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What a great day ! I began my workshops at 10 am this morning with a lively and very musically highly qualified mix of nuns and monks from throughout the British Isles form Northern Ireland to Grange over Sands, and all places inbetween.
A number of them were trained singers, from music college or university, but generally as a second study with an instrument as their first study, at a gathering this evening a Carmelite sister from Norwich played a superb oboe concerto accompanied by a father from Downside Abbey who simply sat down and sight read the piano part. A young Abbot from Southern Ireland sang a Cole Porter song as a party piece, and I had a session with a Trappist monk from Northern Ireland who was a beautiful lyric tenor who trained at the Dublin Academy as a Violinist and Singer. He had a powerful and ringing tone quality, superb abdominal wall support and sensitivity.
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He asked me, rather modestly when we had finished if I thought he should ask for some singing lessons on his return to the Monestary. I was so glad to be able to confirm for him that his voice was still totally intact and that I felt he should do exactly that, for him - which is a difficult question to answer for an Religious, when life is community and not self. He will never be able to use the full extent of his beautiful voice singing the Office as a high tenor range is as far away from the normal chant range as from Paradise to China, but if he does not use it, he will lose it! Top A's are not a requirement of a Postulant !
I was working with them, not in a personal voice training way, but giving help as to how they might pass on to their own communities some fundamental singing technique for the underconfident, elderly and 'tricky' brothers and sisters. When fine musicians, however talented are not used to teaching basics, it can be difficult for them to find the words and ways to impart these simple things, and perhaps my knowledge of teaching was more what they were after!
They were real sports, throwing themselves into the exercizes with gusto, and being such willing victims for all the tongue twisters and breathing ideas. A Father from Ealing Abbey told me over coffee that he had been a repetituer with the Melbourne Opera, and a film score writer before he entered - and he was scathingly funny about the trauma of teaching Dame Joan Sutherland, who in fairness, had a superb voice and a world beating talent, but was known as quite a slow learner when being taught roles !
AND, more importantly, we had a Christmas Dinner for lunch ! Turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings - what a treat, and on the last day of September. You are so well fed in Abbeys, homemade cakes, hot puddings and custard, tea, coffee and biscuits on tap 24/7 and even wine with dinner tonight!
We did work hard today however, so we needed the sustenance ! It is a great priviledge to work with such modest, humble and truly talented people, and if it is possible for my job to be easy - this is as easy as it gets !
Nobody argues, or answers back, ( are you listening Inner Sound!) even when I am sure that sometimes they must want too! I need to devise a Rule of Obedience for all my pupils ! 'The Rule of Ann'- I won't presume to say Saint Ann !
Which would last about 9 minutes at the outside!!!!!!!