I had the most wonderful weekend at Ardrishaig in Argyll. I was greatly looking forward to going and my expectations were more than met !
The girls I worked with were the pupils of Fiona Macdonald, the teacher who put so many pupils into the festival, and does so much for them all ! She admits to not being a long trained and specialist voice teacher, but that said she does a fantastic job ! She has given the youth of that part of the world such a brilliant start in the world of good singing, and the students are excited, vibrant and full of a real love for singing.
Talent is everywhere, post code is no indicator of prowess, and I heard some beautiful voices. We needed to work a great deal on confidence and they responded so very well, and were so brave in those responses. I worked them as hard as anyone works at Song School, only for 20 minutes however, as most were under 18 and not fully developed. Two brave and slightly more mature ladies put themselves up for the torture, and like the youngsters, responded brilliantly. One had previously not realised she needed to join up her three voice registers, and worked so hard on abdominal breathing to make the changes be easier to negotiate, even lying on the floor.... ! The other is a fine natural singer already but needed to work for less diphthong interfering with the legato line. That said, I pushed her to tell the story of the Scots ballad even more, and use her teacher skills in a different world - suddenly the story opened and we were enthralled. Both of these ladies responded like pros !
I heard a gorgeous Caro mio Ben which just needed the jaw to stay relaxed and free, and a regular reminder of the 'e' vowel for the sound to be fully rounded and have a small but mature quality, with lots more to come I think. We had a very sweet Path to the Moon, at the beginning so lacking in confidence, but by the end, she was actually facing the audience. There was a delightfully youthful Silent Worship, young and fresh toned and sung with such a naturally warm voice, just needing to understand that the song is opera, when one is allowed to see the picture in the mind ! There was a truly lovely Bach Gounod Ave Maria sung by a young woman with real sincerity and warm tone. She needed me to push her to engage, but when she did it was a revelation to us all the listeners and to her I hope ! A song I did not know called Reflection was sung by a rather shy young lady, but after 20 minutes of eyeballing and singing to another singer, she finally relaxed enough to draw us in to her performance.
We had a terrific I Feel Pretty from a young lady with a voice the size of Bournemouth ! She moved well and sang with real drama, and it was so full of potential. Her duet partner had a lovely plummy mezzo voice and she used her mouth so well I could almost see the words in the air in front of her ! They sang the deceptively tricky Evening Prayer by Humperdinck and we upped the dynamic a good deal so it would actually fill the opera house for which it was written ! The lower voice youngster gave us a rich performance of Down by The Salley Gardens which was musical and so well phrased, and full of sincerity.
There was a small but worthy Amarylli - a tricky song needing much control, the young lady made a real stab at that control and always sang with such musicality. A young lady (suffering with cold and allergies!) sang A Nightingale sang in Berkley Square so beautifully, and worked very hard at the tone quality and engaging with the audience, and even under difficult conditions she had my total admiration and delight with her performance. Actually I asked her to slow the whole thing down and breathe in the middle of the phrase sometimes. Very occasionally being able to sing multiple bars in one breath is simply not the best option. If the long phrase does not say anything to the audience simply because it is restricted by the effort of singing long phrases, I will always opt for an extra breath ! I want to be touched, not impressed if you see what I mean !
We were competing with a dog training class in the big hall, so it was an interesting morning re noises..........two twin miniature poodles were definitely competing with a couple of sopranos !
There was another young woman who sang one of the many and varied versions of the folk song Waly Waly. She had incredible abdominal muscles and so she could manage long phrases very well. Again it was only confidence and the thorny problem of consistently opening the mouth to let the sound actually get out !
I hope I have left no one out! I was so impressed with these singers, and I fervently hope they enjoyed their day - I felt it one of the most splendid and worthwhile master classing days I have done in many a year. Keep it up ladies, be thankful you have such a fine woman giving you the opportunity - you are very very lucky. I was royally looked after and equally royally fed ! A very important part of my ability to do the job ! Thank you indeed.
Oh.........and please ask me back !