Vocal course in Arnas, France, with Rachel Ann Morgan
“My cousin Jan van der Veldt heard from a friend at his bridge club that a singing course would take place in France, given by one of her gardening club friends. We both enrolled for this course and made our way to Arnas without much thought. During the week we gradually realised that we were being taught by one of the top opera singers of the Netherlands. On our way there we were boasting that we were going to a masterclass but the first few days gave us another insight to reality. It was indeed a masterclass, but neither of us was a master ! But the good news was that it didn’t matter at all. Each person was accepted and treated at his level. As well as the strict lessons of basic exercises and breathing technique, each sang his own repertoire. Everyone had prepared pieces which they had sent in advance and these were performed on the last day during a house concert.
Rachel Ann has a friend who accompanied us at the piano. A more versatile pianist than Irina Sisoyeva is unimaginable. The repetiteur of the Netherlands Opera Chorus accompanied us during the entire week. This was splendid. Even after this week she was willing to help me, the undersigned, to learn an opera part that I needed to learn very quickly.
The course was supplemented by leisure and fantastic meals which were prepared by the house chef, Maurice, Rachel Ann’s husband. The meals were a true delight, worthy of the French kitchen and the many conversations during the meals gave rise to much hilarity.
I can look back on an instructive and leisurely course. I recommend this to anyone who wants to improve his vocal technique in a relaxed atmosphere.”
Michel van der Prijt
“The course given by Rachel Ann should not be called a ‘masterclass’. She calls it a course (or ‘stage’ in French). Masterclass reminds her negatively of the severe public lessons given by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf during the 80s. Rightly so as there is a huge difference between Frau Schwarzkopf and Miss Morgan. With Rachel Ann a thousand flowers could blossom whereas only one with Schwarzkopf !
Rachel Ann’s approach was right as there were differences of interest, level and experience within the group I was in. Don Giovanni ? Fine. Les misérables ? Aso good. A virtuoso Rossini aria ? All is possible. A bergerette ? Delightful ! Only Jacques Brel ? Yes also good, but with an English baroque song. And no, not à la Sting but according to the rules of bel canto. Each day began with technique. The triangle of vowels was new to all of us. Then learning to breathe not only from the abdomen but also using the back. A fascinating experience !
Rachel Ann is one of the pillars of this course. The second is her husband Maurice.
Maurice speaks only French but his art of cooking follows the rules of ‘la cuisine française’ which communicates in all languages ! Not only the taste but also how the delicacies were presented.
The third pillar was Irina. Anyone who has ever given a recital knows what a blessing a good accompanist is for a singer. Irina proved this in two ways. First, she knew how to pick everything up : if a singer began 3 bars too early, no problem. If a singer was completely lost Irina just continued playing until the singer found his place again and the audience noticed nothing. Second, during the afternoons we were free but Irina was standby. In my case during a lesson on a Poulenc song there was a beautiful but rather awkward harmony. It seemed to be wrong but the notes were right and there was friction. During a free afternoon Irina worked it out with me. She gave me a hint and suddenly it was radiant ! Not only the music but also the poem of Paul Eluard. This was an unforgettable experience for me.”
“Yes, that was an amazing week with lovely music, jolly contacts and inspired singers, not forgetting the marvellous meals provided by Maurice !! Highly recommended !”
Frank van Heusden