Whatever frustrations may blight the life of a musician, there is, of course, the daily privilege of being able to earn a (meagre, in my case) living communing with the great Gods of our culture - Bach, Schubert, Mahler, and Eric Wayman. Or rather, that’s the theory. But of course, as a singer, there is always the distinct possibility of waking up one morning with a sore throat, or a cough or something equally unhelpful. Thus it was this morning with my pupil, Tim.
'I’m sorry' the poor chap spluttered as he walked into my music room. 'I’m not at all well this morning.'
'So I see. Perhaps you could move back a little. Move the music stand.'
'Oh no. I’ll tell you what; I’ll open up the windows. Nothing like the fresh air to help clear the tubes and vetilate the vocal chords' I told him. 'Now, where were we. Down the scale, sing ‘oh’ as in ‘hot’'.
He started well - Hoh, -oh - oh - oh – but then on g succumbed again.
'It’s no good' he said 'I’ve got no voice today.'
'And neither will anyone within a hundred yards of you at this rate.
'Don’t be. Maybe we should leave it for this week? Yes, we’ll leave it until you’re feeling better.'
‘But don’t forget to keep practising Die schone Mullerin. We’ll go through it next week.'
I quickly closed the door behind him and then opened it again, along with all the windows. It was rather cold by the time my next pupil turned up, but at least she wasn’t heavily infected.
'Ah, Monica my dear. Do come in. May I take your coat.'
'Well, actually...' she looked around, as if trying to locate something. 'I think I’ll keep it on today, if you don’t mind.'
At the piano we began with warm ups – scales, arpeggios, and vocal exercises. Then, as always, we got down to business, as it were.
'What was it last week, Monica? Wachet Auf?'
'Bless you, dear boy!'
‘No – Bach. Weren’t we doing... no, of course not – Leibesleider: Brahms, of course. So, after three...'
'Bernard, Bernard...if I may?
'Bernard. How long have I been coming to you now? Five years? Ten?'
'Well, you are indeed one of my most loyal pupils, Monica.'
'Yes, and every June, for the last five years, we have done Brahms’ Leibesleider Waltzes. Frankly, Bernard, I’m beginning to get rather bored with Brahms.'
'I do sympathise, Monica, but...'
'Yes' she said. 'I think it’s time we took a new approach – did something different.'
'Yes, different. And I’ve taken the liberty of bringing something that my husband bought for me recently – at my request, of course.'
'Here it is – I do hope you can play it.'
'Ah. It’s not that I can't play it, Monica' I told her. 'Are you quite sure that it’s right for you... for your voice, I mean... your tessitura... your...your...you know, vocal strengths [forgive me, God]. Yes, I’m not at all sure that this piece would play to your strengths or show off your voice to best effect.'
'Oh' she said. 'My husband will be very disappointed.'
'But not half as disappointed as he would be if he heard her singing it' I muttered quietly. There was never any danger that Monica would hear me. It is only a shame she can't procure a hearing aid for being tone deaf, too.
Ronald Stevenson Piano Music: Volume 2 - I was confused. When I knew that I was receiving a CD of Ronald Stevenson’s piano music to review, I mistakenly assumed that it was a second volume to Murr...
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