Monday, 24 February 2014

Monday Morning at 9.14 and my high horse.

It's Monday and, yes, it's raining again. I was determined to get out in the garden and take some photos of all the emerging Spring flowers but there's no way I'm putting my wellies on today so that will have to wait.

Had a good and interesting weekend as I was the adjudicator at a music festival. So Saturday morning at 9 am saw me with the pleasure of listening to 4 hours of piano players all playing their party pieces while Saturday afternoon I judged the singers (mostly from Wales it seems). It was very very heartening to hear the huge amount of talent from these pianists, it is easy to become cynical in these times when lots of young people want instant gratification and praise from very little effort, but to get to hear youngsters who have clearly put hours and hours and hours of practice in was a complete joy. Luckily, as is so often the case, there was a very clear winner in every class, the first of which was a boy of about 15 who played the piano with such poise and dedication and understanding of the instrument that I was literally bowled over by him, it was also lovely to find him unassuming and modest of his talents. There were also 2 brothers who must have only been about 11 and 13 respectively who both played some of the hardest pieces in the repertoire, almost note perfectly to a standard that any adult professional pianist would be hard pressed to reproduce. Practice time must be divided incredibly in their household as, to play a piece this well would take about 3 hours practice daily, that is true dedication in a youngster. Is it any surprise that I have no time at all for crap TV talent shows which often show someone weeping because they didn't get through, whilst wailing soppy remarks such as 'I just want it so badly, this is my big chance'. No it's not, it takes huge amounts of effort, work and dedication to be a master of your craft and in the end only you are responsible for the work you do with any talent you may have rather than looking for that person who will give you a career on a plate. Most of them have to get real, it comes through hard work and determination and hours and hours of work, every single day.
So it was with pure joy that I heard kids with this grit and determination play and it restored my faith somewhat.
The afternoon was a different story, not that it was any less enjoyable, but the average ages of the singers in all the classes were between 50 and 80 probably. This says a lot about how we are losing our tradition of classical singing in this country and I wonder if in 40 years anyone much will even do it any more. Maybe most people don't give a flying fig that much of this wonderful music will be lost with the next generation, but I do.

So I will leave you today with a youtube video of Renee Flemming singing Gretchan Am Spinnrade (Gretchan at the Spinning Wheel) by Schubert, purely for the example of someone who has mastered the technique and craft of singing but more importantly for the outpouring of emotion that comes from that old favourite of feelings - LOVE - when put in the hands of a master. We all know and understand the feelings expressed, but Schubert has managed to find that desperation and put it into music. It's well worth the effort of 3 minutes listening and if it touches just one person then it was worth it.

The translation is below the video.

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.
Where I do not have him,
That is the grave,
The whole world
Is bitter to me.
My poor head
Is crazy to me,
My poor mind
Is torn apart.
For him only, I look
Out the window
Only for him do I go
Out of the house.
His tall walk,
His noble figure,
His mouth's smile,
His eyes' power,
And his mouth's
Magic flow,
His handclasp,
and ah! his kiss!
My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.
My bosom urges itself
toward him.
Ah, might I grasp
And hold him!
And kiss him,
As I would wish,
At his kisses
I should die!


  1. I know absolutely nothing about opera so do not feel qualified to comment, but I will anyway. I loved the translation of the words but the singer's rendition seemed too full on - I would have expected something gentler and more tender - but that's me, knowing nothing.

  2. Maybe I should have said more specifically that it is a song from Goethe's Faust about the desperate passion of unrequited love rather than just love, so the feeling is more desperate than tender in general. It's actually just a song, not from an opera at all, written precisely 200 years ago.

  3. Many Many thanks for that !
    I had just made myself a cup of tea, mid-baking session. I sat back with eyes closed and listened to this glorious music.
    Trouble is I don't want to start again now!

  4. It was such a pleasure listening to such a truly emotional piece by a singer who knows how to put that emotion across. Thank you for bringing that glorious aria to us x

  5. Beautiful - just what I needed today!

  6. I love Opera and I love Renee Fleming :) Thank you for a treat :)

  7. I love Shubert songs, especially the cycles Winter Reise and Die schöne Müllerin. The more you listen to them the more you realize how rich they are. It is a strange paradox that 50 - 100 ago there was a vast audience for classical and lyrical music but few superb musicians. Now most musicians proficiency is incredible, much greater than it used to be. But, unfortunately, audiences are disappearing. It is very sad.

  8. Aaaggghhh "Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany because it may contain material for which GEMA has not granted the respective rights." - One of the most annoying sentences in the world! I agree that it's a pity that more people aren't interested in learning to sing and making the commitment to join a choir. It's the one thing I've just always done and, except for a couple of years in my early 20s, when I wasn't quite sure how to go about finding a choir to sing with now that I didn't have a school/college choir to join, it's the one thing that I've always looked for whenever I've moved to a new place. But even just for a sing-song in the pub it's amazing how few people will even go to the effort of learning the words of a song. Even that much effort seems too much for some. And yet there's nothing better than the feeling of making music with a bunch of other people.

  9. I don`t understand opera much, but I sometimes like classical instrumental music by Smetna (not sure if I pronounced his name right). I`m afraid, having grown up in the town where Richard Wagner built his opera house doesn`t make me a fan of his music or his operas. I`m more into folk music and some more obscure world music. I used to play a Hammond home organ as a child, so I was often sitting practising some music pieces. That`s why I can appreciate the hard work and determination you need to get perfect with the piece of music you play. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the instrument was knocked out of me fairly quickly when my mother would
    parade my talent in front of family members and friends. I always preferred to play by ear and for my own pleasure, could often listen to a music piece on the radio and replicate it within minutes on my organ. Having to perform for mums friends whenever prompted soon soured my love for the instrument, and when I grew into my teens I finally gave it up altogether. I then played the Bhodran (irish handheld drum) in an irish folk band for a little while and did enjoy that very much as I wasn`t being paraded but had taken it up for my own pleasure. After starting a family I then gave up playing instruments, but did take up dance instead. I qualified as a Middle Eastern Dance teacher and built up my own dance troupe. We often performed at local theatres, for the majors charity events in Brighton, several summer open air festivals and community functions. I loved this side of music appreciation the most, but couldn`t continue when I contracted asthma through an air born virus. The physical strength required for Middle Eastern Dance would set off an attack, so eventually this ended my dance enjoyment after 6 years. I`m no longer involved in this type of dancing but still enjoy world music of many different types. You`d be surprised how much classical elements there are to be found in the traditional oud (lute) playing of Turkey, Armenia and Iran. As I said, I don`t really understand Opera, but classical instrumental music from all around the world I do like, and it`s sad that these types of music have started to decline.

  10. I too don't understand opera, lyrically, but as far as beauty and being touched, consider me touched! :-)

  11. Absolutely lovely, I have heard this piece from Faust before but not with this singer. I am listening to Fauré Requiem in D minor at the moment, I made a short video with one part of the requiem, you can find the video on my blog here:, just scroll down to the end of the post. And on the 9th of March I am invited to go to a concert here in London to hear this requiem being sung by a church choir – I am so looking forward to it, although it requires a bit extra, logistically as I can’t travel by public transport and it is very difficult for me to get in and out of a normal car. But I’ll get there, one way or another!

    And I am glad to hear there are still young people who don’t think you can become a famous musician just by appearing on the telly. Yes, it does require hard work and dedication and in today’s ‘instant gratification society’ it might be hard to get that message through. Glad to hear you found a lot of youngsters who don’t apply to the norm. My days as a musician are long gone, I haven’t played since my late teens and that’s 30 years ago, but I took A levels in music and played in a symphonic orchestra throughout my teens, before illness took away my ability to play anymore. Since then I have enjoyed music as a listener and I will always love classical music.