Blog: RO HANCOCK-CHILD at studioRO.

I'm delighted to be working with soprano GLENYS GROVES, recently retired from the Royal Opera House. We're preparing a programme of songs for an afternoon concert on SUNDAY 17th SEPTEMBER, in Pagham, West Sussex. Glenys has already recorded a batch of my songs, including a song I wrote specially for her. She has a warm, expressive voice, and I asked if she had a favourite poem. Yes, she said, it's Baby Seed Song by E(dith) Nesbit, my mother used to read it to me. I found the poem, was enchanted by its wise simplicity, and I set it to music in an evening - the music just seemed to flow. I used an American style in the manner of the Shaker melodies e.g. Tis the gift to be simple. Glenys loved it, and it's become a symbol of our happy collaboration. Here are the words, I know you'll love them. And at the foot of this post is a YouTube link, so you can listen too. Wishing you well, Ro xx

Little brown brother, oh! little brown brother,
Are you awake in the dark?
Here we lie cosily, close to each other:
Hark to the song of the lark
"Waken!" the lark says, "waken and dress you;
Put on your green coats and gay,
Blue sky will shine on you, sunshine caress you
Waken! 'tis morning 'tis May!"
Little brown brother, oh! little brown brother,
What kind of a flower will you be?
I'll be a poppy all white, like my mother;
Do be a poppy like me.
What! You're a sunflower! How I shall miss you
When you're grown golden and high!
But I shall send all the bees up to kiss you;
Little brown brother, good-bye.




It's always so rewarding, working with an experienced singer. The process of taking a song, tasting and testing it, and gradually working out how to perform it, is an interesting one.

Every singer has their own favoured way of learning something new. I gave Glenys Groves two songs by Madeleine Dring: Snowman, and High in the Pines. (Madeleine Dring used to sing her songs while accompanying herself at the piano, I have no idea how she did it. Playing the accompaniment is quite taxing enough for me!) Both of these songs have an attractive melodic line which almost sings itself.

Glenys likes first to have an informal recording of the song (I play the melody and accompaniment together, to give her an idea of the whole), so she can carry it with her and listen whenever she likes. Then, when she's listened enough, we move to the piano and sing it through, ignoring any little things that aren't quite right. We want to get a 'feel' for the song, an idea of the required style.

When we're confident of the notes, the careful work begins. Glenys thinks hard about each phrase, trying out different ways of putting it over, considering the lyrics, the poem, the intended effect. The Dring requires a relaxed approach, an illusion of an easy style - I say 'illusion', because nothing is easy, but you need to make it sound as if it is. Both of these songs 'swing' a little, and so we experiment with how far they can be 'swung' - not too much, not too little - what is just right? We don't know yet, we need to 'sing them in'.

As we rehearse, our comfortableness with the song increases, we 'make friends' with it. The song tells us how it wants to go. Wasn't it Mozart's father who said that music holds within itself all the necessary information about how it should be performed? The music will show you how.

More in my next BLOG.

Ro Hancock-Child