Friday, 13 May 2016

A jolly down South and a hot and beautiful week, vocally and weather wise.

Once again I am sitting in Inverness airport lounge ready to climb aboard the 2.55 to Gatwick. However this time I am just going for a 'jolly' - no work involved at all. This is AMAZING ! I have been invited to a Silver Jubilee celebration for one of my nun friends in Sussex which happened to coincide exactly with a performance of The Dream of Gerontius in the evening, and taking place in the magnificent venue of Winchester Cathedral. What luck......two entirely different, but equally lovely occasions in the space of one day.

The weather was utterly glorious in Paradise this week, and it makes one feel upbeat, lively and positive. I noticed this in all my students who came during the week in light and summery clothes and bearing a light and summery demeanour! Singing in very hot weather is a trial, but with the first extreme heat of the year - in the early part of the week it was 27 degrees, the hottest place in the UK according to the venerable BBC News - it was a joy to sing Handel, Schubert or Novello with windows open, sun streaming through and no midges as yet !

Our rehearsal was much more positive, the men and lady men definitively cracked the opening chorus which received a loud and hearty cheer from the watching fairies at its conclusion, and we worked on through finale act one with a will. In fact we got to the fairies entrance and managed to feel as though we are now conquering the tricky, and lengthy section before the interval ! Well done those folks who worked long and hard !

A welcome visit at the rehearsal from Morag Miller, who played so many leading men a la Prince Charming, brought that family reunion feel. She is on her way, very shortly, back to Australia expanding her life and horizons, and she is much missed. How brilliant that she wants to visit a rehearsal when she comes home. I managed to inveigle her into standing in for Strephon, page turning, and generally making her earn her visit ! She has tried to find somewhere to sing in Australia, sadly without much success.

I think the thought is that 'one only knows what one had, when it is gone'. Is was so good to see you Morag.

Sunday lunchtime !

Sr Helen's Silver Jubilee Mass was beautiful - I am pleased to say the singing was excellent. I suspect there was a sense of 'we must try hard as Ann is listening', and the whole mass setting was controlled, warm and full of round tone quality. Full marks to the sisters. I tried to find my way around all the books, service order and mass sheet but gave up after the Gloria and decided to sit back and listen undistracted. The atmosphere in the chapel was so warm and welcoming, perfect for a renewal of vows and a sense of a job well done, yet, as the priest said, the first day of the next 25 years ! 

Lunch was gorgeous, beef casserole lots of home grown vegetables, followed by three types of crumble, ice cream, fruits and cheese, and the wine and sparkling stuff was flowing ! What a feast indeed. I sinned very badly and had a large bowl of rhubarb crumble and custard - how could I refuse since the rhubarb was picked only a few hours before.........yum yum, high numbers........

We adjourned to a sun soaked walled garden burgeoning with apple blossom, growing soft fruits, rhubarb and early lettuces as well as a chummy and sweet little Shetland pony Misty who is a 'sometimes' lawn mower ! It was altogether a wonderfully happy and delightful day and I feel so privileged to have been invited. There are some splendid photos below !

I was picked up by Mark and my grandchildren from the abbey, and in the true sense of the enclosed life they were all invited in with open arms for a Magnam ice cream and a chat ! Wilson was greatly impressed by how normal the sisters were, but even more so by the immense amount of choices of ice cream in the freezers.......I think he will angle for another invitation since Papa now lives in Arundel !

We left the abbey and made the short journey to a local fine tea shop and the sugar high continued for all four of us - sun, soft drinks, cake and grandchildren - what could be better !

Sara picked me up in the square at Arundel and we whisked off to Winchester to hear my old pupil Emily Bauer Jones sing the Angel in Gerontius, by Elgar. As she now lives, sings and is a mum in Australia, we none of us have heard her sing in some years. The orchestra opened the work so beautifully both Sara and I knew we were in for a real treat, and oh my I was overwhelmed by the sheer depth of Emily's performance, the care over the wonderful text and the dark warmth with which she mesmerises her listeners. This was already so apparent when she was 15. There was a moment when I thought the horse obsession might win over singing, but once over that proverbial hurdle she just grew and grew and last night I felt as if she was the first true 'end product' of my teaching career. To me, the most moving and important part of this is that her voice - glorious as it is now at full maturity - is so immediately recognisable as the astonishing youngster of 30 years ago. She sings with such open vowels, such solid support and words of crystal. Her performance had me reduced to tears, and puzzlingly, I couldn't understand what said tears were for ? For her, the girl and woman I know and love, for her performance of the most wonderful English choral work ever written, or a feeling that I will never see that full cycle again in my teaching life ? Most likely a combination of all three. Thank you Emily.

What a truly fabulous day, and all combined with seeing my family, and not having to work !!!

Back to earth with a bang today - train disruption so bus replacements, every airport lounge full to busting, and I left my waterproof in Sara's car.........

Oh my goodness it was worth it - in triplicate.

Sr Geraldine and Sr Maria with Misty

Sr Helen cutting her beautifully decorated cake

Sr Helen and Sr Clare Agnes - two celebrations 

Cecilia and the Lord Chancellor

Wilson and the Lord Chancellor


After the finish - Emily in the red dress which I wanted to photograph off stage but as you can see below she was out of it asap !

Long lasting school friends Emily and Sara








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