What a hot and sunny journey I had down to Durham. I even succumbed to the air conditioning, which is a first since around last August ! It was a beautiful drive through the highlands, the lowlands and finally Northumberland.
I had a truly lovely afternoon with the choristers at the Durham Cathedral Choir School, where even the smallest of the children responded to a small 15 minute masterclass. Five somewhat less experienced singers came first with just myself, Miranda and Ana Fernandez Guerra, who some of my readers will remember very fondly from Song School a few years ago. She is now teaching at the school as her job whilst waiting to post grad at a Conservetoire. What a joy - I remarked to both her and Miranda that when I was working with the tinies it was as if I were teaching great grandchildren - the line stretches back through three generations, but the sound is utterly recognisable and as if I were hearing small folk taught by Middy 55 years ago. In a funny way it is like teaching my family, I masterclassed a tall and rangy 10 year old Joseph, Miranda's son, who is himself being taught by Ana ! He was terrific - warm toned, with a voice full of energy and a spirited interpretation to match, and so beautifully in tune, it was a joy to hear him and see him respond like the intelligent and musical boy he is. In much the same way, I will adjudicate my own grandchildren Wilson and Cecilia in a non competitive music festival in June - how wonderful that the musicianship and love of music from the parents, three quarters of whom I taught, is being passed down, adding yet more chains to the link of strong singing legacy handed to me from the redoubtable Betty Middleton.
The choristers responded like small pros, and their repertoire was just delightful - from folks songs such as Anna Marie, through Brahms Vegebliches Standchen, via Sweet and Low and a thrilling Still the Lark finds Repose by Dr Arne. The latter sung by an astonishing young lady who has all the ingredients in her to become a beautiful, sensitive and large voiced singer of the future. We had two lovely Thiman songs both about the moon, and in the same vein the Aubrey Beswick song called Twilight. A tiny half Bulgarian girl sang a Grieg song The Princess, and told it like a colourful fairytale complete with prince and tower. It was such a rewarding day.
Today the task was equally fulfilling if a little more taxing as I was masterclassing students from the university and a couple of highly talented sixth former singers. I was bowled over by the sheer plethora of tenors that Miranda has in her vocal quiver ! Where do they come from ! What is in the Durham water !
Each young man was at a different age and stage from a scholarship winner to the RAM in September, to a hard working middle of degree changing voice, then a steady young Yorkshireman singing from the Italian Arias book, to a sixth former with all the bright innocence of a babe. They sang such wonderfully appropriate repertoire from English Song to Mozart Opera via Pirates of Penzance......such a treat to hear these brilliantly taught young men climbing the technical ladder and singing with such love for the music and the text.
The girls shone beautifully too. A very lovely brace of mezzo sopranos and a young and fresh voiced high mezzo, who may make soprano in the future and Ana, whose coloratura and bravura singing in her Gounod Juliette aria was simply breath taking, and surely a voice of the future. We ranged from early opera which when staged was unbearably moving, to a great Manon Lescaut aria, which transformed into complete reality once set in a 21st century wine bar. We had a Schubert Die Junge Nonne, from a dark voiced young mezzo and a pair of delightful German Lieder from the boys in the final session. Sadly one of Miranda's youngsters was very croaky and although she came to watch and participate in the fun, she was unable to sing.
The depth of talent is stellar. The calibre of the teaching is orbital. I feel secure in handing on the torch and know it will be in the safest of hands.
I have just got some lovely photos - enjoy !
Miranda and Joseph, my demo man !