Thursday, 16 September 2010

Stews, Crumbles and Lunacy

I received two beautiful gifts from two pupils today. The quiet, gentle lady who has her lesson on Wednesdays, and sings sacred song with such affection and accomplishment, dropped off the most delicious steak and kidney casserole this morning in return for another batch of my damsons into which I feel sure she will make some delectable fruit crumble.

My youngest pupil with the large and fulsome voice came for her lesson, and told me with a self possessed and restrained excitement that 'a surprise was coming, after her lesson' ! A mouth watering bowl of damson and apple crumble was duly presented to me wearing a homemade tag in the shape of a heart with her name written in important and sizable lettering, and it was still warm............

I could not wait to finish teaching and eat my wonderful supper of home made casserole with home grown potatoes and carrots, followed by home grown damson crumble, and it did not disappoint!

Today was my make up day for not being here on Monday, so it elongates the week somewhat, but has to be done. It was, however, hugely worth it today, what with all the culinary gifts from all that home grown food!

I also taught a young woman who recently had a beautiful baby boy, and now feels able to return and have a bit of 'me time'. She has a superb talent, and a fierce brain (well when the baby mushed brain has recovered!) and in many ways could have pursued singing to a much higher level. She is innately musical, and comes from a very musical family. She is one of those refreshing students in one's career, who plainly could 'do it' so to speak, but has opted for a normal life, whatever that is, and is more than happy to be a fine amateur.

She most often hides her light under a bushel, but every so often her passion, talent and ability burst through in an unstoppable way. She played a feisty and individualistic Tessa when we did The Gondoliers, and really gave her poor Giuseppe the run around.

I have an abiding memory of her performing ability, when she sang in a concert some years ago, her ability to instantly flick into lunacy, and all it's nuances when singing 'The Black Swan' aria from The Medium by Menotti, was brilliant and at the same time slightly disturbing ! The character she played, Monica, is around 18/19 years old, and in fairness, had been driven completely barmy by a mother who behaved in a deranged manner.

The way M suddenly opened her eyes with madness, flicked her head around and eyeballed the unsuspecting audience, and generally sang in a way that was redolent of the inmates of a high security psychiatric ward, was truly chilling ! When the aria ended with a sudden wide eyed 'Shhhh', I think half the audience expected, and probably hoped that men in white coats would appear and rapidly remove her in a straight jacket. It was spell binding and terrifying and many of the company talked about it for a good few weeks afterwards.

The most normal, easy going and amiable girl in the group, without warning turned into Mad Bess of Bedlam, then as the applause started snapped back in a nano second into the warm and smiley M.

How worrying was that ! Still, at least her partner knows to watch out !

When I was a younger and less experienced teacher young M is exactly the type of student I would have felt duty bound to push along the Music College route, and subsequently thought, when she refused to be pushed, what a sinful waste of talent it was - what a loss to the world etc etc....... Now as a long in the tooth, far too experienced teacher, I finally understand that talent is never wasted, it only takes a side step to allow life happiness to take over.

And happiness is what matters, all else is meaningless. Miserable fame is a dark world, and MC has got it right, lucky woman !


  1. Thank you fir posting this, Ann. I felt like you were describing me and I've bookmarked it for those down days when I wonder about the what-ifs of my life. There was never any question for me that I would be a stay-at-home mommy. And I had those voice teachers encouraging me to become a performance major. I really think that I have got it right, as you said of MC, but that parallel universe does creep into my mind sometimes. I love what Henry B. Eyring said of his mother and I think of it often: "She could've been anything she wanted, but instead she chose to be our mother.". Thanks for the validation- form a voice teacher, no less! And tell MC she's not the only one.

  2. Dear Helene,

    This is a belated thank you for your lovely comments. Following ones real feelings is so the best way, but can take a huge amount of courage. Many of my colleagues and friends thought I was totally mad to leave my job in Conservatoire and move 700 miles away to a small island on the outer edges of nowhere.

    I have never regretted the loss of 'importance' such as it was in that dreadful city world, and have found just as much talent here. I now have a much less stressed approach to my job, and have learnt to always put the person before the voice.
    I think that is the key.