I'm back ! The term started today, and reality suddenly kicks one in to musical 'touch'. It feels like a long time since a pupil stood in the music room, and actually I think it is around six or seven weeks. A full day of teaching forcibly reminds me that a proper voice rest allows for a spectacular return, and all those I have heard today sang with a fresh and relaxed tone !
I had almost completely forgotten what repertoire I had given folk, so in many ways it was a pleasant surprise as each pupil handed me all new songs after their scales and exercises. So what joys have I listened to on my first day of the new academic and vocal year ?
Firstly the gorgeous 'Dusk', by Armstrong Gibbs, a glorious little gem about which I have blogged before - what a wonderful way to retune my ears to song ! J had learnt it well and really sounded confident and happy within both the music and poem. My sweet and delightful J came in smiling and longing to sing, and after greeting the first J of the day bounced into the music room ! She had the perennial Scots Song, 'Ye Banks and Braes'. J has certain difficulties which make for a slightly slower rate of memorising and learning, but what she lacks in speed of progress she more than makes up for with her thrill and excitement of achievement. She works like a trooper and is proof positive that good singing is for everyone at every level, and music is a true and great leveller. She is a ray of sunshine in my week !
After J, would you believe my tiny pupil J arrived champing at the bit ! Yes, another J - it seems as though I teach only folk with a J as the first letter of their name........not true, but the first part of my Monday is teeming with them ! Anyway, back to J the small singer. I had given her two sizable songs, the first being the gentle and weaving melody of The Nightingale Bird by Aubrey Beswick. She had learnt it well, and told me how much she loved it. It is truly beautiful and as yet this most lovely song with the widest range is the most tricky song that she has tackled. There comes a point, and often it almost seems as if it happens overnight, when a tiny singer with a pin point accurate treble-ish vocal quality, morphs into a proper girl's sound and warmth floods in with a vengeance. Young J had, up until the beginning of the summer holiday, a nano sized voice, bell like and straight. Today it was even from top to bottom and the usually weak middle of a small person timbre had all but disappeared ! She spanned the wide range with little problem, the octave leaps were easy and equal in tone, and she even managed a bottom B flat without once resorting to that damaging chest quality which I so loathe ! She jumped up and down in a reserved kind of way, utterly thrilled with what she was hearing. Well done that young lady !
Another complete change was my first singer whose name does not begin with J ! Young A, who came to Saltburn Festival in the early summer smilingly danced through the door, clearly fired up for her lesson. WOW - what a magnificent change, it was like an explosion of sound. Only two months ago her high soprano was uneven and inconsistent and therefore tricky for her to control. Today she sang scales up to a top C and the tone was as solid and even as a proverbial rock, a stable and 'unwrinkled' sound which made her blush and wriggle with pleasure. So consistent was her 'We'll Gather Lilacs' and so expressive was her Michael Head 'The Little Road to Bethlehem', I decided to ask her if she would like to come to Song School next year ! It was a quite unexpected moment, and I found myself asking her without so much as a forethought. I am largely a 'gut reaction' type of teacher, and today my 'gut' was dazzled by the difference in her. She works very hard and is doggedly dedicated, and I feel increasingly there is far to go with this young lady.
Just listen to the utter purity of Isabel Baillie singing this in 1941. It may not be 'trendy' singing, but my goodness it is truly beautiful, and I know which I prefer !
My Intermediate Recital Certificate distinction student P, was next. She has gained so much confidence and finally proved brave enough to tackle the ambrosial aria from Haydn's Creation, 'With Verdure Clad'. She has all the vocal ability to sing it, and all that was needed to complete the picture was belief that it was possible - indeed more than possible - probable ! The tricky coloratura will come with more relaxation, but the skeleton of this considerable aria is all in place, and just needs fleshing out.
My deep alto M, she of the blingy and fearsome Katisha was my last singer of the day. I had not given her any new repertoire at the end of the last term as she was up to her eyes in The Mikado. She had unearthed an aria for herself ( how fantastic is that !) and come up with the elegant and shapely Mendelssohn aria 'But The Lord is Mindful of His Own' from St Paul, and proceeded to perform it with all the correct ideas and vocal weight which she does so well, and clearly can now produce herself without my help ! It's redundant I am !!! It is a perfect choice for her dark tones, and with a little more work on the strong legato line it will be a concert 'winner' !
I finished my day with my advanced pianist D who after having a couple of months break from lessons to exercise his sailing muscles, breezed in with a Chopin Impromptu up his pianistic sleeve, and dazzled me with his capacity for lots of black dots ! We needed to find more of the texture of this gorgeous piece, and I'm very pleased to say that by the end of his lesson he was singing the glorious bass melody which is the foundation of the piece, and almost more important than all the flashy finger work in the world. I'll get him singing if it kills me !