Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Hushabye Mountain and a stable of thoroughbred singers from South Cumbria !

I've had a very long day today and a late evening, but it was filled with some very good children's choirs of a very high standard. There is clearly a real tradition of choral singing in schools here, and not since I was in Ayrshire at that festival have I heard such disciplined and high quality work.

Many of the choirs were so well drilled, so beautifully prepared and so expertly led. Some use backing tracks, which is not a huge love of mine, but as I said to one choir for whom the CD proved something of a disaster, it is the only way to give the children the experience of singing is you have no pianist.

There is a dearth of good school pianists now and the aforementioned backing track recordings fill a gap when live accompaniment is simply not possible, but they are so unforgiving and like all technology, great when it works and disastrous when it goes wrong !

One of the school choirs had a most skilful conductor teacher, and even her under 6 choir sang with such beautiful tone quality. I feel certain this lady must be a singer ! The children sang with such magnificent head sound, and such delicious warm tone quality, and of course the biggest giveaway - they all had matching vowel shapes.........one could tell a Middy singer by the mouth shapes at a hundred paces, and I know my students all have the unified tone quality which technical lessons bring, and this teacher had her choirs and ensembles all working like mini professionals with utter confidence, and absolute trust in her.

I think that is the key. They were glued to her the whole time and went with her smallest musical ask, her lift of the hand and arm, and much like me when I conduct, lots of shapes with the hand for each vowel ! I loved listening to her groups and didn't want to write, I only wanted to listen. This particular talented teacher achieved about four 90's and a 91 in her classes. Astonishing.

We had a gorgeous performance of a very spooky song with many oooo's, and a wonderfully lyrical three part version of Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so warm and chocolatey was the tone ! Another tiny choir of sweet little people sang All Things Bright and Beautiful, the John Rutter version, with such sweet and slender tone and perfectly placed high notes, and another group sang a pop song I did not know in about five parts with only a group of 8 or 9 singers. These seemed to be the older singers of high school age who belonged to the same fine teacher. It was a positive 'stable' of performers entirely recognisable by their well honed sound.

I am in a super hotel and this morning the breakfast was magnificent. More even than that the tray in my room was truly amazing ! See picture above ! Now that's what I call a hospitality tray !




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