Friday, 6 March 2015

My system at work - the pointy end of the job !

A half day ! Hurrah ! I could sleep for a few more hours which is vital when one's body clock has had something of a time whack. It means I'm back at the SKH Church in Shatin feeling very human and ready for action! The (once again) empty 28 seater, bar moi, was eager to bring me so we left earlier than my 12.45 time and arrive here with an hour and a half before the class starts.

It is another In the Highlands class but only 34 girls so I should be finished in very good time. We have a working dinner at the hotel tonight when the committee tell us about any problems they have encountered, and we can air any of ours. I had no problems at all last time, but this year two of the set pieces have some printed 'alternative' notes, and the syllabus requires them to sing only the high notes. Now some teachers, schools or students have missed this and so at least half of every class have sung the incorrect notes......a headache for me when the best and obvious winner has performed incorrectly by the syllabus standards. I rang the festival office on Tuesday and asked for a ruling, as to disqualify half of every class seemed ridiculous.

I was informed that I could treat it as them simply singing 'wrong notes' and not disqualify ? Begs the question why there is such a stipulation in the first place ? Ah the quandaries of the itinerant singing teacher.

I have posted a photo of my draft mark book to show how I try to fine down these large classes into three categories - the only way which I can remotely remember how an early candidate, or one who sang two hours ago, compares with a later one. It means I have to rely on my judgement and standard evaluation of 'the moment' so to speak. This seems to be the biggest problem which the, without doubt, fine musicians who are here, but are new to the adjudication game, find so very tricky. When we are trained by the Federation in the UK this ability to quickly grasp a level of performer is paramount, and the best tool we have. It is of course easy to say, but not easy to put into practise initially, and one needs to be quite an old and grizzled exponent of this fine art, before it ever becomes easier.

I truly don't know how I would ever have coped had I not had lots of hard earned experience in UK festivals !


Three bars = Excellent

Two Bars = Placing

One Bar = A possible

D = They sang the notes Down which should have been Up !

Sometimes I write 'check' or 'yellow' that simply denotes the uniform colour or pattern. The check blouse girls seem to have a very good singing teacher because wherever I go they pop up and sing very well !

Here is the reality of the above class ! Happy girls who mostly love singing !


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

In The Highlands - of all songs I could be adjudicating !

What a worrying morning ! My driver ( who spoke no English at all) dropped me off at a cross roads in the middle of nowhere in the Western New Territories ! I was armed only with the booklet telling us where the venue was, and instructed to show the Chinese characters to any by passer ?! Well the only by passers looked very ancient and clearly thought I was a visiting alien from Planet West and so were unable to help.

I was beginning to panic, not only about the work I was employed to do, but also as to how I would ever return to Gloucester Road HK Island within the next couple of days ! I wandered around like a helpless tourist in a particularly non tourist sort of environment, with my pink sheets flapping in the gentle breeze until I spied a lady who looked under 50 and perhaps might have a smattering of English.......she did, thank the Lord, and although she had no idea where the venue was, she had, she said, spotted what looked like some parents with tiny tots who were dressed up for singing ! How perceptive was that ?

She and I trecked around a large concrete building searching for the Kwai Chung Church Assembly Hall, and eventually came to a back entrance which in all honesty looked like the area where bins may have been put out ! It was indeed the right place though, so with great relief I thanked my Chinese Guardian Angel and made it to the hall just a little flummoxed and a little warm !

My lovely assistant agreed that it was a devil to find, and she walked around the large footprint of the building three times before getting in, so I did not feel such an idiot ! She brought me the most restorative cup of Jasmine tea and the morning began to look 100% brighter !

The tiny tots once more restore my faith in the HK system and I was off.....

Return after lunch, and another unasked for cup of Jasmine tea and I am ready to face a mountain climbing afternoon of 34 16 and under girls singing 'In the Highlands' ! How odd is that ? The poem by Robert Louis Stevenson is set by a number of composers of which Graham Peel is one. I will tell all the assembled teachers, students and parents that this song describes exactly where I live, and hope some of them will understand ! I may even succumb to showing anyone who wants to see some photos of Paradise and the mainland !

PS hoping the car knows where to pick me up...........It didn't so I waited over an hour.

Exhausted of Hong Kong.


In the Highlands, in the lonely places.......

(Little bit of home)


Monday, 2 March 2015

Anna Marie 'travels' Over the Mountains !

It is 9.20am and I am sitting back at the adjudicating desk. The same desk as I used in the same Place and in the same venue for my very last class of the 2012 festival. So it seem like full circle. The tiny 5 and 6 year old children are being arranged into their allotted seats with never so much as a cry or a shout, they are smiley, happy and seemingly raring to go !

And so am I ! 18 tiny boys and girls singing the sweetest performances of Anna Marie, that stalwart song of the Purple Book. These mites of course are 'Singing in a Foreign Language' - which is always humbling on one's first day. I can not manage a word or even a syllable of Cantonese, yet they sing even with lively movements, matching the words, and seeming to understand the simple sentiment of this little Dutch Folksong - well I think it is Dutch ! What a tremendous start to the working day.

The rest of my morning was filled with 33 under 13's singing the lovely Ira Gershwin My Ship from Lady in the Dark. Rather a grown up sentiment in the song, but the melody is quite within the range of a good 13 year old. There were some good performances, but once again the high standard and sheer vocal quality of the girls in the dark blue and grey uniform of the Diocesan Girls School shone like a beacon. They must have some fine singing teachers - even the primary division children are clearly so used to performing with supreme confidence that many of the other schools and areas don't get a proverbial look in. Today the placings went the way of the DGS, but another teacher was showing hints of challenging them in professionalism and tone quality. That will be exciting to watch.

I sit, feet propped up on a chair having eaten by packed lunch and hoping for a brain rest before 37 performances of Roger Quilter's Over the Mountains, after lunch at 2.15.

Never a truer word

"Over the mountains and over the waves......" that's how far we adjudicators have all travelled to get here, to survive the work and hear these young musicians from another world.

Onwards and upwards.

How tidy is that working desk ?!

The hall of the SKH Church in Sha tin in the Eastern New Territories


Friday, 27 February 2015

Ups and downs - quite literally !

As I write we are directly over Nizhniy Novgorod a city south of Moscow and I can see that the ground is white , so I imagine deep snow in Russia this time of year. Having been up at 5 this morning and on the plane from Glasgow to Heathrow I was already quite tired when we left Heathrow on a Cathay Pacific jumbo jet for Hong Kong. There are stil 4389 miles to go according to the moving map and our arrival time is set to be 7.05 am Hong Kong time, which is about 11 pm Greenwich Mean Time. Since beginning to write this the light over Russia has diminished by the minute which means having already changed my watch to HK time I think it really will feel like it is night time.

The Cathay service is impeccable - even when travelling cattle class - and the Chinese stewardesses could not be more helpful and polite. I had requested a diabetic meal, as I knew it was likely to be simpler and with no sauces or fakeish cheesecake dessert, and so it was. A perfect chicken breast and vegetables, an undressed salad and a bowl of mixed melon pieces. With a square or two of my 85% chocolate and a coffee it was not a million miles away from my usual fare at home !

I am hoping that my 'checked all through to Hong Kong' suitcase is indeed in the hold and not winging its way to Dallas or Islamabad, or adjudicating could be a very informal affair in my travel clothes......I'm not panicking yet!

The totally frustrating part of my travel is that unfortunately around 8 am this morning my hotmail account just seized up like a fatally wounded digital rhino. Nothing I could do to it re setting passwords, retrieving codes etc could put it back into action. I did set up a Yahoo account in double quick time and can now use that, but my ipad is almost totally dependent on the hotmail information.........surely someone in the high tech capital of the Far East will be able to sort me out ? I absolutely refuse to pay thousands of pounds on my mobile phone to have them take 20 mins to put it right - though I submit that I may just have too.....Agh.

I did try to watch a film but after my lovely dinner, sleep got the better of me and even the new Robocop blockbuster couldn't keep me from snoozing.

There is a helplessness about long haul air travel which is not unpleasant and slightly more than the feel of being in limbo. Apart from the hideous lack of wriggle room, I always feel oddly secure in the fact that the inability to do anything is rather peaceful and conducive to brain rest ! My brain is always in the centre of a gazillion black dots and about three or four different languages every day, giving it a rest is very pleasing.

I feel a little more Robocop coming on so ta ta for now, and will pick up when I arrive, or alternatively when I feel the urge to stretch my little grey cells once more in a few hours......

Another film down and we seem to be on the Russia / Tashkent border with China. It is still night time, and I can see the lights of Yining, on the ground and we have 2390 miles left to HK. Which is 4 hours 37 minutes according to the moving map. It is telling me that the temp in -76 outside, so colder than Paradise was yesterday when I left - or was it today, or perhaps the day before ! It is a very clever moving map which actually shows moving around the globe rather than a flat picture.


The world according to Cathay Pacific

First sign of dawn as we are 200 miles off the South China Sea

Flying deeper towards dawn

Truly the land of the rising sun