What a truly lovely five days I have had at Boarbank Hall with the Augustinian sisters. It is the first time I have visited in the summertime and seen the flowers in full bloom and the immaculate lawns as well as the fabulous sparkling clear view of the Bay and Sands - hence Grange over Sands ! I am writing this in the newly refurbished and furnished large drawing room at Boarbank Hall. The sun is streaming in through the windows and it is all peace.
We have worked very hard this week and all those sisters who are regulars for individual lessons are moving on technically with the speed of Usain Bolt ! Sr M sang a total of around a dozen top B flats in her three lessons, and she a lady of 70 this year, and another Sr M has been able to get to that place where we can relax the mouth shapes a little and the sound is warmer, rounder and more open, having controlled it well, but definitely over the last few years. Young Sr S has managed to nail register management and she can transition between head and chest like a professional. Given that the Office is all around her 'join', that, for her, is nothing short of a miracle ! I tell her, it is not a miracle it is technique and the brain to use technique ! She just smiles and calls it a miracle. Essentially what it means is that the daily singing of the Office is much easier. It will never be completely free from flaw but it is much much easier.
We worked on Elijah Rock, the three part negro spiritual which we sang with Inner Sound a few years ago - it is fast bluesy and punchy and they loved it ! One sister said in the first session on it - are you going to make us sing like 'Sister Act' ! I replied that if I could, indeed I would ! I loved that film and recall some sisters many years ago saying to me, that they thought the producer must have visited some abbeys in the preparation for the film as it had a 'real ring of truth' !
We had a few sisters missing for one reason or another, and always very good reasons - as I only come once or twice each year they hate having to miss it - so not every singer had been to every session, thus our final performance of it in the chapel had a rough edge here and there, but the general quality is now very good, and they learn quickly and thoroughly !
I am so privileged in that the sisters invite me to meals with them each day, and I think I am finally learning the times of each one, which changes occasionally, and I end up being late, much like Maria in The Sound of Music ! I whizz up the stairs through the corridor between enclosure and guest house finally reach the kitchen door and arrive in the refectory trying desperately to cover my panting ! On those occasions when I have go the time wrong a lovely sister quietly knocks on my room door to fetch me.....then when we get to the dining area all the sisters are silently and patiently waiting for us to take our place.....you see why I hate getting the times wrong !
I am leaving today to drive south for a holiday on a Holland America cruise ship with my two grandchildren ! That is a first, and I do hope I have enough energy and enthusiasm to keep them happy for the week! We will first stop at Bergen before traversing the Fjords, where I was once before on a cruise and visited Edvard Grieg's house which was so beautiful overlooking the Fjord, so we have a third film reference, The Song of Norway which I remember watching in the cinema one free evening when I was a 19 year old at Blackpool Festival !
Please be sunny, then they will swim to their hearts content for a whole week !!
The gorgeous drawing room with the newly renovated painted frescos which encircle the room.