Friday, 15 March 2013

ABRSM Grade Five and a funeral

Whatever I may say about my life since I discovered singing, one thing is for sure, it is never dull. Even singing at a funeral for the first time last Monday was quite an experience. Caroline sent an urgent plea for a few people to sing at a funeral so Ruth and I were happy to oblige. Gail Morgan was intending to come along as well but was prevented from doing so by some major catastrophe with a back garden marquee! Anyway, the three of us (can just three actually be called a choir?) made a great job of Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus and one other hymn which impressed the organist. Other than that it was a pretty funereal funeral. Very, very dour.

I will jump quickly onto the subject of today’s ABRSM Grade 5 Singing exam. That’s why you’re here after all, right?  Okay, so here’s the background: My accompanist for last year’s Grade 5 exam, Nest Harris was otherwise engaged in Leicester accompanying someone in a Trinity exam I believe. Not my wife, who by a bizarre coincidence was also doing her Grade 4 Trinity exam today, accompanied by Caroline Sharpe Singers’ very own Gail Morgan.

For me, Caroline Sharpe would do the honours, despite some reservations about her own piano playing ability. I think she’s being a bit modest to be honest! So let’s wind it back to Wednesday 13th March at Caroline’s for my last lesson before the exam. One would hope that it would be a matter of simply dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s as it were, but as we went through each song there were some pretty dodgy bits needing urgent surgery. After two false starts with Like to a Linden Tree, I was then getting it perfect until a glowing ember from Caz’s coal fire popped onto the carpet and threatened to set it alight, causing Caroline to abandon piano and leap on said ember, stomping on it until it ceased to glow!

With inferno averted we continued with moderate success and a mid-lesson coughing fit, due in no small part to the smoke from the fire that was proving somewhat temperamental. I left Caroline’s, with the thought that I would be fine on Friday, provided I could relax and just enjoy it. Ahh yes, that old chestnut. Easier said than done as ever. With my sight-reading clearly needing a bit of a boost I decided to skip this Thursday’s LMVC rehearsal (sorry boys!) and try to sight read a few hymns and carols.  Not sure how much benefit I gained in retrospect.

Anyway, Friday came round all too quickly and typically the nerves kicked in as soon as I woke up. But hey, at least I slept okay. As ever, it’s the waiting that ‘does my ‘ead in’.  Ruth was excitedly running through her songs while I just retreated into my nervous shell. Half eleven arrived – eventually and off we went to the exam venue. I arrived attractively covered in dog hairs as the trousers I chose to wear are so charged up with static that they attract Nicky–dog’s hair like a magnet! No matter, it wouldn’t affect my singing.
Ten past twelve arrived and in we went to be greeted by a somewhat jovial chap with a smiley face. I’d already had a tip-off from Caz that my examiner was a nice chap not a grumpy old trout like last year.  Okay, firstly I was to sing Like to a Linden Tree Am I. This was the one newest to me and thus the one I was worried about most. As it happened, I think it went reasonably well but was spoiled by a bit of hesitation in the middle when I suddenly thought I was singing the wrong words but actually wasn’t.  Doh!

Then it was Where e’re You Walk. Keen readers of this blog will remember that I sang this beauty back in November 2011 for my solo debut at Trinity. This time I think I sang it fairly well but again spoiled it with a bit of hesitation in the middle. And at times my breathing was all over the place, grabbing silly and unnecessary breaths at ridiculous times.

My final accompanied piece was On the Street Where You Live, I think the examiner made a witty remark at this point, and I think I tried to make an equally witty response but it’s all a bit of a blur to be honest. Like the first two, I again sang fairly well, but spoiled it with some schoolboy errors, dodgy breathing but maybe I’m being hard on myself. At this point, Caroline had to leave the room for me to sing my unaccompanied folk song which was a pity as she didn't witness what followed. We had chosen Pleasant and Delightful, partly because it is already familiar to me (the third verse at least!) from singing it with the male voice choir, but also because it is a good folk song that might just make the examiner smile a bit.

Now, as you’ll know, I’m not generally one to ‘blow my own trumpet’ so make the most of this – it might not happen again. My rendition of this folk song was bloody marvellous! I’d love to have a video of it to show people as I honestly think it is the best performance of a song I have ever given. The examiner commented, “I presume you’ve done a lot of folk singing, it really suited your voice and you really told the story there!” So rather pleased with that I must say.

Finally, the dreaded aural tests. These went quite well I think though Mr Jolly wasn’t giving much away. I was positive the first piece was Baroque and I then repeated the next piece with some confident lah-lahs! Clapping out the rhythm of the next piece was a bit more tricky, but not far off. Then I had to comment on whether a piece was 2, 3, or 4 time and major and minor key. Groan! I was as confident as I can be that it was major key and I plumped for 2. I joked that I could do with another listen to be sure and amazingly he played it again! Then I could tell it was in fact 4 and said so, but I presume he’ll take my first answer.

Last of all was the sight reading and let’s just say it was a ‘challenge’. I limped through it in shambolic fashion and was aware that what I was singing was nowt like what the piano was producing! On the positive side I think I wasn’t too far off with the rhythm of it. And that was it, but unlike last year the examiner had a brief chat about how long I’ve been singing and how good it was for him to have a more ‘mature’ entrant to listen too.
So now I have a wait of a couple of weeks until the results come out. Rest assured good people, you’ll be the first to know the result.

Cheers for now,

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