Olivia and I have just left Kerala and are sitting in Delhi in an internet cafe catching up with the world. Time for a blog . . .
The concert we put on in Kerala was a tremendous success with around 300 people attending. Only 2 days before the concert did we change the venue from a capacity of 100 persons to 350 persons due to the sheer amount of interest from the general public.
Unfortunately this huge change occurred just as I came down with viral fever. The worst time EVER!!!!!!!!! The two days prior to the concert were absolutely unbearable for me but on the night all my tiredness fell away as it turned out to be a great success.
The first half consisted of duets from most of the students. The theme was dances from around the world. So we had the tango, waltz, rhumba's, Hungarian dances etc.
This was followed by two of the choirs I had been teaching. The younger group sang a Lion King number with choreography and my adult group, the infamous 'Neil's Auntiess,' sang a Supremes medley. They were very worried about performing as they deemed the choreography as 'borderline acceptable' in Kerala. However, as I knew they both would, they performed with total confidence and conviction and it went down a storm.
This was followed by Mitali (our most talented and oldest student) who played the 1st movement of the Pathetique Sonata. At the very last minute, she gestured frantically to me asking for her music as it was originally going to be from memory. . . but after a very nervous C Minor chord she played very well and Olivia and I were extremely proud of her.
Olivia played Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu which was loved by absolutely everyone and I performed two songs by Gerald Finzi. I could tell that most of the audience had never this kind of classical song before and didn't really know whether I performed it well or not. Nevertheless they congratulated me profusely. :) :)
After an interval two guest performers performed. The first was guitarist Sumesh whom I had been teaching (and learning with) for the past two months. He played a number of small pieces consisting of numerous techniques we'd been studying and his performance was probably the highlight for most of the musicians watching that evening. He is also the first person I have ever heard play a 6-string bass guitar and made it sound just like Tabla. I nearly fainted.
This was followed by a performance by keyboard player 'Stephen Devassy'. He is extremely well-known in India and an absolute favourite of Simi Koshy's. He is also the patron of the school. I was utterly speechless after his performance . . . It was basically very virtuoisic, fast playing with MANY different keyboard sounds. A keytar solo (guitar shaped - keyboard) was also very interesting to watch. The performance would have maybe suited a stadium better but the crowd seemed to really like it. The end of the concert was the entire school singing the 'Earth Song' by Michael Jackson arranged into 8-part harmony. This was Simi's choice of song but it was a lovely feeling having the whole school altogether singing.
After the concert it was an absolute delight to talk to the students non-musically for a change. A real sense of togetherness and almost family was felt by all the performers. My mouth actually ached that night from the amount of smiling I had to do in photos!!!!!!
So . . . with the concert preponed to the 14th, this left us just over a week with the students to concentrate on purely music. No concert preparation . . Yay!!!!!!!!!
So here's what I did (I'll keep it short and snappy as I am blabbing a lot today):
Group Singing (2 lessons left):
Younger group - Introduced them to the idea of vocal percussion and using the mouth to make all sorts of sounds. We recreated scenes like farms and the beach using purely vocal sounds. They absolutely loved it and as they left the apartment I could hear them outside beeping, rrring and whooshing as they walked home!! Also, worked on some very basic harmony singing and did a couple of fun ghanian rounds: OOO EEE AAA - - - OOO UU EE . . . I think I was more excited than the kids with this one.
Neil's Aunties - Introduced them to choral waterfall music (youtube it), Classical SATB or SAA as there were only 6 women and also performed some graphic scores. They loved everything apart from the graphic scores. It was a bit too 'out there' I was told. I also gave them individual warm-ups, exercises, vocal health tips as they all really want to carry on singing. This moved me a lot as I had obviously made singing fun for them. One lad, after my last lesson, thanked me for 'opening up a whole new world' (Aladdin) for them. Yeah, I welled up a little.
The few teenagers I taught singing were all given very different things. One boy, whose main interest was rap, actually wanted to pursue a career in it. I showed him how many rhythmic exercises and the subtleties of actually breathing rhythmically. I also introduced him to vocal percussion and beatboxing which he really enjoyed. I gave him my email and I already have 4 emails asking for advice on tongue placement etc. If only I had more time!!!!!!!!!!!
Amrita (the Indian Idol winner and playback singer) I spoke to for sometime and we eventually came to the conclusion that although her western singing was beautiful it would never be as good as her Hindi singing. I am so glad we did talk about it as the last 2 lessons were far more productive as we focused on her Hindi singing, breathing and recording techniques. After these lessons she told me that during the recording for a new Malayalam movie, musical director asked her for a 'western inflection' on a certain track. She said she used some of the belting techniques I had taught her and also some western ornaments and the director had been seriously impressed with it. A compliment or what?!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The other singers I taught were also given as much information as I could about how to carry on singing and how to pursue information after my lessons. On reading the blogs, I realise that the issue of continuation of teaching styles after we leave is going t be very difficuly and I feel that the singers I have taught will suffer the most. It is very difficult to keep singing without a teacher in these early stages as it is very tiring and requires more will-power.
For this, I gave Simi a final singing lesson and she wrote down all the information / exercises / FAQ's / common problems I could think of so that hopefully she could oversee some of the students every week or so after I've gone. I really hope this does happen.
Sumesh - Finished his Grade 8 syllabus teaching and spent many extra hours discussing the finer points of incorporating Indian music into guitar playing. This is where his interests lie and I believe I learnt as much from him, if not more, as he did from me. He has developed a very unique style of 'funk-raga' playing which is absolutely beautiful to listen to.I developed a very close relationship with Sumesh and this is evident in the re-recording of the 'earth song' which happened two days before we left.
Simi was unhappy with the lead vocalists performance and the harmonys were inaudible on the video that was taked on the concert so she decided to rerecord it. We went to the studio and Cheri (Simi's son) laid down a basic piano synth/piano track and then left Sumesh, Simi and left Sumesh and I do the rest.
As the session progressed Sumesh and I got more and more indian in our playing and the rhythms got more and more funky. In the end, we ended up with a VERY VERY scrunchy, chromatic 13-part vocal harmony backing and a plethora of vocal, real and synthesised percussion. . . . Ridiculous, some may say, but absolutely brilliant to record. On returning to the studio that evening Simi was shocked to say the least but . . . she did love it a lot. I don't know how much of the extra stuff she will keep on but I do have a full blown copy of the 'raga funky 'Earth Song'. Get it . . . Raga funky . . . 'Rather' funky . . . Sorry, very bad joke.
Anyway, I've got to go and meet some more lovely indian people that Ruairi and Theo have met so . . . I will finish this blog tomorrow. I'm writing this here so I remeber to include it tomorrow: Da Din Din Da.