relates to private voice instruction, voice classes, singing groups for elders and other affiliations

Singing classes which double as performing groups–what’s not to love?  Two groups start this week, plus private lessons in Central Square and Jamaica Plain.

The Platinum Singers at USES meet after an excellent exercise class on Wednesdays…see below for complete list of classes (and can you spot us in the little photo?)

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Red and Green

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“Hmmm, which delicious aria shall I sing first?”

A new semester begins!  Study Handel at NEC’s School of Continuing Education on Wednesday evenings Handel for Singers and Instrumentalists begins January 20.

Platinum Singers begin the same day, at the Harriet Tubman House.  A singing class for anyone who qualifies for the AARP, and a fun group to boot.  Virtually free, and you can attend a dynamite exercise class just beforehand.  USES Senior services

If you want to join the JP Jubilee singing group, the wait is until February 19, 2016.  Contact me for further info about this group that meets on Friday mornings, and, like the Platinum Singers, is a class and a performing group.  We meet at Curtis Hall in Jamaica Plain.

BUT wait, there’s more!  Private lessons with me, of course, in JP and Cambridge, AND our monthly Circle Singing group meets Sunday January 10 at St. Mary’s Church in Central Square, Cambridge.  Please contact Peter McLoughlin if you’d like more info.  Runs 4:30-6:30pm, fun group improvisational singing à la Bobby McFerrin.

Come hear the Platinum Singers sing a few beautiful tunes, including Wachet Auf (with guest violinist Matt Hoener and his brother Drew on keyboard) at the USES Holiday Fair.  Wednesday December 9, we sing at 2:30 and you can buy trinkets before that.  Harriet Tubman House, 566 Columbus at Mass Ave, Boston’s South End.  Always free.

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Laurel and Hardy moving a piano over a narrow footbridge in the Alps

Getting back to regular exercise after colliding with an upright piano  (don’t ask, and please do not try this at home*), I find myself torn between pushing and holding back.  Yeah, that old conundrum.  No pain, no gain and all that.  Well, at a certain point we all have to listen to our bodies and heed what they say or they yell louder (“That HURTS, you IDIOT–can you hear me now?”).

I’ve always been a get-back-on the-horse as quickly as possible kind of person, so I’ve been walking and stretching.  Today I tried an exercise class.  I couldn’t do everything, but at least I went.  I listened to my body intently as I moved, and feel pretty good now.  It took a few years (okay, decades) to get the hang of how to garden for a short time and then stand up and walk around or do something different with my body.  So now i have another  reminder.

And so it is with singing.  We push for the high notes, lift our shoulders, tighten our necks and jaws.  We have all sung without warming up, pushed through vocal fatigue and colds and done a thousand other little things.  My favorite is how we lean towards the audience as we sing to show we really care…

Bob Dylan singing at a mic, neck forward with harmonica attached to his neck
Photo: © Sony

I was singing a recital with my wise colleague Francie Fitch after a bout with bronchitis.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t get from 0-60mph as soon as I resumed singing.  She reminded me that in the 19th century novels, heroines often had a “long convalescence.” How lovely, to give oneself such a gentle recuperative period.  We don’t.  I know.  It’s even faster paced now than when I was a pup. I was anxious to be a good employee at every gig I landed, always showing up and singing full voice, never being a troublesome colleague.  When I had vocal problems, I ignored them and the results were not pretty.

We are told not to listen to ourselves when we sing.  I know how hard that is.  But we can listen to our bodies–in a loving and respectful way.  They tell us to take a sip of water, to rest the voice for a while, to take a nap or have a meal.  There is an art to living in a body, and an art to having your instrument in your body.  It takes patience.  And practice.

*okay,I was trying to prevent a small upright from tipping over.  I was moving said piano–as I have every week at the Harriet Tubman House for 6 years, mind you–to use it to teach my lovely class and the wheels froze (kind of like shopping carts, it felt like) and my helper gave that extra push…since I was holding the handle and I desperately wanted to right the piano, I held on too long.  It had lost its balance on occasion before, but had never fallen on its back.   The piano lived and only one note sticks–the low Eb that is the tonic for our Bach aria, by the way.  I have bruises all the way from elbow to tip of fingers. The full mechanisms are slow to get  back and to strengthen again.  But it could have been much worse.

 

Lessons, Classes, High Holidays, time to sing!

describes the class and its goals, when it meets (Friday mornings at Curtis Hall, JP)

2. United South End Settlements’

Platinum Singers

Wednesdays, 2-3:30pm                                                 September 16, 2015 thru December 16, 2015

Location:  Harriet Tubman House,                                       566 Columbus Ave (at Mass Ave.), Boston’s South End

Elizabeth Anker, instructor/conductor

 Come learn to sing and share music with others seniors

In this class, we learn to use our speaking and singing voices in a healthy way, boost our air power, volume and expressivity.

 We sing together and harmonize, and have FUN!

 Pre-registration is required. Contact Heidy Viarruel at (617) 375-8114 or write: hviarruel@uses.org
A $15 donation for the entire semester is requested, however, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

3. Private voice lessons in Jamaica Plain and Cambridge’s Central Square begin Sept 15.

4. I am cantorial soloist at a very welcoming Havurah on Cape Cod–no tickets required, no fees (kind of like my classes).  In Orleans:  Am HaYam Cape Cod Havurah

 

 

My student concerts are always free and always short. That’s how we keep the audiences coming. Oh, and audiences get to sing if they want, too.

The Platinum Singers are singing their OWN songs this week, plus our own parody of YMCA*, all in a 30 minute concert at 3:00 on Wednesday April 22 at the Harriet Tubman House, corner of Columbus and Mass Ave.  Upstairs in the Lincoln Room.
*the letters of U-S-E-S (United South End Settlements, our sponsor and host for the wonderful senior programs).

JP Jubilee does their end-of-semester concert on Saturday May 9 at 12:30pm at the Jamaica Plain branch Library.  Flyer below, by our members Lizi Brown and Estelle Disch:

A group of singers on stage, kicking their legs like Rockettes
Who says Seniors can’t kick …?

And on Wednesday, May 13 at 8:00pm, the Bach Arias Class at the New England Conservatory of Music is giving a class concert.  Just a few delicious morsels; 3 lovely singers, a violin, harpsichord and the teacher may even sing a bit with the group at the end…short, sweet and free.   Room 367 in the main building.

And, as always, I am accepting private students in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain, long or short-term…inquire within.

B-A-C-H

Come learn to sing and play JS Bach, improve your chamber music skills, enjoy the gorgeous arias of the cantatas and oratorios.
Class meets on Wednesday evenings 7:30-9pm. It begins January 14 and goes for 15 weeks. Even if you have to miss a few sessions, it’s a treat to get to sing and play these arias and do a performance at the end.  Open to singers, strings, winds, keyboard players.

Here’s the skinny: http://necmusic.edu/ce/voice-opera. It costs less than $45/class for 15 weeks, a non-credit class through the School of Continuing Education.

Did you know? In German, the name Bach spells out four musical notes (B —B flat, A—A natural, C—C natural, H—B natural).

“I don’t want to be known as ‘The Aphasia Guy’” said John to me at his lesson.

John came back to voice lessons after a break of several years. He said he wanted to sing to “keep the black dog” away. I figured he meant some kind of depression. He told me after a few weeks that he had recently been diagnosed with aphasia – the Greeks said it was “speechless”– and he was already having trouble remembering words.

I do my best to not furnish words for him, but instead let him describe around the word or just nod patiently and wait. But when it comes to singing lyrics of songs, he sometimes gets frustrated and shuts down. His normal lyric tenor sounds tight as he closes his mouth, tightens his jaw and sings a half-hearted “luh luh” instead of the words to the art song.

His love of music has remained, and he brings in familiar songs he knows, in German, Italian, French and English — Renaissance and 19th century — and some family songs from his childhood (He rarely gets the words wrong for those).

At first I encouraged him to sing a nice open Italian “ah” or some other open neutral sound when he forgot the words, but he really wanted to do as many lyrics as possible.

Late this summer, John wrote me an email saying he wanted to learn how to “read music better.”  I knew what he meant. He had always learned a few things wrong in each song, even before the aphasia. And once we learn a mistake, it’s hard to correct. But now the musical notation was feeling less decipherable. I wrote back that he reads music fine, but his rhythm has always needed work, so we should focus on keeping the beat, which has always given him confidence that he’s singing what’s on the page.

I don’t know why this works, incidentally, but in my years of working with singers I have witnessed again and again a great improvement in everything—words, rhythm and melody—when a student taps the beat with their hand, or even marches. John and I have done a lot of walking in lessons, when he wasn’t slapping his thigh loudly.

One day I was speaking with my friend Daniel Kempler, a professor of speech pathology whose specialty happens to be aphasia.  He told me that perhaps there is too much going on in printed music, and maybe just reading the words would be easier.  He told me that we “overlearn reading” so that it stays as a skill, even when someone might not understand the meaning of the words. I agreed. Writing the words is helpful to me, as I learn and memorize my songs. Indeed, I give an assignment to all my students before their first lesson to write down the words of their song. It’s a great way of getting in touch with the poetry without the tyranny of a notational representation of what the composer heard in his/her head.

John was unsure if this was the way he wanted to go.  After all, he is hoping to retain these musical skills. But he wrote down the words of his Purcell songs and in the lessons, we worked out a way to handle repeats.

He reads great!  We stayed with English for quite a while.

One odd thing: he keeps reading as if in a sentence, even if the melody expands on a single syllable (many notes on one word).  So we are working on a system that he can devise (and remember) that will make sense to him.  “Come, co-ome a-way-ay-ay-ay” might end up sounding like “Aye, Aye,” if one loses the context, which he can do.

In the early Fall, he told me he wanted to sing with his wife playing piano.  I consult with her teacher, a colleague at the Cambridge Music Consortium, about a good piece for the pianist, and I am delighted we all love a Schubert song, “Gute Nacht”, the first song in the long cycle, Winterreise.

John used to sing pretty well in German, but there are many long verses in “Gute Nacht.”   I suggest we look for an English translation he can sing and maybe cut some of the repeats.

John comes back the next week with his lyrics and a decent translation, not singable but at least we know what each word means.  He tries to sing it, but of course it does not scan–I tell him that singable translations rarely get the total gist of the original.

The next week he comes back with several verses for which he has made his OWN translation. And a lot of it really scans well and even has some of the alliteration and vowel sounds.  This excites me to no end.  We work on the awkward spots, and still, he sometimes just keeps reading the words.  We still get to work on the “good ni-i-ight”.

But it is coming.

I know John was a journalist. He was the Washington correspondent for a major newspaper during the Watergate era.  It is a thrill to witness the tenacity and inventiveness in his preparation for the lessons. To me, he is a Noble Member of the “Enemies List” of a certain president of the United States. And a really fun student to teach.

 

 

Sheet music to Gute Nacht