At lunchtime to the Conservatoire Royale for the final examination of our singer friend, Pauline Claes. I have attended quite a few thesis defences in my time (and sat a couple myself), but this is the first time I have attended a final music exam. I found the setting quite intimidating. The students sing from a bare stage to the half-empty (though always handsome) concert hall, with the examiners dotted around, taking notes. Pauline, a mezzo soprano, sang Monteverdi (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Handel (Alcina), Schumann (Frauenliebe und Leben), Duparc (La Vie Antérieure), Massenet (Werther), Mozart (La Clemenza di Tito) and Rossini (La Petite Messe Solonelle). In addition to her piano accompanist (Pierre Féraux), she was accompanied on some of the pieces by a cellist, two violinists and a clavichord (the Monterverdi), a clarinet (the Mozart) and a quartet (the Rossini). Oh, yes, and she also sang Bolcom’s ‘George’ (there’s a version of this cabaret song here). And at the end of it all she came out with a well-deserved Grand Distinction. Phew! As I hurried back to work I felt exhausted from the stress of it all but the music was great, just great. Well done, Pauline!