Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Day in May with the Young Folk ...

It was a busy day, yesterday. I was deep in the 19th century, and Paul in puppet-land, until three pm, and then we started…

First, a tram to Eberswalder Strasse, to the Milchhof Pavilion, where an exhibition entitled ‘Anonyme Zeichner’ was on display, and our friends Johannes and Luise both had items hung. An interesting scheme – young artists’ drawings, hung without a name attached, 150 euros any one – I must say if I were furnishing a house I could have bought a few. Of course, the one we both liked best just happened to be Johannes’s ….

Then round the corner to a comfy caff, where we were joined by a merry band of like-minded youngsters (we worked out that any three added together were still younger than I!) and a bowl of sweet-potato soup, before making for the U2 and Nollendorfplatz.

Yes, my old stamping ground! The place to which we were going was a chic little bar, just round the corner from my old flat (though it wasn’t there in my day), called – of course – Sally Bowles – in honour of the fictional heroine who once inhabited the street. The occasion was an ‘open mic’ evening hosted by the American Vocal Academy, two young US music teachers, Brady Swenson and Travis Shaw. No, I wasn’t going to come out of retirement, and give my ‘Volga Boat Song’, but Paul was being the orchestra and I like to see what’s going on …

The point of this sort of showcase evening, as I see it, is to give students and beginners the opportunity of performing in front of an audience, and established professionals a chance to try out new material. Well, this one certainly did the first, and partially did the second.  Margarita, an accomplished vocalist from Leipzig gave us ‘Maybe, This Time’ and ‘Cabaret’, scarcely ‘new material’. More like ‘ridden to death’. The resuscitated ‘Nature Boy’ was less predictable.
The other professionals were more original: Petter gave us the Benny/Björn ‘Stanna’ from Kristina fran Duvemala in a ringing baritone, and Riccardo topped a delightful Italian song with a virtuoso performance of the Tesori/Scanlan The Girl (Man) in 14G. Dany sang a song called ‘Sex on Fire’ which I would categorise as ‘noisy’ and scarcely material for a small venue.

The students – five of them – were all girls, of various shapes and styles but having in common a staunch upper chest voice. I’m afraid that it’s the (old?) fashion nowadays. I didn’t hear a head voice or even a mista voce all night. The five did well, taking into consideration nerves and inexperience, which affected some more than others, but once again song choice weighed large.
The most finished performance came hand in hand with the sweetest song: Nina’s delivery of the Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer ‘Skylark’. Nina probably has the least voluminous voice of the five, but she knows how to use it, and how to treat a lyric: result, my favourite moment of the night.
There was much delicacy, too, in the performance of ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’, by tall, athletic 16 year-old, Vivienne. She sang three songs, and showed that she knows that singing is more than making a loud noise. Much promise, there. Especially if she can sing regular soprano as well.

Anissa and Rebecca-Jane were the most endearingly nervous, and the nerves stole Anissa’s bottom register and Rebecca’s pitch control. But both have a nice stage presence, and a bit of that all-important ‘fun’ in them, and experience will do the rest. And the right choice of song. Fame never did anything for anyone and those wretched interchangeable Wildhorn ballads are the curse of Germany.

Patrizia was the final girl, and she undoubtedly has the strongest voice of all. Now she needs to build on that gift, and find out about singing: the light and shade of interpretation. I’m sure she will.

The concert ended with a fine ‘So in Love’ by Petter (I’m not sure I approve the interpolated high A flat!), and we lingered long thereafter … Sally Bowles’s is a delightful spot and the company was first-rate … and when the orchestra had got the blood back in his fingers, we taxied happily back to Mitte and Humboldthaim …

A grand day, seeing what the younger generation of artists and musicians are up to. Good luck to you all.

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