The year that was. Because I forgot to write about it in the year that was.

Hildegard_von_BingenIt’s been a while – yes alright 10 months! – since my last post. I’m not even going to apologise. Really, what could I say – the dog ate my blog posts?

I’ve done lots of singing, mostly of the church/sacred variety, both in groups and solo. I won’t bore you with all the details but will pick out a selection of highlights.

10th Century plainchant

The most interesting item I sang was O Ignis Spiritus by Hildegard von Bingen, a very interesting and gifted 10th century abbess. I was initially asked to sing all 10 stanzas myself, but after having a look at it, I realised it was going to be no easy task to learn (I already had a good load for that concert) and so the concert organiser suggested we rope in another of the soloists to share the burden. Some time on from that, I realised that that if we added in yet another voice we could do 3 stanzas each and then sing the final one together. That way there would be different voice timbres to create a little variety. And y’all thought I was just being lazy didn’t you? Shame on you!

Some Caccini. Or was it?

The solo item I sang in that same concert was the ‘Caccini’ Ave Maria. I wrote Caccini in the written equivalent of those air quotes you make with your fingers – think Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movies and his “sophisticated heat beam which we called a “laser.” “.. ..and where was I?……oh right, so it really wasn’t written by Caccini at all, as anyone with any knowledge of his music could have instantly told you on hearing it, but was erroneously attributed to him. Which is rather ironic given his history. In essence it’s quite trite, but it’s full of those typical Baroque falling fifths which makes the audience feel a bit soppy when they hear them without knowing why (unless they know about these things in which case they will roll their eyes while feeling soppy). It’s an easy sing with a nice soaring bit that makes you sound amazing. Which is rather useful if, like me, you aren’t actually amazing.

Headlights and Eyebrows

Two concerts in December gave me something of a breakthrough in terms of sound production. Many years ago I was singing in a choir where the conductor talked about needing to ‘turn on your headlights’ meaning keep your cheekbones up. And you thought it meant something else entirely didn’t you, you naughty people! Oh…that was just me? Ahem. Moving right along. I had forgotten about headlights until a singing friend – Hi Michelle! – reminded me about it, and also added in keeping the eyebrows up, the two together creating changes in the palate and facial musculature which allow the sound to brighten as well come out more easily in higher registers. In the first concert I had to sing the Benedictus duet in Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio which near the end has a lovely soaring line up to a top C. I nailed it, headlights beaming. The second concert I sang Handel’s ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’ and my fellow singers said they could hear an immediate brightening in the sound when I turned my headlights on.

The year ended with another rendition of the New Zealand National anthem at a rodeo, this time in Te Anau. Unlike a number of the cowboys, I didn’t require the ministrations of the St John’s medics afterwards.

Right you can have a bit of breather now while I start on the next post – stop the snickering, it won’t take a year this time!

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ShowerIt’s local singing competition time again. I’m sure it’s only been 6 months since the last one. I’m pleased to say that I’m a little better prepared than last time, thanks to the constant prodding of my lovely teacher. Oh except for the ‘own selection’ for the Scholarship section, which we dithered over for various reasons and then I chose an aria I’ve never even heard before, let alone sung. And promptly went on holiday, as you do when you have a new aria to learn and not a lot of time left to learn it.

So here’s the rep list:

  • French Art Song: Les Chemins de l’Amour (Poulenc)
  • British Art Song: Song of Shadows (Richard Rodney Bennett)
  • Lieder: Neue Liebe (Mendelssohn)
  • Oratorio: Cujus animam gementem (Pergolesi)
  • Duet: Domine (Mozart)
  • Operatic Aria: Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen
  • Scholarship: Test – Bist du bei mir (Bach), own selection – Fair Robin I Love (Mechem)
  • Comic/Light Operatic: I want to sing in opera (David & Arthurs)

There’s a fair bit of singing in that lot. As I’ve mentioned before I make use of the shower to learn rep in other languages. But here’s what I’d really like in order  to make the shower into a music study:  A shower with a wall which encloses a large touch screen linked to some device on which all my scores are loaded, so I can turn the pages (a giant iPad if you will) and this screen is also linked to a piano accompaniment which I can sing to. Ok I just read that back and really all I’m asking to do is karaoke in the shower. How hard could it be to design something like that? If someone out there knows how to do it, I’ll patent it and then off you go, give me 25% of the profit and the first shower off the production line and we’ll call it quits.

Remember in my last blog post I talked about the little man who lives in my brain? I came across this great video of the gorgeous Joyce di Donato talking about her inner critic. I nearly put my neck out nodding away.