Monday, 7 February 2011

Waly Waly, and a host of Golden Daffodils...

Speaks for itself

Well, it was a hectic and intense weekend at Oxford, but I heard some great singing!

I was largely adjudicating the under 18's, but with a 'smidgin' of adult classes which clearly were squeezed out of the weekend before which was officially the 'grown up' weekend!

There is some fine singing teaching going on in and around the environs of Oxford, and this showed in the high marks which I was able to give throughout the two days. Sometimes it is very hard on good singers when the overall standard is high, as many would indeed win classes in other festivals, but pitted against some real high flyers, they come out as somewhere in the middle.

There were some quite exquisite moments during the weekend. As a youngster I remember singing 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' a duet using Wordsworth's gorgeous poem and set to music by Eric Thiman, a much underestimated 20th Century composer. It is sweeping and romantic, one might even say 'of it's time', but that slightly old fashioned idea bypassed me thoroughly and I adored it's twirling and twining vocal line and luscious harmonies. I heard two young ladies sing this duet and their vocal charms made all the hair on my arms stand on end and tingle for the entire performance. They sang with such elegance and grace, and their whole beings moved like the poetic crowd of dancing daffodils. I was tossed back 40 years to a time when we young Middy girls simply opened our mouths and it poured out. We are old now but that rush of love for such familiar and comfortable music is buried deep in the bones of us all! I gave it an O for Outstanding, a grade hard to achieve, infact I gave only 2 in the 2 days.

The second moment of pleasurable shiver was the last true performance of the whole festival, well for the singers anyway. A young lady performed the masterful Benjamin Britten arrangement of 'Waly Waly', in the 14 years and under Folk Song class. By the end of the last day I would be fibbing if I did not say one is tired, a bit jaded and rather vocally punch drunk - this young lady however, made those somewhat exhausted hairs fight their way to upright once more with a positively magical performance of this hauntingly beautiful melody. As a 14 and Under she was astonishing in her ability to generate such a feeling of stillness. Her voice soared when needed but was so wonderfully controlled and shiny at pp. We were held breathless for the duration of her performance. It was one of the performances which, as an adjudicator, files itself in a special place in the memory filing cabinet draw called 'fantastic and unforgettable', and is glued there for good.

These special moments become, over the years, the bench marks for comparison, and the level which one measures others by, and the more one does the job, the more one's own musical life is enriched.

I was privileged to be listening to and commenting upon students of teachers whom I know very well, and sitting talking together at the end of the proceedings, when one can officially talk to everybody, we realised that we were all of the Middy Stable. How far and wide that lady's influence has spread, and how many lives she has touched in the wide ripples of her own love of music and life. We were three first generation pupils of hers, and a most talented third generation young lady, the pupil, of a pupil of mine.

We learnt from her and pass it on, and on, and on.

Thank God their are these youngsters to carry the flame, so it never extinguishes.

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