Welcome to my Blog

This blog is a combination of new material and previously published archives... Mostly about singing, music, opera and the life of an artist. Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Songs from an Enchanted Island

(I am researching and refining a song recital themed on Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry. The following is a first draft of the programme notes.)

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Caliban, The Tempest

In W. H. Auden's essay 'Music in Shakespeare' the author explains that there are two types of song in Shakespeare's plays: the 'called-for' and the 'impromptu.' The first is requested by another character as a form of entertainment, the other when a character cannot express him- or herself in any other way. Ariel's songs in The Tempest, however, do not fit into either category: 'For Ariel is neither a singer, that is to say, a human being whose vocal gifts provide him with a social function, nor a nonmusical person who in certain moods feels like singing. Ariel is song; when he is truly himself, he sings.'

Shakespeare's plays, and the works of other poets of the first Elizabethan age, are indeed 'full of noises,' and have served as rich fodder for song and opera composers, in Shakespeare's era as well as through subsequent centuries into our own. Caliban's island, never specifically identified, is thought to be Caribbean or Mediterranean, but given the wealth of magical, mystical and supernatural stories, poems and songs created there, the real Enchanted Island surely is Albion: Great Britain.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

What do divas really get up to at home? Well...

A colleague recently posted on Twitter something along the lines of: 'waiting in for a delivery of furniture. Yes, this is how exciting my life is when I'm not singing somewhere...'

It got me thinking about what we divas do in between gigs - other than practice, prepare for auditions and answer fan mail, of course - so I made a partial list:

1) going for walks/foraging for wild food
2) trying to avoid housework (so much easier to avoid when I'm away from home, but I'm getting pretty good at it even when it's staring me in the face)
3) writing blogs
4) planting/tending/harvesting garden
5) spending time with my chickens/cats/goldfish/children/husband
6) knitting/sewing/making
7) teaching
8) making plans to: exercise more/learn to cook/learn to speak Mandarin, etc.
9) indulging in paranoid fantasies of never getting hired to sing again and being reduced to busking on the front lawn in my pyjamas...

You get the picture. Recently, the big domestic project has been renovating the family bathroom. It got me thinking about how much 'project management' singers have to do (you thought we just got up, ate a few bonbons, took deliveries of flowers and got into the limo to go to the opera house didn't you?) I noticed myself going through the same process as I would putting together a recital programme or recording a CD, even down to the bits I find tiresome and wish I could skip over...and here is my little list of advice - to myself as well as others:

1) Get on with it! 'Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.' Don't be afraid to enlist others for the jobs you are not expert at. I am not a plumber, nor am I a sound engineer.

2) Do the boring stuff, even when it feels like it gets you no further toward your goal. It does. Eventually. Yes, the woodwork really does need to be cleaned and prepped before it is painted. And those songs really do need word-by-word translations.

3) Our plumber turned up at 8 a.m. every day. Start early. OK, I don't recommend singing scales so early in the morning, but emails can be drafted, texts translated, research done.

4) There will be delays, problems, disappointments, etc. Know this. Allow time for it in the schedule. Same goes for budget. Expect the unexpected, and don't let it throw you too much.

5) Nothing is ever perfect. Nothing. Know when to let go and decide that it's ready/finished/time to start on the next project.

That's it, I think. Now...where's that limo got to?