Monday, 11 March 2013

Steal Away ( to Ayrshire in the snow )

Well, Harrogate Festival is now over, and I have not had a single moment to write a post. The timings were so tight I could barely slurp a mouthful of water between classes, and I did not get back to the hotel until 10pm or later. Then I lay on the bed in a darkened room, drank a strong cup of tea and tried to make my brain stop looping the strains of 'Maybe' from Annie, sung more times than the number of miles it is to get there !

It was all solo singing for me, so no choral classes at all, which was a shame.

The standard was very good, the teaching clearly excellent, and the classes were huge by comparison with many UK festivals. There was a great deal of Musical Theatre, which is not my forte, but when it is as well done, and as safely as it was done, it is a pleasure to judge.

One of the most pleasing things was, at most festivals, over the course of a few days or a week ones gets to know which pupils belong to which teachers, who are experts, and all levels below expert. I was very soon aware of which singers belonged to each of the four or five resident teachers, but unlike the norm, I did not have to worry at all about the unfortunate children with the less than capable teacher ! They were all spot on, and therefore the winners were spread evenly and neatly over the whole range. This is UNUSUAL. Mostly I find that there are most definitely poorer teachers and one feels for those candidates who are paying their hard earned cash for little or no reward, and little or no level of skill.

I heard the most wonderful Steal Away in the Spiritual class. It was sung by a British African sixth form girl. It was like a small version of the glorious Jessye Norman unaccompanied version. So contained, so truthful and SO in her own time and pace. She held us all spellbound with her beautiful voice and her I simply wrote that I had been unable to pen anything. I, like the chapel audience just wanted to listen and be wrapped around with the floating beauty, and emotional depth of her performance. It was a performance which I will take with me, and hear ringing in my head for a long while.

I finished at 4pm on Sunday tea time, left the venue, and was on the road to Ayr by 4.20. The snow had just started, and the higher I got over the Pennines and over the borders the deeper and more swirling it got. By the time I was approaching Ayr it had become a mini blizzard, and given how tired I was, I sent up a prayer of thankfulness when I pulled the car in to the only parking space left in the hotel car park. The journey was over, the young man in reception carried in all my bags, took me to my gorgeous room and was a supreme host.

I could have wept with happiness !

The lovely chapel venue below

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