Down into the artistic concrete bunker in London EC2 on a bright Monday afternoon. But I was more than happy to spend three hours underground with singing students of GSMD at the start of a thorough retrospective of my song repertoire, covering forty years’ worth of music. This carefully organised series will include three workshops, a public masterclass and two concerts in the month of May.
Knowing music colleges (and singers) as I do, I am astonished that Guildhall’s Head of Vocal Studies, Armin Zanner, and his colleague Lana Bode have managed to get everyone together in the right place at the right time. At the outset of this big survey, I note that quite often in the past I’ve chosen to accompany a solo singer with an instrument other than piano (and quite often that wasn’t my choice, but some producer’s bright idea.) It’s an extra administrational challenge, which so far has been triumphantly met, with a turnout of excellent Guildhall instrumentalists (bass, horn, viola, clarinet, and more to come). In normal concert life it’s often been not at all convenient to programme these numbers in normal singer+piano programmes.
In our first session I was struck by how carefully the singers had studied the words as well as the music. Since we were initially looking at the simple folk ballads of Scotch Minstrelsy, it was somewhat extraordinary to hear them subjected to such a degree of textual analysis, as if they’d been written by Wallace Stevens, or some other very complex thinker. Incredibly also, all the singers had learned their songs by heart. That is something I rarely see, and I don’t even recommend it generally – it seems so risky with new work in the anxious context of say a Wigmore Hall recital. Outside in the open air again at the end of the first session, I could only think how the world of concert singing has changed during the several decades I’ve been giving it my close attention.