Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sing your way to health ( and happiness!)

I was saying to a student yesterday, and I can't for the life of me remember who it was, that singing is one of the finest feel good activities this side of Saturn. In the olden days when I taught GCSE and A Level Music in school there was an essay question which cropped up with absolute regularity, perhaps even in every other yearly exam paper. It was on the 'Singing' section of the written paper for Practical Music. A very short, but very astute little question - Singing is a Sport - Discuss.

I have known my whole working life that singing makes us feel great, it is a heart work out, a spirit lifting activity and a good all round pleasurable hobby. It bonds people together, it puts us in a position of having to trust others, and it forces us to lay our feelings open for all the world to see.

You can see from just that short description that it is both PE and Psychotherapy ! On the PE side my maxim to my students has always been....' If you are not sweating, you are not working hard enough' simple and easy to grasp, but often not taken onboard ! On the Therapy front it is the most marvellously liberating thing to do. We can release all sorts of negative feelings and watch them fly away on a wave of out pouring emotion, and equally we can rid ourselves of bad feelings by 'being' someone else, and letting that character work it's cathartic magic.

I have had one pupil today whose voice has changed so much in the last 6 months that when new sounds and new found release flowed out, it made the singer weep. Not at all in a negative or sorrowful way, but in a manner which allowed the shock of new and wonderful physical feelings to stream through her being. Beautiful, vibrating, and all consuming sound touches us deeply, and presses emotional buttons we didn't even know we had.

Singing is a wonderful thing to do in every form. One of the most invigorating hobbies one can have is being part of a whole - a choir or opera group, a band or barbershop quartet. It matters not what it is, but how much joy one gets from being part of a harmonious team.

I found this super picture a week or so ago and thought it was the perfect illustration for my blog ! Make sure you read it all, then.............

Go on - join a choir !!



Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Fairy Tailor by Micheal Head

Monday's teaching brought some delightful moments. Lots of vocal highlights and good singing including a very successful lesson with one of my small pupils, J. I had felt that this term was the moment to introduce some more challenging repertoire which was longer than the usual two pages of music, so I gave her two lovely songs, one of which was the gorgeous The Fairy Tailor by Michael Head.

J is a rather serious little thing with an earnest desire to do all that is asked of her, and a thinking and intelligent approach to her learning. This does not mean that she can't be full of fun and bouncing, but I really admire her work ethic, and thus her excellent progress!

She thrives when given a challenge and the delightful Michael Head miniature was just such a challenge. It is the most beautiful and exquisite poem by Rose Fyleman, which vividly paints a picture of fairyland, where a busy, almost frantically so, fairy tailor sits cross legged beneath the hollyhocks sewing dresses and outfits for all the inhabitants of fairyland ! Each type of ethereal being having their own colour and style, all fashioned from flowers in the garden.

It is, for a nine year old, a complex and wordy poem, and the bright Head melody zips along as fast as the fairy tailor's needle weaves in and out of the fabrics. I rather naively assumed that the serious faced little singer in my music room would understand the names and hues of all the flowers, and undoubtedly she had learnt the song very well indeed, but clearly she did not ! I decided to simplify the whole thing, and when I explained that all of these fairy frocks, shoes and frills were made from petals in the garden, a slow but sparkly beam stretched across her face, filled with all the wonder and colour of this magical land.

......Grey for the Goblins, Blue for the Elves, Brown for the little Gnomes who live by themselves, White for the Pixies who dance in the lane........

The second verse names all the flower fabrics

.......Petals from the Pansy for little velvet shoon, Silk of the Poppy for a dance beneath the moon, Lawn of the Jasmine and Damask of the Rose to make their pretty Kirtles and airy Furbelows.........

The poet calls them all a 'store of treasure' and how perfect that is. This little fairy tailor heaps them all around him and 'wraps them up in gossamer' ready for use.

This glorious little song sparks the same magic thoughts in me now, at the grand age of ' well beyond childhood', that tales of fairies did when I was a small child playing in the back garden of my home, and lazily swinging on my beloved swing. It is a timeless picture, so full of colour, imagination, and shining sunny days.

I have taught this song many times over the years, I sometimes think this is the case because I only started singing lessons at the ripe old age of 13 years, so I missed out on all the wonderful child repertoire ! Vicarious teaching indeed !


I tried to find out about Rose Fyleman, the poet and here is a little of her early life,


Rose Fyleman was born in Nottingham on 6 March 1877, the third child of John Feilmann and his wife, Emilie, née Loewenstein, who was of Russian extraction. Her father was in the lace trade, and his Jewish family originated in 1860 from Jever in the historical state of Oldenburg, currently Lower Saxony, Germany.[2]

As a young girl, Fyleman was educated at a private school, and at the age of nine first saw one of her compositions published in a local paper. Although she entered University College, Nottingham, she failed in the intermediate and was thus unable to pursue her ambition of becoming a schoolteacher. Despite this, Fyleman had a good singing voice, and therefore decided to study music. She studied singing in Paris, Berlin and finally at the Royal College of Music in London, where she received her diploma as associate of the Royal College of Music. She returned to Nottingham shortly afterward, where she taught signing and helped in her sister's school. Along with other members of her family, she anglicised the spelling of her name at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, so as not to be considered an 'alien'.


I felt a sudden affinity with this lady when I read this. My surname is Lampard, and my grandfather, and his forebears were from the island of Jersey. The name was L'ampard, but my grandfather changed it and took out the apostrophe as he wished to serve with the British Army and not the French Militia at the outbreak of WW1. The name in its original form was considered too 'alien' and may have caused problems. The Anglicised version has remained ever since.

The only picture I could find of Rose Fyleman

(And that came from a Russian website !)


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Spreading the News - A World long Gone.

I have a gorgeous little duet piece called 'Spreading the News' by an Herbert Oliver, a relatively unknown composer of the 1930's which I have not used for years and years. I tried to find some information about the man, but came up with almost nothing. Last week I decided that my three talented teens M, S and S deserved a really fun concert piece, and this immediately sprang into my somewhat frazzled brain ! I stayed up all night on Thursday to hear the referendum result, so Friday was something of a fog, and thankfully no teaching, as any pupil may have got extremely short shrift I fear !

This little two part song is fast and furious and all four pages will be over in about one minute 13 seconds ! It is quite relentless and very very wordy. All of them were so pleased to be given it, and straight way beamed with delight at the idea of the fastest song any of them have ever had !

It is a sweet and rather 1930's poem about garden birds passing on the good news that spring has arrived one by one to all the other birds, and then to a three year old child who eventually tells the narrator who 'tells the whole house then', 'the news, the news, the happy happy news that the spring has come again!'..........


Such innocent words, such light and frothy vocal lines, it is child parlour music free of anything other than smiley simplicity and pre late 20th/21st century worldliness.


My very modern teenage performers in May 2014 !

What a joy that 21st century early teenagers enjoy it as wholly as a child of that long lost era of dresses with frills and ankle socks.



Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hugh Roberton and a big smile !

What an interesting Thursday ! A lady whose daughter I teach came along to 'have a go' and it turns out she has a large and warm mezzo voice, which previously she was terrified to use - Result ! Then Fiona M arrived quite flustered and somewhat emotional about the Scots big decision day, but the moment she started singing all the worry fell away, as quite clearly she has cracked the whole abdominal support 'thing' and was singing like a dream with strong phrases as long as the M74 ! She left with an enormous grin across her face, and clearly walking on air !

My new little chap J came, fired up and eager to sing me his L'il Liza Jane. He sang confidently and with a warm and rather husky tone which was delightful. Small boys make me smile ( except when they make me growl!!!) and he certainly brought the Fiona broad grin to my face.

H picked up the Bass part of his new piano duet so quickly it was quite astonishing. He finds reading the notes frustrating and somewhat boring, but his ability to memorise is quite remarkable. The MicroJazz Piano Duet books are great, and hopefully he and M will delight us with Biker Blues at the next big concert! He is a pleasure to teach, and now he has returned to singing lessons his duel musicianship begins to shine through. Then S came and sang so very beautifully I felt compelled to say to her just how very talented she is. It is many a year since I saw such a thrilled and glowing blush on young cheeks. It is her poetic feel for words which gives me goose pimples !


The day ended well with J singing again her Alto part in that gold standard duet 'All in the April Evening' by Hugh Roberton. It never palls, however many times I hear and teach it. It has a magical quality, and a profound message of hope. J excelled herself and was my final broad grin of the day !

I was quite glad of a longer than normal teaching Thursday. It allowed my mind to be distracted from the difficulties of the day, and the worries of the consequences, whatever the outcome.

Thanks guys !


Best Broad Grin of the Day !