Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Morning After

Competitions are done and dusted for another year. I got into the car after prize-giving and realised I could actually put something in the CD player that wasn't a competition piece!* This will be a long post as I go through the classes, as much for me to reflect on as for you to read. Grab yourselves a cuppa and a bikkie and get comfortable. 

It was as always, a mixture of ups and downs, of learning and stumbling and conquering. Friday night started with Operatic Aria (Batti, batti). The first one's always the hardest, at least according to my shaky knees. The piano for various reasons was not situated in the best place for the accompanists to be able to hear the singers and unfortunately this proved problematic for me and my lovely accompanist at the tempo change which was a  bit unnerving until we got back in sync a couple of bars later. All in all I gave a safe performance  but not a very characterful one, so only 3rd out of three. The winner was a 4th year Honours performance student from Dunedin so a cut above me technically. That's not me making excuses by the way - I'm going to write of my performances in relation to my own standard.

Next up was British Art Song, the beautiful King David. It was my first time entering this class. I concentrated on telling the story and having a smooth line and I think my teacher - who unfortunately was out of town this weekend - would have been pleased with the climactic phrase which she had been urging me to make more of. I had some more timing issues but nothing too terrible  and from an audience point of view, not neccesarily obvious. The Dunedin singer sang Danny Boy beautifully. The adjudicator said when reading the results for this class "This singer sang a song I love and sang it so beautifully I nearly cried". I leaned over to one of my singing friends and whispered "That's her (meaning Dunedin singer) for first then". And then the adjudicator said 'First place to Christine McLeod" and my jaw nearly hit the floor! So that was a very nice moment for me.

Next morning was a very early start - FB friends will have seen my grumbles about being asked to sing Oratorio at 9am in the morning! Fortunately I had French Art (Mandoline - Faure) to warm me into it. I was, sadly, the only entrant in that class. It amazes me that so few people down here sing French Art songs, there are so many to-die for pieces. Anyway, I got first and the adjudicator pointed out that she was not at all obliged to give a first, or second or third for that matter. but that I deserved first. I think I sang it reasonably well although I fluffed a couple of words which annoyed me. Next Oratorio, With Verdure Clad. This one took a LOT of work for me and I still feel I've got a long way to go with it. However I actually felt quite good during the performance and finally did as my teacher tried to get me to do, and 'went operatic' at the high arching phrases. Isn't in amazing (<--- sarcasm) how it's so much easier when you do what your teacher tells you? End result, a second, which I was very happy with.

Next up Lieder, Schubert's 'Nacht und Traume.' Only 2 pages but oh what 2 pages they are. I seriously would have liked an extra pair of lungs for the loooooong phrases. Was reasonably happy with the way I sang it and got a 3rd.

Then the big one, the Scholarship class. I thought I might have had a good shot at it this year, but after hearing the Dunedin singer, I knew it was unlikely. So I decided to forget about trying to win and just get out there and have fun. I wore my 'singing dress' as I wanted something that I could make look a bit girly and flirty for my contrasting piece (Les Filles de Cadix). Firstly the test piece, Spring Goeth All in White. It went well although I could have put more contrast into it. Then Les Filles. As I have mentioned before, I tend to be a bit of a statue (apart from the old shaky knees) when I sing, so I decided I was going to really move and act out the part. And I did!! And as I sang I could see the audience smiling as they got the characterisation. There were moments in the singing where things definitely weren't perfect but I reckon I did a pretty good job of it overall. And when I popped out the top C# at the end, frankly I didn't care about the competition, I just was just mentally going "Woooo!" So no win, but definately satisfaction that I had made some progress with my singing. 

So a good weekend, meeting old friends, hearing voices developing, hearing new music (Andres Maienlied!), and winning a pretty cup. And best of all? My voice survived without going all husky. 

*For enquiring minds, I started with 'Ca' the Yowes' from Dougie Macleans' 'Tribute' CD

Monday, 3 September 2012

Keep calm and....panic!

So, a little update on progress with my competition pieces. This assumes of course, that I have actually made progress. Some days it's a case of 3 steps forward, 2 backwards. And if I'm honest, sometimes it's 3 forwards and 4 backwards. At least that's what it feels like. Updates in red:

  • Own Selection - not yet decided a.k.a. 'what can I dredge up from the past and polish up quickly.' I have a two-page baroque piece (but new!) that might do the trick. Decision to be made this week.
  • French Art Song - Mandoline (Faure) - completely new. Still a lot of work to do, but starting to get a feel for it. 
  • British Art Song - King David (Howells) - at performance level. Refining.
  • Oratorio - With Verdure Clad (Haydn) - well on the way. Almost there. Feeling a lot more comfortable with it. 
  • Lieder - Nacht und Traume (Schubert) - prepared last year, but not sung. Pretty good, but need to get it fully from memory.
  • Operatic Aria - Batti, batti o bel Masetto (Mozart) - completely new. Getting to grips with it but still a lot of work to do.
  • Scholarship - Spring Goeth All in White (Caskie) - test piece, completely new, don't even have the music yet now I have the music and it is straightforward, so lots of emphasis on accuracy of time and dynamic markings and Les Filles de Cadix (Delibes) - contrasting piece, slowly getting there. Need to start letting myself go and let it trip off my tongue, not to mention learn the second verse from memory.
So here we are, less than four weeks to go. Looking at that list I'm am vascillating between 'there is no. way. in. hell. I am going to get all that up to performance standard in the time left' and 'sleep is over-rated anyway'. Procrastination is a terrible thing isn't it? (I'm looking at you, Sarah-in-Yepoon). There's always an excuse to put off practice - the evil Facebook full of kittens doing cute things and killer quotes that have to be shared, food to be eaten (which in turn renders us incapable of singing due to a stomach so full we can't inflate our lungs - oh, is that just me?) and, inexplicably, housework that suddenly becomes a great attraction "Look at that great pile of washing that needs to be folded and put away, I have ignored it for a week but it simply has to be done right now".

And then I think back to last year, pre-Competition, and the words 'Groundhog Day' spring to mind. You'd think I'd learn, eh? I've tried to do some headology (that's psychoanalysis for plebs) on this trait of mine and all I can come up with is that I'm afraid that even if I do 6 bajillion-kadillion* hours of practice, I won't actually get any better - evidence to the contrary - and so I avoid failure by not actually doing anything. So this really is more than you wanted to know about the inside of my head. Feel free to tell me about the inside of your head in relation to singing practice. I might just learn something. 

* This is a bona-fide measurement of quantity. My 8 year old says so.