Thursday, 5 May 2011

Skye Song School Week 2

A Verdi Moment !

Will You Dance Cha Cha Cha ?

Look at that Stradivarius.............

Song School – Week 2

Week 2 was a new set of folk and a new set of repertoire, equally as fun and equally as challenging!
During this week there were three of my own Paradise pupils taking part for the first time, and it was so interesting for me to work with them without the encumbrance of having to play the piano!

I saw some little physical quirks hitherto unnoticed in the realms of my music room! There was a marvellous moment when an otherwise rather shy soprano was elevated first to the raised dias in the hall, then onto a chair, and eventually onto a table – then, and only then did we hear the 'Cathedral' version of the beautiful Mozart Agnus Dei from the Mass in C. Suddenly she realised the room was ALL hers, and not just the bit nearest to her! A revelationary moment (if there is such a word!)

We had a hysterical moment when one of the chaps sang Tom Bowling, but being not an 'academic' musician, shall we say, it was in completely the wrong key, so instead of simply transposing it a little lower into a key he could manage without giving himself a hernia, he plumped for singing the whole song an octave lower. So in essence he manfully growled around on bottom G's and F's for three verses, coming to an end close to collapse and in urgent need of a beer. I was trying to be careful and, of course, kind, when I asked 'Did you mean to sing it that low ?' At that point the rapidly reaching boiling point bubble of hysteria in the room burst with an explosion of laughter, and a classic moment carved itself a niche in the annals of Skye School Legends, never to be forgotten. We laughed all week, and A took it is such good part. What a man!

We had a superb 'Voi che Sapete', with added characters as Countess and Susanna, and K excelled herself playing the gawky boy Cherubino, both vocally and 'actingly'. K has been very ill during the last year and just to see her there and singing was a fantastic moment. Interestingly, she had always been, prior to her illness, a rather anxious and worried lady, but this brush with eternity has given her a new outlook on life, and not surprisingly this has had a marked knock on in her singing. Suddenly she seems liberated from that anxiety, and the timbre of her voice, and flow of vocal line was impressively changed, for the better!

I was challenged to find a way to 'gentle down' a voice, so the lady concerned could add new soft and pastel colours to her song. I had one of those momentary flashes which do not happen very often, but when they do I am as pleased as punch ! I asked her to lightly stroke the hands of some of the participants as she sang. It is impossible to sing harshly when one is physically being gentle. Oh Boy ! It worked instantly, and I mean 'instantly', the tone quality was airy, light and intimate. Once P had realised this connection, she could repeat this alone, simply by a tiny and unobtrusive stroke on her own person. Skye Song School 1 The World 0 !

A beautiful tenor sang one of my all time favourites, 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden Gekommen' by Mahler. I sang this much as a young mezzo, so I knew every note, word, breathing place, and nuance of the song. The gentleman concerned was so receptive to the ideas I had, and I could have hugged him when he finished, and brought a deep hush to the room.

There was a lovely moment on the last day when J sang a Liszt song. Now J has a voice the size of Bournemouth and to sing pp is as tricky as fitting 16 people inside a mini. She could not finish, so disenchanted was she with her performance, but I truly felt she had the control in her to do it. We began again and with some coaxing, and relaxation and a bit of the aforesaid stroking she did it. It was one of those moments where you know that had she not achieved it the week would have ended on a downer for her, and I was not going to let that happen.

We had some wonderful humour from another P, my pupil who has the innate ability for wit and perfect timing. She sang the wonderful 'To keep my love Alive' by Cole Porter, about the upper class lady who kills all her husbands because of their annoying traits. It was quite hysterical, and I wish I could bottle her sword sharp sense of putting in the punchline. For fun we added a live body for each of her spouses who died singularly appropriately. I fully intent to put it into a concert plus cadavers ! It will bring the house down !

V, a lady who is a relative beginner made a promise to me that she would practise! She has a great voice, but needs to keep it going from year to year. Some singers who come do not have regular lessons, so it is tricky, and needs much self motivation to keep at it – but V has a pianist husband ! No excuses there then! I look forward to hearing her next year!

There was a fantastic song from J, who sang us the Alto's Lament. It was fabulous, and a bit of a tour de force in terms of pace, melody changes and memory. It is full of musical quotes from typical alto music, and the fact they never get 'the high notes'. She performed it with such panache and flair, and as much humour as she had brought to her Lady Jane's song earlier in the week, when, as we had no handy cello about our personages, she played most sensitively on a handy 'Warning, Wet Floor' sign, using some Blue Peter invention for a bow! She learnt all about a good bowing arm – our wonderful pianist was also a cellist in her youth – and when to up and when to down bow. We charged no extra for that service!

My gold dust alto M completely excelled herself, when she first came to have lessons a number of years ago, she was desperate for a 'good top E'. Well during the week she gave us some wonderfully big and warm top F's, progress M ! She was one of the singers whom I was so glad to be able to watch ! She is a fine and expert Scottish Country dancer, and when she sings she 'dances' the music, about which I have NO problem ! What I had not previously spotted was that the 'dancing' was slightly disrupting the tone quality, and making her voice not connect at certain times – especially on long held notes. We stilled the torso box, but kept the arms and legs free to jig if they so wished and her voice gained such stability. Along with that stability comes strength, power and production. She, of course, was our Olympic Gold Medallist on ensemble day, being a true alto the floor was hers! The whole day was the MG Show with supporting cast ! No, you can't take her home with you !! She's MINE!

What a great week.

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