13 January 2014

Other spaces

One of the biggest creators of space for me has always been music. I'm still thinking about the physical spaces that centre me, but today I'm exploring another part of it. I grew up in an extremely musical family, with all of us playing multiple instruments as well as singing (although none of us ever had our voices trained beyond what was required for piano aural tests). In fact, my brother "Sphenodon" over at Rubbing the Gecko noted that of all the kinds of music we listened to and grew up with, the one glaring omission was serious singing, particularly opera (and from my point of view, high church music as well). I don't remember the Sunday night opera on TV that he does (I suspect I was sent to bed as being too young to stay up that late), but it's interesting that we have both discovered serious singing in the years since.

For me, it began with choirs at school, usually lighter stuff that school choirs can cope with, but then I progressed into a "working" church choir and fell in love all over again with the gorgeous vocal music of Handel, Bach, and other composers of masses that I had loved to listen to for years, and then discovering the likes of Charles Villiers Stanford, Thomas Tallis, Palestrina, Purcell, Faure, Rutter, and others, culimating in singing Stainer's Crucifixion for one Good Friday vigil.

 I am mildly ashamed to admit that the only full-length opera I have seen was  Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) by Mozart, done by Victoria University's Schools of Music and European Languages years and years ago, and I have never heard most of the other famous operas in their entirety (something that I need to fix, if I can find good recordings: actually being able to see opera when living in Rotorua is slightly difficult!).

I have, however, begun to fall in love with arias. There is a deep sense of emotion, of space, of depth: tonight I have been revelling in Sol3 Mio's album, particularly the gorgeous rendition of Nessun Dorma (which I have heard in several wonderful recordings, notably Andrea Bocelli). I love the way it soars to the sky, starting small and almost humble but ending up in the stars. This album isn't all opera (in fact I wish there was more of it) - there are a few lighter numbers too, including a rich version of The Rose, one of my favourite songs from my childhood. I've got a lovely album of Bryn Terfel's that I think I need to listen to again soon too because there's more opera on that one.

What I'm finding interesting is how much space singing creates in me. I love to sing, although my mid-range soprano isn't all that strong (never trained except in choirs!), but singing and listening to good singing brings me peace. No matter what is going on around me, the sound of good voices brings me back to myself. It's not all about opera though - I was mixing it up today at work with another favourite band shared with my brother, The Alan Parson's Project, a "best of" album that I picked up for a song yesterday, which included Eye in the Sky which is a favourite track (which I didn't have).

This is a lesson that I continuously need to remember: I need good music. It's not a sweet optional extra I tack on sometimes. There is something in me that needs it, that is fed by it, that finds peace and joy and openness to love in it. Whether it's my own music-making, singing or playing, or listening to those much more talented than I could ever be, I need it. Tonight when I was cleaning the fishy-house and listening to those amazing voices of Sol3 Mio my spirit soared, far above the grubby tank and the mundane and boring parts of my day. Music helps me find silence in myself and to learn to love - isn't most music inspired by love?

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