Friday, January 30, 2009

La Voix Liberée - Masterclass in Paris

Last week I was in Paris. I really could have been anywhere for all I saw of Paris, but it was nonetheless the wonderful to be there.

I was there for 5 days of Masterclasses with Carol Baggott-Forte, a singing teacher from Canada. I've talked about her and her work in previous posts, here and here. She works with voices in the same manner as my beloved, late mentor Cornelius L. Reid (no not the baseball player!).

We convened in the Canadian Student House on the campus Cité Universitaire in south Paris. They had a nice big room with a grand piano. Unfortunately, it was colder than the dickens, because we had to keep the loud, rattling heater off during lessons. But I digress. There were several people I knew from other classes Carol has given in various European cities (Brighton, Lyon and Frankfurt), it's one big family. We are trying to bring more people into the family, but it is slow going. I was especially pleased that my friend Alexa from Toronto made the trip over. We had fun and formed a nice mutual admiration society together with Thomas from Hamburg.

I had 5 lessons in 5 days. Hoo boy! Are we getting into some tough stuff with my voice. It's a really good thing too, because it's starting to cause problems. I'm confident we are on the right path and that my voice will sort itself out. I will get a couple more lessons while Carol is here in Hannover, so we can continue the work. I would really like to go to Canada and have lessons for 2 weeks straight. Will have to consider that.

It was also incredibly worthwhile listening to Carol teach and I learned some new tricks for my own pupils. Unfortunately, most of the participants in Paris were advanced singers or singers familiar with the work and with a high degree of musical experience and musicality. A lot of it doesn't apply to my own students at the moment and I'd love to pick Carol's brain or hear her work with a beginner with a limited amount of talent. Now that would be interesting.

While I was in Paris I stayed with my good friend and Prosperity Girl Sue and her husband Xavier. It was so kind of them to let me crash at their place, eat their food and take off everyday for most of the day. Of course Xavier had to work and Sue had things to do during the day too, so it wasn't so tragic, but still. They were very tolerant. I had a great time with them. We watched the inauguration together and cried together! :-)


StarShipSofa - Aural Delights #61

This week on the StarShipSofa:

Aural Delights No 61 Ken MacLeod

Editorial: The Sofa’s Gadgets by Tony C Smith 02:50

Poem: Our Fallen Do Not Fall by Ann K Schwader, blog 20:20

Flash Fiction: The War At Home by Lewis Shiner 21:30

Fact: Science News by Jim Campanella 29:30

Main Fiction: Jesus Christ Reanimator by Ken MacLeod 47:00

Fact: The Sofa Art Cover by Skeet 01:16:00

New Titles: David Williams Mirrored Heavens 01:24:30

Narrators: Diane Severson, Matthew Wayne Selznick, Fred Himebaugh


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Belcanto - La voce libera (or the singing seminar I'm organizing)

It appears that I haven't blogged about the progress of the seminar with Carol Baggott-Forte. Or indeed anything at all!  A gross oversight!

My teacher, Carol Baggott-Forte, who is one of the most advanced teachers following in Cornelius Reid's footsteps, is making a trip to Europe to teach classes for a few weeks. She normally resides near Niagara, Canada.  When I heard that she was planning to teach in France again for 2 weeks, I quick spoke to my colleague and fellow Reid-ite, Tobias Tiedge and we decided we should tried to get Carol to come to Hanover for a seminar at the same time (in order to consolidate costs of flights, etc.).  She said she was willing and we agreed she would come after her classes in France for a period of 3 days.

Tobias and I worked out the details, I created a poster and a brochure/registration form and we sent them out to all our contacts, put notices up on the 'net, hung the poster all over town and posted the notice on the German Functional Voice Forum on Yahoo. That was about a week before Christmas. 

There have been some minor bumps in the road along the way, but at the moment things look very good indeed. 

We have room for 10 active participants taking 2 or 3 lessons with Carol over the course of 3 days, and as of this writing we have filled the course. Our desire is to give preference to singers from Hanover, Berlin or Hamburg and/or to those who've never done this sort of work before. Unfortunately, we haven't had many random inquiries, but a couple.  The rest who've applied are all individuals who have either worked with Carol or Cornelius previously. 

Tobias and I are meeting today to work out final details and perhaps decide on the actual participants, considering we have one more applicant than there is capacity. Registration closes on Friday, so who knows who might still contact one of us.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Symphony concert

I don't go to concerts much anymore. Mostly, I'm too lazy and then the close runner-up reason is I'm generally discouraged from going because I'm usually disappointed. Being a professional musician is hard cross to bear. Sometimes, it can really spoil the fun.

I go to even fewer instrumental concerts, because it just doesn't interest me that much, but I did last night. Magnus and I went to the Opera House and heard the Hanover Symphonic Orchestra play Shostakovitch's 1st cello concerto and Beethoven's Symphony #3 the "Eroica". I really enjoyed myself.

The cello soloist, Claudio Bohórquez, is a young man born and raised in Germany, but of South American parentage. He's really an excellent player - he plays perfectly in tune, has a nice touch and plays very dynamically. The only thing I didn't like about his playing was his vibrato, which often was simply too wide and fast. Vibrato and this goes for voices as well, should not draw attention to itself. There is a range of pitch fluctuation and wave frequency within which the vibrato lends a liveliness, a vibrancy (huh!) to the tone and becomes a layer of color. It is a natural phenomenon with the human voice when the antagonistic forces within the larynx are in balance with one another and can only be perceived on notes of a certain minimal length. Instrumentalist must simulate this phenomenon by cyclical fluctuations of pitch. A cellist does this by wiggling his had back and forth rhythmically. If the vibrato spills out of these natural parameters then it sticks out like a sore thumb and is called either a wobble (too big and slow) or a tremolo (too fast). Well, this shouldn't become a lecture on Vibrato, but I thought it worthwhile to explain myself.

As for the pieces I didn't so much like the Shostokovitch (you can hear it if you visit Bohorquez' website), but it's one of those pieces you really should hear more than once to appreciate fully. That said, it was interesting to hear. Then as an encore he played a Bach Prelude. Now that's something after my own heart! Lovely.

After the intermission (I really don't know how people can down a glass of wine that quickly!) the orchestra played the Eroica, one of my favorite Beethoven Symphonies. They did it justice. And the orchestra itself is entertaining: There's the bald 1st violinist who only moves his arms (only what's absolutely necessary) to play; the bass player who's a dead ringer for Verdi; well, the whole bass section was pretty funny, actually; the violist with the shapely arm; and the conductor (from Essen actually), who had some pretty cool disco moves.

All in all, I'd say an enjoyable evening.

PS: Welcome Mona, my most recent follower! And thank you to all of you for reading my blog!


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Warped Passages - the Opera?

I first heard about this project from Fred, a buddy from StarShipSofa, who is also a choral composer. He wrote a terse blog post about it, not giving much info so I went on a search.

Lisa Randall's own site doesn't say anything about the project, or at least I couldn't find any reference for it.

When I googled "Warped Passages opera" I came up with this. The opera will be called "Hypermusic Prologue - a projective opera in seven planes". Which is a strange title, but what do you expect from the intersection of opera and theoretical physics?

OK, so in case you haven't followed any of the links and haven't a clue what I'm talking about: Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist who's written a book for the layperson explaining the theory of muliple dimensions, i.e. more than just the 3 we see. I read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time when it came out about 15 years ago and saw the movie, really enjoying both. Randall's book sounds just up my alley. I'm interested in science but have a hard time grasping it, if you know what I mean. If someone can lead me to understand this stuff then I'm hooked - this is why I enjoy reading Science Fiction so much. They generally couch science in a story or prose and thus make it more palatable and with the imagery they create make it easier to understand. That said, the science in SF is not always real, but still.

Anyway, I love opera, I love science. I can't wait until this opera comes out. I hope it comes somewhere close to Hannover. Hamburg or Berlin would be good too. I'll be keeping you posted.