Last Saturday, CASI arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall. Not a lot of Americans are here -- Dr. Mrs. says that this town is virtually unknown. But it. Is. Delightful! We all swear we're never coming home. When we arrived, it was chilly, and all of CASI fragmented and went to different places. Several of us are staying with host families, I among them, so we met them at the train station. My host family is very sweet! They are so generous to welcome me into their home. They took me and my friends Bri and Cloe, along with their host family, to look at some of the local sights. First on the list was the local Pendennis Castle, which dates back to Henry VIII. Sidebar: only in Europe is there just casually a local castle. You know.
They took me back to the house to get settled. My room is so cozy! There's a little skylight that I just love. Bri and Cloe came over for dinner, and after that, my host family took us all down to the main part of town. There is one main road in Falmouth, and it houses all the shops and restaurants. It's just alongside the harbor, too.
This town -- I cannot adequately describe it, and pictures never do it justice. It seems that everywhere you look, you see the ocean. It's all around. The town is constantly looking over the tail end of the English Channel, and off in the not-so-far distance, blue as can be, farther than dreaming -- the Atlantic Ocean. I've never seen it from this end. It's the one thing that never shrinks as I grow. Standing on these streets that wind down to sea level, you can see forever. Looking into the blue distance, I am reminded of my smallness and of the wonder of God. I love that no matter where I am, He never fails to make me marvel at His bigness and breathe in His power.
Last weekend, Falmouth held its annual International Sea Shanty Festival. Groups from around the world gather in this little Cornish town for three days and sing sea shanties. Shanties were a way of developing teamwork on the high seas. The sailors would work together in camaraderie, and they would pull ropes to the rhythm of their songs. The simplified version of this is that a bunch of people were singing pirate songs all weekend. When we arrived, my host family took me, Bri, and Cloe to the harbor to see some shanty groups.
Y'all. They were AMAZING! My favorite was a group called the Longest Johns. They had one incredibly bassy bass, and their harmonies were so tight, and their songs such rip-roaring fun. I clapped and sang along. It reminded me of last year in Graz, when, during the jazz festival, all of AIMS danced in the streets with die Österreichischeren. It was magical. It's an honor to be part of a culture in that way.
The next day was Sunday, and all of CASI, now well-settled, had a lovely masterclass with a countertenor we know as DQ. That evening, we had a welcome-to-Falmouth party at the Sadliers' cottage. They served the traditional Cornish hand pies called pasties. Sidebar: everyone serves pasties here. It's like barbecue in the South or salsa in any kind of Mexican food. Everyone says they have the best pasties. It was such a joy to be with friends that night. These people are quickly becoming a family to me.
Monday was the beginning of Real Life in Falmouth. I began my day by watching historical footage of World War I. It's a documentary-style video, with narration over the top. It really brings history to life. I also had a lesson with Dr. Sadlier on Monday. Allow me a moment to say how amazing all our CASI faculty are. They are the bomb. They rock our faces off on a daily basis. They have done so much for me and my voice, and I know all my colleagues and friends here feel the same. Good teachers make all the difference in the world. Anyway, Dr. Sadlier made the comment to me that if he had known my voice better when he picked repertoire, he might have picked higher music for me, since I'm so comfortable with high stuff. This started some wheels turning in my head, as you shall see.
We also have joint lessons with our pianists at least once a week. My friend Bri is also my pianist, so we have our lessons together with Dr. Mrs., who coaches us on collaboration. It's really interesting to hear the pianists' side of the collaborative work. Their job involves things I never thought of: choosing which voices in the piano to highlight, for example. It's like I get to peek in on a piano lesson. It's so cool.
Tuesday was similar: footage of the war, then a lesson -- this one with Soon Cho, a mezzo-soprano and fantastic teacher. We all adore her. I walked into my lesson and overheard a conversation she was having with Elisabeth, whose lesson was before mine. She was telling Liz that she might be a Schwitzenfach, a voice that switches voice parts, or she might be a larger soprano voice -- but maybe not a mezzo, like Liz thought she was. When Liz left, I walked up and said, "We might be about to have the same conversation." I liked the way she proceeded: she asked me what I thought I did well. I immediately responded, "High notes." My middle voice is a struggle, y'all. Dr. Brookes has been working with me on it for a while, but I've never been able to get it. Let me tell you -- Tuesday, I got it.
Dr. Cho helped me to navigate my middle voice so that I was singing in a speechlike way. My middle cleared up instantly. It was incredible. There was no more fuzz around it. I couldn't believe it.
I couldn't help what happened next, though I tried to stop it.
I know, I know. Sara, why did you cry, you moron? You just figured something out! Yes, I did, and I was overjoyed. But something came loose in my head. I couldn't believe I hadn't been singing this way my entire life. And it was so easy. Good singing is easy. It was such a fix that I couldn't believe it. Thankfully, Dr. Cho is the best, and she totally understood: sometimes we cry when tension is released. I cannot tell you the relief this was to me. My tears say enough.
Later that day I had a marvelous coaching with DQ. He worked with me on character and performance in my songs. That, combined with our first acting classes that night and Wednesday night, has opened an entirely new world to me. The amount of preparation that goes into the acting side of performance alone is staggering. Coachings and classes like these are stimulating. They inspire me to study my music and go deeper into it. They light a fire under me to do the work.
I am willing.
We had a performance class on Wednesday morning, and it was joyous. My middle voice was clearer, and my performance was good. I received lots of compliments from my friends and positive feedback from the faculty. God is so good to me. He is so faithful to my voice and my heart. He has never not come through, and He shows me this every day.
The running here in Falmouth is gorgeous. I took these photos on my morning runs:
I mean, is this real life.
I spend a lot of time reading: there are lots of places to do so, and I found THE BEST BOOK in the local bookseller's shop. It's called All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. You guys. This book. Go buy it right now. It's about World War II, and this man's language is absolutely magical. I can hardly put the book down. Plus it won a Pulitzer Prize, so you know it's good.