Monday, 26 January 2015

Sopranos must 'use it or lose it' !

It has been a beautiful day in Grange over Sands, both in terms of weather and singing ! I began my day with the Superior who thought she had forgotten everything she has been taught since I was here last, and in actual fact, and to her delight, in five minutes of scales and exercises all flooded back and the mouth was moving beautifully ! She is a lovely lady with a naturally high soprano voice and a warm and mellifluous tone quality. I had whipped her up to a top F before she realised it, and by the time I get to thursday I feel sure we will have conquered the dizzy heights of a top G.

It is very hard to persuade the sisters in all the convents and abbeys that I visit, that just because they do not use the top most end of their voices, does not mean that these notes don't exist ! Lack of use means lack of confidence in attempting them. If I came every week I know in this particular house I would have a raft of very good and solid high soprano voices. It is definitely to do with the fact that the daily office generally does not require much above a C above middle C. When your comfort zone is generally higher than that, and bearing in mind that the high voiced sisters have not even, by that note, moved into their head voice, it is easy for them to forget that they even have a head voice. Oddly, but understandably, some of these soprano sisters seem to think that they have only a smallish vocal range !

For one week only (sounds like a film promo) I work them up into this head voice, and they feel exhilarated by this new found ability ! Every year I tell them that it has always been there, desperate to come out and let rip, and now and again they need to remember to give it an airing !

We began our fun piece today, I gave them the three part version of L'il Liza Jane. They learn parts quickly and efficiently, not because they all read music, but like choristers, they sing such a large amount of repertoire - infact almost a new and different 'something' every day - that most nuns have a quick as lightening ear which picks up a tune or a part at the speed of light !

They are a joy to teach, but just need a large injection of confidence. Hopefully I give them that less painfully than using a needle.......Ugh !

Watch this space, ( and listen to it as well) !

I was fortunate enough to have Sunday lunch with the sisters and the Bishop of Lancaster was a guest. Last year one of my most diligent pupils here Sr Florence took her first vows after the noviciate and it was he who did the honours. Sr Florence is originally from Malaysia, and what a glorious sight it must have been when her visiting family wore traditional costume for the auspicious occasion ! The Bishop was a charming man with a great love for Beethoven and Schubert Lieder, clearly a man of taste !

All the family from Malaysia with Bishop Michael

The Superior Sr Eileen with newly professed Sr Florence


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