Monday, 3 September 2012

Pieta Signore and the Paralympics

Sorry for the break, but I was feeling very 'ropey' last week with an infection. The miracle of medication and a few tweaks of diet including shunning all sugars has given me a great recovery, and to be honest, this evening after teaching today I feel just about 100% ! I thought only yesterday that I might not be up to a full week of teaching, but as ever, working and getting back to the grind really does have magical healing powers ! Music does it almost every time!

I had only four pupils today, so a gentle beginning to the week, but some beautiful music in lessons. I record on an old fashioned cassette dictaphone recorder, or for the more technically savvy on my iPad. When singers are not aiming for a career in classical singing, and doing it only for fun, I can see no point in making the learning process longer and even more difficult than it already is, so I sing the song, hopefully well enough for the students to copy correctly. When they have learnt the 'nuts and bolts', ie the notes and rhythm, I then record just the accompaniment, so they can practise without having a secure voice to help, or prompts for tricky entries !

This seems to be a very successful way of teaching a song, knowing that the language pronunciation is usually accurate. I say 'usually' because just occasionally I sing a wrong word when I am concentrating on playing a particularly intricate and fingerish piano part!

Today I did more recording than usual as it is, for some, the beginning of the term, so new music abounds!

I particularly enjoyed singing the Stradella aria which M of the Lady Jane role requested. Pieta Signore is a most beautiful aria, dark and minor keyish and full of long sweeping phrases which have such a sense of drama and drive. The Italian is quite tricky, so I more than often also speak the text very slowly into the recorder so there can be no doubt about the pronunciation. The aria comes from that most marvellous of books, without which no singing teacher is complete, 24 Italian Songs and Arias. Happily most students love these clever and melodic songs originally written for teaching the bel canto style of singing. I love teaching them, they love singing them, what more could one ask!?

I have been enthralled, moved, inspired and altogether delighted by watching the Paralympic Games, as I am sure many of you have. What wonderful achievements and what true courage I have witnessed in the last few days. Against all odds these professional men and women show how adversity can spur them on to each such heights, and as the teacher of a young man with a wonderful voice and a magnificent work ethic - and who happens to have cerebral palsy and sings in a wheelchair, I am constantly surprised and not a little shocked by the power of positive thinking.

It should be mandatory viewing in all schools, universities and music Conservetoire.

What our minds can do, when combined with guts and hunger.

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