Monday, 23 May 2011

'Cherries' and 'Babbinos' - equally breathtaking.....

The David Josefevitz Recital Hall Royal Academy of Music
(mentally replace the brass player with some handsome and pretty singers)

What a stunning day at the RAM.

After a lovely brunch with E, a pupil of some 11 years or thereabouts, we both headed to Marylebone Road and the RAM building. E was there from about 3 years old as both her sisters were students and at the tender age of 5 she started herself as a violinist ! Sensibly she added singing to her long list of musical achievements by the time she was 9! She is now a mother of 2 little girls and has not picked up the violin since she left. I think it will be in the genes though - even the 3 year old sings beautifully in tune - E herself has perfect pitch, so there is no escape really!

Then the work day began, and I said in my adjudication how much I felt that the legacy of the department was being more than upheld. The standard of the singing was startling.
There were two categories and it was the Intermediate which I heard first.

In total there were 9 singers and they each sang 2 songs, not opera, and only baby oratorio. There was such a wide selection of repertoire, which was great to hear - in essence what that means is that there are no 'packaged' clones, each young singer is being treated as an individual and being allowed to develop their own individuality.

A young man sang a tremendous Ganymed by Schubert. He can't have been more than 16, although, much like today's policemen, he looked about 12 to me! It is such a big song, but he kept it all within his comfort zone, and so it was a miniature gem. Controlled and sensitive. His voice was like liquid gold, and I can't wait to hear him again in a few years. Another young tenor brought tears to my eyes with his Bach Gounod Ave Maria - he is as yet relatively new, but he sang straight to me, and straight from his heart. Again, another real talent for the future.

The winner of this prize was a young lady who gave us two of my favourites, Gluck's O del Mio Dolce Ardor and Wee Hughie, by Dorothy Parke. She sang with such an easy delivery, and her lovely mezzo was toasty warm and so unflawed throughout it's range. I felt that I just wanted to listen and not put pen to paper - a sure sign that the quality is all there. She was so genuinely surprised it was a joy to behold. She told me that she thought I had said the wrong name ! There was no pretense or affectation either in her performance, or her graciousness in winning!

The senior prize was obviously a notch up in terms of technique and experience. Wow ! I was quite blown away by each mini recital. They were so beautifully prepared, they looked wonderful, Black Tie for the boys and Evening Gowns for the girls. It does make such a difference, it gives the singers the feeling of performing, and it tells us, the listener that they have cared enough to show us their best image.

There were some very memorable performances, a masterful Sound an Alarm by Handel from a young tenor who was so excited by the whole thing, and then went on to show us his romantic side with Some Enchanted Evening - I love it when these young folk take command of the stage, and he did that to perfection. Another young man gave us a magical Lydia by Faure, then went on to sparkle as he finished his recital with the Tom Lehrer Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, and more miraculously he accompanied himself at the Steinway flambouyantly and with pianistic virtuosity and vocal wit. However good these performances were, and they WERE top notch, two young ladies took my breath away. I tied the prize, not as a 'cop out' from having to make a decision, but because the young singers concerned were completely equal and at opposite ends of the vocal type gauge.

One is a clean, bell like and pure high soprano who sounded like an embryonic Emma Kirkby, and whose final song, The Cherry Hung With Snow, set on this occasion by Colin Ross, was magical, and both the audience and myself felt that time stood still - so obviously she was the winner was she not..................and then, up onto the stage came a young lady who is going to the Royal Scottish Academy in September, and sang as if we were audience at the Metropolitan Opera in New York ! She controlled her voice, which is even as we speak, as big as a small country, with such skill for one so young, and sang O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini, with such complete open heartedness and passion I simply had to tie the two.

Polar opposites in voice, physical size and repertoire it was a joyous equality, and a sign of the strength and depth of the voice department.

It was fantastic to leave the building and go out for dinner with some of the voice teachers, notably my old pupils, who fully deserved a champagne meal had the cheque book allowed, and another couple with whom I worked during my time at the JRAM. It was so warming to catch up, to laugh at old stories and to be able to tell them how proud I was of them. What a delight.

How did I do all that London - Inverness and vice versa each week, for 5 years, and only a few years ago ? I was so exhausted I had to cancel my Monday teaching ! I drifted around like an amiable zombie for a day or two, marvelling at the fact I was still almost awake !

I can tell you, it came as a bit of a shock! Tempus Fugit !

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