Day one of the 2014 Skye Song School, and what a great day. It seemed from the first note that each singer had upped their game, made what seemed more than a years' progress, and was really heart and soul in for giving their all.
The sun was shining, the room was warmer than usual, and smiles abounded. It seemed as though all participants, observers and we masterclassers ( myself and pianist!) were going to raise the roof !
In the morning we had a Handel Fest, with Angels ever Bright and Fair sung by P with such depth of feeling, and a fine openness of personality as well as tone. P is one of my less flambouyant students, who has, over the years gradually found a beautiful and natural high soprano voice and now uses it with ease and fluency. It's reet proud I am of ya P! Gold dust alto M sang the glorious Return O God of Hosts from Samson with dark solid depth and tone which rings around the room. She is primarily a foot woman and fine scottish dancer, and when she sings her whole body wants to jiggle with the music, any music! We soon had her singing a legato line as rich as Green and Black's Dark chocolate, and boy, every choir should have a M !
P provided more Handel in the shape of He Shall Feed His Flock, and wowed us with her tone quality. P is masterful at the funny song from Noel Coward to Flanders and Swann, and this was her first go at oratorio. Truly we heard sounds which not even I as her teacher had ever heard before! Well done that woman, and there is more where that came from !
K opened the day with Che Faro senza Euridice, and after shedding the fear she gave us a riveting scene complete with a delightful Euridice in the form of young N. I have rarely heard K sing so well and with such passion. I think she shook herself at the power she brought forth.
The morning was brought to a close by a gorgeous performance of Rusalka's Song to the Moon, even though M is still suffering and taking antibiotics it was a glorious performance, which when she came out of hiding next to the piano, and was given permission to use the whole space, grew like a musical Topsy. M has such a beautiful high soprano voice, it soars and soars and when asked to work even harder she produces sounds so full and ringing we feel the vibrations.
J started us off after lunch with a big Verdi aria from Don Carlo. She powered through it with real courage and we were all impressed when finally she realised that Verdi IS melodrama, and must be sung as such. Big voice, big emotion and big presence. When J remembers to drop her jaw, magic really does happen and this was terrific indeed !
Young N sang her Purcell Bonvica's Song. Bonvica is another name for Boudicca and this is a solitary aria where she declares she wants no more of war, but an eternal peace. Like all young singers with fantastic voices, N was initially happy with simply singing 'beautiful noise' ! As soon as she is whipped into action to make much more of the song and add all the layers on top of the 'beautiful', her artistry, her sensitivity and her sheer intellect make for startling performances. What a talent this is.
J gave us our first Wagner ! She of the voice the size of Bournemouth was afraid to have singers up close and personal, incase she somehow 'offended' their ears. We worked on the Tannhauser aria a few times trying to lift the sentiment into a beaming sense of hope, and she came alive and sang like Birgit Neilsen ! By then she could take folk all around her, feeling the tone and vibrancy of her voice surging through them. I always feel for singers with large voices, it is so much harder for them to let go. When she does it is like a tsunami of exhilarating sound.
V sang us the second aria of Delilah by Saint Saens, and to her great credit she did it from memory ! V is another singer who is afraid to open up, what is in effect a very large instrument, for fear she will 'go wrong' ! When she conquers the fear a torrent of lovely sound pours out ! Once she realised that tipping the head up closes the sound, she began to take the song forward, and we began at last to see and hear the character in all her hateful glory.
J brought us to a magnificent close with Puccini's Vissi d'Arte, and boy what strength and passion there was in the room. She can soar with a wonderful pp or a vast ff and the tone always stays the same rounded and totally solid sound. Her breath control is amazing and her depth of character within the aria is profound. She still has to be told to MOVE however ! Once we added in a scowling Scarpia the aria was elevated to another stratosphere. Technically it was so assured, but with the icing of acting it goes beyond technical by a 100 miles.
We were all emotionally drained by the end of a wonderful day, but an early dinner of spicy chicken pie in the refectory brings one back to planet earth with a pleasant and reviving thump ! Great day.
Callas as Tosca in all her fiery glory