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Monday 23 December 2019

Darkness resisted

It’s odd how often Christmas hosts un-fun.

Christmas Angst - Part one
V’s my singing teacher. Her mother, a dementia sufferer, died two weeks ago. The family organised a service in a farmland wood last Friday. With singing, of course. It rained heavily and access to the wood was flooded. Another entry was found. They sang A Gaelic Blessing and Ombra ma fu.

Christmas Angst – Part Two
Today, Monday morning, my traditional lesson. To find V crippled with back pain. Two-handed piano accompaniment limited to ten minutes. “But I can continue with one hand,” she said spiritedly. Dark circles under her eyes; slow movement at the keyboard. Wouldn’t hear of a cancellation.

Christmas Miracle
Christmas; we might have gone light-hearted. Instead we returned to the nitty-gritty of Schubert’s monumental Abschied, first tackled long ago. I struggled with “..hőrver-schwimmen…” The umlaut o is hard to articulate musically. It’s also just short of my absolute peak F.

Nothing seemed to work. Emphasising the aspirate h (huh), no go. Substituting “hőr” with “har” (which is cheating, anyway), another no go. V kept on. Finally she said: “You’re using that dark tone.” She was right; sometimes I imagine it makes me sound like a pro. V added, “Trouble is it makes you sing flat.” Oh!

“Sing with the front of your mouth.” Easier said than done, I’ve never had success with that weird command. But V was determined. Suddenly it clicked. A clear tone much closer to a tenor voice (I’m baritone). The hőrver problem just disappeared.

Driving home I sang a dozen songs all with problem passages. And lo, like a hot knife through butter. Also recalling the smile – the smile of a good teacher - that replaced the wincing on V’s face.


  1. I'm so glad this had a happy ending. And it did.

  2. You are fortunate. I can’t remember having a similar breakthrough in any of the activities I have had a go at. In your case persistence on a regular basis over a longish period has produced this reward, but that wouldn’t have happened without you having a basic ability from the start. Well done. Long may you resist Christmas Darkness.

    Oh! I’ve just remembered getting my head round Photoshop layers

  3. I'm so glad it all worked out and you sang all the songs. Ah, that smile must have been wonderful to see.

  4. Colette, Sir Hugh, Robin Andrea: Thanks for your responses, they were all appreciated. Singing is a private world of my own since I only sing to improve myself; I lack an audience (V is rather more than that). Blogposts are as near as I get.

    I sent an email to V to say what had happened immediately after that lesson. Including this:

    All bought at a heavy price with you in pain; I know all about backs. At least you were able to smile a bit which was good, you were entitled.