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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Wednesday, 4 January 2017


It's January 2, 2017. One year - minus two days - after my first singing lesson. Forty-plus lessons ago.

And V says, "We're going back to that first song."

The Mozart! I love all the songs I've learned but that one (Sarastro's "O Isis Und Osiris") I love the most. How many times have I sung it to myself during 2016? A hundred? More?

V plays the sweet-sad opening bars on the piano and I give it the full welly. Taking it down (zu Grabe - To the grave) then up (lasst sie die Prüfung, Früchte sehen - Show them the fruits). Overdoing it but what the Hell?

V nods, meaning I've hit most of the notes. But... "Too dark," V says, "it's someone else's voice."

A recurrent tendency. I'm a baritone and this is a bass aria; I sing it hearing rich noises from Martti Talvela (see pic), Kurt Moll, Kim Borg and Matti Salminen.

"Sing it in your own voice," says V.

It's a struggle, there are mistakes. But V nods, differently. Another of my defects is to talk too much, to try to explain. "I'm committed to this aria. Don't want to let Mozart or Schikaneder (the librettist) down."

V smiles. "There've been things during the year I've let you get away with. Now we're moving on; it's going to get more difficult."

Then she does something quite horrible. Sings "O Isis," deliberately distorting her gorgeous soprano voice into the subterranean grumblings I used first time round. A sort of blasphemy. And a warning.

V says, "The darker version betrayed Mozart more, you sang flatter."

Later my knees start wobbling, sign of an intense lesson. They still wobble in the car. And now, as I write.

PS: In exchange for an incredible encomium from RW (zS) here I am, doing my best with MOZART.


  1. Wobbly knees after visiting a firm female disciplinarian. Your enjoyment of your singing lessons is manifest, RR.

    Would they wobble, I wonder, if your teacher was male?

  2. Avus: You're well out of it. E-bikes are safer.

    Male teacher. I examine this very point in the book I'm writing. In fact I'm maintaining a tradition: since 1973 all my French teachers have been women (and just think what old-fashioned lewdness that admission must generate) nor have there been any immediate male options. When I started looking around for singing teachers in Hereford the collective website listed ten: eight of them women. I chose the nearest (a woman) but there was no response from her landline or mobile. V was the second nearest.

    Discipline for both French and music is essential. Many men, probably most, get a bit iffy about this when women are involved, as your comment, possibly sub-consciously, suggests. I was pleased to see this didn't trouble a certain A. Murray, recently knighted. Music also demands passion (from both student and teacher) and that too can easily be misinterpreted. In answer to your question: probably not. But then you might say I have form in this matter: all four of my completed novels (plus the fifth, not yet completed) have women as central characters and my general sympathies are avowedly feminist. It became apparent during the ten-minute interview preceding the first lesson that V and I spoke the same language and that was far too opportune, whatever the differences in gender, to be ignored. It's been a happy association for me, we laugh a lot and I've made far more progress than I expected. I'm extremely lucky that I'm able to tackle such a difficult task in my eighty-first year and I owe V a lot. Alas I am a man and a baritone; I may never be a soprano and I'm not sure whether or not I regret that. More for you to chew on.

  3. My first comment was tongue in cheek. I now firmly remove it and send my respect for your commendable efforts late in life. Keep at it.

  4. People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect, but actually, from a non-linier, non subjective point of view it is more like a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey...stuff
    Doctor Who (David Tennant)

    I think you're in for the ride of your life, and the world will be better for it.

    Halt die Ohren steif, lieber Robbie!

  5. RW (zS): No one has ever paid me a more extravagant compliment. I feel I owe you a progress report (see above).

  6. A mere year, and you already have an annual tradition with V! May you have a wonderful time between this rendition and the next year's first lesson.

  7. Marly: Yesterday, driving back from Abergavenny where I'd exchanged a box-set of The Ring in Blu-Ray (which I couldn't play) for one on conventional DVDs (which I could), I discovered the radio on my new car had super-dooper DAB. BBC Radio 3 was conveniently playing the Academic Festival Overture and I sang along to its familiar rolling tones processed in rock-solid sound. But when I got to the last, most famous bit my throat contracted and I couldn't sing any longer. Where would I be without music? I wondered. No doubt about it, singing makes me more intimate with St Cecilia.

  8. I do sometimes miss being in a choir, despite the fact that I laughed at things that I should not have, and also threatened at times to write a revelatory novel called CHOIR. And yet music is so sweet. (And Brahms, yes.)