Thursday, 6 September 2018

Trinity Grade 6 Singing exam and the result!

As I lie here in my sick bed feeling a tad sorry for myself, I thought that I would put my spare time to some useful purpose by catching up with this humble blog. So much has happened since I last put finger to keyboard. There's been the 11th Caroline Sharpe Pupils concert, a myriad weddings at Prestwold, a couple of bizarre gigs and a small matter of a singing exam. Let's start with the latter shall we?
It was a full five years since I did my ABRSM Grade 5 singing exam and since then, life has conspired to distract me from the next goal - Grade 6. Trinity was deemed to be a better option this time as it requires less emphasis on music theory. Admittedly, motivation for further exams fell away somewhat as I rather lost  my singing 'mojo' for a while. That didn't stop Caroline from asking me when I was going to try my Grade 6 at regular intervals. Embarrassingly, it got to the point where Caroline just got fed up of waiting for me to commit, and just booked it! "You're doing it on Saturday 23rd June at 16.45pm" came the message. Okay, right, so that leaves me with a month or so to brush up on All I Care About (Cabaret); Ombra Mai Fu (Handel); Die Forelle (Schubert); The Wanderer (Haydn) plus the Vaccai, a tricky little vocal exercise.
The first two of the pieces I already knew fairly well from a while ago and I had almost learnt Die Forelle for the aforementioned Pupil concert, so this left me with the Vaccai and The Wanderer to try and drum into my brain. Needless to say, despite my best intentions, the intense practice sessions never quite happened and I approached the exam not really knowing three of the pieces well enough to confidently 'perform' them in the exam.
You see, the thing about me is, as Caroline will testify, I can only ever make a stab at actually performing a song if I am one hundred percent confident that I know the words off by heart. Then and only then will I ever relax enough to perform it and SING LIKE A MAN! Fortunately or unfortunately, Caroline admitted during one lesson that unlike with ABRSM, one could in fact sing with copies for Trinity exam. Even with a week to go, I felt determined to not use music and just try my best to learn the damn pieces, but at least the realisation that I could use music if I needed to did reduce the inevitable panic.
The truly marvellous Nest Harris was volunteered to be my accompanist and we had a pre-exam run through a few days beforehand. This went okay-ish but highlighted how much work was needed to get the words into my brain and make them stay there. And Nest, bless her, wasn't enjoying the 'twiddly bits' in Die Forelle one bit. Even Chris Hill admitted to me that he had dodged a bullet in not accompanying me for that piece at the pupil concert, so tricky are those 'diddly, diddly, dum, dum' bits, if you know the bits I mean. Any road, it'll be alright on the night as they say. Hopefully?
Exam day arrived way too quickly for my liking and I knew in my heart of hearts that there was simply no way on God's earth that I was going to remember The Wanderer at all or get the verses of Die Forelle right either. So sod it, I made the decision to use copies. Yes, I know, but I was determined to try and actually sing properly LIKE A MAN as Caroline keeps yelling at me, rather than yet again, being all hesitant and singing like a girlie (no offence ladies!)
So decision made and time to relax. Oh dear! On arrival at the exam venue (Catholic Martyrs School, Anstey Lane, Leicester) the lady at the desk told me that my pianist (Nest) had been in but had gone out, perhaps to her car. So Ruth and I waited. And waited. 'Kick off' was rapidly approaching and the lady suggested we go find Nest so we could maybe have a warm up. No sign of Nest in the car park or anywhere. Exam lady then started to get increasingly stressed and worried, thus transferring her stress on to me. 16.45pm came and passed and I was switched by Ms Stress-head to the last slot of the day and warned that the examiner couldn't stay any longer as she needed to catch a train! Hilariously the poor woman, now on the verge of spontaneous combustion then asked me if I had any recording on my phone to use as accompaniment! "Well" I said, "I've got a recording of Die Forelle, but it will mean singing a duet with Ian Bostridge!!!
I did say that if Nest doesn't reappear I would just have to rearrange another exam date. "I'm so sorry" says the lady, "this must be very stressful for you". Well, it wasn't until you started getting hysterical about it all madam, was what I thought at the time. Anyway, in heroic fashion, Nest Harris burst through the warm-up room door just in the nick of time. Nest bless her, had picked up the wrong bag on original departure and thus arrived without the music for my exam. She then proceeded to speed back to her home in Quorn, breaking the sound barrier in the process, to retrieve said music and whizz back to the exam venue. Hoorah!
And...…….. R E L A X !
In came Ms Stress-head to escort us into the hall to meet the examiner and off we went. First off was the Vaccai which HAD to be sung without copies. That went well without any major hiccups. Then Ombra Mai Fu, which also went well, with only a minor mispronunciation of one little bit. From then on I really relaxed a bit and Die Forelle, with my copy at my side as a security blanket, went fabulously. Definitely the best I've ever sung it. Throughout the piece I kept hearing Caroline's voice in my left ear shouting "Sing like a man"! Such were the acoustics in this venue that at one point I was  conscious of hearing my own voice coming back to me and thinking to myself blimey, that really sounds rather good!
As I said, The Wanderer I just didn't know well enough at all and I barely took my eye off the copy throughout, but at least I could concentrate on singing it well  and I can definitely say that it was the best that I'd ever sung that piece by some distance. In fact it was probably the first time I had sung it through completely without a cock-up!
To finish off was All I Care About, which I did know well and didn't use the copy at all. I gave it everything I could and even tried to act a tiny bit. Cringe!
Then, off went Nest, leaving just me and the examiner for the dreaded sight reading and other stuff. Oh dear. The sight reading was bad. I mean REALLY bad. Embarrassingly bad in fact, so much so that the examiner was actually grinning at me on completion, trying to stifle hysterical laughter. I said "you may well laugh, but my singing teacher always tells me not to panic, but I always do, I can't help myself". I stumbled through the rest of the exercises and at least said something vaguely intelligent about a piece being staccato and 3/4 time.
Well that was it. I was confident of a pass - beyond that, who knows?  The good thing about Trinity singing exams is that one doesn't need to wait too long for the result and about a week later it came through and Caroline phoned me to let me know...….
83% - MERIT
Bloody hell, what a turn up! It was a damned good merit too, with 75% needed for that grade. I was only 4 % off a distinction! If only I could've calmed down and sight read properly I'd have nailed it. The adjudicators Examination Report was full of fabulous comments. So proud am I of it , I'll let you read it yourself....
Al's Trinity Grade 6 Singing Examination Report

The sight reading report is just funny. "A rather hesitant reading with a little of the shape"!?! A little over kind methinks!

Trinity Grade 6 Exam Certificate
MERIT! Get in!
I will leave it at that for now folks but might endeavour to post again soon regarding recent gigs including the extraordinary (even by CSS standards!) Acoustic Festival gig in Leicester in August, so stay tuned.
Cheers for now,
P.S. Nearly forgot to bring you...……
The Norman Hockley
Joke of the Month
Did you hear about that guy, Simon Wilson on Stars in their Eyes last month? It was an amazing story he had to tell. He had suffered a terrible accident the previous year which pretty much destroyed the lower half of his body. Surgeons didn't think he could survive until concidentally, his dad's brother was admitted to the same hospital, having suffered an equally terrible accident but to the top half of his body. The surgeons realised that Simon's only hope was to receive a transplant of the bottom half of his body from his dad's brother. Amazingly the surgery went ahead and was a complete success. To celebrate his miraculous return to health Matthew Kelly was delighted to welcome Simon onto the show to sing.
"So Simon, who are you going to be for us tonight"? said Matthew.
"Well, tonight Matthew, I'm going to be Simon and Half-Uncle"!

I'm so sorry, I really am!