Category Archives: Music

A life of moments

“Oh, if life were made of moments
Even now and then a bad one
But if life were only moments
Then you’d never know you had one”

Let me tell you about two moments in my life, both related to the 21st-23rd of February 2007. My upper school did a production of Bugsy Malone. I was 16, nerdy, and had just chopped all my hair off in some kind of show of teen individualism.

I knew I wouldn’t be cast as Blousey Brown (the lead) and I didn’t want to be. Ever since playing the little match-girl in year 6 I’ve been successfully blending into the background of shows. I just wanted to be involved.

Then the cast came back, and I’d been given a one-line part, as the failed opera singer who auditions to sing at the club.

My heart sank, and I went to find Mr Jones to tell him that I couldn’t do the part. I was so self-conscious of my voice already, and I felt like taking the part would be the final nail in my already quite firmly sealed  social coffin. He was nice about it, and said that I should do it – it’s the right style of voice for me – but he let me drop it on the promise I’d still be involved.

And I was. In that show, I ended up doing everything, from building set, stage managing, costume, to playing about 6 different parts and helping choreograph some of the dances. It was one of the shows which definitively gave me a love of every side of theatre.

Moment two came a few weeks after the show. We were packing down after a live rock concert which Mr Jones organised every year. He was a “cool” teacher, not really much older than us, and with a background in media which meant that traditional dirge-like music teaching really wasn’t for him. The DVD for Bugsy Malone had just been sent through, and as we packed down the amps and staging for the concert, he mentioned he’d watched it.

Then he turned his head to me and said “Sally, has anyone ever told you you’re amazing?”

I found out yesterday that Mr Mark Jones was fatally injured in a car accident last Friday. Since I heard, I have seen so many other people sharing their moments, and that’s what he gave people. Until the second moment, I’d thought he didn’t like me, with my classical voice and my complete inability to learn the flute. But in a few words he proved otherwise.

When I got to Uni, I met OperaSoc, and suddenly found the people I’d been looking for. I could do all of the theatre things I wanted, without feeling like I’d lose friends in the process by being “uncool”. I don’t think I’d have joined if I didn’t have Mr Jones’ voice in the back of my head reminding me that I’m an opera voice.

He also, incidentally, introduced me to ‘Into the Woods’. It’s my favourite musical, and one of the productions I am most proud of my work on. The quote about moments which I began with is from the show.

Now I’m a trustee of Northern Opera Group, and I work in the building where I took part in my first OperaSoc show, and where I gave countless hours to improve on the backstage skills which Mr Jones began teaching me. It is not overstating to say that everything I am today, I am because of those two moments.

I’m desperately sad that Mr Jones can’t give other people their moments any longer, but I have 100% confidence that in the almost 11 years since my moments, he’s done the same for hundreds and thousands of other people.

He’ll be in my heart and memories forever.

Supernova

Last night the sky was so perfectly clear that I stood outside for 15 minutes before I got home, and just stared at the stars.

The thing about stars is that they mean everything. They have been interpreted in literally every way possible, from controlling and dictating our personalities, to creating everything in the universe. They can make you feel tinysmall, like nothing you ever do will matter in the vastness of the cosmos. Or they can make you feel huge, because out of all of the particles in the vastness of the cosmos, a few billion decided to come together and form you.

(Youtube is just full of such terrible videos, how did we even cope in the mid-2000s?)

Songs for a New World

The future is global, regardless of the whims of the BNP or Donald Trump, or Katie Hopkins (a woman who should genuinely be shot into outer space and left to shrivel up alone). And so, to celebrate this fact, I’ve decided to compile a list of songs I love in languages other than English.

This post may also be fueled by Boyfriend’s obsession with the first track.

Despacito – Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee
This is everyone’s favourite tune at the minute, and I have to say, it’s pretty catchy. Particularly without unnecessary Justin Bieber.

Aicha – Khaled Sahra
My mum used to listen to this when I was younger, and get me to translate the lyrics for her. I have no idea how I did.

Ai Se Eu Te Pego – Michel Teló
Catchy AF (here AF standing for “and forgettable” because I can never remember the name of it and then end up just searching for vowel sounds until I hit the right few)

Adiemus – Karl Jenkins
I’m not sure if this counts, because it isn’t actually in a language – it’s been designed to just sound calming but structured.

Ya Banat – Nancy Ajram
This was played to us in one of my Uni classes, and I don’t know how you can’t love this song, even if just for the video.

Que me quedes tu – Shakira
She had to make an entry on the list somewhere, right? Because she’s the queen of my entire life.

Bonustrack – La Oreja de Van Gogh
Spanish language songs were always likely to dominate this list, because I am biased towards my own language base, and there is something about this song which has always just made me smile.

Major Tom – Peter Schilling
I am historically not a fan of German, because it has too many genders and cases, and LOTS of syllables. But Deutschland 83 and its amazing soundtrack definitely won me over.

Volare – Domenico Modugno
It would be wrong not to recognise Eurovision as the home of all the best music, and Volare just feels like the right choice for peak Eurovision.

Songs to Sing To

I’ve spent all afternoon singing, and I’ve no idea where the song choice came from. I do love a good sing though, so I thought today’s update could be the songs I most like to sing.

*Disclaimer. These are not songs I sing for other people. I will not sing for you. I am not a good singer. Yes, I know I did opera. Still not a singer, still not singing for you.

  1. Fly me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra.
    Who doesn’t love singing swing?
  2. Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie.
    (Who was guessing how long I’d manage before a DCfC song?)
  3. Life in Letters – Lucy Scwartz
    To be honest, this is just a lovely tune.
  4. Angels – All Angels
    I love this version, and I definitely always try to sing all the parts. Also All Angels were just great and I definitely wanted to be them.
  5. Chained to the Rhythm – Katy Perry.
    Because how can you not really?
  6. Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
    HOLD ON TO THAT FEEEEEEEEEEELLINNNN
  7. Ferry Cross the Mersey – Gerry and the Pacemakers
    Or really anything from my mum’s 60s album. But mostly this.
  8. Eliza’s Aria – Elena Katz-Chernin
    The most fun piece of bank advert music ever.
  9. Swing Life Away – Rise Against
    I can’t help my age, ok.
  10. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina – Evita
    One of these at least was going to be a musical, and if we’re talking about a slow build and fantastic finale (which we are, obviously) then nothing comes close to this.

Geek/Nerd

Boyfriend and I had a discussion about this the other day, essentially along the following lines. What is the difference between a geek and a nerd, and are we one or the other or both?

The answer is, I’m definitely both, and he’s probably only a geek. This is using my personal definition, and also the definition provided by the internet which states;

There is a difference between geeks and nerds.

Nerds are smart, people who lack much of a social life. They often have very few friends. Nerds don’t talk much, and don’t expect others to talk much to them. They are usually nice people, but don’t have the social skills to go out and meet new friends.

Geeks are different from nerds in the fact that they have social lives. However, these social lives are often spent pursuing some passion that the geek is obsessed with (i.e. Yu-Gi-Oh!). They spend all their time thinking about their one obsession, and play it in all of their free time. Geeks are usually only friends with other geeks, and attempts to converse with geeks is futile, unless, of course, you want to talk about Star Trek or whatever the certain geek is obsessed with.*

My definition is more that nerds are analogue, and geeks are digital. But I’ll take both.

Today, I met up with a friend from many many years ago (pre-blog era, so I mean, AGES AGO) and decided that I am well and truly both a geek and a nerd.

Evidence for this. My friend is internet famous and I think that’s really cool. Apparently, I’m the only person who has said this to him, though I’m presuming he means in real life and out-loud (because the whole point of being internet famous is really not to be real life).

I think it’s cool, because I’m a geek, by my own definition. I love digital, and people who digital well, and understand technology and make it do cool things. The furthest I might go is a blog, but guys, at least that’s something. I also like games, which seems to lead to automatic geek status (unless those games are football games, which don’t count).

Boyfriend is a geek because this is our crossover. We play games together, and watch videos of people playing games, and he tells me about coding and I’m genuinely interested. He’s also a geek by the internet definition, because he has friends who are also interested in games, as well as friends who are interested in Astrophysics (his other geek subject of choice)

Here’s where my nerd thing comes in. My interests are very diverse, and I can practically see Boyfriend’s brain switching off once the topic moves away from geekery and into nerdery. And because I’m a bit of a nerd, I don’t talk to as many people because of my lacking social skills (see internet definition above).

I’m nerdy about all kinds of things. I’m a language nerd, a governance nerd, a theatre nerd, a fantasy nerd. In terms of fulfilling the stereotype, I’m there, with bells on. I’m also initially shy on any of those topics, until it becomes clear that I should share absolutely everything I know about Celtic mythology, or whatever the topic is. Once that happens, I imagine I light up like some kind of insane ball of energy, and unleash fact after fact until someone calms me down or I tire myself out. Being a nerd is a definite lifestyle choice.

All of my conversations with my friend today were geeky or nerdy, and it was pretty wonderful to remember there are people out there who are as far down those roads (maybe) as I am. We ended the day sitting in a park, and it was really as if the 9 years since we last really saw each other just hadn’t happened. Here’s to more geekery and nerdery and friends.


*Side note: When did Urban Dictionary stop being full of offensive definitions of my name and become all about actually useful definitions? I don’t like this new modern world.


**Second side note, not referenced at all in the text above (I’m bad at this). I’ve spent all day with this in my head, which I think was popular when me and my friend were friends previously (shut up, I know what I’m saying).

You’re welcome.

Opera and other drugs

This season at Opera North is a season of fantastic fairy tales. So far I’ve seen the Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel, and I have Cinderella to go, next Tuesday.

Let’s be clear though. Opera can be a bit insane. It’s innate to the art form, because everything is repeated a hundred times for clarity (but ever so slightly different musical inflection), and there has to be awkward exposition all over the place and eventually it just gets a bit clunky all round.

Also, fairy tales are insane. Have you ever read an original version of a fairy tale? I totally encourage it. They are full of gristle and cruelty and really terrible lessons for young children. You can imagine that combining them with opera is spectacular at the best of times.

Spectacular is not, however, what I’d call this season at Opera North. The music is stunning, as is the singing, and the costume. And the set. And the clever uses of different effects. It’s all great really, except for one thing. The direction. Because the direction is totally barmy, and no-one needs that when the combination of opera and fairy tale is on the edge as it is. Watching the shows is what I imagine being on drugs feels like – plot-lines which suddenly unwind themselves because they are trying to be too clever, while the rest of the show assaults your senses.

In other news I’m ill (again). So more drugs for me, mostly in the form of Benylin.

Cheese and Musicals

Today I made ricotta, and I’m very proud. It looks horrible, but I have great hopes for once it has sat for a while in its little basket.

I have been in a bit of a slump over the summer, creatively. I had that weekend where I made a blanket and two cushions and a collage of Leeds (ish), and I optimistically resolved myself to doing more creative things. Naturally I then followed this up with very little.

The last couple of weeks have changed that somewhat, with the return of our work Baking League and a spontaneous candle-making session a few weekends ago. Here are some of my recent achievements:

breakfast cake candles cheese cupcake cupcakes

As ever, my achievements are largely food-based.

I call this post cheese and musicals, because as I write I’m catching up on Elaine Paige on Sunday, and it feels like the time of year to remind everyone that musicals exist. Going into a new term means new student theatre (a continued high-point of my life), a new season at Opera North, and generally lots of musical fun. To capitalise on this I bought some “light up fountain speakers” yesterday, which are already a fantastic purchase. Very little can improve on Elaine Paige’s laugh, but watching a fountain chuckle is an improvement.

Blast from the Past

I can’t believe I’ve not named a post this before, but hey ho. I’ve been meaning to share this for a while, but haven’t found the ideal moment, and I decided that a sleepy Saturday would be about right.

A few months ago while I was visiting my parents,  my Mum asked me to clear some stuff out. I found lots of weird things from when I was a kid, but two of the great things I found, were these –

CDs

I present two CDs which I think I probably paid actual money for at the time. The top one is a combination of tracks recorded in the upstairs room of the youth club where I used to volunteer and generally spend my life.

The bottom one is by one of the many incarnations of my friends all being in a band. I never made it into the band (mostly because I can’t play any instruments properly, and can only sing like a mildly tone-deaf choirgirl) and therefore was the biggest fangirl that they had. I remember spending hours listening to what I now recognise were some of the most teen-angst filled songs EVER, and helping move amps and set up drumkits. There was definitely a while where I even knew how to mic up a drumkit, though that skill now eludes me (and I’m probably glad).

Isn’t teenagedom weird and amazing?

Sewing for the Soul

I love sewing. I like to think I’m ok at it, but I’m certainly not good. The thing I like most about sewing though is that I don’t really need to be any good, because I’m either making costumes, which only need to look good from a distance, and need to fit a wide variety of people, and probably need to be sewn together in the box office on opening night. Or, I’m making nick-nacky crafty things for round my house, which don’t need to be “good” per se.

For months now I’ve been working on a huge project to convert my various show hoodies, collected over 7 years at university, into a warm enormous patchwork blanket. I’ve meticulously sliced them all up, arranged them with the most important ones in the middle, edged it with silk ribbon, and backed the whole thing with purple fleece (purple being the brand colour of the Union, me being tacky).

I was lucky enough to be gifted a couple of huge cushion pads as well, by a friend who had no real use for them, which was fantastic because it’s allowed me to use the fronts of the hoodies as well, in another patchwork design (this one primarily of my name, how egocentric). The second I  covered in a lovely piece of aubergine cotton, and finished with some wooden buttons which I bought today.

It’s been a lovely project, and I’m super-pleased with the results, because things like this are so much nicer  when they are full of meaning and sentiment.

crafts

Plans

The first thing I noticed when I started this post is that I’ve already written something called “Plans”, so I went back and looked at that. It’s funny, and tiny, and completely different to what I’m about to write, so hold onto your hats, kids.

I’m a Death Cab for Cutie obsessive, and my favourite album is “Plans”. It is made up of some of the most heartfelt, horrible, inspirational music I’ve ever listened to. The song below isn’t one of my favourites, but it does have two really valuable sentiments. Fair warning: don’t listen to it if you’re sad. It’s a very sad song.

Let’s start at the beginning, with this line:

“It came to me then, that every plan..
..is a tiny prayer to Father Time”

I need plans. I have been an anxious person my whole life, and I struggle to cope with uncertainty in any form. My life revolves around structure, organisation, and a knowledge of what is coming tomorrow. When I don’t have that (and I don’t, more and more regularly) I find myself stressed, confused, and at odds with my own emotions (which mostly suggest that if I hide somewhere for a while and don’t talk to anyone, the world will eventually begin to make sense again. Spoiler alert: that totally doesn’t work).

Something that helps me with that is writing this blog. It’s a nice, controlled space, and a way to process thoughts, feelings, and reactions to my life and make sense of them. But I’m also coming to realise that uncertainty is a part of everything, and that just because you make plans, doesn’t mean that forces beyond your control won’t change them…see the above quote. All of my plans are just tiny prayers, and seeing them like that makes them feel a lot less important, which I think is a good thing. It means it’s ok if they don’t quite pan out.

This all in mind, here are a few plans which I’m praying might happen (but which I’m not going to beat myself up for if other bits of life get in the way)

  • I plan to finish my hoodie blanket, and post about it here
  • I plan to create myself some new desk art
  • I plan to bake more often, and I plan that the baking will be good
  • I plan to finally make myself a dress out of the word fabric I’ve been hoarding since Into The Woods
  • I plan to smile at least once every single day
  • I plan to go to the theatre as often as possible, and watch things I’ve never seen before

I said before that “What Sarah Said” has two sentiments I really value. A first listen to Plans can feel quite disheartening, if you’re in that mood, but so much of what they sing can have a positive spin, just like the quote above. The second one comes at the end of the song, and it’s where the title is pulled from:

“I’m thinking of what Sarah said..
..love is watching someone die”

For a lot of the people who commented on the video, this is the line which tugged at their heartstrings. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to watch a loved one die.

But.

As an anxious person, one of the things which often happens is that I nervously convince myself that everyone hates me, and that I’m a horrible burden. But what I know to be true is that I’m not at all, and that I have people in my life who love me enough that no matter how terrible everything gets (and I’m lucky, because it’s really never even been close to terrible) they’ll always be right there. So..

  • I plan to fully appreciate all of the wonderful people in my life, and spend lots of time with them and show them how much I value them all.

 

(PS. I know this seems like it’s coming from a super sad place, but it’s really not. I have the CD of Plans in my car, and I listen to it non-stop. I’m constantly finding silver linings and consoling messages in the lyrics and I absolutely urge literally everyone to listen to it, because it’s just great)