Thursday, 1 March 2012

Michael Head's A Piper and a Vietnamese Curry

A Temple without purpose

Today I am for the second time this week working in the SKH Holy Spirit Church at Shatin in the Eastern New Territories. I took myself out for a walk in the lunch break and found a tiny park with a small old, but well preserved temple at its centre. These small places are all nestled in between giant blocks of flats or enormous schools, and in this case overshadowed by a gleaming and up market hotel. I am pleased to see that it was so well preserved and the paintwork in fresh and vibrant colours. I took a photo of the sign next to the tiny building which stated very clearly however that - No religious activity must take place here !! A temple without a purpose?!

I heard a mixed bunch of 16 and under girls singing a very tricky Michael Head song called A Piper. I cannot imagine how tricky it would be to sing an Irish poem to the fleeting and complex text and rhythms of this song, when one's first language is Cantonese !

The problems seem to be in making a proper 'th' sound and not singing 't' instead, I wonder if the tongue works differently in Asian languages. When I ask the singers to try, they can do it but with much giggling and scratching of metaphorical heads ! They are a very polite bunch though, and smilingly put up with me trying to correct their English.

The afternoon brought 35 sets of duettists all under 19 and singing an indifferent edition of the famous Plaisir d’amour by Martini. I heard some remarkable ensemble singing which was both beautiful vocally and so utterly together in terms of part singing. There is a definite instrumental feel to much of the singing, it is as if the voice really is taught as another instrument, and not as I may teach it, a unique physical part of the person. It is difficult to put into words, but I think the Western approach of treating each voice as a totally unique sound, is not the approach here.

That said, it may be a new angle on singing teaching, but it works, and it produces lovely tone and a wonderful ability to blend.

After being brought back to the hotel at about 6pm and recovering with a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit (from M&S of course!) myself and another adjudicator risked a Vietnamese restaurant where absolutely nobody spoke a word of English. I stuck to vegetarian food, and had a wonderful Green Coconut Vegetable Curry and steamed white rice, which was fantastic……………..

Back to the Youth Studio tomorrow for another round of the Ivor Gurney sing off, and Round 2 of the under 14 duets.

No rest for the wicked!

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