Friday, 4 February 2011

A to B

I hardly dare tread in the footsteps of Maurice Jacobson !

Sorry it has been a few days, but I had a frantic day on Wednesday trying to decide whether I should get a head start on my journey South. The weather forecast was for a swathe of blizzards and snow to sweep over the north of Scotland by around 3am on Thursday morning, and I felt that if I did not leave after teaching most of my day on Wednesday the chances were I might not get over the mountains at all. When it is just 'visiting' or 'pleasure' it is not so vital to be as concerned, but I am adjudicating at Oxford Festival this weekend and can not take the risk of being stranded in the wild North! All those candidates waiting for my arrival, a room full of nervous singers and equally nervous mummies, all the hard work put in to the songs, and I don't appear!

Quite apart from the disappointment of the youngsters and oldsters, I don't think my reputation as a reliable adjudicator would withstand the moment! There are strict rules about pulling out of a festival, and they seem to boil down to 'death' or 'near death illness' and 'act of God' !! Joking apart, it is the height of unprofessionalism to back out, and quite right too!

I was offered hospitality from the family of my super young Mezzo who has been coming for lessons every month or so, and who has talent oozing out of her pores (and her paws ! She also plays the trumpet!) So I am lucky enough to be ensconced in a friendly house, with excellent food, good company and wi fi; What more could I want ?! Many thanks D & S. It will make the intensive and tiring few days I have at the festival much less taxing.

The wind was unbelievable whilst driving down, it buffetted my small car as if it were a toy, and even the lorries were leaning rather drunkenly as the gusts flung us back and forth. It is still windy now, and all the more remarkable since I am in Middle England where extreme weather has not been of much concern in the past. These are the force of gales that I have always associated with Paradise and the outer edges of the UK, where there is nought between us and America except a wide ocean and all the weather torments that it brings.

Now, it seems, the world over is assaulted by these extremes. Cyclones, floods, drought, deep snow and lashing rain and gales. Something is going on..................

My first classes tomorrow are G&S Solo and Oratorio. Always, before a festival I wonder what the atmosphere and the ambiance will be. Each festival has it's own peculiarities, it's own life form. Some are very formal, others relaxed, and some verging on horizontal ! Friendliness and informality breed a less frightening situation, whilst the size of halls or rooms can terrify or please a performer. I suppose I just always hope that it is the needs of the terrified singers which dictates.

If that is the case then I can try my utmost to make it a positive, and maybe even a fun experience for them.

Surely what we, in the festival game, want is for them to come back next year, To gain confidence from their experience and to go away feeling as if they have achieved. I consider myself to have failed if there are tears (well except if the tears are because they did'nt win!). I will never forget an adjudicator from my youth, a very fine musician, composer and conductor, Maurice Jacobson, telling a hall full of parents, festival dignatries and sundry audience " Just simply to get up on the stage takes such courage that every performer deserves 75 marks before they open their mouths. If you don't believe me I invite you up here now. "

He had no takers, but lots of singers who were smiling in their hearts!

A note from his biography which may amuse you!

The BBC Sound Archive has a broadcast of The Song of Songs by Kathleen Ferrier on November 3, 1947, with Frederick Stone at the piano. For a later broadcast, by Helen Watts, the composer himself was the accompanist. He last heard it at an 80th birthday concert given for him in Brighton, a month before his death. It was sung by a young Tees-side contralto, Ann Lampard, who had immensely impressed him when he judged her in the Vocal Solo classes at Ryton Music Festival in 1973. The words were also read at the Service of Thanksgiving for Jacobson’s life, given in London at the "musicians’ church", St Cecilia’s, in March 1976.

Read More - copy and paste the address below into your address bar.....a fantastic man, and a wonderful adjudicator.

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