Monday, 21 November 2011

Work those flabs!

It’s been an interesting week, full of birthdays (my Mum, Dad and I all have birthdays within one week of each other), singing opportunities and another session with the voice therapist.

The therapy session was intense and I felt quite wrung-out by the end of it. Lots more breathing and focusing on the muscles involved. I discovered that I am a tactile person when it comes to understanding these things – I need to actually feel what is happening – and so I spent time with my hand placed on various parts of my therapist’s mid-section, trying not to be depressed that she has abs and I have flabs!  We discussed the fact that we girls tend not to breathe freely because we are too busy holding our tummies in. All I can say is that if anyone is standing at right-angles to me when I’m letting it all hang out it they may find themselves thinking about having jelly or blancmange for dessert that evening. NB: I have never eaten blancmange, but I’ve always wanted to use it in a sentence. Excellent, another item crossed off the bucket list.

The evening after my session I was in charge of the programme for the Music Circle of the local Womens Club to which I belong (and which my brother-in-law somewhat unkindly but, it must be admitted, truthfully calls the ‘Grey Hair & Glasses Society’. Actually ten years ago it would have been more accurate to say ‘Wisteria Rinse & Glasses Society’, but I digress). As well as organising the programme of items, I was also performing a duet, an arrangement of Silent Night.

After work, I had a quick run-through. And discovered that instead of being all lovely and free after my therapy session, my voice had….gone into hiding. I could barely reach an F5. I walked into the kitchen and my other half, for whom classical music is something other people listen to while he listens to Glen Campbell, said “You wouldn’t have been happy with that”. Well that ratcheted up the stress-levels to a bicycle-clip factor of 8.5 in a heartbeat. What to do? I contemplated not doing it at all and then decided that with a combination of steaming, gentle warm-up exercises and a real focus on getting the sound forward, I could manage. And thankfully, I did. It certainly wasn’t as good as it should have been, but neither was it a disaster and fortunately the middle and lower register filled out nicely and blended well with my singing partner.  I emailed my therapist the next day to tell her what had happened and we both agreed that it was probably a combination of a long day, intense concentration during our session and the stress of organising the programme.

I sang again on Friday at a function, this time all was well. A rendition of Flanders & Swan’s ‘A Word on my Ear’ which is always great fun. Although it’s surprisingly difficult to sing off-key deliberately!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Beautiful Baroque



I think we all have a era of classical music that appeals to us the most. One where, if we were stuck on that Desert Island of radio fame, and were told that we could choose only music from one era, this would be what would choose.

For me? Baroque all the way baby. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi - quite apart from the quality  of those three, there's thousands of MP3 files right there without even thinking about other Baroque composers. Right from a young age I gravitated to the Baroque composers - both in instrumental music and in vocal. What would Christmas be without Messiah? (And my consequent discovery of Emma Kirby. Sshhhh, don't tell my singing teacher).

Of all the works I studied at High School, what do I remember - and can pretty much sing all arias and choruses of without a score still? Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Which incidentally will stand me in good stead when the choir I belong to, A Capella Singers  performs it next year.It wasn't until recently that I discovered the delights of the Arie Antiche, mostly thanks to the CD of the same name by Cecilia Bartoli. Love her or hate her, she certainly immerses herself in the arias. Deceptively simple they are. (Sorry, channeling Yoda there). My favourite? It changes from week to week. Right now it's Vivaldi's 'Sposa son disprezzata' If I could do that last trill as softly as she does at that pitch I would be a very happy soprano.