Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cakes and Lessons

Things have been very busy here in the I'd Rather Be Sleeping household.

First of all, Alex turned 6!!!! I still don't believe it myself. Check out the cake - how awesome is that???? And then... one of the toddler guests blew out the candles! Oops. Then I stuck my hand into a burning candle when I try to relight the others... but Alex held it together and waited for his chance to blow them out. It all turned out great in the end AND we had the R2D2 cake!! Artoo! Chocolate!! With chocolate frosting that was then covered with white buttercream frosting, then gray and blue and all the lines and so on. A friend of mine made the cake and then I helped her decorate it.

Here is Alex's first view of the cake:

The other Alex news to report is, he is in the process of being tested for our school district's Gifted and Talented program in music. He passed the first part and had the 2nd part of the testing today. I have no idea how much more testing they do. No one really seemed to know when I asked. But Alex says it's all been so so so so easy. So that's good!! The first part was for pitch. They played two tones and he had to determine if they were the same or different. Today it was for rhythms, same deal.

Then he has his very first recital this coming Sunday! He might play something on the piano, but I doubt it. Hopefully he'll go through with his stand, bow, stand presentation. Here he is practicing during a recent lesson when his teacher came to our house.

I have been getting into the groove with my new teacher. It's hard not to compare teaching styles - she and my previous teacher are very different. The past several months with my prior teacher she had been working on me singing through the low passagio. Now we're all about sound. Rounded, full sound. My first teacher used to stop me to correct diction and pronunciation. My new teacher focuses on... sound. Rounded, full sound. Raised soft palate, keeping on top of the air, keeping my voice on top of the airstream, focusing to a point over my nose, punching the air forward. I keep thinking, "Punch it, Chewie!" to remind myself. (Star Wars on the brain.) For some phrases she tells me not to worry about the words, just focus on getting the sound, the air in the right place, and then we can add the words back in. She recommended I do ab exercises. She has told me not to be afraid - and that I'm going to have to face my very soul (or something like that) in order to reach my goal. It sounds hokey but it made sense in context and still makes sense. It's really the same old story. I have to trust myself, trust my body and let the sound come. She is really good at sensing what I need to do to vary the sound for different vowels. And I really can hear an improvement. Husband says he heard it after the first lesson I had with her this time around. That lesson happened to be just before that vocal evaluation, and it definitely helped.

I record the lessons on my phone and later listen to the lessons without singing along. Then I sing afterwards if I can (like if I'm not at work or if Alex isn't asleep) and I can hear the difference. Just listening to her describe and demonstrate, and then pull it out of me, helps me figure it out even if I'm not actually singing. Mental, it's so mental.

I mentioned that I was learning some Handel piece. It's Lascia ch'io pianga, with a page of recit before the aria. My first recit!! Not that it's any different than singing an aria, except the tune is not really there yet. It hints at the tune of the aria and then BOOM the aria - and what a beautiful piece it is. Here's my favorite "listen and learn" role model, Cecilia Bartoli, giving her rendition of it. The aria only, no recit:

If I can sing it half as beautiful as she does, I'll be happy. I'm still working on controlling the volume once I get the airstream in the right place.

So, where have I heard this before? The movies???? It sounds so familiar. And WOW so sad. That's fine, I can do sad.


Raisa said...

Happy Birthday Alex! All the best and lots of success in music!
The cake looks awesome (or should we say "looked" - for I don't know if there is any left...)
Lascia ch'io pianga - are you kidding me - it's one of my favorite Handel's pieces! Divine, beautiful music. Except that I like to listen to Renee Fleming singing it.But it does not matter really.

Susan said...

Thank you!
When I want to link to songs I'm learning, I plug the title into YouTube and stop searching when Cecilia comes up... otherwise I'd go on forever and never get anything done... :)

Raisa said...

I sure hear you on that one - I tend to do it too. If I see that Dmitri or Juan Diego sing an aria, they are always my first choice. And it really does not matter - as long as we enjoy what we hear, right?
What about that cake though? Anything left? Not that I was gonna come, or anything, but...(just kidding)

Susan said...

Every last crumb of that cake was consumed.
You are welcome any time. I'll even make you a cake. :)