Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Why won't my voice work today ?

Once again I am with the warm and friendly sisters ar the Crossbush Convent in Arundel. It is one of the loveliest places to visit and like the other abbeys I frequent, quite a wonderful place to ply my trade. The atmosphere is so welcoming and the sisters are extremely keen to learn and perfect. I tell my own pupils that if a sister of 80 or 90 wants to improve, and can put into action what I am asking of them, it is surely never to late to become a better and more technical singer ?!

In my plenary session today Sr Aelred, who is in charge of the music gave me the gorgeous 'All in the April Evening' by the Scotsman, Hugh Roberton. It was such a joy to work with a group of singers for whom the text is utterly meaningful, and I worked the whole group from 10am until 11.45. This is an immense chunk of time for ladies who were up at 5am, already had rehearsal for the mass, then had the mass etc. etc. Yet in spite of this long mornings work already done, they cheerfully and enthusiastically throw their heart and soul into making good vowel shapes, learning notes and words, singing scales including the tricksy '77 benevolent elephants', with ne'er a frown, and were so clearly pleased by the end of the session. So they should be ! A large proportion of the sisters have had lessons for some years and have as good technique as my non religious pupils !

A delightful African sister came for a solo session after the choir rehearsal, and was so excited about the fact she felt as if a vocal door had been opened to her since I last was here. Her confidence had soared and she was giving her sound out instead of holding back. She is a young woman and will be a great Chantress in church for many years to come. 'The time was right' she told me, 'and I needed to wait for that moment' - how true indeed, as with much in this life.

Sr Helen was next, trembling and scared of her own voice, and absolutely surprised when I announced to her that all singers, professional or amateur, young or old all feel that fear of 'will my voice work today', until the day they stop singing, or get carried off the operatic stage in a box ! I told her that it seems to me that it is human nature to doubt ourselves, but if she uses the simple technical tools it will, 85% of the time, work. I say 85% very carefully - we are not automatons, we are just human beings, and a sore throat or a pain in the ribs means it will not work, and natures way of saying a gentle 'shut up!'

Onwards and upwards, more lessons and more interesting conversations.

 Only a cross, a cross of shame,

Two stark crosses between.

All in the April evening, April airs were abroad,

I saw the sheep with their lambs,

And thought on the Lamb of God.

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