Getting stuck in

Yes, I am still alive. And singing. There was a bit of a lull once Christmas arrived and the country went on summer holiday, and I allowed myself to be lazy and not practice properly. But now we are back into it, indeed we are. I’m talking like the Queen. I shall revert to first-person so you don’t have to curtsy while you read this.

I already have several performances lined up for the first half of the year. First up is a Concert South concert on 17 March. You may remember the Concert South concert I was preparing for at about the same time last year and my dalliances with metaphorical rose bushes. There’s still a thorn or two lurking to catch me this time too, but my bicycle doesn’t wobble as much when it spies a top C or in this case a top C#. I have been asked to sing Les Filles de Cadix as well as be part of a trio for two songs – Lift Thine Eyes from Elijah and Handel’s Where E’er You Walk. I’m doing the middle part for the Handel and I’m having to concentrate mightily to fight off the tendency to sing the tune. I also get to repeat Les Filles at Womens Club about 10 days later.

Hard on the heels of that is Easter and a full programme of music starting with a service on Holy Thursday evening and finishing with Easter Vespers on the Sunday afternoon. I’ve got some nice solos amongst all of that including the Mozart Ora Pro Nobis.

On April 28th as part of the Southland Arts Festival, A Capella Singers is doing a programme of Rutter music with the main work being his Magnificat. It’s a very approachable work but, dare I say it, could do with a little editing here and there. Is that heresy? If this blog post stops abruptly at some later point, with little whisps of black smoke curling up from the last few words, you can assume I have been smote. Or should that be smitten? Either way it ended badly. 

But despite this potentially terrible fate awaiting me, I shall bravely soldier on. The work calls for a soprano soloist and our director decided that she would divvy up the three solo bits amongst choir members. We were asked to audition, preparing one of the three solos. I worked on the Misericordiae, which is the hardest of the 3 (for me anyway) but, fortunately as it turns out, also had a look over Esurientes. I turned up for my audition and the director said “Right let’s do Esurientes!” I got through alright – it’s a piece that lies nicely and suits my voice. The director apparently agrees with me as that’s what I have been given.

And finally in June there are two concerts with a mixture of choir work and solos. So plenty to work on, and I’m right into singing lessons again picking up new repertoire. I’m doing a gorgeously lush-almost-to-the-point-of-corny French song Les Chemins de l’Amour by Poulenc. Listen to this version by Veronique Gens. This is very different from the Poulenc I know! 

I’m also learning one of Richard Rodney Bennett’s ‘Dream Songs’ – The Song of Shadows, a lovely atmospheric piece.

I had a session with the voice therapist yesterday, which prompted some interesting thoughts as I drove home. But that’s for another blog post.

Once a Day and Twice on Sundays.

I sing with the small choir at St Mary’s Basilica in Invercargill, usually every second Sunday. So far, I don’t think they have figured out that they have a cuckoo in the nest, me being a Baptist-raised agnostic, although my ingrained version of the Lord’s Prayer complete with thou’s and trespasses might have tipped them off. Anyway, it is a musical education for me, as I learn all the setting of the Glorias, Amens etc. Every so often I get thrown into the Cantor role, where I have to concentrate very hard. It’s a whole different style of singing and at the moment I still tend to sing it as a song rather than as musical speech. But I’m slowly getting there.
The other great thing about singing with this choir (I use the term choir relatively loosely given that on a good day we have one bass, two tenors, two altos and two sopranos) is that there is often solo work to do – an aria from Messiah, the Vicar of Dibley version of The Lord is My Shepherd and so on. We sit up in the choir stalls so are hidden from the view of all but the Priest and any parishioners who dare to risk putting a neck vertebra out of alignment to have a look. That means the focus is on the music and not the person singing which is much more relaxing. The acoustics are great too.
Easter in the Catholic Church is A Big Deal. From Holy Thursday we sang every day and twice on Sunday. I love that we get to sing plainchant and music that has endured for centuries in the same form. It’s amazing to think that the notes we sing are the very same as would have been sung by someone in the 12th century. I had quite a bit to do, including Cantor work and two Mozart arias – the Laudate Dominum and the Ora Pro Nobis from Regina Coeli K128. It was the first time I’d sung the Ora Pro Nobis and it appears that it was the first time anyone there had heard it which is a shame because it is the most gorgeous piece of music. The choir also discovered a new talent we hope to retain, Joy Kerr, who sang a marvellous rendition of ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ 
By Sunday evening I was well and truly sung out and the medicinal application of chocolate and wine was a necessity. And now it is full steam ahead with Dido, reminding myself that I don’t have to rush the phrases, that Purcell was very fond of word-painting and I can use that to colour the notes.