I've had a lovely weekend of singing. All youngsters, the oldest candidate being mid 20's and the youngest being 7. As is usual these days there are lots of Musical Theatre classes, indeed one for every year group for 11 years up to 18 years, but at this festival they managed, by dint of two very good singing teachers, to balance each MT class with Classical Song class, and the teachers made sure that the youngsters entered both classes. So the positive result from that sensible idea is that the children and teens are just as at home with The Path to the Moon or O Del Mio Dolce as they are with A Spoonful of Sugar and Colours of the Wind from Pocahontas !
I heard some lovely performances in each genre of music, and what was so pleasing was that all the repertoire from all styles was so very age and voice appropriate ! Hurrah !
The chairperson of the festival is a lady with whom I go back a good way. She was the best friend of one of my oldest 'old' pupils Emily BJ. The started at the RAM together and went through the whole of their studies sharing a flat and being very close friends. Both now have families and Emily lives in Australia, whilst Beccy is in the local environs to the festival doing a wonderful and inspiring job as a singing teacher.
Emily was an astonishing pupil. At 13 she was already showing signs of the most wonderful Mezzo/Alto voice, and as the years went by she went from vocal strength to vocal strength, and eventually became a much sought after professional singer. She debuted Mr Rochester in Lennox Berkley's opera Jane Eyre for Welsh National Opera, and for awhile cornered the market in Elgar mezzo roles, and is still much used by the Elgar Society. It was a voice truly born in Heaven, so creamy and so dark that my hairs stood on end when she sang as a 17 year old. Now happily living with opera singer partner and young son in Melbourne, I heard that she has just done Nixon in China for Melbourne Opera, as well as reprising the role of Nancy in Albert Herring, a role she sang in my last staged performance, when I played Lady Billows. My most abiding memory of her in lessons will always be hearing her Va tacito from Julius Caeser by Handel. I could barely play for her glorious and largely effortless singing. It is burnt, even scarred into my musical memory.
The most moving part of the Emily tale is that she was never ever, as a youngster, knew just how truly wonderful she was. Sing, go back to French, sing again off to Maths and then back for choir, home and then mercilessly teased by twin older brothers..........
'Twas the making of her !
Emily Bauer Jones - Contralto
Studied with Ann from the age of 12 - 18 at
Convent of the Holy Family School, Littlehampton, West Sussex