Monday, 24 February 2014

Straining at Nats

I was sitting at the table eating pancakes when I saw the low-heeled black pump appear around the corner.  It was several feet above the ground because younger daughter was attempting to see her feet in her dress shoes in the small mirror at face height in the hall, so she was balancing precariously on one foot halfway up the stairs, her knee drawn up at a sharp right angle.

This was the first indication I'd had that younger daughter planned to wear pumps for the singing competition that afternoon.

Low-heel pumps used to mean two-inch heels; three inches was considered quite "high".  These days,"high heels" mean six inches or more -- I tried on elder daughter's high school graduation shoes for all of two seconds before my arches screamed bloody murder -- and anything under four inches seem to count as low heels.

Anyway, younger daughter wore the pumps (about three inches for the heels, I'd say) for the first time at the Christmas recital with wearing practice and we haven't seen them since.

She had chosen the dress elder daughter had given her for Christmas -- a silky burgundy print from Forever 21, and looked charming with sparkly black stockings, so I held my peace.

NATS, (the National Association of Teachers of Singing) is the first voice competition of the season.  This was younger daughter's third time and this year she was in the "17 and under" category.  She was the last of nine singers.  As we waited out in the hall, I quietly scoped what other singers were wearing.  I did see quite a few pumps, usually with long dresses.

Each entrant had prepared three songs, to be sung in under eight minutes.  So we listened to twenty-four songs by the previous eight singers.  All of them in ballet flats, with the exception of the other girl who takes lessons with younger daughter's voice teacher, who was wearing rather old-fashioned black patent-leather sandals with a bit of heel to them.

Younger daughter finally took the stage, clumping to the piano rather like a little girl playing dress-up, but she found her place and stood confidently, without a wobble.

Unlike walking in her footwear, younger daughter has been preparing her song selections for the past couple of months, although she started learning "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" last summer.

"Sorge il sol! Che fai tu?" is a spring song, a bit premature in Hades, but cheerful at least:  Younger daughter's rendition was quite urgent, the gist of the lyric being "The sun's up; get out and enjoy the flowers!"

I've been hearing "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" pretty well every day all this month.  Much as I love listening to younger daughter sing, February and "Motherless Child" are a pretty lethal combination.  She sang with appropriate soul and sorrow.

The third song was "Jazz Man" by Benjamin Britten which is usually sung by children's choirs ("twenty children couldn't make as much noise"):  It's not an easy song, especially sung at breakneck speed.

The other singers, for the most part, had a more operatic sound, but I was pleased with the range of younger daughter's selections.  The adjudication notes were constructive and kind, praising the loveliness of her voice (it is, you know) and the expressiveness of her performance, and suggesting she not touch her hair and face so much.  (Bit of a tall order for someone on the autistic spectrum, but heck, if she can sing in French, German, or Italian…)

We recovered with a concert at the National Arts Centre with award-winning singer Denzal Sinclaire doing quite a bit of Nat King Cole material with other things he's known for thrown in for good measure, accompanied by the National Arts Centre Orchestra.  I wasn't familiar with Denzal Sinclaire, even though he has won all sorts of awards for his singing -- apparently Diana Krall and Michael Bublé are fans --and is an actor as well.

Younger daughter had a simply gorgeous time; he sang standards like "Mona Lisa" and jazzy numbers like "Route 66" and best of all, "When I Fall in Love", the song she chose when she was asked to be the soloist at a wedding a year and a half ago.  I was delighted to see one of my favourites on the play-list:  "Straighten Up and Fly Right".  I know it from a recording by Lyall Lovett, but had no idea that Nat King Cole wrote it and recorded it in 1943.  Here he is, singing it: 

There isn't much of Denzal Sinclaire singing Nat King Cole on YouTube, just a rather shaky video of "Nature Boy" (which I've always thought was one weird song), but he did sing "You and the Night and the Music" which gives you a good idea of his calibre:  

Oh, and younger daughter wore her snowboots to the concert.  Kiwanis season is in April.  I wonder if I can get her to practise walking in those heels before then.

No comments: