1

"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

0

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!

0

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
1

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.

2

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.

0

Morgen by Richard Strauss

Every so often a song will come along that completely stuns me. Having looked through some very old singing volumes that belonged to my mother, it was suggested that I should study ‘Morgen’ by Richard Strauss.

This piece feels like it is holding and manipulating you. When I listen to it, I feel as though something is being held just out of my reach, something that I desperately love and want. Occasionally Strauss lets me imagine having it, only to whisk it away again out of my grasp. There is a forlorn sort of optimism to this song. The singer responds to the gentle dream like melody of the violin by opening with a strong and definite statement: ‘And tomorrow the sun will shine again.’ She goes on with a sense of optimism, but there’s always a longing and a pleading behind the words, hidden in the music.

And tomorrow the sun will shine again
And on the way which I shall follow
She will again unite us lucky ones
As all around us the earth breathes in the sun
Slowly, silently, we will climb down
To the wide beach and the blue waves

When she begins, she interrupts the violin and he stops for a moment to listen to her before playing again. Occasionally he supports her, or echoes her, but sometimes he is playing a different melody. Maybe it’s the sad one that she doesn’t want to hear. It seems to me that when she reaches the end of this idealistic speech, she gets suddenly swept up in her reverie. The violin notices that she isn’t with him anymore and follows her into her dream world. She is so displaced from the reality that she was in. The broken chords have turned to sustained ones, she is almost drifting on clouds of music.

In silence, we will look in each other’s eyes
And the mute stillness of happiness will sink upon us

In this section, she lifts the music up step by step, as though willing the sun to rise faster as she watches it. She can clearly see the moment that she will be happy in front of her. She almost trails off, discordant again as she was at the very beginning – although this time it is a peaceful, resolved sort of definite that she inhabits now. Without any resistance, she waits for the dawn while the violin plays.

1

A personal blog that no one needs to read.

My new motto is “GET SHIT DONE!!” Just like that, in a shouty voice with exclamation marks.

This blog has been rather sparse of late, owing to my complete incapacity to deal with life, work, body, family AND internet. The whole ensemble was not working out and something just had to give.

Life:
Oh life! What a funny thing you are. Occasionally I think I have things figured out and the path before me seems crystal clear. Then I have a sudden bout of self doubt, financial doubt or confusion and I’m back to where I started. Right now I have arrived back at where I started and where I KEEP arriving: singing.

It’s time to get on that road. The singing road. The next 1.5 years are for getting into any possible singing situation that I can, getting back to lessons and applying everywhere imaginable.

Work:
Teaching music. I am inclined to really, really enjoy it. However, it’s something I’d like to do alongside singing professionally. So, for now, I’m going to work and save, sacrifice moving out and cut down on using my car, so that I can save enough to go to the UK or wherever I can sing.

Body:
Abridged version: Many pains – much physical therapy – getting better. Tomorrow I’ll be starting week 4 of Couch-To-5K and I am absolutely thrilled! I’m still eating too much cake, but that ends tomorrow.

1

The Very Cusp!

Classy.

This Christmas has been stupidly decadent. Every single one of my lovely students gave me chocolate and I ate ALL OF THEM. (I shared, don’t worry.) It was foolish. And delicious. I also spent a lot of if watching DVDs and meeting friends, recuperating and hopefully getting the coming year’s illnesses out of my system. (Wishful thinking.)

Since we hit 2012, I’ve been on a family trip to Northern Ireland and on a hen weekend. I must say, Miss Estelle (far left) and her friends know how to have a good time. We dressed up in 80s garb and pub crawled in a West Cork village, much to the bemusement of the locals. One of the bars we shimmied into had a 20s theme. That was fun.

A lot of people have been talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Bleh.

As much and I have thought and written about it (by hand), I know that nothing is real until tomorrow – the first day back to school!  So it’s totally fine that I ate ten Celebrations earlier. And that I’ve not sung or done any exercise today.

My resolutions are as follows:

1. SING MORE – write and record songs, post them. Singing is the most important thing ever. However, on this, the cusp of the new year, I have a sore throat, so that leads onto…

2. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK – you don’t have to be on form all the time. Sing through the bad times, but don’t record them. I just recorded myself singing ‘My Funny Valentine’ with a chest and throat infection. “Why?!” I hear you ask. Guilt. I felt I hadn’t done anything singing-constructive in ages so I recorded some songs. Whatever, it’s all a learning experience. I can only improve.

3. EXERCISE – every day. Get toned. Good times.

4. BE MORE POSITIVE – stop talking about situations and people in a negative way. Let it all breeze past you unless really need to get it off your chest.


5. LESS INTERNET – limit Facebook and Twitter. I am just the worst person when it comes to frittering time away online. I never get anything done. It must stop.

1

For the Future.

Just a few thoughts before I turn off the light.

1. ALWAYS be humble. Don’t ever do it in a false way. You are the same as everyone else, remember that. In fact, most people are actually better than you at most things.

2. Always be nice. No matter how much someone or something is irritating you to the point of explosion, save it for when you are in private with someone you trust. Get it out, get over it, move on. If you’re mean in public it will come back to bite you in the ass.

3. Don’t be someone you’re not. Just stick to you.

4. Distractions are just that. You don’t need to keep up with things on TV or YouTube – they just distract you from more important things.

5. Sing more. Sing always. Don’t stop singing.