Saturday, 23 May 2015

9 bin bags later...

So I think I'm there...

 9 bin bags and 4 carrier bags later and I'm feeling pretty good!!

I've got 7 destined for the charity shop, one bin bag of shoes that isn't fit to see the light of day and a smaller bag for the charity shop and a bin bag and two smaller bags that might be ok for Phil the bag or a clothes bin - no one would actually choose them now.  And I've also got a bag of shoes that were Nan's to run past mum first. I've kept one pair but I've realised I won't wear them no matter how well made and stylish. 

This is what remains:
Still plenty of things. Now I need to read a little more of the book to learn about how I'm supposed to fold them (there's a whole section on it!! 

Friday, 22 May 2015

How I'm dealing with approaching 30 and coping with being single!

I think a lot of people wait a while longer to have a mid life crisis but I could be suffering from one now!! 

After having a good talking to (several on messenger) by some of the wonderfully inspirational women in my life (thank you all) I do know that 30 will be absolutely fine if not fabulous....
 I do know that I will achieve everything I want to and, more importantly right now perhaps, everything I had thought I would have by now. And it's absolutely fine to do that in my own time. I'm the only one pressuring myself!! 

That said I'm going to deal with my emotions and worries in my own unique way.

I found a book on tidying last week. I joked with Dad about getting it for Mum and then bought it for myself. Apparently untidiness isn't hereditary - I have good cause to question that.

The book is an international best seller:

The life changing magic of tidying. By Marie Kondo

Tidying is something I've always struggled with.  Being in a long distance relationship and living on my own for the past 2 years has meant that I can get away with being untidy a lot of the time. And thus it's taken over a little... People coming round resulted in me throwing stuff into hiding places! 

I'm half way through the book and I've decided it's time for action!

Marie Kondo advises tidying by category and not by room. She also talks about discarding A LOT! 
If an item doesn't bring you joy then you should thank it for whatever joy it has given previously in your life and then discard it. I'm thinking the charity shop will benefit. 

I've decided it's the perfect time for clear out as it seems things will get messy first and it could take months!! Yikes! 
So where to start? Here's what the book says:

"For the first category – clothing – I recommend dividing items further into the following subcategories to increase efficiency:

 Tops (shirts, sweaters, etc.) 
Bottoms (trousers, skirts, etc.) 
Clothes that should be hung (jackets, coats, suits, etc.) 
Handbags, etc. 
Extra items (scarves, belts, hats, etc.) 
Clothes for specific events (swimsuits, uniform, etc.) 

And, yes, I include handbags and shoes as clothing."

So I've had a go (I did a bit of report writing first and I will intersperse it with more.) 

I've found all of my clothing except for what's due to be washed... Here's the result of putting them all in one room...
I had to use pano!!
 Another angle:
It's terrifying!! 
How many clothes I have is excessive and I'd honestly forgotten about some of them!!

Also I had no room for shoes and bags so they are separate : 

The next step is to go through bit by bit working out which items your keeping (if they bring you joy) and what to discard. 

The book advises you not to share what you're throwing away with family and friends but I'll consider that more fully when I get there. 

The book also tells you to visualise the reason why you are doing this. She suggests this will help you to succeed and help to deal with any other underlying issues. 
So my reasoning... 

When I find my Prince Charming I dont want to 
a. Be tidying like a loon before his arrival or 
b. Have him thinking I'm a total slob and leave! 

I also want to feel house proud as part of my journey to independence and I think part of that requires a really good clear out. That and I won't feel so bad about buying new clothes for 30yr old Rachel! Who knows I might discover a new style 😉 

I'lol update on how it goes! 

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!! :-)