Monday, 11 October 2010

All exam Music to be Learnt by This Week........

I'm on the final two and a half teaching days before leave for my holiday, so the packing bug in my brain is awake and screaming. I am such a light traveller when I go away to work - just the adjudicating/masterclassing smart clothes and beyond that, absolute essentials only. I only ever travel with hand luggage unless I am driving. For this next 4 week ish I will need something of everything as well as evening wear and 'smart casual' for the ship! I may need to do more shopping when I arrive in Sussex !

This week is my 'All exam music must be memorised' week, so I can go away with some sense of calm. One is not obliged to sing all pieces from memory in Grades 1 - 8, but I absolutely insist. Performing is not about reading from scores, apart from an oratorio, and even then not for just one aria ! Memorising music means I can then begin to actually teach it. There is no room left in the brain if one is still scraping around for the notes and words, and the sense of 'performing' is completely lost on both audience or examiner. So starting today this week will be about the stress of memory.

People ask me all the time 'How do I memorise', but I have no magic wands or clever tricks - it is simply plodding away until one absorbs the music and words almost by osmosis. I reckon that if enough practice has been put in the memorisation is largely done. I think one can't help but take in the text and melody if you sing it often enough!

As a performer in my youth, I could never have learnt a 3 hour Mozart role if I had to bang out the notes on the piano. I learned it in bite sized chunks, then wandered around the room singing it in half voice whilst 'doing the moves'. I am not even sure that the 'feet' made it easier to learn ! I often talk about moving around, and I know it works for tension and open tone, well maybe it also works for the 'leetle grey cells' !

I also used alliteration quite a lot. I tried to find letters in one sentence which would jog my memory for the next one, and that worked quite well in a simplistic way, if I was having real trouble! Sometimes I hear folk say 'Singers have it much harder because they have to remember words and tune', I completely disagree, the fact we have words helps us know what is coming next, and when all else fails and one is singing in a foreign language at least, we can sing fake Italian/German/Russian with aplomb and gravitas, and generally not a soul realises. Shhhhhh, the singers best kept secret! Sing mumbo jumbo if you must, but do it with conviction and authority ! Hard won experience tells me that all singers do that more times than they would care to remember!

I would love to say that all the years of memorising have kept my middle aged brain as fit as an 18 year old, but sadly, although I can remember lots of music, words, piano chord sequences and inner parts, sometimes I am hard pushed to remember what I had for supper last night.

Hmmm. Different area of the brain I think. So I will probably have split personality alzheimers when in my dotage. Can't remember the day or my name, but can spout for hours on English Art Song and the finer points of abdominal wall breathing. My carers will love that, what !

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