A singer’s blog – What’s your line?

14 April 2016

As I put my red Inspiration tie back in the wardrobe the euphoria of another red letter concert day is only just dropping from eleven. It’s been amazing to discover the whole new world of Alan Menken’s repertoire and to have the chance to perform it on stage in our home city, once again with ‘the world’s favourite orchestra’, the BSO.

The musical melange of Menken’s compositions has deservedly won him eight Oscars, seven Golden Globes and eleven Grammy Awards but we found the lyrics equally inspiring. So here, with a bow to Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Stephen Schwartz and Glenn Slater, is a selection of Inspiration Southampton’s favourite lines from the Seize the Day programme, and yes, there were A LOT to choose from!

In the sopranos Jo Gerrard liked the harmonic gelling of the choir as we sang, ‘Beato Michaeli archangelo…’ in Hunchback while Marie Smith was touched by the soaring lyric of ‘Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon?’ in Colours of the Wind which won Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy Awards and has been translated into 32 languages!

Gill Spratt in the altos went for the blending of Menken’s tune and Schwartz’s words in the Hunchback line, ‘God help the outcasts, or nobody will’. Carol Paddison was taken with Lumiere’s words, ‘Flabby, fat and lazy’ from Be Our Guest. She said she remembered being amused by Pete doing it in rehearsal and it was a cue for her next entry. Alto and soloist Laura Havercan also liked a line from Be Our Guest, ‘Ba-da-bup-’ – ‘cos it’s funny’ and fellow alto and soloist Helen Hodrien chose ‘Keep your fear from interferin’ and let that sucker burst through” as a motivating, ‘go for it’ idea.

Meanwhile, in the tenors/tenorettes, Mark Tipper went for the harmony-with-nature sentiment in Pocahontas’ ‘You can own the earth and still all you’ll own is earth until…’ Joan Anderson’s vote was for ‘Dig and dig and dig and digety-dig’ with its momentum-building repetition and also because she was confident what was coming next! On a more personal note, Michael Albison, tenor with a transfer request for a move to the basses, told me how a line from I See the Light held a special meaning for him. ‘And the world has somehow shifted’ reminds him of how he felt when his children were born, when, ‘All at once everything looks different’.

Of course, the basses had their choices too. Bob Grimble’s favourite line was from Little Shop when Seymour sings, ‘I keep asking God what I’m for and he tells me, “Gee I’m not sure!”’ He liked the funny way this ‘iconoclastic sentence challenges a common conception’. Barry Price agreed with tenor and soloist David Spratt in going for Hunchback’s ‘Who is the monster and who is the man?’ in both the posing of the moral question and the harmony of the voices at that point. Richard Calton’s top line was from Pocahantas, with ‘Where the gulls fly free’, which he explained was on account of the difficulty he had remembering that line until he re-wrote it as ‘Weather girls…’!

From the many wonderful lyrics my special line was in ‘Out There’ from Hunchback where Quasimodo is longing to join the world below and he sings, ‘If I was in their skin I’d treasure every minute, out there…’. He perceptively sees what others do with their lives and, although he views others with envy, he is also aware of ‘so many less lucky than I’. As a retired English teacher I also appreciate the repeated rhyme of ‘in… skin…’ and ‘min –ute’.

Music Director Pete’s pick was the ‘How high does the sycamore grow? If you cut it down you’ll never know’. Another of Stephen Schwartz’s eco-friendly, anti-exploitation of the earth’s resources messages that is prominent in the film.

And finally, a word from our sponsor, David Peters, who could not decide on just one line but simply reflected on the pleasure it brought him to see the happiness and enthusiasm in the choir and its ‘fabulous union’ with the orchestra.

Till the next time…

Alan Matlock
Singer with Inspiration Southampton


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