Saturday, 24 December 2016

Shocks all round - but we did it !

It was rather a frazzled foursome who set off to drive through the night last weekend ! Our flight had been cancelled due to fog and we only found this out at 5.30pm on Saturday evening. What a shock to the aging system - I speak only for myself, not the younger travellers amongst us ! So feeling like the Famous Five, minus the dog Timmy,  we left at 7.30pm and embarked on our mammoth drive to Tilbury. After playing musical drivers for about 15 hours we finally arrived, jaded but very happy to have made it through all adversity!

We boarded the ship and our short European break had begun ! Amsterdam was lovely, sunny, crisp and with blue skies which proved excellent for photographs. We went in a cab to the flower market which always delights, and then to a magnificent cheese shop which had us drooling, and tasting every possible flavour of excellent Dutch cheese. Sparkling wine cheese, pesto and garlic, chilli and green herb, and possibly chocolate, I can't remember ! A restorative coffee was needed after that then a walk ( yes, I said walk !) back to the ship which the tour director K confidently informed us was a wee hop and skip.........45 mins later yours truly and her dicky hip was muttering and grumbling under her breath, and very glad to arrive on the Magellan in need by this point of a strong gin and tonic !

Bruges was its beautiful and wondrous self, the architecture never fails to please however many times I visit, and we added in the excitement of a horse and carriage trip. This was such a fun way to see the city, if a little chilly, but our staunch and high stepping steed, Faber, took us around the city whilst some of my companions decided to make a few 'royal waves' ! It was clearly a case of delusions of grandeur, and J and I grinned and bore it ! 

Our return was uneventful and the sea behaved the whole time we were on board, a smooth and gentle sail, so nobody felt ill, even novice cruiser EL managed the trip with only a couple of tipsy topsy moments ! Well done that woman !

After disembarking the ship we collected the car and drove first to Gatwick so J could catch the flight home, and I could catch (ha ha) a Southern Rail train to Petworth. I did eventually manage to get one after about six cancellations, and all before 10.35am ! Poor poor commuters to be so held to ransom, but that is another post !

Brave K and EL set off on the mammoth drive home, about which as yet I know little, but they manfully cracked on and after a diversionary stop at IKEA in Glasgow, arrived home early in the morning. Thank you ladies for doing that looong drive, we could not have gone on the cruise had you not been willing to drive home.

After the night drive - tired but still standing, well almost !

I stayed at petworth and had a really wonderful birthday, full of magnificent presents, a giant sized Christmas dinner, as requested, the cinema and the new Star Wars movie and a traditional rack of ribs at the Chichester Harvester ! It was wonderful to be with family and in a totally music free atmosphere. Thus absolutely nothing musical to report at all.........

Now for the rest of the holiday, and my new sofas......sighs deeply.

Our trusty steed Faber

PS I am sitting writing this at Inverness Airport, waiting for a suitable time to taxi to the bus station for the last leg of my journey home ! Having worried that Storm Barbara would put paid to my flight, it did leave Gatwick, late as ever. The winds approaching Inverness were pretty strong so turbulence was about 20 times stronger than usual. The pilot brought us safely in so now I only need to make the final section of the mammoth journey of the week..........


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Gendarme Duet ........

Now I really feel as if my term is over ! Young J, who only comes once every two or three weeks came to day for his final lesson of the term. This young boy alto is making huge and impressive leaps in his singing. He is 12 and his voice seems to be sliding into tenor like a spoon of vocal syrup. Of course, unbroken voices are organic beasts and tomorrow it may plummet south of Bryan Terfel in a minute, but in my experience a sliding voice moves quite gently and gradually with a final leap over the cliff into tenor. Generally a baritone or bass voice breaks much more aggressively with no grey sliding areas, the tenor voices I have taught through man and boy, have not had nearly so obvious a change.

J has a very wide range at the moment - he can sing an F below middle C and a top B ......almost top C even. It is a waiting game to see how the slide manoeuvres itself in the years ahead, but today he was a very happy boy ! I gave he and adult S 'The Gendarme Duet' by Offenbach and both of them having had the score for over a week, I knew that they would get together today and it would show early sparkle ! I was quite right, and they had put in the practise so, although a little rough at the edges, the skeleton of an hilarious performance shone through !

I suspect that young J is very keen to sing with a grown up. He is a very motivated and intelligent young man, so working with grown ups poses no problems, indeed he relates to older folk extremely well, so there was a super sense of team work and mutual respect between the two chaps.

It will 'be a riot' at the next concert, and a refreshing new partnership in the long line of Gendarmers of the past 35 years teaching ! They looked as if they were having a ball, and I know I was ! It is significant of his and his parents commitment that they drive a 200 mile round trip for his lesson. Reminiscent of the long treks the Junior Academy students made each week to London. 

That's it - I'm done ! 

Little and this space !


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 !