Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A Soft Day Thank God

Well, it is August 25th and I have put the log fire on! The rain is falling and it is beginning to feel like Autumn. I do love it, and can't wait to get the fire and stove going, even though I know it means a lot more work, and relying upon students waiting for lessons to keep adding a log or two so they don't fizzle out, and we freeze ! It is crackling away as I type, and it makes me think of crisp mornings, cold winds and lashing seas - lovely! If, of course you are inside and snuggly warm!

I was reminded how much the autumn days were closing in by the hordes of young birds feeding for all they were worth on the feeder which hangs at my window. They were practising fluffing up their feathers to keep their little bodies warm, and one of my lady pupils commented to me how strange it was to be wearing a couple of fleece layers in August! I love it - if you recall from my somewhat 'moist' posts when I was a Bournemouth Festival in early July - I hate the heat! I am a Northern Hemisphere woman to my toes, who lhas chosen to live on the outer edges of the UK where it can be bitterly cold, blow a stroppy gale straight across to New England, and crash monster sized waves on the resiliant beaches.

I run a Song School here in Paradise each year. The willing victims travel 100's of miles to be put through agony for a week, being masterclassed in a beautifully converted old Barn called oddly enough 'The Old Barn' ! ( but in Gaelic!). It is part of a fantastic institution which is the only Gaelic University in the world. It's halls of residence are shaped like a lighthouse, and the view from the panoramic windows was once described by one of the singers from Germany, as a living film set. We are so lucky to have this resource, and each year they welcome a bunch of classical singers with warm and open arms. How could one not be inspired by this lovely environment. Sometimes I am ashamed to say I think we just take it for granted. It is certainly Paradise when compared with the living accommodation at many of the music courses held in the UK, and now and again we need to remember that! Guilty as charged!

Several of my stalwart pupils have opted to join in the mass torture next year, and the above mentioned pupil is one of those brave souls. We were attempting to make a start at sorting out some repertoire for the individual days, each of which cover a different genre of vocal style. We concentrated on Art Song today.

I have a fairly workable filing system for all my music, scores and compilation books, and as you can imagine, after all these years I have mountains of the stuff! When I pass on to that great choral society in the sky my daughter and a number of other old pupils who are now teachers will definitely have a re run of the Battle of Britain in an effort to win about £5000 worth of printed music, much of which is now out of print, or needs a small mortgage to buy.

Anyhow, no matter how many songs I looked at, I was pulled back to a delicious little song by Stanford called 'A Soft Day'. Maybe the weather was the trigger ? The poem is so redolent of autumn days, and soft, clean raindrops, gently dripping and slipping off the tips of the leaves. The melody is slow and stately, and the end of each phrase allows the notes to drop away over and over, repeating the word 'drips'............... painting the picture so skilfully.

And there we were, watching it happen on the otherside of the window. Crystal rain, clear teardrops, glistening and eventually landing on the white marble gravel path. Magic.

A Soft Day

Music - Stanford
Words - Letts

A soft day, thank God!
A wind from the south
With a honey'd mouth;
A scent of drenching leaves,
Briar and beech and lime,
White elderflower and thyme,
And the soaking grass smells sweet,
Crushed by my two bare feet,
While the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the eaves.

A soft day, thank God!
The hills wear a shroud
Of silver cloud;
The web the spider weaves
Is a glittering net;
The woodland path is wet,
And the soaking earth smells sweet
Under my two bare feet,
And the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the leaves.

The fire is still crackling, the room is a cocoon of warmth, and my 'toffee coloured' mug of tea stands at the ready!



  1. I remember that piece although I didn't perform it myself. A friend did quite well with it one year.

    It feels like snow here but mostly it is just a raw day that scrapes the skin off your exposed face outside.

    viv in nz

  2. Is winter coming to an end yet in NZ ? I can't get my head around the opposite seasons!