Saturday, 5 April 2014

You Spotted Snakes by Armstrong Gibbs

A whole weekend off before I set off for Ulverston and the South Cumbria Festival. Usually I am racing to pack and collate all my relevant paperwork for the three days of adjudicating, pack a suitcase, make a travel picnic and clean the house etc, in around an hour so I am ready to travel the next morning! This is pure luxury ! How small things make us happy !

I was thinking about my favourite songs for Grades 4 and 5, and it is such easy choices. At Grade 4 there are some really beautiful songs and small arias but by a 100 miles my favourite is You Spotted Snakes by Armstrong Gibbs. I remember teaching it to a tiny half Italian child about 30 years ago, and since then I must have taught it a hundred times. It uses the words from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and has two divided sections in each verse, a minor key first half when the singer is telling all the animals, insects, real and imaginary, not to go near the beautiful Titania as she sleeps. The melody has quite a dark feel and is almost sharp in its own way, but then defaults into the most delicious major key final section when singing about 'Philomel with melody, Sing in our sweet lullaby, Never harm nor spell nor charm, Come our lovely lady nigh - so........goodnight with lullaby'. The final 'So Goodnight...' is quite a little miracle of a moment, when the long held note shimmers over changing chords in the piano, the harmonies of which have a magic all of their own.

I love it. It is not an easy choice for a 12 or 13 year old, and the lift to the high F sharp on ...'nor charm' is technically tricky, and out of the comfortable range of many female changing voices. So I tend to use it with the better candidates, or those who have had lessons since babyhood, so they are well on the way to excellent mouth shapes already !

I tried to youtube a version and came up blank - it is therefore a much under sung piece of music, and we need to promote it, by shouting from the rooftops !

Grade 5 song to follow.........

Never harm nor spell nor charm,

Come our lovely lady nigh,

So, Goodnight with lullaby




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