Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ellen's Aria from Peter Grimes

It's a wild, wild day here on The island of Paradise. It was forecast and everyone has battened down the hatches. I haven't seen any mail vans, so hopefully my alto post lady will have had a much deserved day off. The bridge was closed most of the night and some of today, so I'm very glad I had nowhere official to go ! Tuesday is one of my home teaching days, so I could hunker down, keep the stove topped up and enjoy being warm inside !

Lots of the youngsters are still away on holiday so my days are a little jumbled still, but in a way it is 'a change is as good as a rest' scenario !

Last week, for the first time in a few years I gave the profound and tricky aria ' Ellen's Aria' from Britten's opera, Peter Grimes, to K. It is a genre and style she has never tackled, but given her huge facility for drama and characterisation, I felt it was worth the risk. Very often, when I demonstrate to the student whilst they listen and make a decision whether they like it or not, that decision is quite straightforward and most often a style of vocal music which is easily accessible to the ear and brain. Britten is a totally different case. It is such wonderous music drama, based around the story and so fixed by the speech rhythms of the English language, but it can also be tricky to understand and many times full of clashes which can be hard on the ear.

In this aria Ellen is talking to Peter Grimes' boat boy, and her whole short scene has a rumble of storms and wild water, yet she is being warm and kind to the poor child. K listened with an intelligent approach and open mind and went away from her lesson more than willing to 'give it a go', and mildly excited by the thought of such new music.

A few days later I received a text from said K, which simply said 'I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!' How gratifying is that, and what a joy to know that sometimes I feel that I can choose repertoire which suits the person first, as well as the voice alone.

Infact, I think the key is 'the person first'. Get that bit right and the rest falls into place like a row of falling dominos !

Opera North production of Peter Grimes


Monday, 13 October 2014

A letter to J

I have just had a very excited J for a lesson. She could barely contain her excitement during her scales, and when she is so excited she laughs all the time ! Not so good for vowel shapes, but excellent for her spirits ! J has certain learning difficulties, which manifest themselves both physically and intellectually, she has cerebral palsy. This has never held her back from taking both Grade 1 and 2 exams, and now working towards Grade 3, or has stopped her being in the annual show. She is dedicated, persevering and an all round breath of fresh air in my music room.

She is a glowing example of what one can achieve when one has difficulties which will never improve, but with which one will always have a battle. She radiates joy almost all of the time, and has become an integral part of Inner Sound at every level.

Today was her last lesson before a wonderful holiday to Italy ! She leaves next Sunday for this trip, which will be, for her, amazing and thoroughly appreciated. She was at great pains to tell me though that she would indeed be able to practise right up until Saturday, as they don't leave until Sunday !

Singing is very important to many people, for the personal pleasure it brings, and the acquired ability to let oneself 'go'. Infact to have permission to be anyone one wants to be ! For J, that right to express herself and have such physical enjoyment is almost therapy - I would go as far as to say it is at least as important as, and maybe more important than anything the NHS ( however fantastic that is !) could offer her !

Opening up one's voice and letting rip is one of the most basic and primitive ways of self expression - it takes years to train as a classical singer, but the feeling of letting rip is just a strong when singing opera, musical theatre, rap or Jewish mouth music ! The key is the feeling of freedom.

It is one part of my job which through all my teaching life I have valued more than rubies. I know many inspirational teachers of all subjects, but I'll take a bet that none of them know what it feels like to be bombarded with sound waves from an uninhibited student who is having a ball ! Now that is priceless.

Have a fantastic holiday J, and come back even more full of joy than you were today.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Our glorious Indian Summer in Paradise !

The weather has been beautiful for the last few days - a positive Indian Summer ! I think the south of England has had rain, rain and more rain, and chilly evenings when the temperature dropped to 5 degrees C so I am reliably told !

We have been so lucky with our weather, and so I thought I would simply post a photograph I took whilst walking the dog yesterday around lunchtime !

Not musical, or vocal, just beautiful !

.....Oh what a beautiful mornin ! .....



Thursday, 9 October 2014

Julius Caesar meets Don Ottavio - Handel meets Mozart !

It is, yet again the end of another week - time just flies by, and here in Paradise it is already Half Term for all the schoolchildren for the next two weeks. I am teaching through these holiday weeks, mostly because my term will end by the beginning of December, and also because my adult pupils (who don't have the joy of 'half terms' any more) would be appalled that they went lesson less for two whole weeks !

I had such a good week, the pianists back is almost gone, meaning that work is easier and more comfortable, and I have had some excellent lessons this week. Sometimes singing teaching, indeed all music teaching seems to plateau - especially when one's youthful students are 'waiting' for something to happen or change in their young voices, and one's adult pupils are between events, so to speak ! Things can then be a bit flat and one has to work harder to keep momentum going.

This term I have felt positively over run with momentum ! My youngsters are on a fast roll, voices such as high soprano A, and lower mezzo S have burgeoned dramatically, and slightly older teen N's voice is so rapidly becoming a woman's quality it is quite tricky to keep up with the happenings ! Even one or two of the very young singers are making great leaps forward technically, and I find myself rooting out the next level or repertoire on a weekly basis !

I am also back in a position where for at least two and a half hours in the week I am teaching at Conservetoire level with F and E, and that is just brilliant. I am working on repertoire which has not surfaced in my life since I was teaching at the RAM. Today I worked in depth on the wonderous Handel aria from Julius Caeser, 'Va tacito n'ascosto', full of the most fabulous coloratura, and Handel at his most amusing. Teaching the technique which allows the mezzo voice to imitate the Baroque French Horn was a deep pleasure, especially as I sang these aria's back in the late Middle Ages. What complete joy.

Then to balance the mezzo travesti music I have newly 'born' tenor, E, to whom I gave the smaller of the two Don Ottavio arias from Don Giovanni by Mozart. That is the miraculous 'Dalla sua Pace'. It takes me back to my days of singing Donna Elvira, and hearing from the wings, a beautiful legato tenor singing it. It's clean and mellifluous melodic line also flings me back to teaching, and hearing my shining tenor of many years,and now coffee baron C, singing it as if his voice had wings and wafted up to the clouds.

My adults are fired up by the pleasure of concerts past, and the promise of those to come, then getting themselves sorted for Song School next April - and since I looked at my schedule for the Easter term, and it looks frighteningly as if they might have a maximum of 6 or 7 lessons before I jet off to Hong Kong for the festival!

Thing is - I absobloominlutely know they will work like Trojans !



Gosta Winbergh nails it ! Listen to that ppp................


Dame Janet and the ENO old production of JC

Ps I Woz There !