Friday, 10 April 2015

Easter reflection

So I've decided that rather than starting yet another book (I've already devoured three this holiday) I should use this time to reflect.
Where have I managed to do? How far have I got down my to do list?
Well not very far and very far all in one really!! I've not achieved everything I set out to but I've done so much more alongside that!!

I just read through my aims from my last post... 

I did my first 15minutes of Pilates this morning - I bought a book with a dvd. It was tricky, I'm not sure I did it all correctly but it blooming made my core work!! Now to carry on into tomorrow!

I've done so much more singing - oxjam classical concert was amazing back in November, a run of singing up to Christmas and a last minute New Years sing at our favourite local pub.
 I also sang 'to all men Jesus good has done' and the following aria with beautiful flute from St Matthew Passion for the Cranmer company of singers on Good Friday. Ikea other sing with them in July.
 I was paid £100 for one song at a polish wedding in March (originally it was intended I sing 2 or 3) and I've another 2 weddings in August (one where it's a priveldge to sing for my best friend and another where they will pay me for the privilege��).

 On top of that, and my greatest challenge, is I've ended up taking over the year 5/6 choir at the juniors. I've taken 1 rehearsal in charge (previously supported the teacher I've taken over from and got to do a few 1 to 1 vocal sessions with a soloist for the choir - it was  really good fun and definitely made me consider 1-1 teaching at a later date!)
 By the end of the session I'd taught them a new song and had them singing it in 3 parts! We also sang through happy with harmony on each chorus (a total of 4 different parts) and they really enjoyed the warm up too!  So I now have 4 x 1 hour rehearsals to get them ready for a performance in front of their parents. I've two songs (happy and si si si) that need a little more work and to make perfect and we are also sing all you need is love with year 3/4 (I really need to get rid of of the easehhh instead of easy though!). I'd been advised to do the Lloyd Webber medley from young voices but it's a bit cringey in places - I will have to find an easy alternative if not! Unfortunately the concert falls between two other late school nights of new entrants meetings... Don't bother me that week with anything!!

On top of that Diploma looks likely for September 5th and I've got a recital in June. Things are coming together nicely! 

I might post about school stuff if I get enough time (around doing the actual school work and singing practise!).

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Singing in the future...

I've done a lot of thinking recently. In particular about singing and what I want to do. Lots of this went on at Abingdon and in the weeks since. I've been writing down my ideas.

Many of you may have heard me musing about trying to get onto a postgraduate course in order to concentrate on singing and see just what I could do. Well I've gone off that idea! I don't think I want it enough to give up my job, my house, have no money and from talking to people who are doing a post grad, or even an undergrad course, I've realised I'm not equipped with enough language skills and I'm not quite brave enough in complete honesty!

That said I do want to continue singing just as much...  so here is my plan:
I'm writing this down and making it public so that I've said it. It's out there and it's harder to take back (although I could probably delete this post! I won't!!).
I will also need some help and perhaps a little friendly bullying to stick to these things (I'll point out where exactly as I go along!).
I go back to school in a day and school will take over. I will neglect to practise, I will shout and loose my voice and feel so tired I just want to sleep (once I've marked and planned late into the evening). So please help me remember that I love singing, that it's all part of a bigger plan.

I'm going to split things into two sections; immediate things I can do * and things to work towards*.

* Find a Pilates course. (I'm cheating here - I always put something onto a list that I can already tick off - from an online search I found a course at my local leisure centre on a Thursday evening. Anyone want to come?)
* Go to Pilates course!!!
* Work on my everyday posture. I need to be more aware of this. Robin said you can change habits but you have to work at it. Pilates will aid me in this but anyone who see's me at any point during the week (I'm looking at work colleagues in particular) ask me if I'm standing correctly, I probably won't be to start with and I may even pull a face at you but it will really help me.
* Work towards diploma. I'm deliberating about when to do this. I could go for it in November. I'm just concerned that I am short on time for it by one piece. So that's 6 pieces to perfect and another to learn from scratch. With the busiest term ahead of me and a 2 week holiday in Florida I can't quite believe that I will manage it. I will ask when the next one is... I also need to find that final piece ASAP. Pass Diploma!
* Learn pieces for Oxjam concert in October. That's creeping closer! Eeek!!
* When practising think back to all the things I've been told and have learnt. Take one and try it. I'm guessing I will focus on posture initially and move on from there. I'm sure different pieces will need different things. I know that it will help when preparing  for my diploma as 6 of the pieces are ones I intend to sing.
* Go and see more music performances. Take Nick too!
* Look into helping with a youth choir again. I enjoyed that and I can see it being part of my future.
* Look out for/go on education music courses, choral courses, conducting courses to expand my knowledge,
* Learn Messiah
* Consider if I need more piano lessons or can I revise my scales and learn to play chords?! At the very least turn the clavinova on at least once a week and not just to plonk out notes for singing!!
* Make a list of other pieces I would love to be able to sing.
* Keep listening to the occasional language podcast. Don't be lazy and try to learn some.

I don't know what exactly I want to be doing in the future... teaching is hard work, it's rewarding and I do love it most of the time. I think to be able to combine this with my love of singing in some form would make me a very happy lady. So for now I need to learn as much as I can and equip myself for whatever comes along.
Now it's out there I think it's more likely to happen! :-) Thank you for reading.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A week after Abingdon

One whole week (and a bit by the time this is finished) has passed since Abingdon and my last blog post (I spent most of it just outside the Lake District doing some work, reading, listening to organ concerts and going on walks). 

After watching Roderick Williams on the proms on the tv on Thursday night I decided it was time to get my blog written. I didn't even write about Friday never mind the future!! This will end up as two posts...

Friday was jam packed. Full of emotion, nerves, excitement and smiles. 
I'm going to begin with the most moving moment of the day so I'm not going in the right order. 

Elaine got us to compliment each other. A small number of people stood in the hall with their eyes closed and then everyone else went and whispered something positive to them. It could be anything. 
It was amazing. People cried! We don't do enough of this!!
I was humbled by the people who'd noticed me. So many people whispered to me. Some mentioning the song to the seals that I sang in the informal concert, that my hair looked great, and about my personality and how I'd made them feel. Everyone should get a chance to feel like that regularly! As we don't have an Elaine on tap to organise it we should take responsibility to tell ourselves and each other more often. 

I sang 'Farewell ye limpid springs' in the afternoon final concert. I enjoyed it. It was good. I want to work on my shoulder tension and 'comedy angry eyebrows' though!! 
The evening concert was truely amazing and I'm so glad I got to hear everyone sing. Such a range of voices and so many new songs! 

Saying goodbye whilst riding on such a high was hard. I'm so glad that there's a group to keep in contact. Such a lovely , talented bunch of people.

Finally I will end on the beginning of the day:
We got to hear from all of the tutors in the morning plus Susan McCulloch over skype. They all passed on many pearls of wisdom and health tips. Some are very well known and obvious but even those need reminders. Here are the ones I noted down :
* 'Everything we are is our instrument. We don't need extra bits. Everything we need is inside us... We have a responsibility to look after ourselves.'
* Be up and awake in good time - 3hrs before vocalising! 
* Eat a good and healthy breakfast.
* Have 8hrs sleep. Vocal system will be under stress if we are tired (like your eyes often are).
* Don't eat late - try to leave 2hrs before sleeping (all to do with acid reflux).
* Keep  "moist and well lubricated". Drink 2-3 litres of water a day, steadily throughout the day. It takes 4hrs to lubricate the voice so if u feel dry you drank too little 4hrs ago!
* Remember to warm up gently and gradually. 
* Have one exercise that you do every single day so that you know where you are in your voice. ie if it's a good day. 
* Exercise regularly but make sure it doesn't build up neck muscles. 
* Children are the main carriers of illness!! (This I am fully aware of!)
* A sneeze has 100,000 virus particles!
* Alcohol wipes do not kill the noro virus and do not use hankies.
* Check your nose health - it is a barrier against airborne infections.
* Alcohol impairs the vocal chords - do to drink before singing. It is a muscle relaxant and dries you out. (Damnit!)
* No menthol or numbing lozenges. Avoid aspirin at all costs. Paracetamol ok but ibruprophen with caution. Salt and water for gargling. Natural liquorice in hot water and ginger in hot water to drink. Zinc and bee propolis good too.
* Support your daily speaking voice (keep checking I'm doing this).
* Eat properly before concerts.
* Try looking at your throat everyday to get to know what it looks like. Write down any concerns.
* For every one thing to critisise find something positive.
* Aim to be the best human being you can be. 
* You should be able to change habits. It takes a little effort. 
* Invite friends over for recitals. You can say you had a full house!
* Singing feeds your soul.
*  the best performances are a mix of communication, technique and performance.
* Get into the habit of reading the words of a song before you sing it. Ensure that you understand it all. Don't trust the text translation underneath.
* Look at how you can turn negative experiences into positives. 
* Be prepared to do something unusual. Be honest. Don't try too hard. You need to show some of yourself.

I intend to reread all of my blogs and then post something on my future singing plans. I think I'll need help to stick to it!! 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Stock take day 6

So today was the last day of master classes and the first day of final concerts.
It's nearly all over! :-s

I'm hopeful that I will be performing Farewell ye Limpid Spring tomorrow at the 3.30 final concert (we find out for sure what we are singing tomorrow!). Fingers crossed I get a little practise time before then!

Today's 16 things... (I didn't manage to stretch it into 20)

From watching Catherine Wyn Rogers master classes:
1. 'Don't hold the notes, travel through them'
2. She talked a lot about speaking and singing. Singing is like speaking. Practise saying it and think about saying it whilst you sing. This will help with the line and direction.
3. There's no need to think of an interval as making a jump in your voice. You are just talking through it. It shouldn't be a big effort to go to the high or low notes and it should all be flowing along the same line. 
4. Don't try to hang onto/hear the note. Allow it out and to move away - it's for the audience not you.
5.  Arches, legato, long, stretched vowels 
6. Don't worry about how. Worry about why. ( when talking about a laugh in a song - it needed inspiration not planning).
Session with Christine:
7. Christine wanted to work on not using my chest voice for some of the notes in farewell. This should make it easier to sing. Here's how...
We used a hair bobble! Holding it between two fingers in front on me. As the pictures show this is how we represented high and low notes. It sort of represents the vocal chords. For high notes the bobble is stretched out and it takes a fair bit of effort and support. For the low note it still took a surprising amount of energy (support) to keep the bobble stretch to a lesser extent. 
So I'm singing fare- well (b to e) and moving the band from fully stretched to less stretched. Fairly soon I make the connection with my support and I can now sing the e without dipping down and using my chest voice. Yay!
8. So it turns out this technique works for the whole song! I can even do it without the elastic - just moving my fingers in and out to aid the memory.
9. I need to use the tone from the top when singing the lower notes - bring it down. 
10. Specific to farewell: tell the story (communicate!!!). Make it make sense. Go through the rest so it's "are ye thus afraid to execute my fathers will?" Or it doesn't make sense! 
11. Important word is human (and blood) not hands.
12. Brighter scenes part open it up - think opera to help me find bigger voice. 
13. It is important to congratulate yourself/ others when things go well. We focus too often on the bad things! 
14. For introductions to stop woofing up I to first note (woofing isn't the right word here but I get it) practise a staccato ah ah on notes followed by staccato words and then add the legato back in.
15. I am rubbish at three legged races and sack (black bin liner races).
16. Interesting songs from today: 
oiseaux dans la charmille - Offenbach - Hoffmann. 
Mozart- Entfuhrung - durch Zartlichkeit. 

Last day tomorrow. No master classes but a couple of talks and group sessions. I'm hoping that I should have a few final thoughts to put into a blog tomorrow. Maybe a few ideas for the future and development of my singing. 

Stock take day 5

So I'm now awake after staying up too late. I was energised and excited (as well as slightly tipsy) after a fabulous cabaret performance last night. We had lots of humour and silliness during songs. A real French theme seemed to appear and I laughed despite understanding very little of what was said! I particularly loved the mezzo off! :-) 

So onto today's blog (yesterday's really). I might not make it up a whole 20 things as I had so many on the previous post.

 I had a master class with Margaret Humphrey Clark in the morning and then sat in Christine Cairn's class to get an idea of it ready for tomorrow.

1.What we do 90% of the time dominates us when we sing. Posture!!!!
2. Feel the space on the neck with your hands whilst you sing. Feel it lengthening. 
3. Monkey!!!! I sang in monkey, everyone else sang in monkey - it's amazing!
4. I saw people recoil in shock whilst I sang in monkey. It connected all my breathing, opened up space and my voice took on a sudden extra powerfulness!! Awesome!
5. Use bounce in monkey so that nothing else tightens up. Use it to feel the support and bring this into singing when standing normally. 
6. We hold a 3rd residual air. You never need to breath in to breath out. 
7. "It's usual to try too hard with singing".
8.  Tongue exercises to ensure you are moving tongue not jaw: sing on na nan a to feel tip of tongue in the right place. Gaga to feel middle of tongue and then the tune to ng.
9. The root of the tongue does nothing! The middle and the tip are responsible for making the different sounds.
10. Practise in front of the mirror so you can watch you tongue. 
11. It's important to train it to help it become independent from the jaw.
12. Clarinet playing has affected my embouche - this may have something to do with my jaw and as I learnt it whilst growing it's quite tricky to shift. 
13. Try arms out straight, shoulder blades flat, swing arms - help to loose the tension.
14. Lie on the floor to help reduce the curve and tightness in the back. 
15. Communicate the words! consonants!  (Heard this before!)
16. For Die ihr schwebet sing out loud to go over accompaniment and imagine the baby asleep/trying to sleep. 
17. CC try moving around the space whilst singing, and swinging arms to energise the voice. Then move down to just arms on spot. Then just thinking arms swinging. 
18. Top bits/sweepy bits think of a windsock out of back of soft palette. Stroke the sound. 
Almost made it to 20! One session left! Then final concerts!! :-) 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Stock day 4 (busy day)

So much to say and I'm so tired! 
 I have a feeling I may start this tonight and finish and post it in the morning! I make lots of notes in my notepad during the day (7 pages today) to refer to so it should be just as reflective even if it is a little late!

I know people are excited to hear about my day as I mentioned it was starting with a master class with Roderick Williams. It started off great and just carried on - here are my (at least) 20 things for today: 

Turning it into a performance with Roderick:
1. Give the people on your shoulder a job to do so they can't sit there saying "you don't know the words to this bit, you're not standing properly etc".  Instead get them to listen for something eg. evenness of voice to keep them busy!
2. Disguise the stress (to a certain extent). Use some stage acting if necessary. 
3. Drop the mistake and put it behind you. Forgive yourself immediately. Smile, move on and enjoy it more if you can. You can sing badly if you do it confidently!
4. The balloon full of air... You are in control of the end (squeeky balloon noise). Don't let it all rush out (comedy balloon noise).
5. I had a lovely chat with Roderick he asked me questions about why I sing? Why I chose the piece? (On mighty pens) and what did I enjoy about it? Summary of answers that he said I should take onto the stage with me to give the audience an idea of who I am: 
I've grown up with singing. My mum sings, it's part of who I am. When I sing on stage I get to be this confident part of myself. I enjoy singing, I know I can do it well.  I picked this song because it was in the diploma list, my teacher said it would suit me and when I listened to it I really enjoyed the soaring high notes. I like high notes! He said he'd love to put part of this onto a plaque that I could hang up! 
6. Key thing: communicating the words
7. "On mighty pens? What? a biro?"
8. Imagine the whole audience has English as an additional language - every word has meaning and I need to get it across to them so that they understand. 
9. Breakthrough moment... He asked me to say the words of the first page like the audience was a class of primary school children ("I can do that!!"). Amazing response! They suddenly got it! I got it! I communicated!! 
10. The words in this song aren't grammatically sensible due to it being translated back and forth from English to German. I need to understand what I'm trying to say first so I can get it across. 
11. Mmmmighty - make the word and the eagle mighty! Aim for him at the top of the phrase. 
12. Be careful not to overdo communication! 
13. The process of learning/building the song. You put up scaffolding to get it ready (maybe going through phrase on arr) then you remove it to perform.
14. "Trying to make something that's dead on paper come to life".  
"Next time I sing I will use things that I've learnt from working with all of you today"

Wow that took up 14 points for just one session!!
I've still got tons more revelations to go through! Video playback next! These are mainly things I know I do and I realised I was doing them during the performance which is a real step forward!
15.dont lean back/tighten shoulders/ wiggle hand when I'm panicking/ running out of breath. Continue with Alexander technique to help with this. 
16. Keep face open. No scowling!!! Don't close up mouth to reset. It closed off the audience. 
Session with Elaine Kidd. 
17. Try concentrating in character. Ignor the hands, let them do what they want! 
18. I was singing the Embroidery Aria from Britten's Peter Grimes.
I ended up singing this ontop of a small table (small in size not in height). The ceiling was low so my head was about a centimetre away from the ceiling!  
This was my confessional in the court. Setting the scene.
19. My thought to get across was that I was asking the jury for forgiveness. I had to look at them and plead, explain as I sang.
20. This is a hard song to understand even if English is your first language. My job to communicate the words and tell the story (back to Rodericks advice this morning).
21. Relate the stitches to the jumper. See the jumper.
22. Show depth and a range of emotions - happy and light to contrast when singing  'a coil of silken thread". 
23. Thought for Ellen "I've been a silly naive teacher. I should never have stitches the jumper or brought the boy to Peter because now the boy is dead. I'm sorry".
24. Thinking about this found the heart of the song and helped as a distraction for bad habits etc! An amazing way to think. 
And finally I sat in on Margaret Humphrey Clark's session as I'm due a session with her today (now Wednesday!).
25. Need awareness if space to breath around the back. Ensure you take enough breath to support what you need to sing. Use singing in monkey to help feeling the breath in the back. Propreioceprion - key word this week... Basically to be aware of the position of the body. 

So loads of things going on! 
I'm thinking there may be slightly less to report back later but I'm ready looking forward to working with Margaret. I know I'll end  up singing in monkey! :-) 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Stock take day three

I'm so tired and ready for a sleep but it's been a day of sucesses and revelations so I can't go to sleep without blogging my stock take for today!

Alexander technique 
1. Lucia Walker did a warm up session and group Alexander technique session with us all today.
2. I came out of the session feeling taller and freer! 
3. She explained that thinking of putting my shoulders back to correct my posture was doing me no good at all as I was over correcting and making everything tighter.
4. My shoulders should feel sort of thrown out to the sides... If that makes sense.
5. She helped to raise my back and help me make space!! 
6. Breathing exercises: whispered arr out through mouth and then release breath through nose - imagine diaphragm - use arms to imagine.
I tried these things out in Robin's class...
7. I felt I had more space to breath.
8. He extended this even further - by imagining and following instructions I imagined first my arms/shoulders touching each window and then my head reaching up to try and touch his hand above my head.
9.  Singing felt more relaxed, I could focus on the song and my hand was less twitchy!! 
10. Also my French was almost there (one word I keep changing to a rather rude one apparently!)
11. Make sure my head has space to move.
Things gathered from watching a session with Adrian Thompson.
12. Diminuendo - "don't think of it as pulling back,  think of a helium balloon going up" lifting up the arm as it's tied to the wrist.
13. Imagine a dog on one of those leads... The room, space and freedom to let it roam but still completely connected and you can pull it back at anytime! 
14. Important shape of mouth / use it to sing conservatively (save breath).
15. Panting exercise to engage the diaphragm. 
16. I sang in the evening concert tonight!!!!
17. I felt more aware of what my body was doing.
18. Less twitchy hand and I knew when I hunched up and tightened my chest (big link with not having enough breath!) (more time to work on this with Margaret I would imagine!!) 
19. I sang horcht right!!!
20. Lots of lovely and constructive feedback from some tutors and other students. Feel proud I got up there :-) 

Master class with Roderick Williams at 9.45 so I better get some kip!