Monday, 29 May 2017

Patience and the annual headache !

There have been so extraordinary happenings over the weekend ! I wonder if I will ever produce another show which will happen without major upheaval?! For many and various reasons one of my leading roles has fallen away from the cast for the last three years. It has been for unavoidable circumstances, but I still feel as if we have been remarkably unlucky! 


This year my Bunthorne has had to pull out of the show leaving an enormous hole which has taken some swivelling of singers to fully compensate. My teenaged girls are as ever, totally amiable, flexible and smiling when faced with a change of role - even a change of gender ! N and A readily agreed to switch roles - A from Lady Jane to Grosvenor and N from Angela to Lady Jane ! Not a flicker or a complaint, not even a worry about relearning music. What gems they are ! Bunthorne will now be played by K of the Advanced Recital Certificate.......she was already being Grosvenor but because Dear Archibald does not appear until halfway through Act 1, she had been acting, dancing and smirking as the odious Bunthorne during rehearsals. Like the trooper she is, when asked to switch roles she did not murmur - just said 'yes' and said she would start learning it immediately.

I am forever astonished by the dedication and loyalty of these lovely folks, and people whom I gratefully call my friends. They just want the whole production to be a success, and whatever I throw at them, or ask them to do, they accept and fulfil with enthusiasm and such generosity of spirit.

So here we are, singers switching with ne'er a murmur, and a producer/musical director whose heart rate and blood pressure have levelled off at acceptable ! It will be wonderful I know, and even more so because of those members of Inner Sound who just 'get on with the job'.

Please please please, if anyone up there is listening, I would love an easy year.........2018 ?

Girls can take these roles easily..........


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Advanced Recital Certificate and Crab Salad !

I had to do an extra afternoon of teaching yesterday.....which was a bit of a shock to the newly relaxing system ! However, exams and festivals loom so it was a necessity. The Advanced Recital Certificate is quite an arduous and lengthy affair and I have two candidates this time. It is 30 minute or so of music including 10 mins of own choice repertoire. 

K needed an extra and unpressured lesson to put her whole programme together and she really came up trumps. From the wonderfully breezy and exhilarating Luisinghe piu care by Handel through Mozart, Hahn and Dring's delicious Nightclub Proprietress in all her aging glory. It was a tour de force but it 'worked' - in other words it hung together beautifully, she paced herself and got through it without any dips in energy or vocal quality, and came out the other end smiling !

It is so satisfying when this huge wall is climbed and we are on the other side and building towards the finished product. My other lady K ( not the same K!) is also well on the way, and thankfully she is a Mezzo whilst the Friday K is a soprano. The Mezzo repertoire is also absolutely fantastic, with no crossovers at all. The examiner is in for a treat.

After finishing, my pupils N and S took me out for dinner ! How lovely is that ! We went to a local restaurant and I had a gorgeous dressed crab salad. I adore shellfish, and crab reminds me so clearly of walking home with my Mum after she had bought a couple of fresh crab from the boats at Redcar where I lived. She carried them on string still moving then dealt with them when we got home, and as if by magic home dressed crab appeared with homemade bread and butter and a big bowl of greenery. Scrummy.

I don't think it was the expensive delicacy in days gone by that it is now - infact I am pretty sure it was quite a thrifty meal. How times change !

The two K's in action 

Soprano K last on right and Mezzo K fourth from right 

They will be dressed differently for the exam (I hope) !


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Salonpas = pain relief !

I thought I would post some pictures of the pain patches I use so if there is anyone else out there with nagging muscle pain it might be of some use ! They seem to be manufactured in Vietnam, but they were very popular in China. It takes a day for them to get going - if you see what I mean ! I then feel almost total relief so I keep exchanging them after the appropriate length of time.

I first bought them for my elderly mother who had painful arthritis in her feet but couldn't tolerate much in the way of pills by the time she was almost 90. I saw them in a local Chinese pharmacy the very first time I was adjudicating at the festival in Hong Kong  and felt it was worth a try. She felt they relieved her pain with no side effects or tummy upsets so it was a win win 

With my icy shoulder I thought I would give them a go last year and they have definitely given some much needed relief - so there you have it ! One can easily purchase them on EBay - I have no shares in said auction website !

I am teaching tomorrow for a couple of hours as a few folk needed some extra time, another had incompatible work shifts at their usual time and young J from miles away, is coming for his lesson, so I need to gather myself tomorrow morning and snap out of 'day off' mode ! It doesn't matter how few pupils I have or even just one, I still have that feel of a workday. It is odd but one gears up and the adrenaline zooms into the bloodstream in readiness for work ! Some big exams are on the way, so it will be a sizeable afternoon........



Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Patience, Exams and a freezing shoulder......

I had a shortened day today what with illness, pre arranged absences and school exams this time of the year lesson regularity is often determined by those reasons - especially school exams ! Having taught in school in my early life I know how stressed pupils can become when these life determining exams loom. Many of my talented teens have been under that pressure this month ! They have coped very well and only missed rehearsals and lessons when they had an exam the follow morning - the rest of the time they have been very loyal to the cause ! What a devoted lot they are.

Our show rehearsals are going very well, it is Patience with a twist. Set in the Indian Raj with a barracks, a garden and the lawn of a colonial style house complete with furniture, a picket fence and a nurserymaid and small children. It is very complex - quite possibly the most complex show I have ever produced. In 'real' life, not stage life, daily happenings go on at all times, so fundamentally I have tried to have many of the cast going about their business, albeit in a slow paced way, whilst the main solos, duets, dialogue and dances etc are happening. It is hard to get the cast to understand that they must do their 'thing' at a very leisurely pace and in total silence, whilst never distracting from what the main character of the moment is doing.

Love it ! Just a perfect picture of the era.

So the officers drink sherry, and the privates eat lunch from mess tins, the ladies of the Big House drink cocktails and do embroidery whilst fanning themselves, and the love sick maidens lounge on the lawn drinking long glasses of lemonade........all whilst Bunthorne sings, comments and talks with Patience. It is a big ask but I am so proud of the whole cast, they have really given it a go and embraced the whole crazy idea with a will !

My frozen shoulder is giving me some 'gip' as we say in Yorkshire. Oddly, I can play the piano with no problem at all ( which is a blessing indeed since that's how I earn my living). There is no restriction of movement at all along the width of the keyboard, but attempting to lift something from a low or high cupboard, or sleep on my side is exquisite agony unless I plan the moves ! I have had it since last October and I know it can take a long time to recover, or thaw, so infact I now naturally 'plan' my moves, almost by second nature. It is wonderful how ones body learns to compensate relatively quickly so to avoid pain. Thus, I can almost get away with it if I am careful. I bought some pain relieving patches the last time I worked in Hong Kong at a traditional pharmacy and they really do work - they have a slightly clinical aroma which Gretel absolutely loathes ! I seem to repel her completely when I am patched up so to speak, so no cuddles for either of us !


My teaching week is largely finished now so it's back to trying more recipes in the Instant Pot - smoked haddock soup tomorrow which is very exciting, and possibly a shopping day on Saturday. Planning for a day in Inverness is great fun and I really enjoy the whole day out. We have a brilliant Co op here, but sometimes it's good to drive to the city and visit the larger shops and just browse. When I was at the JRAM I never ever had a Saturday free, so when I finally retired I loved the feeling of truancy when I ambled around shops at the weekend ! 

Such little things make us happy. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Manchester tragedy.

What a tragic and senseless attack in Manchester last night. Young and excited fans, families and children out for a wonderful evening. It could be my grandchildren or yours. Mine go to these large venues to innocently hear their favourite pop musicians. 

Love and prayers to the bereaved families. 

Inconceivable grief.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Harold Noble, 'Johnny' and tonsils....

First day of the week and lots of lovely repertoire. My youngsters are going to Saltburn Music Festival in late June, and one of the set pieces is 'Johnny' by the English composer Harold Noble. J will sing this beautifully, which is just as well since Harold Noble wrote this song for me ! I was competing at Blackpool Festival in the early 70's and he was the adjudicator. Some time after the festival he wrote to me and said he would like to write a song for me. What transpired was the, now quite well known song, 'Johnny' ! I went down to Watford, where he and his wife lived and he talked me through it. The interesting thing is that the original copy, which I still have, was in F Major, but the Boosey and Hawkes published one is higher in G Major ? I always feel like writing to them and saying it is the wrong key !! 

My young J will sing it the way Harold Noble taught it to me, the speed he played it at and the dynamics he used ! She will sing it in G, as that is the set key at the festival......oh well, perhaps one day I will let B&H know the error of their musical ways.

My last pupil of the day is A, who, yet again has a tonsil the size of a small haystack. She goes back again and again to the doctors in the village who simply do not think it is very important that she misses so much singing time, and time after time resist the taking out of her tonsils. She is 17 now and has had tonsillitis more times than anyone can remember but the policy is ( apparently?) she must have seven visits when they gave her medication - last year it was wonders if they look at her notes and put a block on the seventh lot of antibiotics so it will never reach the magic number ?

She can't contemplate music college until her tonsils are gone, she misses too much time and too many lessons and 90% of that missing time is always swollen tonsils. I may write a letter to be put in her file recording all the missed time - nothing like making oneself unpopular !!

I made Mongolian Beef in the wondrous Instant Pot, delicious, and more delicious! I am hard put not to eat the whole batch and not leave any for tomorrow. It takes a good deal of restraint on my part not to gobble it all up ! Gretel had a haircut today as well, she looks like a small black seal, silky and smooth and oh so cute !

Exhausted after a hard day at the salon........


Friday, 19 May 2017

Handel, Mary Poppins and Cheesecake

My ladies gave a concert last Friday which was just lovely, beautifully sung and elegantly presented and they really did themselves justice and made me a very proud teacher. There was everything from Handel to Mary Poppins ( complete with apron and carpet bag) and all types of music in between. They are so dedicated and detailed in their work and in truth all I did was arrange the order of the programme, they put this together themselves. It was a triumph ! The six of them added choral music and duets into the evening and gave the audience a jolly fine concert.

One of the lovely things about the evening was that almost every teenager who sings in the group came to listen and cheer at the top of their voices these delightful ladies, and then after the concert they served food and drink to the assembled gathering whilst th performers sat with friends and family ! It was a wonderful reversal and a resounding thank you from the teens to those ladies who were so supportive to them during The Little Sweep. They made costumes, made tea, made lots of positive remarks and generally were rocks for the youngsters during the rehearsals and performances. 

That's what I love about Inner Sound, it is such a team. Members from 6 to 70 who have such respect and affection for one another, that even if you removed the singing that said respect and affection would still be there.


The end of the dress rehearsal of The Little Sweep


The whole team !

I bought an electric pressure cooker a week ago, and it is rapidly becoming my new best friend and possibly obsession ! I have made chicken satay, lamb hot pot, chicken curry and sausage casserole since the postman delivered it, but the miracle of miracles is that I have also made genuine New York vanilla cheesecake. Now you must understand I have never in my whole life made anything like this before - even more amazingly, it tasted like the real thing and was can this be ? The cheesecake was even Low Carb for diabetics ! Chicken satay in 15/20 minutes, cooked on returning home from a rehearsal for this year's show, and using iceberg frozen chicken fillets, hard enough to have ripped the hull off the Titanic. 

I am a total convert, this could be life changing !


Not mine, but as near as .......


 The beast Grrrrrrr.......


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Regaining life and time.....

I have thought long and hard about my blog 'Singing Teaching in Paradise' and have come to the conclusion that since I have retired from a large number of my away activities, i.e. adjudicating at festivals, masterclassing anywhere other than on Paradise, and those odd contracts which crop up occasionally, slowing down my life was a necessity. Over the last two or three years I have found the travel to these events becoming more and more debilitating. I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic, which I can control by a fairly strict diet, and I had a small heart blip last October which was a teeny warning to think about slowing down ! The diet is very difficult to achieve when I am away for long periods, and the constant flying was not good for my general health. Actually it is more that on leaving the plane I had to move fast on trains, buses or in a hire car to my venue for work, no time to be leisurely or rest before intense judging or masterclassing. I realised over the last year that I simply could not keep this frenetic pace going - and nor did I want to ! I vowed many years ago, to try and recognise the moment sometime in the future when I awoke in the morning with a feeling of foreboding or dread about what was to come. Thankfully I did recognise this feeling and with the addition of kind chats with family and friends, realised the time for reducing the pace of my life had arrived ! So now I am still teaching on Paradise three days each week, having reduced that from four, and I have made the decision to keep my Song School here, and to keep my wonderful visits to Abbeys. This means I have much more 'retirement' time when I feel much more like a normal person, whatever that may be. Thus the full and vocally oriented direction of Singing Teaching in Paradise no longer seems an appropriate vehicle for my ramblings. Singing and teaching is such an essential part of who I am, of course I will still be recording and commenting upon the music in my life, but perhaps that will be interspersed with more about my travel for holidays, to visit family and home doings as much as my semi retired professional life. I am excited and I am loving some simple things which I have never had time for. I am learning to daughter would cringe at this moment and tell me make sure my guests 'sign the poison book' before putting fork to mouth ! Well we shall see ! I hope some of my readers will appreciate the wider nature of the blog, and will enjoy the slower pace of the ramblings.....

A domestic few days away preparing for next week..........Yorkshire Song School !

I just had a lovely, if fleeting visit to Sussex to see the family, and most enjoyable it was too. I flew on the early morning plane to Gatw...