Sunday, 14 February 2016

Mozart, Brahms and Purcell - I may be away but it's all the same !

My first full day of teaching is done. A long six hour session but with a welcome break in the middle. I had some very talented youngsters plus a pair of older 'youngsters' in their twenties, who all showed that they had been well taught and loved singing !

The repertoire was very varied and much was going to be for high level examinations in the next few months, so very pleasingly, it was of a high standard and very well worked on. I felt as though Middy was sitting on my shoulder. I wondered what she would think to hear that her wonderful school of exercises and method of teaching was happening, and working as well for these lovely young people who are based half way around the world, as it had for we long time ago, and once 'youngsters' in Saltburn ? I suspect she would have been thrilled, and even in this foreign field, so to speak, she would have inspired, cajoled, and loved these happy and enthusiastic performers from the Far East ! It lives on everywhere !

I began the day with a 14 year old who quite apart from having a beautiful mezzo voice was also a Grade 8 pianist and Double Bassist ! She had much repertoire including a Mozart aria of mammoth proportions which she was managing well although as yet a little tentatively ! This was not surprising given her tender age. She also was singing a Brahms song, one of my all time favourites, Von Ewige Liebe. A strong and powerful piece which requires much in the way of sustaining power. Her homework until I see her again was to write on the vowel shapes - this is a tremendous feat for Chinese teens - it is sometimes hard for my native English speakers to find the correct vowel in a word, so for a Chinese speaker it is asking a great deal. Every singer I taught tried so very hard and gradually 'got' what I wanted them to do, and steamed through the task with a will !

Then a 13 year old with a very beautiful voice who was having a little trouble with a nasal tone quality so her teacher informed me ! Such honesty was very refreshing, and spurred me on to help in all the ways I know. We worked on lifting the sound, and doing the 'looking surprised' technique and miraculously the tone lifted and opened. She was so very intent and on fire to learn, but in a quiet and controlled way, and within her hour she shifted the centre of her voice to a place where the tone rang much more freely. This of course will need some confirming work over the next few months, but I feel sure she is on the way already, and I see her again at the end of the week. Well done A !

A rather shy 21 year old came in next clearly thinking I was might be a monster of unknown proportions and it took a good 15 minutes to allow her to relax and let me actually hear her sweet and delicate soprano voice. Eventually she realised that I was not said monster and she began to open her mouth, let her voice out and really enjoy her Vivaldi aria. She had a tricky song with changing tempi and challenging intervals - Vivaldi, rather like Bach, writes for the voice as if it is another instrument ! By the final quarter of her lesson the jaw was long, the lips were working, and the most lovely smiling eyes were twinkling and she left the room telling me in her quiet way that she had so enjoyed her lesson. That was definitely enough for me !

After my break another young lady sang me yet more Mozart with such a keen eye for detail. A was so very intent upon her task that each time I explained a vowel and how it fitted a word she cried joyfully 'Got it!' ! It made me laugh and it was such an enjoyable hour. We had to work very hard on English consonants - she found the N in Nor so difficult, but kept at it until she could N N N 10 times in a row then exploded with happiness and a loud, yes you guessed it, 'GOT IT' ! .......and she had.

My day finished with K, a delightful soprano in her mid twenties, who I suspect is more of a mezzo and after hearing her sing one page, I suggested a drop in keep for her Purcell aria. She and her teacher were very game to try, and there was a shift in the quality of her singing which was just beautiful. 'Lord What is Man' is a difficult and complex aria by Purcell full of nuance and changes in inflection in the text - tricky enough for the native speaker never mind for the Chinese speaker - she understood clearly that I wanted her to 'give' each repetition of the sentence in a different way, and very quickly she was rolling forward and taking the phrases much further. The swing of the arms opened up the sound as well especially in the long Hallelujah section, and she has promised to memorise it for her next session and we can take it a step further 'Song School' style !

My day finished at 9.40pm and my lovely hosts walked me back to the bus stop in case I got hopelessly lost. It was dark, still around 20 degrees as we walked through the modern but lovely park with mature trees and birds singing with a merry chirrup. I was tired but after such a satisfying day I arrived back at the hotel still high on a job well done for all of us !

PS I went to use my own recordings of our girls mid morning, and promptly realised I had left the iPad back at the hotel ! Still tomorrow is another day !


Out of the park along the edge of the bay to the academy

The 'rickshaw' park seating


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