Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Iolanthe Finale Act 1

Sometimes rehearsals just 'work' ! Last night we had a truly stellar evening and achieved so much I could barely believe it when I got home ! It is still May (just!) and we have all but finished Finale Act 1 of our annual show ! Iolanthe has some very silly moments and the idea of fairies and Peers of the Realm locked in battle is, quite frankly about the most absurd of all the storylines attributed to WS Gilbert. All the operas are absurd in some way or another, but Iolanthe surpasses even the silliest of them. 

To see a dominant Fairy Queen casting a spell over the ridiculous and bumbling Lord Chancellor and his idiotic cohorts Mountararat and Tololler is comedic beyond description, and our Queen, M is icy and determined and walks over them as if they were aristocratic doormats. We got to the climax of the spells where the Queen is telling the peers all the privileges which they will be losing due to the fairy mischief in sending Strephon into parliament, and by 9.45pm the finale was running like a 'mostly' well oiled wheel.

Our Queen is off for three weeks to Iceland, so it was imperative that her biggest and most complex moments were covered by the end of the rehearsal so she does not need to worry whilst she is on her holiday ! Inner Sound works like a wonderful family team when the pressure is on, and they really pulled out all the stops to make sure the blocking was well and truly covered. Our Queen is solid gold, she already knows her music, and probably her dialogue - she reminds me of the Dame JB........the worlds greatest mezzo of the late 20th century always turned up to the first rehearsal of any production having committed every note to memory......this makes it so easy for her fellow performers, it also puts to shame those who have made little or no effort to learn roles or chorus parts ! 

My team of ladies are the core of the chorus, reliable to a fault, enthusiastic and staunch, and I couldn't do without them. The youngsters add an air of unpredictability and pazazz, as well as some wonderfully youthful tone quality, but believe me, it is that mix of talent and approach, work ethic and reliability which makes for such a good end product. This year I have the glory of three tenors - all youthful and all magnificently 'up for it' - what a rare pleasure that is.

Thank you everyone !

 World famous Mezzo Soprano Maria Ewing as the Fairy Queen !

She is better known for her Carmen, but clearly makes a formidable FQ !

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Learning to sing is a long and gentle process.......

Someone sent me this cartoon and I thought it splendid enough to post - all music teachers have had pupils like the scruffy little lad !


Singing Exams ........once again !

This week zoomed by and suddenly it is Friday and I am madly searching eBay and Amazon in an effort to find 15 Roman shields or a raggedy straw hat for Strephon, or worse and more tricky, some white glow in the dark spray paint - luminous yellow or sickly green just won't cut the mustard !

The tiny fairy dresses arrived today and they are quite gorgeous - almost like mini versions of the ladies flowing mediaeval robes, but in white, as befits nano sized fairies ! I suspect they will need a little alteration here and there but nothing too much as on unpacking them we realised they have an elasticated back so are truly multi fitting !

Not the real thing, but that remains a secret until the tabs go up.......!

I heard some splendid singing this week, and the impending exams certainly give a little push to the candidates. They all seem really very prepared and the whole programmes are hanging together very well. I have a relatively new pupil A who is taking her Grade 6 and has a beautiful round mezzo voice. Her fluent Gaelic means that she sings German very well. So many of the vocal sounds in German are very similar to both hard and soft Gaelic sounds, and since I moved here it has been a delight to give children as young as 9 a song in German, and they seem to have an immediate connection with the language. I have no idea if the two languages have any common roots but it makes my job a whole lot easier - and it impresses examiners !  She has more trouble with the 'e' sound in Italian - she finds the open and 'long' shape element of this wonderfully throw away vowel so tricky, it often turns into 'nil' instead of 'nel'. She is a bright and intelligent girl and I think we finally cracked it by trying another route. "Do you say 'will done' for 'well done' " I asked and she suddenly smiled and said of course she didn't, and a switch flicked she just needs to remember it ! So then we will get a true 'Sento nel Core' !

J is singing her Grade 3 songs quite beautifully, and is so well prepared we decided to put them 'on the back burner' quote Betty Middleton, and learn something new. I love it when the worry of actually memorising has gone, and we are still more than a month from the exam day. J is a worrier, and to have that nailed this early will mean she can cope much better with the inevitable and natural on the day butterflies. Her Marianwurmchen by Schumann is beautifully painted and with excellent German.

.....'your colourful wings are my joy....'

......Bunte Flugel meine Freude....'

S is singing her Grade 5 songs so well, and LOVES with a passion her little operatic aria from Figaro - she is a born stage animal and will make the examiner look at her by sheer force of dramatic will ! Her arms are elegant and she moves around the room with grace and fluency. I take the good singing as read, it will be excellent, but the grace and drama is a big added bonus.

Exam music can sometimes be tough going, but this week is was a pleasure to work on it.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Ho La Hi, Donkey Riding and Shortnin Bread - Songs for the serious baby singer !


Tuesday is  one of my busiest teaching days, not only with 8 students from 2.30 til 7pm, the teaching day is followed by the weekly show rehearsal until around 10pm. It is a rewarding day, but rather tiring. I also have three of my four baby singers who only have short 15 minute lessons at the tender ages of 6,7 and 8 years, but they really keep me on my toes ! They whoosh through songs each week so fast, and I am back scrutinising the Singing Together book for yet another little song with two verses and lots of repeated words or choruses ! Little S came today and sang her 'Shortnin Bread' with the most amazing mouth shapes and long jaw I could have used her as a role model - then the second she thinks about something else ie. new shoes, or what is for dinner, the mouth defaults back to barely being used ! The brain really does not seem to be able to multi task at such a young age - maybe it is 'learning' so much, so fast  it can't cope with all the information flooding in.......H who is just a year older sang her little German folk song Ho La Hi with gusto, taking great pleasure in the first line of the last verse which reads ' Spiteful people sometimes Hisssssssss....' With the emphasis of the snaky ssssss, which can be a bit tricky with front teeth missing ! She now just needs to 'put it in my head' she told me with gravitas ! S is the older brother of S and his songs are just a little more complex, but he had almost committed all three verses of Donkey Riding to memory and sang the most lovely 'Hey Ho away we go' with such a big open mouth shape as a sense of freedom I was quite touched by it. He is quite a serious young man, unlike his little red headed sister who will be a force to be reckoned with in a few years time !

My fourth babe R comes on a Wednesday, but not this week, so he may be down on the gold star record he was aiming for ! For the first time in my teaching life I have bought glittering pages of stars in gold, silver and bronze. They work a treat and these little ones glow with pride and joy when they are stuck on the music.

Will it work with my teens.......Hmmmm I think not ! I need a better bribe.