Friday, 29 April 2016

R&R in Yorkshire !

Resting at Littlebeck......bliss. We had the resident peacock waiting around for the daily food, and quietly waiting for the peacock tail feathers to grow back. He/she walks around with a small fluffy tail which sprouts more tufts each day, so maybe by next year he will have wonderful plumage. One of the friendly, and slightly overweight pheasants knocks on the sun room window, clearly exasperated by the late appearance of its morning full English breakfast, then having eaten its fill it purposefully plods off and circumnavigates the rest of the large garden. Clearly it's dessert consists of a few worms or bugs, but the main course is kindly supplied by Julia at the Mill House Bistro ! 

Home tomorrow after a welcome and much needed rest with my oldest friends !



All in the April Evening - polished and beautiful !

It is almost the last day of April and today we polished the beautiful duet by Roberton. The sisters work so hard for perfection, all the while knowing that perfection is a state we never quite reach ! They probably know this more than almost anyone I teach, yet they work and work at the technical bits and bobs in a true effort to make it good enough for church, and indeed good enough for its real purpose.
The top notes were so much better today as the high sopranos were much more confident in their new found 'super head' register. There are three sisters at least, including the Abbess who are true sopranos and fully understand the lift needed for top G's and A's. The community are very lucky to have this extra vocal facility available to them, and I asked specifically that they can, from time to time, be allowed to sing descant lines which will take them up to these dizzy heights. Otherwise it will not be until my next visit !

Two of the older sisters came this morning for a solo session, as much as anything else for reassurance that they still have an intact voice, and are useful to the whole community in church. These ladies Sr Aelred and Sr Angela were my first contacts at the abbey years ago, and they have fine and solid voices which, even in their middle 70's are round and full and definitely needed ! I think they went away confident of that fact - I would have them in Inner Sound in a shot, and Sr Aelred is a gold dust contralto ! 

We recorded the part song and I could tell they were modestly pleased and clearly delighted with the performance and the overall sound. I push them very hard for good breathing, open vowels, tight consonants and an intellectual approach to the piece as well as a reverent one. The song therefore, with the technical nuts and bolts in place and unified lifts even higher as a sacred prayer which soared to the rafters of the recreation room.

Quite beautiful, and so wonderful to hear the poem as it was meant to be conveyed. I will miss them when I leave later today, it is always such a privilege to work with these ladies.

A beautiful brass band version played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band

If anyone would like to hear the Poor Clares recording I can email it to you, I don't want to upload it to anywhere public !

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Why won't my voice work today ?

Once again I am with the warm and friendly sisters ar the Crossbush Convent in Arundel. It is one of the loveliest places to visit and like the other abbeys I frequent, quite a wonderful place to ply my trade. The atmosphere is so welcoming and the sisters are extremely keen to learn and perfect. I tell my own pupils that if a sister of 80 or 90 wants to improve, and can put into action what I am asking of them, it is surely never to late to become a better and more technical singer ?!

In my plenary session today Sr Aelred, who is in charge of the music gave me the gorgeous 'All in the April Evening' by the Scotsman, Hugh Roberton. It was such a joy to work with a group of singers for whom the text is utterly meaningful, and I worked the whole group from 10am until 11.45. This is an immense chunk of time for ladies who were up at 5am, already had rehearsal for the mass, then had the mass etc. etc. Yet in spite of this long mornings work already done, they cheerfully and enthusiastically throw their heart and soul into making good vowel shapes, learning notes and words, singing scales including the tricksy '77 benevolent elephants', with ne'er a frown, and were so clearly pleased by the end of the session. So they should be ! A large proportion of the sisters have had lessons for some years and have as good technique as my non religious pupils !

A delightful African sister came for a solo session after the choir rehearsal, and was so excited about the fact she felt as if a vocal door had been opened to her since I last was here. Her confidence had soared and she was giving her sound out instead of holding back. She is a young woman and will be a great Chantress in church for many years to come. 'The time was right' she told me, 'and I needed to wait for that moment' - how true indeed, as with much in this life.

Sr Helen was next, trembling and scared of her own voice, and absolutely surprised when I announced to her that all singers, professional or amateur, young or old all feel that fear of 'will my voice work today', until the day they stop singing, or get carried off the operatic stage in a box ! I told her that it seems to me that it is human nature to doubt ourselves, but if she uses the simple technical tools it will, 85% of the time, work. I say 85% very carefully - we are not automatons, we are just human beings, and a sore throat or a pain in the ribs means it will not work, and natures way of saying a gentle 'shut up!'

Onwards and upwards, more lessons and more interesting conversations.

 Only a cross, a cross of shame,

Two stark crosses between.

All in the April evening, April airs were abroad,

I saw the sheep with their lambs,

And thought on the Lamb of God.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Blogsy is no more

I am gutted, the app I used to write and publish all my blog posts has been removed from the App Store ? Why, when I find something streamlined and without 'bugs' would they stop it ? Oh well, I am now trying another and will reserve judgement until it proves to me it can handle text, photos and video as well as dear old Blogsy......RIP