The second week of song school was brilliant - completely different - but equally exciting and emotional. We had a mix of mature singers and young aspirant professionals, and it made for a real mixed bag of repertoire as well as ages and stages, so to speak.
I detected a good deal of nervous fear in the youngsters, and perhaps some apprehension in the older singers, but within an hour they were beginning to work like a team.
Monday brought a rash of beautiful oratorio including a most moving Grief for Sin from the St Matthew Passion by Bach, from one of our young singers C, soon off to Conservetoire. She has a glorious mezzo voice and simply radiated from the first note. I have rarely worked with a young singer to totally engaged with the music she is singing. L, soon off to the Guildhall also chose oratorio and sang The People that Walked in Darkness from the Messiah, with a dark and substantial tone and excellent breath control. I can almost hear what it will become in 10 years !
J sang a simple and delightful He Shall Feed His Flock, with the best legato line I have ever heard her manage ! Well done that lady !
One of the day's biggest surprises was E, our gentle and deep thinking lady who most often chooses sacred song over all others. She sang a fantastic Baroque aria from Handel's Orlando. What stamina and what gorgeous runs - even under the most incredible pressure of doing a full skipping chain she sang with joy and freedom - one would have thought she was 35 !
Young B came in to his own with a fine Lord God of Abraham, from Elijah by Mendelssohn, and as with all young bass baritones, that first terrifying top E flat scared him to death ! What a committed young man, and 20 mins later he sang nine of them in a row, with a ringing and dark chocolate tone quality in each !
P sang her aria from Faust on the Monday, but being her usual versatile performer by Wednesday she was wowing us with a marvelous Stately as a Galleon, complete with 'full evening dress is a must' accessories ! She is a wonder, and the youngsters were so taken by her complete mastery of humorous song !
I, our last year's side kick to the Pirate King was very scared. Given it was his first time at song school he did brilliantly ! He loves lighter music, so I kindly allowed him to sing a couple of those pieces I normally eschew ! On Friday he had relaxed and nad lost his fear and performed a most amazing version of Lost in the Stars from Les Miserable ! I know, I know........not my type of music really, BUT if it makes him happy, and allows him to sing with the wonderful fat tone and with such projection, I surrender ! Fab work !
Poor old K had a dreadful throat and chest infection, and had spent the previous weekend frantically trying to recover and look after herself. She managed the first two days and then had to admit defeat and keep silent. She did give us a jolly good try at her beautiful English Art Song 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' by Eric Thiman, and even given the weakness of her voice her joy in the ecstatic poem came shining through. Well done K, I felt for you.
Our other new youngster was A, a Spanish girl from Devon ! She was a delight, but the highlight of her week was, without doubt finding her woman voice. She is. Early talented and before being a pupil of M in Durham, she had been a JRAM girl ! She really was 'in the Middy family' ! She performed the gorgeous Le Colibri by Chausson, and within that one session opened up her already wonderful tone into a warm and womanly quality which flipped her into the world of adult singing in a nano second. Stellar is the best word I can find.......
Due to another illness we had some sessions spare so our own young star, M, came and threw herself into the day with a will. She gave a most serious and thrilling performance of Lucretia's Flower Song aria by Britten, and drew us into her world by sheer force of will and the beauty of her huge, but now totally controlled magnificent voice. By adding in a Lucia and a Bianca and setting the aria in situ, the drama was heightened enormously.
The whole week seemed to go by in a flash. We had tears and laughter and all emotional levels between.
In many ways they were two of the best Song School weeks we have ever had. Our wonderfully empathetic pianist Julia Kennard revelled in the course, gave comfort to the scared, and pushed the not so nervous to new heights and all with a warm and generous smile coupled with the odd tear herself !
Le Colibri - The Hummingbird
......The Hummingbird, the green prince of the heights.....