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.

'An unknown child performer from Desmoines Iowa 1935'


My very 'known' 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 !


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Ladies will triumph.........

A super rehearsal this evening with my staunch ladies, staunch in terms of dedication, and also in terms of vocal reliability. They learn twenty times as quickly as they did five years ago, and when they have learnt their given repertoire they are up afraid to hold the line, the part or the humour !

We are having a 'Ladies Evening' on September 30th, this time we will of course be missing our dear friends who passed away this year, Penny and Annabel. They will be sorely missed for many reasons. It will, I know, be a great success however, and already I can hear the quality shining through, even after one hour of singing through the three part songs. I have chosen a wide variety of material, a simple and delightful German folksong, ( in English though !). The second is the beautiful and ever popular 'The Lord Bless You and Keep You' by the inimitable John Rutter, such a master of melody and crunchy harmony, and finally the perennial Grandfather Clock, which gives all the ladies an opportunity for fun and melodramatic humour !

We whizzed through these pieces, which is a testament to how quickly they learn these days, and by 8.15pm most of the singers knew most of the parts ! What pleases me greatly is the way they now understand the style of the repertoire, they almost imperceptibly make warm and shapely phrases in the Rutter, only the odd word from the piano about lazy vowel shapes is needed to make a unified whole in tone quality.

I now feel able to leave the humour to them ! Only a few short years ago I would have had to spell out what was needed to make an audience laugh, nowadays we have got to the stage whereby I often have no idea what they will come with, and find myself blown away by the intelligent wit and hilarity which they bring to funny songs !

They will each have two solos, and there will be three or four duets to break up the solos. It was good to be back singing together, I marvel at this group of singers and their real commitment as well as their obvious enjoyment.

It is also a small moment of calm and a relatively carefree hour, away from the overwhelming worry of the biggest and most serious decision which Scots and British alike have to make.

Singing together - there's nowt like it, as we say in Yorkshire !


Friday, 12 September 2014

Handel, Purcell and small songs for young men !

My second week back has flown by and here we are at the weekend once more ! Every pupil who came this week is keen, ready to learn and excited by repertoire, and that makes such a difference to any teacher. Infact half the battle or more is won !

I started a sweet little chap this week. He is 10, bouncy as a musical ball, and is clearly going to keep me on my toes ! I gave him the 'standard' first song for a child - L'il Liza Jane, that happy and cheerful American folk song which is full of the most OW vowels it is possible to pack I to one song. I work on the principal that if one mouth shape is accurate in the first week of learning I can gauge how quickly a pupil is going to progress, and just how responsive they are.

I have no doubt in my mind that this confident young man will make great strides in a very short time and by Christmas he will be a positive old hand ! How lovely to have another boy, especially as our wonderful young barman in The Mikado has returned for singing lessons with a strong and sliding voice, already showing some sounds of a very baby tenor voice. H still has his treble sound, but the lower and middle range is even now, at 12, strong and even toned.

Some boys voices break over the space of a few days, others just simply slide ever downwards and then stop when it reaches the boy's own comfort zone. I have taught both types of breaking, and the latter is easier on the whole to deal with. The voice which breaks from high treble to bass in a few weeks rarely has a range of more than a fifth for sometime, and that can be very frustrating, and even upsetting for a boy who has been a fine treble, able to soar at will. Our tenor of many years C had a voice which slid beautifully from boy alto to tenor almost imperceptibly, and with relative ease. Other chaps fell into the snap down suddenly category, and some who were very fine choristers found it very hard to adjust.

It is so difficult to find repertoire when the newly born baritone has a range of 5 usable notes, so I tend to fall back on the lovely Britten folksong arrangements and a couple of smaller Handel arias, like Silent Worship and a Purcell standby, Man is for Woman Made. There are also a couple of smaller Schubert Lied which do the job, ie Minnelied or Das Rosenband, indeed anything which will happily transpose to accommodate the individual's range ! Sometimes I even use the Vaccaj exercises, which are beautiful Italian miniatures with melodies which are quite lovely to sing. They sound like nano Italian Antiche arias !

It is a very exciting journey though..........(rub hands with glee)

The vocal leap of faith into a new voice !