the sofa, I fell into bed and could not get comfortable due to the bruising on my knees and hip ! So although I had been up for about 20 hours, sleep evaded me for a couple more hours !

I was scooped up by Sara at 7.50am the next morning as part of the school run ! We all chatted for a precious 30 minutes or so, and I had time to have a little conversation with Wilson, who, at 9years old had been flat out asleep when we had arrived home the night before ! We deposited Cecilia at her school in Midhurst then doubled back to Fittleworth and said a sad farewell to Wilson, then we proceeded straight to Pulborough station where I was greeted with 'train cancelled' due to a train which would not start ! Finally Southern Trains deposited me at Gatwick Airport where the lovely Katy Thompson, our show Marco, was waiting to meet me and we could both find a table and have a long coffee, all day breakfast and a burstingly packed catch up chat !

How lovely it was to see her, she is such a ray of sunshine, so caring and so very interested in the goings on and lives of others. What a super way to end my wonderful and whirlwind trip to 'town'.

I am back home now, and storm Abigail is, as I write moving closer and closer, and at present I have lost my chimney cap - let us see what the morning brings, and hope the electricity is still with us ! My piano is a beautiful and modern Clavinova, but it runs on SSE this space !

The 8.02pm train still full of commuters when human beings should be home relaxing and having a life !



Lovely Katy and my medal ! I had to keep an eye open.......

Just joking !


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

St Paul's service for Order of the British Empire (parte secundo)


Looking up at the facade of St Paul's is quite an experience. After a longish cab ride, due to ever and eternally ongoing cycle lane construction in London, I arrived at the cathedral main West Door entrance. There were already lots of folk there waiting for the doors to open for the private Evensong service at 5pm. It was a colourful and cheerful throng, all wearing their decorations with varying amounts of pride and reticence. I had mine in my bag and not emblazoned across my chest - I wanted to make sure that others were indeed wearing them before I pinned it on myself. This whole award and decoration 'thing' clearly still feels truly unreal and not quite part of my normal life ? I still cannot believe I am actually in this position, and that for some reason I am deemed worthy of it ? I am so very honoured and excited, but just a tiny bit baffled.

Sara arrived in perfect time and we two stood and chatted to a couple of military men, one Royal Engineers, and another who is a Naval diver, we ladies enjoying the rich display of medals these two relatively young men had displayed on their ultra smart dress uniforms.

At 4.15 pm with the rain just spitting a little, but ready to fall in buckets the great doors opened and in we walked, almost right up to the chancel, and shown to the places for 'blue ticket' holders ! We were almost directly below the Dome, rich with fresco paintings, stupendous carvings and masonry and such deep and rich colours. Not the glitter of Viennese Baroque, but a quieter more British understatement, but none the less magnificent.

The processions of choir, clergy, Bishop, the Mayor of London and finally an extraordinarily sprightly Prince Philip at the great age of 94, walk up the long central aisle and the service began. The choir were wonderful, warm, vibrant and so disciplined, yet the sound was rich and soaring indeed. What a fantastic line of counter tenors ! They whole sound was most uplifting, but with my singing teacher hat on I have never heard a finer quartet of warm counter tenor tone in any cathedral choir ! On top of all that there is the connection with our wonderful baritone Tom, who was a fine chorister there, our young Skye lad Ashton who spent a good few years having the experience of his life there, and today I find it that one of my oldest and finest pupils from 35 years ago Philippa Hyde, now a well known professional and great exponent of Early Music, has her youngest son Ben as a St Paul's chorister. What a legacy, and how astonishing to think it all came from such early encounters and beginnings...........

After the service finished we chatted to other recipients and had a couple of photos taken for posterity then made our way to a nearby restaurant for a relatively early dinner, a child free chat and a leisurely discussion about the finer points of the glorious choral music !

A much faster cab back to Victoria station and before you could say ' Dyson in F' we were winging our way back to Sussex. It will be a very brief visit South, and fast journey home on the morrow, but oh it was worth every early morning minute, and every aching muscle and bone in my recovering body.

Life memories if you will.

( Photo kindly taken by a recipient who was awarded for Mountain Rescue and will be in Paradise in two weeks time....small world )

A St Paul's selfie !

Service over,and you can see how close to the front we were !

The plush red chair was Prince Philip's seat.