December 7, 2015. The historic Salmon Leap Inn at the confluence of the River Rye and the River Liffey, sitting on the border of County Kildare and County Dublin on a windy and wet Monday evening was the setting for the first Vocal Academy Adult Singing Class Showcase.
Five wonderful, brave souls – 10 weeks ago – signed away the next 10 weeks of their lives (Aideen, Alex, Maeve, Mick and Ray), they wrapped up their trust and handed it to The Vocal Academy for safe keeping. Without going into specifics some of these singers were told half a century ago that they couldn’t sing. Some stopped singing at school. Some only sang under the cover of a ‘character’ in the Pantomime at Christmas or in the relative anonymity of a choir. The Adult Singing Class turned out to be a platform for those that for one reason or another along the way, to one extent or another were not take seriously when it came to the finer art of singing.
From the start, nobody knew what to expect (least of all the Facilitator!). This hadn’t really been done before, at least not in this constituency. One thing important to note though is that there are loads of outlets for the youth and adults alike to express their grá for singing and the arts in general. Musical Societies, Gospel Choirs, Theatrical Groups, Church Choirs, GLEE Clubs, Youth Theatre, Dance Classes and many others. The Adult Singing Class is here simply to fill a gap.
(Aideen entertains with her emotional rendition of Hallelujah)
What really struck home for the Vocal Academy over the course of the last 10 weeks was that the Adult Singing Class appeal was for people who both fell between two stools regarding these groups but also those who are involved. The Adult Singing Class acted as a platform for these Singers to shine on their own terms. This in a way was the most important element of the course.
TV Reality shows that abound with themes of getting fit, or getting married, or eating bugs, et al, but have nothing on the journey that was embarked upon by students and teacher alike. The process was a genuine and tangible excorsism. We looked at song choice, we looked at Bel Canto, the delivery, the stance, eye contact, timing, clapping, singing ‘lighter’, ‘pressing down’ on that word, everything and anything you could imagine. We did a field trip to a local Open Mic night. This was the first time most of these singers had ever stood in front of a crowd with a microphone, under the lights and heard themselves singing back through a monitor. It worked though. We managed to take the sting out of nerves. Remember, you’re just singing a song!
(Maeve and her band – Nothing Else Matters)
The payoff for the blood, sweat and tears came at the Showcase. The venue was perfect. Warm, relaxed, food and drink, complete with fireplace and Christmas decorations. A big, respectful crowd all there to cheer on their heroes. We had Jim Sheridan (Keyboards, Late Late Show, Camembert Quartet) and Gary Harpur (last minute stand in on guitar! – The Harley’s, Riverdance, Rhythm of the Dance) supporting our Singers on the night, who tremendous thanks must be served.
The Singers engaged their audience, they played with them, they touched their hearts. Alex opened the night with Eric Clapton’s, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out. Ray’s renditions of Scorn Not His Simplicity, rang home with some. How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning, a song from real left field went down a bomb!! Nothing Else Matters, All The Lies, Singing The Blues, Danny Boy and Aideen poured her heart out in an emotional performance of Hallelujah all had the audience purring.
(Alex doing her best Diva impression and winning!)
The second half of the show we upped the game even further! Come Rain Or Come Shine, a technically challenging song was met head on and brought the audience straight back in. I’ll Be Home For Christmas, warmed them up and the final flourish of Mack The Knife followed by Mick and Alex fun version of Baby It’s Cold Outside turned the Salmon Leap Inn, into one big shiny smile!
We’re in Ireland and decided late on in the course to sing together in an ensemble. There was of course only one choice. To finish the night off with our rendition of Fairytale Of New York, with the crowd joining in can only be described as Special.
(The audience loving the Vocal Academy performers)
Words are scarce in order to paint a fair picture of how proud and happy we here at the Vocal Academy are. Like small flowers blossoming under the sun, our Singers showed everyone the true vibrant colours they have been waiting to reveal all of these years. They proved to themselves and everybody else that they could do it. But how they did it with such aplomb is the real victory for them.
The only thing we can say to them now that it’s all done – Lads and Lassies, you’re only singing a song! Well done!