Thursday, 16 June 2016

Madam Butterfly and a packed weekend........

What a hectic last week or so. I have taught a mammoth amount of hours due to our impending exams on top of having a wonderful weekend in London to see Madam Butterfly. My old student Tom Colwell is now covering roles at English National Opera and is as we speak covering Yamadori in Butterfly. Prior to departing for London the week was heavy but fulfilling and I think all my candidates are on the edge of 'ready'. Peaking too soon and becoming slightly bored with the repertoire makes for a less than sparkling performance, but slightly under prepared is equally as worrying, so like a 100 metre runner building to the Olympics one has to reach that moment where there is still spontaneity yet all is secure. They have to do without me for a week now, so I hope the work will continue to be done and polished !

We also welcome H to our happy family is singers. She is a beautiful mezzo soprano who, after Song School decided she would like to pursue a post grad course at conservative and to prepare for that regular lessons in the most beautiful place was the order of the day ! So last Saturday she caught the return leg of the flight upon which Pam and I flew down, so we passed in transit ! She is living close by temporarily but hopes for more permanent accommodation after August. She will bring yet another breath of fresh air to the Paradise singing community.

In London, quite apart from seeing the most moving and beautiful productions of Butterfly we managed to have a packed day. We visited my old alma mater, the Royal Academy of Music which was a lovely treat for Pam, and I could drop off my smart work clothes with Sara so as to save on paying the extortionate £38 per hold bag per journey on my next visit. It was wonderful to catch up with Anthea Dwyer whom I taught at the JRAM and is now teaching there herself, and Ciara Burrows ( cannot remember the married name !) another old pupil who is now teaching there. Both of these girls are very close to my heart, both very fine singers and have chosen to teach - the legacy goes on - which makes me so proud ! Even more touching was the huge welcome hugs which I got !

After that we cabbed to St Martin in the Fields where we met up with Pam's sister and had one of The Crypt Cafe's most delicious lunches. They popped over the road to the Portrait Gallery to see a new exhibition whilst I rested my now aching legs in the beautiful church in Trafalger Square and thoroughly enjoyed a rehearsal with the London Concertante who were playing a concert in the evening in the church. The Bach Violin Concerto in A minor was exquisite, and as a musician myself I almost enjoy the stops and starts more than a complete performance !

The Anthony Minghella production of Butterfly is breathtaking. I wondered if the impact would be as great the second time around. I need not have worried, the colour, the sparse and spacious set, the peacock beauty of the costumes and the mystical emotional roller coaster from the puppeteers was enough to break the heart, when you add in the lush score and the beautiful singing - most of which was very good indeed, it becomes unbearable. Watch the short clip on the ENO website which gives a tiny taste of the overall effect. Puccini style needs such freedom and lyrical legato, combined with the ability to rise and peak at moments of great emotion. I often find that watching opera live can disappoint me, I hear the faults more than the virtues of the singers, a somewhat sad by product of my job, but the tenor Pinkerton was magnificent, the baritones were gruff enough but still had beauty in their voices, and Butterfly was initially a little light and edgy for my taste until she came into her own and showed that it was in the full vocal blast her sound filled out and rang with total support and commitment. It was worth the wait !

We ate with Tom afterwards, and bearing in mind Pam and I had been on the road since 3am, we staggered back to the train, which was held up (Grrrrr) and finally at past midnight,  a shuttle bus back to our Gatwick hotel. Shattered, I think we both fell into bed having opted to miss breakfast and simply sleep longer then eat at the lovely No 1 Lounge at the North Terminal......

A brilliant weekend.

Four teachers - what a joy !

Pam and Tom outside ENO - Butterfly awning above their heads



Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Grade 8 Singing, a leading role in Iolanthe, school exams and a busy end of term.......if you want something done ask a busy person !

It was a long old day today.......a full timetable plus a lovely extra lesson with M who is now home from boarding school and madly working for her Grade 8 in three weeks. I was pleasingly happy with how well her pieces went in her lesson. I haven't seen her for two months as she has been deep in her school exams, and sorting out her university course and accommodation ! She will be fine in her grade, but as with all else little habits creep in, and M needs to sing in front of a mirror to help the muscles remember to bring the lips and tone forward and to drop the jaw ! She had learnt the pieces very well indeed, and even the complicated French in the Habanera from Carmen was more settled and secure - given all the exam stress over the last months she has done very well to bring the pieces on as far as she has ! It is great to think she will complete her lessons with me by achieving Grade 8, after approximately 10 years of lessons from the tender age of 9. It comes full circle - a good job done ! 

It is such a satisfying feeling when what one set out to achieve actually happens. M is a planner, she ( rather like moi) likes order and a path to follow which leads to an end product, and before she went away to school we discussed where she wanted to be by the time she left school....and here we are, on course to complete that plan which was formulated more than two years ago ! Now that is organisation !

She is also playing the 'trouser role' in this years show, and will make a delightful and sweet Strephon, complete with a straw hat and knickerbocker trousers. She managed her first rehearsal this evening, and true to type, throws herself into the role and space with immediate gusto ! 

I will miss her when she moves on to university to study something extremely scientific, but I know she will always love singing, Gilbert and Sullivan and Flanders and Swann. She will be a wonderful audience member for the rest of her life, and that is equally as important as teaching the future members of the profession. Singers need audiences and the audience need a performer, neither being completely fulfilled without the other !

Well done M - I am so proud of your dedication, hard work and fine achievements !

A Picture history of young M !

A very young lovesick maiden - M is in the centre

A disgruntled Kate in Pirates, with the folded arms

A rich and spoilt New York school girl in The Mikado sitting on the left

A lovely Tessa in last year's Gondoliers

Now a place for the first male role photograph watch this space........




Friday, 3 June 2016

A book on Singing Technique - Ann and Middy style !

Some of my readers may remember that when I was in Durham I was asked if I had written a short book on simple singing technique for general use. I have thought a good deal about it - I don't have much staying power when it comes to writing, hence the fact that I am suited to the 'blog' style of short sharp posts. I have, however decided to give it a go. 

I sat at my new computer during the week and tried to remember what was said by those ladies who made the suggestion. They said, just write what you told us in the hour lecture. That seems so very straightforward when put in words of one syllable, and I did think that perhaps if I were to follow the shape and logistics of a general singing lesson that might also work ?

The first page was easy, a bit about me, about what I do, and how I have arrived at what I know. All done and dusted I thought - this is not complicated. Ha Ha !

Chapter 2 had to begin the business of teaching, and that was when the idea of a lesson scenario seemed the best plan. What do I do first with my new pupil who timidly walks through the door for the first time. Well it seemed to work, and what actually got into black and white seemed to say what I wanted it to say. Clear, concise and with a little bit of fun and banter - somehow if I had to choose my perfect recipe for any lesson it would be that sentence !

Now I need photos - seeing is a much better way to explain mouth shapes, and a photo can be the equivalent of the mirror on my wall. This week I will be asking some folk who always make beautiful mouth shapes for permission to let the world watch their talented lips at work.

I got quite excited actually ! Watch this space........word fatigue may however set in !

 Now there is an AW to be reckoned with ! Well done N !

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A new ATCL carrier !

Last week I inadvertently forgot to write up a big congratulations to E ! My young Dutch tenor gained a distinction in his ATCL, and believe me, this is no mean feat. He is an extraordinarily hard worker, and has persevered enormously with the sizeable music set for this diploma exam. He sang a very varied and tricky programme including some bright and moving Handel, a most difficult Frohe Hirten from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Dalla sua Pace from Giovanni by Mozart - these being his 'big guns' at the beginning of the recital !

His German is so good that after the aforesaid arias he must have delighted the examiner with some gems, including the gorgeous Ganymed by Schubert and Zueignung by Strauss. He has such an affinity with Lieder - he seems to simply understand the intimacy and the refinement, and he also seems to like the simplicity in the clear cut duo or team work - just himself and the accompanist.

He is a pleasure to teach, and much deserves the high mark which he received. So we see a young man with letters after his name !

A fine achievement indeed E.

 A happy and smiling tenor ! Very well done !