Monthly Archives: February 2014

I Was Glad…

…when I got there. By 7pm on a very wet Wednesday in February all I wanted to do was head home and slide into a hot bath. But it was the first rehearsal of the year, and I was committed. So I left the Big Bloke at the Shed, and headed into the storm. Fordwich is the country’s smallest town, and it has some of the narrowest roads, just to remind you on your way through. The small group of singers who had braved the deluge shivered in the old school rooms until we got warmed up.

Then I remembered why I love being a member of a choir. Singing is something that is part of me. It doesn’t necessarily matter what we’re singing (though a bit of Bach usually gives the vocal chords a good workout), there is warmth and delight in being part of a vocal ensemble that feels like home.

Even when, especially when you’re sight-singing, and, getting to the end of a phrase, the only thing you can vocalise is ‘oops’. 16 people arriving at the same place in the music sixteen semi-quavers apart is quite something.

So tonight I Was Glad I’d bothered. Especially when we picked up Parry’s ‘There is an old belief,’ number 4 in the set of 6 motets – Songs of Farewell. I’d never sung it, nor to my knowledge heard it. It’s wonderful. And ok, to start with, we tortured it. No music deserves what we did to it. But then, suddenly, the strange harmonies and odd-cornered melodies began to make sense. There was a moment, on page 4, of ‘oh, so THAT’s where it’sTenebraegoing’. And after that, it was, whilst not exactly easy, something you felt you could sing, really sing, rather than just tiptoe around.

And that’s when your back straightens, your head lifts and your heart starts to beat faster. That is when the rush starts, the same feeling of excitement you get from a good run, chocolate…or, whatever does it for you. It’s probably similar to the feeling that a climber gets, or a racing driver, but without the element of danger. Though I can tell you, the way the stomach drops when you’re in the middle of a chorus, in performance, as it all starts to go wrong, is as close to panic as I ever want to get.

From the audience, as an experienced singer or orchestral player, you can always tell when danger is approaching, as the conductor’s movements become ever more exaggerated and those who, perhaps, had had their faces a little buried in the copies, suddenly begin, one by one, to make prolonged eye-contact. You hold your breath, willing them to hold it together, to get to the other side of the page, to the cadence which will give them a chance to regroup, take a deep breath and head off once more into the subdominant. Or wherever.

When you’re singing, right there in the eye of the storm, your senses sharpen and your attention homes in on the only things that can help. The conductor, the first cello (or whoever is playing something that will help you), the person next to you who you can trust (you hope) to be getting it right. And then, when you get to that cadence, and you’re all in one piece (or even if you’ve all slid down  the phrase and landed at the bottom in a heap), off you go again. At the end – pride, relief, joy, sadness (sometimes), gratitude, delight, exhaustion, thirst…I could write a list that went on for pages. Singing. It’s one of the best things you can do.

There are even studies that prove it’s good for your long-term health (singing for health). More on this another time.

I’ve taken a bit of a break from it, for about five years now. I didn’t realise, until I joined this choir just before Christmas, for Messiah, how much I’d missed it. The best thing about this choir is that it is directed by a friend who I sang with in my University days, and one of my dearest friends is a member. The last 20 years don’t exactly melt away, but there’s an immediate feeling of belonging. That’s got to be good.


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February 20, 2014 · 8:06 pm

First contact

Well, here it is. Here I am. Look at me, Mum, I’m blogging…

What makes us create? Where does it come from, this unstoppable urge to make stuff. Something out of something else. Something out of nothing. Something better. Whether we need to or not. When inspiration strikes, we’re driven to write, paint, sculpt, stitch, build. Or do whatever our creative thing is. It’s a gift, mostly.

But what does a copywriter write about when they don’t have a brief? No client, no brief. Where do you start? It’s a strange feeling, having total freedom to write about whatever you want to.

It’s not a new feeling, of course. As well as having written copy professionally for over ten years, I’m also a creative writer. I’ve got an MA in it, and I’ve done pretty well in competitions for Unbound and in the 2013 Fish Publishing prize. So I’ve shared my work before, event if I haven’t published my novel yet (try, haven’t finished my novel yet). But this all feels a bit, well, public. Just writing something, and putting it out there for anyone to read feels presumptuous. This oh so modern idea that you put yourself, or your thoughts, on the internet for everyone to see jars when you were brought up not to draw attention to yourself. Unless you were invited, of course. Anything else was showing off.

But that won’t do, apparently. So I’m going to try a bit of spontaneous creativity. And then I’m going to share it. And hopefully someone will like some of the things I create, and be inspired themselves (that would be wonderful).

So I don’t know what I’m going to write about yet. Other than stuff that makes me feel like writing. That’ll do for starters.

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