Voice for Life – Bronze Award

It’s been the sort of week where nothing goes according to plan, so I suppose I should have been wary of putting my travel plans down to Antwerp in the hands of both the Dutch and Belgian railways. As it happened the usually 1.5 hour journey took 4 hours, and involved 4 trains and a bus. I finally arrived in Antwerp at 3pm, half an hour after my exam should have been over.

Luckily for me, I bumped into one of the other candidates (they were all fellow ECS members) during the long wait for the bus at Essen, so we were able to keep each other company during the delays and the painfully slow local train from Kapellen to Antwerp, when we spent the whole journey crammed like sardines in the guard’s van. As the accompanist, and all the other candidates bar one, were also delayed, I was still able to take the exam, albeit a little behind schedule.

The question that of course everyone has been asking me the last few days, is “what’s this singing thing you’re doing, then?”. The answer is that it is a scheme organized by the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) which, to quote the RSCM, “provides a framework for choral singers to develop their vocal skills, their musical understanding and their knowledge of repertoire”. If you’ve ever seen a cathedral chorister with a medal round his neck – this is more or less what it’s about. Taking part in this round of exams was particularly exciting, as it’s the first time they’ve been held in the North West Europe branch of the RSCM.

Despite the fact that I made the wise choice to start at the easiest level, it’s fair to say that I’ve been worrying about the exam all week, even more so since the run through I had on Tuesday with Martin proved just how difficult it is to sing when you’re suffering from nerves. In the event, of course, it was over before I knew it. My prepared pieces went ok, but could have been better, and the aural tests were fine, with the exception of interval recognition, which I screwed up royally. After all of my panicking about the “choir in context” section, focusing on the liturgical aspect to the music we sing, this turned out to be less detailed than I had anticipated, and I couldn’t help wondering why I’d been walking around armed with such a stack of information.

As I was the last candidate of the day, once my exam was over, it was time for us all to pile back to the station and take the train home. Still some delays on the line, but we made it in a mere 2.5 hours, with no unexpected changes. Time enough to relax, and enjoy a glass of wine in transit. Now it’s just a question of waiting for the results, which fortunately should come through soon, in time for the medals to be presented at next week’s Choral Festival.

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