Sunday, 24 November 2013

Caroline Sharpe Pupil Concert - 2013

Oh my word. Where do I start this time? There's so much to talk about since my last post I couldn't possibly cover it all now. There's the LMVC trip to Merthyr Tydfil, which Ruth was hoping to cover for y'all, but 'life' threw the proverbial spanner in the works to scupper that idea. Then there was an LMVC concert that I couldn't actually make, so nothing to add on that one. But there was then a small matter of the Leicester Festival performances, a concert at Kegworth Methodist Church by Enchanted and Friends and latterly a return for the LMVC to the Christmas Tree Festival at All Saints Parish Church.

I will maybe do a retrospective blog shortly, catching up with all those, but for now I will concentrate purely on last night - the 2013 Caroline Sharpe Pupil Concert, because it deserves it. Maybe it was the circumstances; the deluge of crap dumped on Chateau Knightthorpe in recent months; Ruth's continuing battle against the debilitating effects of chronic fatigue; the abysmally timed and unwelcome arrival of cold/flu viruses striking Amy and I at just the wrong time. The odds were stacked against all of us getting through it, but as the saying goes, the show must go on and it damn well did.

This was to be my third such pupil concert. Regular readers will no doubt recall tales of my mental torture just getting up to sing Where e'er You Walk at all in 2011. Last year's rendition of Bring Him Home was pretty torturous too, but a vast improvement on the debut. Almost immediately after that performance Caroline said "next year, you are going to sing a 'proper' song, with 'proper' singing." The 'proper' song in question was soon earmarked as Schumann's Dichterleibe Opus 48: Ich Grolle Nicht. Now this is a song that would sound utterly pathetic if I persisted in singing, in Caroline's words 'like a girl'. Time then Al, to man up and let loose the beast!

Okay, Schumann it is then. We dipped into the song at intervals during the 12 months but it wasn't until fairly late that we decided definitely to go with it. The big problem was the penultimate line which includes a top 'A', which is pretty much the top of my range. I do believe I've hit a B flat in a lesson or two but they've been pretty ugly. With practice and I hasten to add a few verbal clips around the ear from Caroline, I was managing the 'A' but the voice tightened up and remained tight for the last line, leaving the end sounding like a strangled cat! 

Breathing my friends, that is so often the key in this singing lark. Take a huge great breath before the top A line and more importantly, straight after it to enable the voice to open up again for the last line. Easy? With that sorted out in my mind, confidence in the song soared sufficiently for me to actually approach the performance with yes, actual confidence. That was until Tuesday 19th when the cold virus tapped me on the shoulder and said 'GOTCHA'! Not now, please not now? Hey-ho, all I could do was to rest the vocal chords as much as possible and just cross my fingers. 

Rehearsal went very well, top 'A' was nailed, but I knew that my voice was delicate and had no idea what state it would be in come 9 pm. So, alas my contributions to the Caroline Sharpe Singers numbers (more on them later) were minimal, well non-existent in the case of Masquerade. Sorry folks, but needs must, and Caroline did agree that it was the best thing to do. So, the very last solo performer of the night was 'yours truly'. As Ruth pointed out afterwards, another personal landmark was achieved in that I actually spoke in front of lots of people, for the first time in decades. As I was singing a German song I had to briefly announce it and give a hint as to what it was about. Okay, it was indeed brief - very, but it was something at least.

There is something scary about getting up on a stage and singing at the best of times, but when you have no idea if your vocal chords are actually going to cooperate and produce any sort of acceptable noise at all, is scarier still. Thankfully, there was enough there to do a decent job. It started a bit tentatively but got better and hit the 'A' again with relative ease. Phew! Anna thought my 'angry' performance fitted in well with the unrequited love theme of the song. To be honest, the anger came from my frustration at the virus and a determination to overcome it. Other feedback suggests that for once I didn't look like a rabbit caught in the headlights. And Caroline was pleased that I sang like a man and said "more of that please".

So that's me, but this was a triumphant night for so many and also came with a bit of pain thrown in as well. As is usual for these pupil concerts it was a pretty big programme, kicking off with Be Our Guest, starring the male voice choir's Chairman, Chris Higgins and Vanessa as soloists. With the rest of Caroline Sharpe Singers assembled on stage, Chris delivered his spoken intro while strolling up the aisle, timing it perfectly to arrive onstage for the singing bit. Brilliant! The chaps in the choir are still struggling with this one, but it went fairly well and the audience clearly enjoyed it. 

Then it was the job of Katie Muller to start the solo spots with Home. Not easy being first on, but Katie sang beautifully! Then we had a section of  'songs from the shows' with a duet of I know Him So Well by Jean and Wendy. After a 'difficult' rehearsal, they got it together on the night. Lynn then superbly sang  Til There Was You,  overcoming a few nerves in the process and was followed by Gail Morgan who confidently sang I Could've Danced and despite her reservations got those high notes. That slot was wrapped up by Kate Foster with Wouldn't it be Lovely which was great. Well done girls!

Anna-Ruth and Caroline Jones came next, not a duet but singing two English songs. With maybe a hint of bias, Anna's was again I think the classiest performance of the night. Flawless, composed and delivered My Heart is Like a Singing Bird with a style most of us can only dream of. Awesome. Caz Jones sang the extraordinary piece The Enchantress by Hatton which demanding a great deal from Caz, also required an impressive performance by accompanist Chris Hill, who I think needed a lie-down afterwards!

Opera next and some fabulous performances from Honor, Liz, Olivia and Holly singing some, Mozart, Gluck, Mozart and Gounod respectively. Very impressive stuff from all these gals I thought, and felt a bit sorry for Jana who had to follow them. She was to sing a completely contrasting song by The Carpenters, On Top of the World. Then the first half was wrapped up by Enchanted and Chatanooga Choo Choo.

With phlegm accumulating at a worryingly rapid rate I avoided anything but water at the break and before I knew it CSS were back on stage for the Part 2 opener Masquerade complete with masks. This move necessitated removal of my glasses, which was no handicap, particularly as we were singing without copies and I wasn't going to sing it anyway! It went well though and I think the audience loved the masks!

Alice followed that with a nice piece called You Must Love Me and was followed by Folk songs from Jean and Amy. Poor Amy! Like me, she was feeling a bit rough and struggled in rehearsal, but on the night, despite her reservations was singing beautifully up until the point when the nausea that was lurking got the better of her. Exit Stage left was the best option and she took it. What a shame, but such are the hazards of live performance.

More English songs next - Wendy sang Gibbons' The Silver Swan followed by Liz and Vic dueting Sound the Trumpet. The later pair delivered with humour when things went a little awry, but no-one cared. More fab musical theatre followed from Jane, Katie Cooper and Vanessa, with some nerves conquered triumphantly! Some Les Mis followed from Harriet with Castle on a Cloud and Stars from the FIRST male soloist of the night, Paul Widdowson. I find it hard to believe that only two of Caroline's pupils are male!?! Or perhaps it's just that only two of them are prepared to try a solo? Whatever, Caz definitely needs some more male pupils and perhaps some guys in the LMVC could benefit from some Caroline's wisdom? Come on guys, you know you want to!

So to wrap up the evening's pupil performances was a section of German songs, reduced to just two after Rose had succumbed to the lurgy. Michelle and Ruth sang their Schumann duet Mailied. Now, I have obviously heard this countless times but this was far and away the best they have ever sung it. Well done ladies. Then, last but by no means least was li'l ol' me with Ich Grolle Nicht, leaving Enchanted accompanied by Chris Hill and his impressive organ  ;-) to draw the curtain on proceedings with the stunning Hallelujah.

What a fabulous night again. So many triumphs, so many demons overcome and another happy audience. Everyone without exception did amazingly well and that is thanks to one person in particular. I won't mention her name again as she will start to get big-headed. Many thanks anyway!

What will the next twelve months bring?

Cheers, Alyn.

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