Monday, 30 October 2017

A domestic few days away preparing for next week..........Yorkshire Song School !

I just had a lovely, if fleeting visit to Sussex to see the family, and most enjoyable it was too. I flew on the early morning plane to Gatwick after a 3am start, knowing that my grandchildren would be up and ready to go by the time I arrived in Arundel. I of course, would be wilting a little after travelling, but they always give me a boost of energy ! We chilled for an hour or so, then lunched in Chichester before my first experience of an iMax cinema showing ! Thor - Ragnorak was the dish of the day, and I was terrified that stuff was coming right for me before the actual film started. The children were hysterical as I tried to cover my face from the flying letters and pictures hurling themselves at me quite possibly at 100 miles per hour ! It was quite an experience I can tell you. I was in sensory overload the best part of the day !

We had a light supper then watched another movie, during which I fell gently to sleep ! I awoke and was ushered off to bed after my long, long day ! The following morning I still felt as if I was seeing Vikings at war, and flailing hammers but after a good cooked breakfast the children and I transferred to my daughter's car to be whisked off to Chichester for a shopping trip ! Much ready cash later we arrived back at home and then went to view a house which they are trying to buy. A delightful old cottage in Graffham which needs everything doing to it inside but has a wonderfully quirky layout and a huge tract of land with a stream at the bottom of the garden. The cost of houses these days is enough to bring on a heart attack, and I hope they can find a way to do it. Young folk have a very hard time trying to own a home these days.......

I flew back to Inverness on the last flight on Saturday, went shopping to Tesco then drove back to Paradise, arriving around 1am. There were so many deer, large and magnificent stags owning the road and staring me down. It is a magical journey late at night when there is no other traffic, the pines are sparkling with dew or early frost and the moon is on the water. 

I spent Sunday recovering  and preparing for my week to come. Next Saturday I and the ladies are off to Littlebeck near Whitby for a week of singing with my friends from the north of England. I am looking forward to it very much and hoping to hear some fine singing. My lot are ready for the starting gun ! It will be a feast of repertoire and a real treat. So in reality, this last weekend was a lovely song free rest before the game on next week !

K has just sent me this - a picture of things to come ? I hope not ! It is positively terrifying !

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dido and Aeneas begins in earnest......

We had a Dido and Aeneas mini rehearsal today ! My Belinda is M who played Patience in the last show, and she is now away at boarding school so comes home for weekends and half terms which is when she can have a lesson ! I can get my Dido and Aeneas on a Saturday afternoon after they have finished work, so we set to with a will and cracked some of the tricky conversational passages ! 

The style is very far from Gilbert and Sullivan or Britten and it is a big challenge for my young singers. They will do it brilliantly in the end, but a Purcell style is, at first hearing, quite tough to grasp. The recit passages, which are recit and yet are not as they are 'in time' so to speak need some explaining ! Also the text is very tricky, i.e. ' See, upon my spear a monsters head lies bleeding, with tushes more than Venus' huntsman ever tear' !! Now there is a sentence and a half ! My youngsters are utterly fantastic and once these archaic words are translated into modern parlance they take off and sing with a will!

We got halfway through which gave the three principals plenty of work to do, and retired to the living room to discuss such important things as Greek style dresses, colour schemes for 'good' and 'evil', and how unusual this opera is in that evil triumphs.

It is such beautiful music, and when it is soaked in their bones they will love it as much as I do. Such word painting and such wonderfully sad melodies, and the most poignant final chorus....

'With drooping wings ye cupids come, and scatter roses on her tomb. Soft and gentle is her heart. Keep here keep watch and never, never part'


A beautiful rendition of the final chorus, directed by Anna Pope with whom I taught for many years at the JRAM.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

I take my hat off to the lady who worked her socks off !

I have a few new pupils this term and they are now settling down into the routine of lessons and practise. Two of these are a mother and daughter L and C. Mum is an asthma sufferer and this obviously impacts directly upon her breathing. I have taught a number of asthmatics in my life ranging from serious and life threatening brittle asthma to less complicated and intermittent lighter sufferers. Singing can be a real plus for this illness, we aim to combine excellent posture with open and free airways and low abdominal breathing - all of these elements help the asthmatic a good deal.

Last week I taught the first seeds of abdominal, low intake of breath to L hoping that it would be the beginning of her breathing journey. She had real difficulty in even reaching the bottom of a simple scale as her ability to control the air column was very impaired. When we breath too high in the chest we are relying upon all the parts of the airway which are most seriously impacted by asthma - so if one can slow down and lower the intake to the abdomen we almost bypass the tricky area. 

L came back yesterday and I was stunned. She could sing down a scale and have air left at the end, and this never wavered as she sang different vowels and rose in key ! She told me that she had really worked very hard to master this during the week - and clearly she had ! It was a small miracle and we were both delighted and proud of this huge achievement! It is always such a pleasure when something so important falls into place - I generally don't expect it to happen in a week however, so this was a huge milestone for her.

I tell all my pupils that learning to breathe is a 10 year journey, well maybe I am wrong........and perhaps with the added benefit of helping a physical difficulty we can move mountains if we throw everything we have at it !

I told her she claimed the prize for my 'most improved pupil of the week'. Well done that lady I take my hat off to you !

A shorter day today because it is the school half term here in Paradise, so many of the children are on holiday. The adults love their lessons so much ( Ha Ha) they want to carry on through the holiday weeks, which is great since we have much happening this term before we reach Christmas. Wednesday is my last teaching day and it also incorporates Teatime, when the stalwart ladies take an hour out and sit, drink tea, coffee, herbal stuff and even plain hot water, and eat delicious baking by E. it is a lovely part of the week and winds me down gently. Today E is not coming so we may have to make do with the drinks only ! Oh no !

My days off are quite empty this week, which is much appreciated after the last hectic week. I will have to do housework however - how inconsiderate of my young pupil weekly cleaner to be on holiday !! 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Bach is King and other things.......

Another teaching week done, the time just flies by.......and all that we have to accomplish in the next 8 weeks seems like Ben Nevis. I know, however, that it will come and it will happen, and life will go on.

Lots of folk, young and not so young have been laid low with bad throats and aches and pains, this time of year is very hard, I think it is the change of weather and air pressure or maybe the winter is a cumen in  rather than Summer is a cumen in!! The weather has been wild, windy and wet so even going from house to car was a wet experience.

There is some great repertoire happening for those with voices including the magnificent Buss und Reu from the Matthew Passion by Bach. N is going to use this for one of her audition pieces. At the RAM one must sing an aria with recitative and this covers all the bases. She adores it, it shows a very solid and excellent technique, and is an aria and recit ! Good audition material is vital - it must show all your strengths and none of your weaknesses, must be well known so one can almost go on to auto pilot when the nerves kick in, and must be very varied. I have always had something of a talent for picking audition rep - I can't bake or play tennis but I can choose a programme to make the panel sit up a bit. Fingers crossed for this year's candidate !

Today it was a disaster of bad throats and pale faces until S came along at 4pm and bounced into the music room like a Labrador puppy ! It was a breath of fresh air which was such a vocal lift after all the illness! S is a very talented 'tiny' she sings full pelt but never shouting, and with the most monumental enthusiasm. She is taking her Initial Singing Exam in November and I feel sure she will uplift any examiner who has a heart and half a brain ! 

L is taking her Grade 4 piano this term  as well and she was also fit and well for her lesson, and having done a good deal of practise I think we are very close to being over the 'wall' so to speak ! She has a real facility for the piano and if we can do better at the aural tests I think she should do very well.

I am pretty full diary wise over my free days, but all nice things - coffee, dinner and an Indian meal, a day shopping in Inverness and maybe more ( that I can't remember as I write).  Anyhow I am looking forward to my time off and have written my shopping list for Saturday !

Well done everyone this week, and to those who are not 100% - get better !

A domestic few days away preparing for next week..........Yorkshire Song School !

I just had a lovely, if fleeting visit to Sussex to see the family, and most enjoyable it was too. I flew on the early morning plane to Gatw...