Friday, 14 June 2013

For Behold Darkness shall cover the Earth - Handel

Tomorrow I set off for another travel fest, firstly in the south of England where I will adjudicate at Horsham Festival. This is an unusual festival in that it's real title is Horsham Performers Platform. It is much more focused upon the entrant performing and achieving, that it is on the competitive element of the vast majority of festivals.

There are no placings as such, and I can do mini masterclasses with singers if I wish, and can give credit to individuals for effort and personal fulfilment as well as rewarding excellence. This makes a refreshing change, and allows me to think out of the box a little more, talk broadly and give spoon loads of encouragement!

There is most definitely a place for this type of event, and I feel certain that it will have a confidence boosting effect without the disappointment of not 'winning'. I was pleased when my colleague and friend who runs this festival made a strong point of telling me that 'of course you can pick out and highlight excellent performances'. Without having that sort of benchmark the remarks may seem a little bland. I am very much looking forward to adjudicating at the festival, knowing that no proud Mamas' or Papas' will be waiting outside to collar me for a chat at best, or feel the need to lynch me at worst, because their tiny star of stage and screen was not placed first, and festooned with silver cups and highly coloured rosettes !

I finished my teaching this week with a rush of folks who are either taking exams, or competing ( note the word 'compete' !) in this years' Saltburn Festival the following weekend.

N is travelling to the depths of Yorkshire to sing at Saltburn. He has a selection of big and tricky pieces including the strong and commanding 'Se vuol Ballare' from Figaro. Hurrah indeed, he had finally conquered the Italian words, and is beginning to sing this aria with the bravado which Figaro feels as he taunts the imaginary Count. N has been learning a long time, always consistent and ever improving. He is our Police Sargeant in Pirates, but just at the moment I am truly hoping all his efforts will be channeled towards his festival repertoire !

His trickiest piece of all is 'The People that Walked in Darkness' from The Messiah. It is such a deceptively difficult aria. One would think that because the accompaniment plays almost the entire aria with the singer, it should be a doddle ! Well no ! It is a fiend, a devil in disguise and four pages of vocal pitfalls just waiting to receive the unwary Bass Baritone who dares to wander it's winding path.

The recitative before the aria is, quite probably, my most favourite piece of Handel vocal music. It is so soaringly beautiful, yet weighty and intense, with the most sun bursting runs on the word 'Glory'. It brings back so many memories of singing Messiahs' in my youth, travelling all over the north from Hexham to Blackpool and every village in between with a lively and enthusiastic choral society. In the 70's, my fee was often about £30 a performance. I now realise, of course, that I needed the experience far more than I needed the cash during that student, and therefore blissfully carefree time in my life. Oh, the long gowns, the carefully coiffured hair and the long journeys home, chomping on a thoroughly well deserved portion of fish and chips, out of the newspaper of course!

Handel, the most bread and butter and mortgage paying composer of the lot !

Michael George singing this recit and aria. Creamy and ringing tone.

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