Sunday, 4 July 2010

There's something in the water

I heard some really first rate performances today. It was a day of teenagers, from about 12 to 20, the age, if I am honest, I love the most. Many were gauche, some were brimming with confidence, but all were at that stage where they change every week, and each lesson brings new sounds and new excitements.

There are no set pieces at this festival, so the field is wide open for own choice repertoire. As a teacher I know that this means we can choose what works for each individual, and as an adjudicator I know this means some pretty difficult judgements. When each competitor sings the same song certain elements of the piece become the benchmarks, therefore almost straight away some are excluded from the top placings. When dealing with a plethora of repertoire from all genre's, styles and voice types I have to really think! How do I compare a Lloyd Webber song, sung in a semi belt voice, with little or no regard paid to head register singing, with a performance of Amarylli mia Bella by Caccini, written in 1600 and something, and needing the lightest touch and the most carefully placed tone quality?

Well I take a deep breath and listen to each performance as an individual moment, then look at each one and decide who came nearest to a complete whole. Well that is the theory, but sometimes maybe I just go with what touched my heart and chance the consequences!

There is never a performer, however inexperienced or timid who has not got something to offer us. Each person who is brave enough to stand and deliver deserves the best of my ears, and the best of the few moments of time I can devote entirely to them. That is the least I can do.

I heard many fine voices today, but in particular, at the end of what was a long session we had a boys class for broken voices 17 and Under. It was a revelation. 8 or 9 young men performed, and one by one another fantastic voice appeared before me, from a 15 year old Bass who sang a noble Sarastro aria from the Magic Flute, to a wonderfully entertaining and controlled 'It aint Necessarily So', via a Vaughan Williams 'The Turtle Dove' sung with the warmth of a baby John Shirley Quirk, to the aforementioned Amarylli, sung with a delicious lightness by a budding young tenor.

What is in Bournemouth water - where do so many young men with gorgeous voices come from! It is so unusual to get more than 3 or 4 entries, never mind great voices.

One young man whom I had heard during the day positively melted my heart with a silky performance of Silent Worship by Handel - if you read back you may remember I was charmed at Aberdeen by a retired Minister of the Kirk singing the exact same song. Music is truly universal, and embraces all ages, stages and wages !

So many fine young men - so many highly talented girls, but today the boys just win on the 'twisting me around their little finger' front!

Twas ever thus!

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