Thursday, 8 December 2016

Last week of term, first day of freedom !

The end of my is my first day of the holidays. It has a feel all of its own, no timetable, only long days of a peaceful, calm and song free zone stretch ahead. My Easter term is going to be very busy indeed with the Youth Opera, a big concert and Song School, and all the resulting rehearsals for those events, so the thought of almost four weeks of freedom is a welcome joy !

We had our first floor rehearsal on Tuesday and my goodness it was tremendous. The young singers bubbled and bounced and got 'stuck in' with such musical gusto I was swept along with them. The Britten score is very challenging but if one does not realise it is difficult, or if one simply approaches it with innocent enthusiasm, there are no pre conceptions of any impossibilities ! It is a miracle really, and I have seen it many times before in my London career teaching high flying aspirant professionals.

They just attack music with a guilelessly open mind. They learn what they hear, and not what their brains read - the black dots which litter the pages of the score like hysterical ants are bypassed, and only the exciting and fun element of those pages is seen, embraced, and enjoyed !

The electricity generated in a rehearsal could run a power station for a week, it certainly keeps my personal power bank supplied for some time, and I love it !

The ladies and myself (of course I am also a lady !) are having an Inner Sound dinner tonight at our local and very user friendly Indian restaurant. As a type 2 diabetic it is tricky to eat Indian and watch all those lucky people eat delicious portions of rice, so I have a main course and substitute a couple of poppadoms for the greatly missed pilau or coconut rice to accompany. I eat less than 30g of carbohydrates on a good day, and it keeps my sugar numbers from elevating, so by a few substitutions I can enjoy a delightful meal out with the best of them ! 

Thus, my first day of freedom must be carbohydrate restricted more than usual so that I may relish my dinner this evening.......Mmmmm

The great substitute......


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Examination success of the highest order, and a bit of rugby.........

What a wonderfully successful set of exam results ! The grades were as diverse as it's possible to be ranging from an Initial ( pre Grade 1) examination right up to the Advanced Recital Certificate! I actually love it when they are so widely different, it shows that the rich seam of talent, native wit and good technical teaching shows across the board, from the tiniest to the oldest. It gives an examiner a real taste of what good teaching means - whether that is the highly complex work which goes into a French or Italian operatic aria, or lieder by Richard Strauss, or the serious drumming in to baby brains how important it is to use the mouth and lips with lots of energy, thus the word of Anna Marie are crystal clear. The good tone which will eventually manifest itself in that operatic aria or Chanson starts with the thought about movement of the mouth at 6 or 7 years old.

Anyhow........everyone worked very hard and did themselves, and me, total justice ! The Advanced Recitalists both gained distinctions, the exact mark is unknown at the moment, but the category was told to us ! R gained an excellent high merit in her Grade 7 which is a tremendous feat, both in performance and in aural ability. Little S and H gained distinctions and high merits between them, and L, who is H's older sister gained a magnificent distinction in her Grade 3 piano. She is a highly intelligent 12 year old and plays with such dexterity and musicianship, and I know is gaining in confidence with every new piece she tackles ! 

Adult S gained a much deserved Distinction in his singing exam, a total beginner three months ago, and now a most accomplished and extremely sensitive young tenor - what an asset he is proving to be ! 

The certificate recitals went beautifully and completely according to plan. H sang with more energy and command than I had ever heard from her in the last term, she sparkled and glittered in her drama and presentation, quite apart from the more energised tone and forward moving programme. Sometimes she can 'sit back' a little and wait for the music to 'come' to her ! On Thursday she took each piece and sang it with total conviction and with great depth of meaning. Some breathing went awol in her massive Bach aria, and a moment of forgetfulness in the Gounod aria were all I could find in the way of nuts and bolts  mistakes, otherwise it was a beautiful recital. N gave a gracefully shaped programme, solid with technical ability from first to last note. Her opening Pergolesi had a nerve wobble in the first half, then settled down and the whole was delivered so beautifully. It is a huge sing for an 18 year old, and I was so proud of her mature and delicious recital.

Clearly the examiner was delighted and went away a happy man ! Well done everyone, what a satisfying day all round !

PS I made an unplanned trip south on Saturday! It was one of the moments which was unexpected and all the more happy because of that serendipity ! I stayed with my son in law, he of the Iolanthe Lord Chancellor, and had a most enjoyable weekend in West Sussex. My daughter S was ragingingly busy with concerts and rehearsals, and was also very fluey and with a dreadful cough, so staying with M was a much safer option. I took C on a Saturday shopping trip and much time was spent scrutinising make up of all varieties, whilst M and W went to Twickenham for the England Australia final rugby autumn international match. You can see from the photo the degree of seriousness which this sort of event invokes !


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Singing exams loom............

Today was an interesting and really successful day of teaching. I love it when things fall into place like the pieces of a tricky jigsaw. Exams loom on Thursday so the intensity which always rears it's head when the day approaches, was almost tangible. The air in the music room is filled with adrenaline and brain concentration. 

All the candidates have moved mountains in the last week. The pressures are just the same for a first timer taking the Initial pre Grade 1 examination as for those two intrepid pupils tackling the Advanced Recital Certificate. The jargon which needs to learnt for the aural tests, or the script which must be followed for announcing items in the recital programme bring different problems, but those problems were largely overcome today, so they relaxed and so did I ! We may all be able to 'enjoy' the moment on Thursday knowing that the preparation is finished and the final performances can shine brightly.

What a variety of music I will be playing. The babes will be singing some evergreen songs including 'Edelweiss', 'Donkey Riding', 'Away in a Manger' and 'Lets go fly a Kite' for starters, and all bar the recitalists will sing a variety of Vaccai Italian exercises ! The Grade 7 songs are just lovely, R will cover all genres from Mozart's Vedrai Carino from Don Giovanni through to Michael Head's 'Foxgloves' via some Wolf and Gilbert and Sullivan. This afternoon all the pieces including the Wolf were rock solid and ready to go ! The advanced recitals sing a lot of repertoire and I will cover that after the exam day when we will know the results. A young man who after only a handful of lessons will wow the examiner with a very accomplished 'Since first I saw your Face' and a rather moving 'Moon River'. S is a complete natural and has almost fallen into singing as if he had done it his entire life ! He is a marvellous find, and a most rewarding pupil. 

My final pupil of the day was K. She has had a run of very bad throats, wheezy chests and busy, busy weeks of work. She is a lovely singer with a real sense of style and performance, but over the last few months has rather lost some confidence, combined with forgetting the physical feeling of singing with a full and open tone. When one has had a lengthy time out it is very much a case of 'use it or lose it' - the muscles forget the feeling, the brain plays mind games with confidence, and the spiral can begin to swirl downwards. Today she regained her old voice and self - lifted her tone into the heavens ( well into her head voice !!) and let her voice and feelings soar. It was a glorious half hour, and we both felt it was a turning point - a turning back to the accomplished and beautiful singer we all know she is !

This evening I received an email with some superb quotes from K, and I post one here for your delectation- I love it, and it makes one realise just how precious every moment of everyday should be.

What a day........


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Bach - Agh !!!

Yesterday was a very good teaching day. One of my ladies, E, is somewhat perturbed because the aria from the Magnificat by Bach - Quia Respexit , is causing her some difficulties! This aria is a glorious three page piece of heaven, incredibly complex, melodically sublime and very very tricky. Any professional singer will tell you that Bach is their 'waterloo'. It takes a great deal of bedding in, and much concentration on the interval leaps. Bach notoriously uses the voice as another instrument of the orchestra, the difference being that unless the singer has perfect pitch we have nothing to press or touch to make the note happen. We pull the notes out of the air, with only our ear to rely upon. This makes the complexity of notes and harmonic changes 20 times more difficult ! .............and dont let any oboeist or violinist tell you otherwise !

After twenty minutes of hard graft and much brain work, E believed me, and accepted that it may take weeks or months before these melodic phrases finally become comfortable and second nature. Well done E, you are doing brilliantly, now you just need to accept it is a long journey !

My Little Sweep girls came and have been working like trojans on their own set of difficulties, and today we have out first rehearsal ! They are still as excited as ever, and I can't wait to hear them altogether. We also had an invitation to perform the opera a third time ar the theatre in Portree - now that was a lovely surprise - and will make the hard work even more worth it !

Today's teaching begins in 15 minutes, so I had better bring this post to a close and wind myself up for the enslaught !

I love this quote !