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Wizard Wedding Weekend

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the wedding of two wonderful friends, Laura and James. The bride and groom met at a Harry Potter wizard Rock show in a library a few years ago and honoured the connection by theming the wedding around books. This was a very special wedding, and Laura and James’ personalities and hard work could be seen throughout the weekend.

This was a very small wedding with forty-two people in attendance, meaning that we could all stay together in the large house where the reception took place. On arriving at the house, we could see the schedule of the next day’s proceedings while we settled down to a fish-and-chip takeaway.

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On the morning of the wedding, many of us woke at quarter to eight and so we pootled into Kylie and Mel’s room for a chat and a cup of tea. By 10am we had Twerked, tea’d and Cheerio’d and decided it was time to put our nice frocks on before heading down to the Knight Bus to go to the ceremony.

Wedding bus

Ellie and I show off our hats aboard the Knight Bus!

We drove over hill and dale (singing a rousing bus-related wizard rock song) to get to the ceremony’s venue, a small converted barn on an organic farm. We saw lots of nice cows and sheep on our way, as well as a sign for pig racing, which we decided would be an excellent day out and a marvelous activity to follow a wedding…

Paper book flowers

Handmade flowers from the pages of books to tie in with the book theme.

Wedding

Vintage and pretty decor at the venue.

When we entered, Here Comes the Sun by Laura’s favourite band, the Beatles was playing. There were strings of bunting and fairylights and garlands decorating the barn along with the red roses and book-roses that Laura had made. As is tradition, the bride was quite late. Untraditionally, though, it was because she’d got lost and ended up in a field. Luckily we had the Beatles playing and cereal bars to keep us fueled until she arrived. We also convinced James and our friend Neil, the best man, to keep us entertained. 🙂

Wedding Men

Kylie-faces!

The ceremony was beautiful. Laura looked stunning and elegant in her red gown. We were so few in number that we all felt honoured to be there for Laura and James. When it came to their readings and vows, we knew exactly what they meant. Laura read a passage from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that was so wonderfully relevant and poignant that Mel, Ellie and I all made good use of the tissues I’d brought.

In the Morris

Mr and Mrs in the Morris.

Vintage Wedding

The wedding party and parents on the farm.

When we got back to the reception house, the photographer took some photos of everyone outside the house. Meanwhile, a few of us scurried off to take some photos in the surrounding area. There were some great props like tyres and old sheds, long grass, and rubble! Grunge-chic!

Wedding fashion

Rachel in the wedding high-fashion photoshoot!

Feeling a bit... tyred? Hahaha...

Behind the scenes!

Leaning on the fence

David does his best model-farmer pose.

After a pretty sparkling wine and some nibbles, we moved through for dinner. The dining room had been decorated beautifully by the wedding party. As we arrived, we each found our names attached to a small charm (mine was a clock!) on top of an old book which bore the name of our table. All of our friends were seated at the Fantasy table, which was decorated with the one ring, the wardrobe, and a pile of children’s book, including Philosopher’s Stone and Beedle the Bard.  When we found our seats, there was an envelope each with our names on, and a literary address. (Mine was 4 Privet Drive!!) Laura and James had also chosen a different classic Ladybird book to suit each person. I got a make and do book! 🙂 This was such a lovely touch and made everyone feel really included in the wedding!

Toast

To celebrate!

Favours books

The wedding favours. The envelope contained a quiz about books and the bride and groom!

After an italian themed dinner, we dined on cupcakes and drank tea from vintage china teacups and saucers. Once the speeches and toasts had been made (there was an actual piece of toast raised), we all headed through to the dance floor.

Wedding Cake

The sideboard of sugar.

Cup and saucer

Everyone had a different vintage cup and saucer.

Ellie, Cathrin and I provided some live musical entertainment with a selection of songs from the 40s and 50s. This included Unchained Melody, sung by Cathrin, to which Laura and James had their first dance.

First dance

Serenaded by Cathrin.

At around 10pm, we came back to do a special set of Wizard Rock songs and to debut our new act Kate and the Bushes.  We sang Wuthering Heights and had a choreographed dance routine. It was fun! 😀

The night went on with sing-alongs to such classic hits as Vindaloo, songs from Greece, 500 Miles, Goodbye Privet Drive, Sweet Child of Mine, 500 Miles and 99 Death Eaters.

The following day we had a picnic in the garden, went to visit some nice friendly cows with the cow-whisperer (Lucy) and played Pointless. There was a group reading of some Mills and Boone in the late afternoon and a drama with a missing cheeseboard.

What a lovely weekend it was. Thanks Laura and James for including me. ❤

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"I Can Never Leave The Past Behind"

My hair was MADE for the 80s.

2012 began with a trip to the 1980s. My friend Estelle had an 80s themed hen party in Clonakilty, West Cork. It was definitely the most fun hen party I have attended! Everyone was lovely, we played games like “make a dress out of toilet paper” and hit the various bars in Clon. I must say, it was much more fun than a night out in Cork, which is always crowded, loud and generally yucky. We accidentally wandered into a 1920s themed club, which was SO MUCH FUN!

This was my background ALL YEAR 🙂

Of course, next I had to claim back the limelight for my birthday party in mid-January. I was so lucky that so many of my friends traveled from the UK to come and dress up as Disney characters in this house we rented for the weekend. At the time, my ickly doggie Millie was on the cusp of death, which did rather make things more stressful for me, but I still feel so privileged that my friends came and spent the weekend with me!

It was in February that Conor and Estelle got married – what a fabulous day! There was a TONNE of music, from a long lost Baroque hymn to a metal cover band. My sister, Alison played the cello and I made the cake. I can hardly believe it’s been nearly a year since the wedding! The cake took three days to make and was comprised of 120 chocolate and red velvet cupcakes, plus one giant cupcake at the top and I made myself a cupcake print dress to wear on the day. Conor and Estelle are such a lovely couple and have so many wonderful friends! A great day was had by all.
Also in this month, Alison and I went to Cobh to enjoy a night of free dinner and free accommodation thanks to a prize Alison had won! We went to Gilberts and ate until we could eat no more before falling into bed and eating breakfast in their penthouse the following morning!
In March, the inimitable Miss Ellie Murray turned the big one-eight! For a few days, our group entered the episode of Gavin & Stacey which has, up to very recently, been Ellie’s life. It was there that Ellie and I embarked upon a walk to Costa, wrote a violin part for our song about Sherlock, watched Father Ted before rocking up to a rugby club to boogie the night away for her birthday party. Pam and Mick took us out for dinner and treated me to a very British pie in a pub. It was delicious. 🙂

The in the days after the party, Ellie brought us to Cheshire to a tea room that was IN a cathedral. Not in a room in a cathedral – the WHOLE cathedral was a tea room! I gasped. It was amazing and shocking!

Creepy Amy clone.

We also went to ‘The Lady Lever’ for tea and a cake. It was there that Kylie and I shared one of my top cakes of 2012 – a delicious carrot cake. (Ellie and Cathrin shared a “chocolate cloud cake” which was also very impressive.) It was here that I came across the painting to the right, which looks UPSETTINGLY like me as a child. I showed the picture to my dad and sister upon returning home and both are as astonished and weirded out as I am. I feel like Homer in the episode with Mr Sparkle…

Torc Waterfall, Killarney.

Martha took a short trip to Killarney in April. It was there that I went on a run that is, to this day, the most special and beautiful run I have experienced. I went just after the sun came up, it was cold, crisp and dry and I ran around a lake into Muckross grounds. There were so many trees and fields, and it was just serenely quiet. On the way back to where we were staying, I walked through the ruins of an old chapel and grave yard that was dappled in sunlight through the trees. Even though I know it was public, it felt so hidden and secret. Definitely one of my stand-out moments of 2012.

Later on that month, I began working in Bantry, West Cork. Bantry is far, far away and I taught there two days a week on top of my own teaching in Cork. It was such a strange place and so weird to go and stay in a B&B once a week but it was really fun to get to listen to podcasts and music, and to read in the time I wasn’t working. I met a lot of very nice people there, too! 🙂 When I arrived to teach piano, this sign was waiting for me! —>

In May, I was completely delighted to welcome two of my dearest friends, Kylie and Melinda to my home for a relaxing few days. We went into Cork and examined the wares for sale, drank hot chocolate and the introduced me to Spaced for the first time. I also invited them to a special tea party followed by a trip to see Avengers Assemble with Martha and Orla.

In June, so much happened! Far too much for me to recount here, but most of it occurred within one week. Bevin came from America and so we spent a week showing her some of the more more exciting parts of England – like London, Warwick Castle, London, Southend-On-Sea, London and some other places.

Emilieee ♥

Here is a picture taken directly after the moment I got a phone call saying I was being offered a place in 3rd year of a BMus performance degree programme. So glad I was with my friends when it happened! 🙂 It was at approximately the same time that we saw the Olympic flame run past the window, too!

Ellie at Electric for a scone and a spot of knitting.

I was so happy in July because Ellie-Murray came to stay with me for four days! We sat down, we ate yoghurts, we went to see Dark Knight Rises, we went shopping, to Blarney Castle, we drank tea. It was a jolly lovely holiday. We even went to the Cork Food Festival and toured the food, eating our way around Cork, essentially, and basking in the evening sun.

At the end of July (the 31st, to be specific!) Lucy, Mel, Emilie and I went to Leavesden Studios for Harry’s birthday. It was lovely, we got to see all the beautiful props from the films and it was awe-inspiring to see even that small portion of all the work that went into the films. At the same time, Lucy and I shot a video for LeakyCon 2012 which meant that by the time the tour was over, we really NEEDED to go to TGI Friday for a cocktail. 😉 Emilie kindly invited me to stay with her while in London, and I got to experience London during the Olympics (It was weird and quiet!)

Post launch party, the support team has a breather.

Immediately after our Harry Potter adventure (in August,) I took a train to Macclesfield to stay with Laura and Cathrin for their birthdays. They were also releasing their first Goodnight Astor album. We had a lovely few days of watching Gavin and Stacy and listening to the musical hits of the 80s, 90s and 00s before their show.

Apart from going back to college, September was an important month for me and a few of my friends, as we were fortunate enough to go to the launch of The Casual Vacancy. After an interview and Q&A, the occupants of the Southbank Centre were able to meet J.K. Rowling to have their books signed. Here is the seemingly rather innocuous of the very thing occurring…

October was a whirlwind of college work and teaching. I joined the 21st century and bought an iPhone.

On the 30th of November to the 2nd of December my friends and I travelled to Edinburgh for the Snow Ball and Lucy’s 30th birthday. We dressed up as action heroes and villains for Lucy’s birthday.

The next day, we went to the Snow Ball. Laura, Cathrin and I were performing with Harry and the Potters, Riddle TM and the Pumpkin Pasties.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your year was fabulous and you’re all ready for 2013! I’m going to have to go off and think about my new year’s resolutions! One will definitely be to blog more! 🙂

x

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New Beginning and JOY

SOON I WILL BE A BETTER SINGERER!!!

I posted a while back about starting singing with a new teacher, and how she encouraged me to apply for various courses immediately. Well, I did! And I was accepted straight into the third year of a four-year Bachelor of Music (Hons)! It was a bit of a whirlwind of practice, new repertoire and technique and working very, very hard indeed and I am currently delighted, daunted and rearing to go!

The last two days have been induction talks with first years, and the one other lady in my position. Unlike the first time I went to university (I have a BA in Music and Drama and Theatre Studies), I’ve just felt incredibly privileged to be able to attend this college. That’s not to say that I wasn’t excited and full of wonder the first time around – I definitely was! Arguably, the last few years of working, singing and trying to make a living have taught me just how vitally important the right degree is.

This time I’m attending a conservatoire, as opposed to a university. This means that the focus is on performance, and only people who are serious about pursuing a career in performance are studying there. The difference, even in the induction days, is wonderful! The staff have been extremely clear on all aspects of student life at the college, and there appears to be an excellent pastoral care system. The timetable is FULL and the onus is on the individual to plan their practice times. There was a good talk about how to maximise your practice times. Once I’ve gotten into a groove again after the summer, I may write a bit about this.

It’s so nice to be around musicians! There was a lovely moment today when we were brought to the library for a little tour. At the end the librarian said that we could go upstairs to look at the sheet music for our individual instruments and so we all proceeded calmly up the stairs… but once we got to the top, we all practically RAN to our sections and all that could be heard were ‘squees’ and ‘aws’ and excitement! It is the first time that I have ever witnessed anyone having the same reaction that I do to sheet music! The singers and I paced up and down the vocal and opera sections in jubilation, pulling out our favourites and potential new favourites to show each other!

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I made a song! Have it for free!

The last few weeks have been different! I spent a week in England with friends seeing all of the touristy parts of London that I’d never actually seen before. It was definitely different to see the city from that point view, instead of just somewhere I have to be for a show or event.

Ellie and I pose by Tower Bridge after a rainy production of Henry V in the Globe!

Since then, I’ve been recovering from the dreaded strep throat and hosting the above Ellie for a few days of fun here in Cork.

While I was in Southend-On-Sea, I got a phone call from a university I’d auditioned for. They offered me a place in 3rd year of the four-year degree programme! Back to college – woooooooohhhmygod. Delight and apprehension are flooding me! Think of all the new stationary that awaits….

In order to keep myself from going nuts with trying to imagine myself back in college, I’ve been trying to stay creative. Last week, I collaborated on a song with Belfast musician, Martin Byrne. The song is free to download, so please have a listen! It’s freeeee and I really like it!

Martin is a composer who created a project last year called “Song a Day for a Year” (SADFAY). I featured on his October album then, and this year he’s making a Song a Week for a Year (SAWFAY.) Both are incredible projects and it’s interesting to see how versatile the styles of music that he comes up with are, considering the time scale he works to.

Obligatory visit to Blarney Castle
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Crochet, flowers and summer time!

St. Brigid Anemones

Huge weights have been lifted off my chest. Tonight I feel lighter and less restricted than I have in months. As of today I’m down to teaching one day per week until the end of June, though I’m still studying and going to lessons for various music exams and auditions coming up.

The decision to fill this summer with as few travel plans as possible came quite naturally after an intensely busy travel year last year. Since Christmas I’ve sorely felt the need of a nice quiet sit down on my own. There will, of course be adventures with friends in the UK, but for my health and sanity, I need a few weeks of calm, baking and crafting.

My fabulous Cork KnitUp group has begun again after a slow start to the year and I am enjoying it so much! About two weeks ago, the lovely Hilary taught me to crochet and it’s really pulled me though these tough final weeks of work.
On Saturday we had our biggest turn out yet with around eight crafters coming! I’m really looking forward to the group every Saturday and it’s motivating me to finish projects!

For my birthday I was given a Cath Kidston crochet cusion kit by my friend Orla so that’s what I’ve mostly been working on for the last fortnight. I can’t wait for it to be finished and on my bed. :)Tonight after walking my dog, the neglected packets of seeds that I bought weeks ago called to me. I planted at least 48 sunflower seeds, lettuce, love-in-a-mist, cornflowers and nasturtiums as the sun went down (and the midges came out.) I’m loving the garden right now. The dozens of bulbs I planted in the spring are finally coming into bloom and it’s so satisfying!! My herbs are doing really well too and all of the fruit bushes are heavy with unripe berries!

Singing-wise, things seem to be going well. I had a lesson today,though I was quite worried about it beforehand because I didn’t feel I’d done enough practice. I hate the feeling that I could have put more work in. This week was CRAZY with teaching and exams, though, so I really didn’t have more time. This week I intend to put in consistent work every day. I’ll need to do an hour every day of actual singing.
I find that when I’m out running, most of what I think about is singing. Posture, breathing, mouth shape, facial muscles, placement of breath, meanings of songs and ideas for compositions and concerts are all on my mind for the 50 minutes that I spend out of the house. I think that must be the reason why I’m improving despite not having enough time for long practices.

Having this week’s lesson over with is contributing to my feeling of lightness. 🙂 I am so content right now. It’s late, but I don’t have to be up for any particular reason in the morning, other than to run. 🙂 Leisure!

How are your summers coming together, blog friends? Will they be chilled out, or jam-packed? (Mm…jam..)

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Why I’m afraid of music lessons.

Every week when I go to my singing and music theory lessons I am scared. I think that any previous praise or positive sessions are the result of fluke and this time I will be told off for not working hard enough, or not doing something correctly.

Why is this?

For one thing, I have a theory that almost all music teachers are fickle and eccentric. Perhaps it’s because they spent hours intensively working one-to-one with student and quite often find themselves repeating the same advice which rarely seems to be followed… As a music teacher – that would be one guess. Another possibility is that, as musicians, we’re all a bit mental. You need to be to do this for a living.

For another, I never ever feel that I have put enough work in. Even when I practise as much as I can, I always feel (in singing) that I’m behind what I could achieve if I just put a bit more work in. The only answer to this is to work harder. In theory, I feel like I’m pretending that I know what I’m doing and it’s all going to fall apart if I make a loud noise or move too suddenly.

Of course, there are always the scars of lessons past. When I was young and I didn’t understand something, but it wasn’t explained properly. That is the worst feeling in the world. Once when I was at university, I arrived to a singing lesson three minutes early and was told off for it. There was no way I could concentrate because the injustice stung so much. I didn’t stay with that teacher for long. Another time, when I was still at school, I very seriously asked my friend to help me to break my arm so that I wouldn’t have to go to my cello lesson.

In the end, though, it’s informed the way I teach. I don’t tell people off. I don’t get angry because someone hasn’t practised. Instead, I reward my student with stickers when they have done their practise, or if they impress me with their cooperation or concentration. I want them to associate their music lessons with happiness and being relaxed – not with dread.

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Getting Caught Up

It’s a metaphor. See?

Things all got a bit serious.

When I called up the singing teacher who I had been afraid to contact for two years, I got sucked into this singing vortex. During the first lesson, which is meant to be a consultation to see if the teacher likes my voice, she got very excited and decided that she would take me, and that I must apply for course X, Y and Z. I was send home with a few songs to study, some interesting new thoughts on vocal technique and a sense of utter bewilderment.

Mingled with the bewilderment, though, was the feeling that this was all correct. This was what I should be doing now. I should be working hard on my voice and body, saving up, learning and applying to courses.

It’s true that I spend my days swinging dramatically (internally) from “YES! This is right! Everything’s going to come together and it will be wonderful! The life I want is within my reach” to “WHAT AM I DOING, WHAT AM I DOING?! AGH!” Ultimately, no matter what the scared and confused part of my mind says, if I don’t give it my best shot now and work hard I will spend the rest of my life wondering what it would have been like if I’d taken those steps.

There are no fantasies for me of being a massively famous, stadium-sell-out musician. I’m sure that would be nice, but what I really want in my life is stability and creativity. I want to be able to write, perform, teach and inspire while having a roof over my head (and some hens in the back garden. And there’s a lot of cake in this dream life, too.)

I suppose what I’m getting at is: I do feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment with all this singing plus all the work that unexpectedly fell on top of me but I’m trying very hard to see to the end of June. Then I can celebrate what I have achieved and be proud and I can stay in bed all day or go into town and not feel guilty because it’s the SUMMER.