Of The Sustain Pedal & Bulgarian Singing

Friday, the 15th of April, 2005 - 12 to 8pm

Current Song ~ "Return To Me (acoustic)" by October Project.

This is the fourth anniversary of my being nagged into joining the Choir for Easter Evensong.
At the time, I swore that this was a one-off. Since then, I haven't missed a single Sunday morning service at the Church, and will most likely not do so until the 17th of July (when I shall be in Durham, which is a bit of a way to come).

And the moral of this story is: unless you have an immense amount of free time that you wish to have filled with choral activities, never, ever go to pubs with choir masters.

In other similarly thrilling news, I seem to be getting the hang of the sustain pedal. Assuming, of course, that all of those pieces are supposed to sound like fairy bells in an echo chamber.
If not, I may need to work on the subtleties a bit more, but at the very least my timing is now at least broadly related to the directions on the page...

Continued on the 26th of April...

...and once again, a prospective entry upload date is shifted forward dramatically by the awesome power of the impending essay deadline.
I can, however, stay neatly on topic, having had pedalling technique explained by Jean last Sunday (the 24th, for reference).

Since then, I like to think that I've done quite well with the advice implementation: my pedalling could certainly use more practice, but the results no longer bring to mind the little folk experimenting with prog rock sound effects. Which is, I grant you, quite interesting, but not ideal for Chopin's Prelude in A Major...

In more unusual news, last Saturday was largely taken up by a Bulgarian singing workshop in Waterloo.

I suspect that my own performance had virtually nothing to recommend it. For starters, my left ear was - and is - blocked again, which was distinctly unhelpful, and more critically, the technique is pretty much the opposite of everything that I've been doing as a classically trained soprano. Just staying in chest voice was difficult and tiring enough, and attempting at the same time to stiffen the back of the tongue, refrain from dropping the jaw very much at all...
It would, I think, take some considerable time and effort for me to get anywhere with Bulgarian singing technique, and I don't think that I shall be making that effort - I am very fond of the sound, but my voice is really far better suited to the classical end of things.

Having said all of that, though, I did find the workshop extremely interesting - beforehand I had really no idea how that highly distinctive Bulgarian sound was achieved, and from a conducting point of view, it was also quite fascinating to experience an entirely different teaching method.

We learnt four songs (one three-part round and three songs with up to five parts), all of which were taught purely by the tutor singing each line (entirely from memory) and us repeating, with the parts being switched around a lot so we all had a go at most of them. We had a lyric sheet but no actual sheet music.
The tutor sang with whichever part needed the most help at any given time, and indicated the tune as well as the timing with some of the best conducting I have ever seen in my entire life.
That's really not an exaggeration - I am not at all easy to impress when it comes to choral conducting.

It struck me that while we got to grips with all four songs quite fast (they weren't perfect, but by the end of the afternoon we'd got them into reasonable shape), they would have been mind-bendingly difficult to attempt to learn from the sheet music, what with being in 7/8 time and involving a great deal of close harmony.
A useful reminder of the fact that not everything can be approached in exactly the same way if one wants to get the best results.

Incidentally, two of the songs that we did - More sokol pie and Izgreyala yasna zvesda - can be found in mp3 format on the website of the London Bulgarian Choir, which is directed by the tutor of the workshop.

This entry appears to have ended up rather longer than anticipated, so I'd best stop rambling on right about now.

I shall be in the thick of music theory coursework for the next week or so but shall endeavour to update before too many days have zipped by

Until then, au revoir!


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