A Baroque Matinee: Behind the Scenes

April 24, 2016

 

It’s been a horrendously long time since I last wrote a blog post.
I am currently in my last term at the Royal College of Music, so unfortunately this had been put on the back-burner. Many things have happened since the Handel Singing Competition Finalists’ Concert in March and I will spend the next couple entries talking about the experiences I have had in these past manic months.

LONDON HANDEL FESTIVAL RECITAL
As I mentioned in my last post, having been a finalist in the Handel Singing Competition, I was given a solo lunchtime recital where I had free choice of repertoire. Upon being officially booked for this gig, I went a bit mental as I saw this as an opportunity to sing all the Handel arias I ever wanted to learn. Needless to say, I ended up being slightly over-ambitious of how many da capo arias I could muster in one concert. I also got a bit over-excited and found a baroque string quartet and harpsichordist to play the concert. I was determined this going to be the best thing ever. My first two terms at the RCM proved to be even more hectic than I anticipated and unfortunately Handel and Vivaldi got thrown to the back seat. Come the last week of classes in the Spring Term, I panicked upon counting how many weeks I had until my recital. Officially, I was not to see any daylight except that on my commute from home to the practice room with my new best friend, a lime green harpsichord I named ‘Harpie’. Everything between me and Harpie were honky dory until the week before my concert. Whether it was anxiety or the fact that I had sung one sequence too many, I suddenly was having more issues singing through phrases and quickly getting discouraged. The day of my first rehearsal with the players arrived and at this point I was hoping for the best that the discomfort from the previous practice sessions were just a fluke. The first person to arrive was the violist of the ensemble. I sat at the harpsichord to give him the chords so he could tune. I played an A on the harpsichord, he plucked his string and looked at me skeptically. “Is this tuned to 415?” I was a bit baffled as last time I checked, the harpsichord was tuned to Baroque pitch. He walked to the piano that was in the other corner of the room and played an A against that of the harpsichord. They were the same pitch. No wonder I was having issues – I was trying to sing everything one half step too high! It never dawned on me until now how muscle memory can be an incredible tool or, in this case, an obstacle. In the grand scheme of things, a half step is nothing, but it amazed me how I spent hours in practice room trying to put these pieces in my technique and it resulted in that fact that it embedded every note and phrase into muscle memory that it made it virtually impossible to sing it any other way. After that one small mishap, I thought we were all in the clear – until I got ill 5 days before the recital. I guess spending my days shuffling between locking myself up in my flat or in a harpsichord didn’t save me from catching a bug. All I can say is, thank the high heavens for Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and honey…ok, and whiskey.

More to come…

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