Category Archives: Music

Not an ad vol 2. (return of the not-so-covert ads)

love to sing.

When people ask about singing I always give the same answer. All range, no skill. That’s me, though it’s probably a little unfair to the parents who paid for lessons, and the singing teachers who taught me for years. It feels accurate though, because despite many years of pretending otherwise, I really can’t read music at all, I struggle with pitching, and I can’t ever hear my line in a harmony.

I can sing a bunch of notes though, so I do. And as with a great many things in life, I do so with great (and slightly intense, I imagine) enthusiasm. If being enthusiastic is a talent, then that’s my talent. Need someone to think your thing is the best thing ever. Give this girl a call [points at self].

In recent times I have been testing the limits of my singing a bit – dabbling in interesting bass lines, mostly hanging around the tenor section (being a tenorlady, yes the joke is purposeful, no I will not stop making it) and singing soprano while dancing (!). Sometimes singing soprano instead of tenor for kicks/to see if I can still hit the high notes – with questionable results.

I remain, I fear, mostly range, minimally skill.

But, the other people in the room are full of skill, and range, and all that good stuff. So, you should come and see them. And me. But them. And their wonderful skill, and beautiful singing.

Leeds Vocal Movement

Leeds Vocal Movement summer concert, 16th June, Left Bank

The Wedding Singer - LIDOS

Wedding Singer – 19th-23rd June, Carriageworks Theatre, with LIDOS

Left Bank Opera Festival

Left Bank Opera festival – 22nd-26th Aug, Left Bank, with Northern Opera Group

Jitters

I have spent this evening repeatedly telling people that I’ve not auditioned for 9 or 10 years, and in the interests of honesty I should say I’ve realised that’s a lie.

Technically I auditioned about 4 years ago for a music theatre showcase. I sang ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ because I’m everyone’s mum and I’ve got a posh girl singing voice. I didn’t get in, which was a blessing because on the evening of the actual showcase I had no voice and only just made it through the evening. I also auditioned 8.5 years ago, when I first started university, to be in Grease. I was also unsuccessful there, but it did help me find my place backstage, so I mustn’t complain.

Regardless, this evening when I auditioned for the first time in a fair old while (if not actually 10 years) I remembered what it feels like to be genuinely, face-shaking, knee-knocking nervous.

As a general rule, I’m a fairly nervous person. I just hide it well with facts, and lots of confidence in other people. Once I know people I also hide my nerves with wild gesticulations and slightly ridiculous voices. I’m just used to having low-level nervousness most of the time.

In a slightly unexpected turn of events, most of my nerves came through in my singing (I think), and I managed almost all, if not all, of the basic dance. A definite first for me.

One way or another, I’m looking forward to the Wedding Singer – it seems like a fab show, and if I don’t get to see it from onstage then I’m sure I can see it from the wings or the audience. And one way or another, I’m proud of sticking with today, pushing past (to a certain extent) the nerves, and getting involved. When the worst outcome possible is someone saying no, that’s not a terrible thing at all.

(And when I’m alone, I can sing the below shake-free, and it’s a fab song)

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?