Training and practice makes perfect
26 June 2015
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Hello and welcome again to another edition of Old Mutual Live with me Aphiwe Honono. We speak to choirs in and around the SADC region and this can be choristers, conductors and today we are speaking to a pianist. Her name is Salome Lewin. Let’s start with the kind of work that you do, can you explain that to us?
SL: I teach music every day, it doesn’t matter what the instrument is. I teach piano, I teach rock ‘n pop music on the keyboard, I do flute, I do recorders. I enter them for Trinity College, London, that’s just done an external exam. They also do external written exams, which the older people can do two exams. We have a May exam and a November exam. The exam is on the eight, the Saturday, then you can write another exam on the Monday the 10th. So the students pay for the entry and their money gets sent to London and if there’s enough students, the examiner then comes out from London and does the exams here. Then goes back, gives the report to every student and every student gets an accredited certificate that they can use throughout the world.
Now and again, choirs come to me at the last minute and I keep on telling them, please do not come on the last minute. Sometimes they come, there are certain notes that they sing incorrectly or the way they can scan, they think it’s not important how their appearance is going to be on stage. It helps the breathing and I mean your voice is now the instrument, your voice is not the piano and you must sing correct notes. Sometimes I find that choirs, the soprano, the alto, the base, the tenor; there’s sometimes that they sing incorrect notes or the timing is incorrect and I’ve got to help with them that. Sometimes I have to tell the conductor how he stands in front of his choir.
Having an exceptional ear for music is a gift
AN: That sounds like a lot of work for one person Salome.
SL: It’s a lot of work, yes, and that’s why I say, they come on the last minute. Sometimes I don’t want them to come because I mean they’re going to perform on stage. They want to do the best, right, but if they don’t practice, it’s like practice your piano every day.
AN: As an expert in the industry Salome, what would you say to someone who wants to get into the choral industry, but has not really studied. Or has a musical background, but they do know they have the voice for it, would you say they should give it a shot or they should first try and study it and then see where it goes?
SL: When they come for the lesson, the singing lesson, I can then find out whether you are a singer or your voice is fine. Or try, especially when you’re young, ages 5,6,7,8,9, I train you from small how to breathe and get that voice out and how to sing ‘aaaaahhhh’ and get to the right note. I play the note on the piano, can you sing this back to me and this helps them a lot when they do external exams. There’s an oral exam where the examiner plays something and there’s other notes. You sing that note, but sometimes they can’t. So through practice it becomes perfect.
Choirs need to look and sound the part in competitions
AN: Looking at where choirs stand in South Africa at the moment, or maybe the entire SADC region and you knowing what the judges at the National Choir Festival are looking for; what do you think a lot of choirs lack? What should be worked on by a lot of choirs leading up to the National Choir Festival this year?
SL: The way they come on stage, you know, some of them come in, they think they can go on stage just anyhow. Lacksy daisy way, instead of really, I’m going to perform in front of people. I’ve got to make contact with the audience, I’ve got to tell them a story to what I’m singing. So the audience hangs on my lips to say, wow, I understand what you are singing. You understand, and they can hear that there is a note wrong. Even the arrhythmic aspect of that piece, that people play on the piano, is there a connection between the choir and the pianist or is the choir just doing its own thing. The pianist must just follow what they are singing there, there must be communication.
AN: Salome, for people who are seeking your expertise, how do they get in touch with you?
SL: My number is 0832541771, at Nirvana Cultural Centre in Mafikeng.
AN: All right, thank you so much for your time Salome.