I so wanted to join the estimated 100K people on the anti-Brexit march in London this morning. It looks as if it went well, and I hope it sent a message to the Prime Minister that, in fact, 65 million people do NOT agree with her that the UK’s brightest future lies outside the EU. The OH and many of my Twitter friends went on the march and I am proud and envious of them all.
I also missed my Graduation Park Run with my Zeros to Heroes group this morning. That’s OK. I’ll plod around the 5K next week with 500 other people. Watch this space.
What was I doing that was so important? Well, dear reader, I was performing at the Bromley (Kent) Festival of Music and Speech. You’ll remember, perhaps, (how could you forget?) that I narrowly failed my ATCL singing diploma last year. I am not one for walking away from things so I’d like to do it again and I’ve been working on a new programme since last summer with the aim of entering some time later in the year. I don’t want to be too expansive on that because, hoping for encouragement, I feel I rather overshared on this last year. It’s so interesting to discover the people who absolutely hate that someone is doing something different and pushing themselves, even though it affects them in no way whatsoever.
I entered the festival to try and get used to singing solo in front of an audience with an unfamiliar adjudicator. I don’t much care for singing solo classical repertoire. I am a dance band singer, manquée: I’d have loved to be a latter-day Ella or Billie with a swing band.Genrally I much prefer the shared endeavour of choral singing. Nerves affect my performance quite badly: all the carefully thought-out breath marks and dynamics seem to go out of the window when you’re standing alone in front of an audience. I tend to panic and, thinking that I’ll run out of air, take silly extra breaths in the middle of phrases and upset the flow of the legato, or whatever. When this happens I berate myself internally and my fragile singing ego crumbles. I need to snap out of this. There’s more to singing than one might expect, you see.
Today I was entered in three classes: Lieder, French Song and Recital. All were open classes, which meant that professional singers could sweep up all of the awards so I wasn’t hopeful that I’d make much of a mark. Equally there was no external pressure to perform brilliantly: the only reason to be there was simply as an opportunity to sing in front of an audience. My plan was to ignore the competition and just go out and do my diva thing.
Of course, it didn’t quite go as planned. The Bromley Festival seems to be having a particularly slow year, with a catastrophically low number of entrants, some of whom failed to appear, with the result that I was the only entrant in two of my classes. Those of us who did turn up all seemed to be suffering from some lurgy or other so it was all pretty sub-optimal. So the cup and gold medal I won weren’t necessarily because of the merit of my L’invitation au voyage and Die junge Nonne.
Adjudications pointed out errors in breath support and the bane of my life, the sharp note, were mentioned. I need to think more about my mid-range notes now, and make sure that my onsets are spot on rather than a millisecond late. It’s really difficult when you don’t have access to a regular accompanist because you’re relying on the official accompanist to adapt to your singing and, despite what they say, they don’t always do this. My accompanist went off like a speeding train for the introduction to my Walton song, and by the time I’d recovered, I’d tripped over a lot of the words, which was a pity as I love the song and I wanted to sing it really well. Having practised my soft but high entrance in the Arne song Oh Ravishing Delight all week, I went and sang it Fortissimo. All nerves, you see. Your technique and your control over things go out of the stained glass church wndow.
There were two other participants in the the Recital class and in the end I was awarded joint second (by 1 mark only.) Imagine, though, my complete surprise when I received the Rose Bowl Trophy for best overall performance out of 5 classes. Was this for some gorgeous chanson, or for the fieidishly difficult Wapping Old Stairs? No. I won it for my performance of Seiber’s The Owl and The Pussycat, the only song that I hadn’t worried and fretted abou interminablyt. Ah well.
The Rose Cup has winners’ names on it going back to to 1929 and I think I’ll get it engraved with my name too. My maiden name. I prove points with every public action: we immigrants DO integrate and play a full part in our local community and this needs to be visible so that no-one can dispute it.
So, yes, could do better but all in all not bad for a first effort at a signing festival. I have a way to go until I can stir people like the Von Trapp Family singers, though.