Friday, 5 February 2016

Filming for example and pleasure

I am off tomorrow after an excellent week of teaching ! I now have all my videos which I hope will be useful, and even if I do not use them at all it was a great thing to do, and many of the youngsters almost 'enjoyed' hearing just how good they are ! One or two were very surprised at the quality of the performances.

One or two were work in progress, and one or two I wanted to limit to exercises - especially from A who is working so hard to bridge a rather inconvenient break around a D and C sharp - the join between the head voice and middle register. The one minute film showed how quickly this can be cleaned up, and also how it is quite habitual, in other words, many have it and find it tricky to produce a solid tone on the weak join notes, and that in itself becomes something of an inability to heal the break. Young A can smooth the break out beautifully when the jaw is fully relaxed and the shape is 'loooong! The problem is remembering to do it, and for the muscles to remember to relax as a second nature manoeuvre ! I am certain she will get there - keep this up A, it will be worth all the hard work !

A delightful Path to the Moon from J would please any teacher anywhere in the world, totally accurate and bursting with growing warmth and ringing tone. She is beginning to sing like a grown up ! S sang a beautiful Panis Angelicus, complete with the most wonderfully open vowel shapes - she really has the most natural mouth movement ! A strange compliment but you know what I mean !

L sang some exercises also - I have posted before about her naturally alto chest sound - it is completely natural and not at all pushed. Recently the illusive top of her voice has begun to raise its musical head above the parapet and she is learning to find another place from which she can produce notes in her, as yet, small and fragile head voice. The film shows exactly what happens, and she showed us how to connect this new voice with the old voice !

S sang Caro Mio Ben, one of her Grade songs from last November, and in that short time her voice seems to have doubled in size and resonance ! I was nearly blown off the piano stool as she crescendoed up to the .....cessa crudel....... One would have thought she was 25 and not 15 !

So a great week, I was missing M who was ill and could not make a sound. Both she and I were disappointed that she was not able to show her ability to the world ! Next time M !

Boy I apologise if I have missed anyone out........I will check and correct that if I have !

Ah well, travel day tomorrow, so the next time I post I will 700 miles nearer to Hong Kong.....however that does leave around another 5000 to go !

Most of my vocal film stars appear here !


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Gluck, Strauss, Caccini all mixed up with Hans Christian Anderson and a teaspoon of Wesley !

My final week before the next adventure and I am cramming in as many pupils as I can ! Then, to scupper the best laid plans along came Storm Henry which was so violent in these parts none of my mainland pupils managed to make it over the bridge which links Paradise with the mainland ! It was as if blustery Henry came along specifically to make this busy and packed week even more busy and more sardine like !

Thankfully the storm has blown itself out as I write, and after an excellent concert rehearsal this evening it is looking fine and dandy for the rest of the teaching week ! The medley from that delightful musical with Danny Kaye, Hans Christian Anderson is coming on a pace, and we semi blocked a few moments in 'Wonderful Copenhagen', so as to give the finale of the first half of the concert a jolly and show like feel.

I have resurrected the lovely Vicar of Dibley theme tune, The Lord is my Shepherd set by Howard Goodall, and the SSA version is also coming along very well. It is not very difficult but there are some moving chord sequences with unexpected harmonies which keep the ladies on their toes, but it was sounding very solid this evening, and with a nicely warm tone.

We are also enjoying that timeless anthem Lead me Lord by Wesley, it never fails, is always beautiful, and such a wonderful exercise for pp singing. Lots of open vowels, huge amounts of breath but a sweet yet focused soft dynamic. It is something I began teaching 35 years ago and has had a constant place in my repertoire since then. Truly wonderful music just goes on and on - difficulty levels are simply irrelevant, glorious melody and harmony shine through........

As yet I have made three of my video recordings and very good they are. I deliberately wanted to use these as a teaching aid, so some are work in progress, and some more 'finished'. So far NC recorded a beautiful Strauss song Die Nacht, L recorded a strong and heartfelt Amarylli by Caccini, and boy you can clearly see her abdominal breathing, then NM sang Gluck's 'O del Mio Dolce Ardor', with top notes so powerful and centred my ears almost could'nt bear it ! I am looking forward to the younger girls proving themselves over the next two days.

I shall be a proud teacher to show my Hong Kong students, should I need to use the sight and sound to help me explain myself !

Back to the packing.........

Wonderful wonderful Copenhagen........



Will it all fit.....


Monday, 25 January 2016

The next vocal adventure !

What a good start to the week ! All my pupils arrived and had done lots of work ! I leave for Hong Kong in about 12 days, so folk are beginning to realise that they only have me for one more week, and then I am away for some considerable time.

I leave on Feb 6th to travel South then I actually fly early in the week. This time I am flying Swiss International Air rather than Cathay Pacific, so it involves a short stop over in Zurich before finally flying from Zurich to Hong Kong. This visit is very special in that I am going as a Guest Teacher at a vocal academy in Hong Kong, and I am much looking forward to it !

Today I was contemplating how I might communicate what I want a very young singer to do if their English is not very advanced - my Cantonese however is non existent so my admiration for these small people who sing in very accomplished English is great. I made a decision that's based upon sight as well as sound, so next week I am hoping to video on my iPad some five or six performances by my youngsters. Using standard repertoire set for examinations through the grades, and using my shining stars aged 11 - 18, I hope that I may be able to let a Chinese child actually see what their mouth needs to be doing !

J will sing a very detailed performance of The Path to the Moon, the grade 3 gem by Eric Thiman, others will follow according to how well they sing this week, but a grade 4 song and a 5 song will definitely happen. After that a pair of 6's will compete for the film rights ! How exciting..........

I hope the experience of filming will be a fruitful and positive one for my pupils and for any Hong Kong pupil who needs the extra imput of image.

The academy where I am working in Tsuen Wan
One of the recital rooms in the academy.

Exciting times !


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Youngsters forging ahead.........

Sometimes it is so gratifying to see a youngster who wants to improve so much that they work like a Trojan, imbibe as they listen to one's words, and learn almost by osmosis. I have some fine young pupils from the age's of 6 to 18, many of whom I have taught for more than half of their young lives ( as one young M informed me early in the week !). Another teen who only started lessons this term has proved herself worthy to join that hardworking and talented bunch of youthful voices.

N came last week for only her 3rd lesson, and proved by her very intensity just how much sheer graft she had done in the week previous. It made me smile, and as happens so often, I became very excited and felt myself jiggle about on the piano stool in anticipation of the progress to come !

Her eyes lit up with praise when told how well her mouth was 'behaving' in terms of vowel shapes, and best of all, she recognised instantly when they were lazy, forgotten or simply not quite correct. Largely they were correct, and very good indeed, so in the space of three weeks she has changed from having a rather 'wildish' and raw sound to an ordered and controlled tone quality.

Even with an older beginner I have to take songs from the great purple Singing Together book, simply to allow the pupil the time to put into action the technical issues. She had Bobby Shaftoe a Northumbrian folk song and The Nightingale, another folk song but generally thought to be from Somerset. N was working so hard I could almost see the cogs of her brain turning ! She had memorised both songs, and sang them to me with enthusiasm and much detailed thought. I could tell just how much practise had gone on in that household !

My body of young singers are brilliant in so very many different ways, each complimenting the other by their very diversity. Of course there are egos and the odd quarrel but as a group I feel they are positively glued together and enjoy that fact.

N will I hope, in time add her own individuality to the group, and so make it even stronger.