Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas & Earthquakes

So this is how our Christmas went:

Thursday 22nd: I finish work just after 3pm, scoot home, we throw our stuff in the car and off we go, collecting Anton on the way, all the way to Christchurch. We arrive sometime after 11pm and off to bed we go.

Friday 23rd: Chris takes his mother and the kids porn shopping i.e. Bunnings while I head out to Dad's in Rangiora to catch up. Just before lunch we head over to Pegasus and visit Donna & Garry who are renting there, prior to building. We have a nice lunch at a local cafe and then head back to Dad's. Just getting ready to leave and wham! an earthquake hits. I look around wildly for a place to take cover and Dad yells out "Garage!" (the reasoning being it doesn't have another story above it fall  on top of us). However the shaking and rolling subsides before we get there. First thought: If it was bad here, how much worse will it be in Christchurch? Frantic attempts to call and txt - system overloading - but confirmation quickly that Chris, his Mum Rosina and the boys are fine and are at home. Several sharp aftershocks rattle the nerves. 

I drive home, get out of the car and just as I am closing the driveway gate, the rumble starts and then all hell breaks loose. I cling to the gate for dear life, watching my Holden get bounced around like a toy and then as soon as I am able to stand without falling over, rush inside screaming for Tyler. He is remarkably calm, Chris is all laissez-faire and I burst into tears and declare that I want to go home. Chris' Mum administers some arnica spray and then we start riding out the aftershocks. No power so tea is cooked on the BBQ and we listen to reports on the radio. The second quake is a 6.0. We walk down the road and see liquefaction and holes opened up in the middle of the road. Power restored around 7pm. Aftershocks continue. Sleep that night is hard to come by. Even a truck rumbling makes me leap up in alarm.

Saturday 24th: We get outa Dodge and drive down to Oamaru to Chris' sister Leona's. The rest of Chris' side of the family are gathering there for a midday Christmas dinner. We feast on turkey, ham, lamb and new potatos, followed by pav, fruit salad, jellies and chocolate chip sherry log. We quaff excellent wines.

Tyler and Olivia enjoying Christmas dinner in the sun

Tyler's stocking and winding wool to find his Santa sack

 Tyler playing his new Nintendo 3D with Anton

In the evening, I take Olivia down to St Paul's Presbyterian for a mid-evening Christmas service - the lights are turned off and we all light candles and sing traditional carols. Get home and sort out Tyler's stocking and Santa sack and then get some much-needed, non-shaken sleep. 

Tyler wakes at 5:40am and begs to open his stocking. By 6:30m all the kids are awake and the big ones grab their piece of wool and starting winding it up to find their Santa sacks. The strings go all over the house and outside. Tyler finds his sack behind the BBQ. We open the rest of the presents in the lounge and the floor is a sea of paper and toys. We enjoy croissants, bacon and eggs for breakfast and then head off back to Invercargill.

So not a traditional Christmas for me at all, but very enjoyable nontheless.

Monday, 19 December 2011

All I Want For Christmas.....

Tyler recently wrote out his Christmas Wish List. The first two items are as expected. Then a candle - interesting. I queried this and he said he wanted a 'Christmas candle'. Hopefully the nice red glittery candle in a glass I have acquired - oops I mean Santa has made - will do the trick. 

An Angry Bird - not hard to figure that one out, he loves the red soft toy Angry Bird that sits on my desk and sets off its angry little squawks whenever he visits my office. 

More of the expected follows and then, items 9 and 10. Bless.

Only 7 more sleeps!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Seriously entertained


Last night I sang at a Christmas dinner function. I was scheduled in between the main and dessert. Perfect timing really – the guests have had enough wine to be slightly merry and expansively forgiving of any minor slip-ups, but not so much food they’re going to sleep and you have to studiously ignore the man at the second table with his head resting on his side plate, snoring in the key of E.

Actually it wasn’t really me they wanted. Originally the organiser rang my teacher Rebecca Ryan, but she was unable to do it, so she recommended me. With any luck no-one told the dinner guests that they were getting second choice and a very distant second at that. Like three miles astern. When I was discussing the details with the organiser he said that they wanted a ‘serious’ singer. This tends to be a non-singer’s term for ‘person who sings very loudly, with a lot of vibrato and in a foreign language and therefore must be rather good’.

It’s always interesting choosing repertoire for performances. You may have just put the finishing touches on a technically-challenging 20th century aria with more accidentals and time signature changes than should ever be crammed into 5 pages, but it’s most likely going to fall flat with a bunch of Rotarian’s at their Christmas party looking to be entertained. Oh they’ll politely applaud and look impressed but will they enjoy it? Probably not. So serious, but enjoyable was required.

I started with the short but very sweet Quilter song ‘Music, when soft voices die’, just to give them a dose of ‘serious’. This seemed to be appreciated i.e. thank heavens you’re singing in English and it’s short and tuneful. And then I combined ‘serious’ with ‘entertainment’ and let rip with Flanders and Swanns’ ‘A Word on my Ear’.  If you’ll forgive my lack of modesty, I had them at ‘Hello, I am the great operatic diva Dame Edith Huntington-Smythe-Jones-Smythe’ and it was all smiles, laughs and applause from there. A girl could really get used to that. I’ve sung this several times now and I’m at the point where I can relax and really get into the acting side of things and not sing it through strictly adhering to the time/bar lines/rests etc. Of course the accompanist is very much an intergral part of not just the music, but the acting in this one and mine was with me every step of the way.

So that’s the last pre-Christmas performance and with three weeks holiday starting from Friday next week, plenty of time to start getting my teeth into new repertoire. ‘King David’ here I come….

Seriously entertained


Last night I sang at a Christmas dinner function. I was scheduled in between the main and dessert. Perfect timing really – the guests have had enough wine to be slightly merry and expansively forgiving of any minor slip-ups, but not so much food they’re going to sleep and you have to studiously ignore the man at the second table with his head resting on his side plate, snoring in the key of E.

Actually it wasn’t really me they wanted. Originally the organiser rang my teacher Rebecca Ryan, but she was unable to do it, so she recommended me. With any luck no-one told the dinner guests that they were getting second choice and a very distant second at that. Like three miles astern. When I was discussing the details with the organiser he said that they wanted a ‘serious’ singer. This tends to be a non-singer’s term for ‘person who sings very loudly, with a lot of vibrato and in a foreign language and therefore must be rather good’.

It’s always interesting choosing repertoire for performances. You may have just put the finishing touches on a technically-challenging 20th century aria with more accidentals and time signature changes than should ever be crammed into 5 pages, but it’s most likely going to fall flat with a bunch of Rotarian’s at their Christmas party looking to be entertained. Oh they’ll politely applaud and look impressed but will they enjoy it? Probably not. So serious, but enjoyable was required.

I started with the short but very sweet Quilter song ‘Music, when soft voices die’, just to give them a dose of ‘serious’. This seemed to be appreciated i.e. thank heavens you’re singing in English and it’s short and tuneful. And then I combined ‘serious’ with ‘entertainment’ and let rip with Flanders and Swanns’ ‘A Word on my Ear’.  If you’ll forgive my lack of modesty, I had them at ‘Hello, I am the great operatic diva Dame Edith Huntington-Smythe-Jones-Smythe’ and it was all smiles, laughs and applause from there. A girl could really get used to that. I’ve sung this several times now and I’m at the point where I can relax and really get into the acting side of things and not sing it through strictly adhering to the time/bar lines/rests etc. Of course the accompanist is very much an intergral part of not just the music, but the acting in this one and mine was with me every step of the way.

So that’s the last pre-Christmas performance and with three weeks holiday starting from Friday next week, plenty of time to start getting my teeth into new repertoire. ‘King David’ here I come….

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Countdown

Number of sleeps till Christmas is being checked every day, the Advent Calendar gifts are being sought every morning, and the tree is well and truly up. Tyler was a most excellent Santa's Helper with the Christmas Tree and only became bored about half way through the ornamentation stage.



Of course all that effort is exhausting for a small boy and a wee nap, with the warming addition of his Mum's dressing-gown, was called for. 


Incidentally, we got Tyler's school report on Friday and I am happy to report that it was excellent, both academically and socially. His teacher described him as a 'happy, social boy' and on all his personal attributes he achieved in the Always range, including 'Respect for others'. He is achieving the standards and is at spelling age of 9. (Clearly gets that from me). So we were very happy parents. Next year he is in a composite Year3/4 class so that will be interesting.

We had our first BBQ of the summer on Friday night and Tyler was given the task of cooking the sausages, and a very good job he made of it too. Here he is being instructed in the Manly Art of Barbecuing by Chris.



Yesterday was the Preston Russell Law Christmas Party - we went to Christmas at the Races at Ascot Park. We had a big marquee right on the finishing straight and a Tote about 10 paces away, so with some excellent catering by Mash and a steady supply of refreshments we were set. Most of the ladies took the opportunity to dress up and with the superb weather the stands and grounds were a riot of colourful dresses, hats, fascinators and sky-high heels. Here's me and Helen.



I've done my Christmas concert with A Capella Singers (see here for a run-down) and have a Rotary function to sing at this coming week.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Let There Be Joy!


Last night I was part of a world premiere! In fact, I can now claim to be the first person to sing a particular song in 450 years. I am a member of A Capella Singers and A Capella Concertino and last night we gave a performance entitled 'Let There Be Joy', music with Scottish connections for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. These are songs and carols researched, translated and edited by Dr Raymond White and recently published in a book also entitled Let There Be Joy. 

In the mid-1500's John Knox and his cohorts of the Reformation disapproved of art, music, dance - in fact as Raymond puts it in the preface of his book, 'they were the cultural terrorists of their time'. Apparently Knox had the idea that 'Satan had corrupted the noble gift of singing cheifly through the Papists, by the use of the Latin language that does not edify'.

Surely the man must have been tone deaf! How can you listen to Palestrina or Gabrieli and not want to be a better person?? 

It was a good test for me of how well my focus on breathing was working, as it was a big sing - 13 items in all, including 3 of them with the small Concertino group and one a solo. (Not to mention I was making my debut as a conductor with two of the songs). In rehearsal the solo had gone well, and felt nice and free. Stepping up to sing it at the performance my mouth was as dry as the Sahara and I was terrified that the lower notes at the end of the first and third lines (only middle C#, so yes I can hear the mezzos and altos amongst you scoffing - stop it Sarah!) but a leap downwards to get there and I wanted to stay in head voice rather than grind them out in my chest. So I just focused on taking the most relaxed and full breath I could and let that do the work for me. And it did. And more good breathing and the echo-y acoustic of St Mary's Basilica allowed the higher notes to float out easily. For once I was actually reasonably happy straight off.  Just the chamber organ and cello as accompaniment. 

The music as a whole was joyful and uplifting and I absolutely adored 'Illuminare Jerusalem'. So many of the songs are dance-like there were times I wished we could have moved accordingly, but of course choirs in church don't do that, that would be naughty. And the shade of John Knox would come and clip as all around our collective ears and consign us to the fires of Hell. 

And of course what would a concert of carols be without a good hearty rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas, Adeste Fidele - ooh! more of that wicked Latin - and Silent Night.

My next gig is as part of the entertainment at the local Rotary club Christmas party. Apparently I will be on straight after the main meal so hopefully they won't have all nodded off by then. I'm going to lull them into a false sense of security with a Quilter art song and then knock 'em dead with 'A Word on My Ear'.

Let There Be Joy!


Last night I was part of a world premiere! In fact, I can now claim to be the first person to sing a particular song in 450 years. I am a member of A Capella Singers and A Capella Concertino and last night we gave a performance entitled 'Let There Be Joy', music with Scottish connections for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. These are songs and carols researched, translated and edited by Dr Raymond White and recently published in a book also entitled Let There Be Joy. 

In the mid-1500's John Knox and his cohorts of the Reformation disapproved of art, music, dance - in fact as Raymond puts it in the preface of his book, 'they were the cultural terrorists of their time'. Apparently Knox had the idea that 'Satan had corrupted the noble gift of singing cheifly through the Papists, by the use of the Latin language that does not edify'.

Surely the man must have been tone deaf! How can you listen to Palestrina or Gabrieli and not want to be a better person?? 

It was a good test for me of how well my focus on breathing was working, as it was a big sing - 13 items in all, including 3 of them with the small Concertino group and one a solo. (Not to mention I was making my debut as a conductor with two of the songs). In rehearsal the solo had gone well, and felt nice and free. Stepping up to sing it at the performance my mouth was as dry as the Sahara and I was terrified that the lower notes at the end of the first and third lines (only middle C#, so yes I can hear the mezzos and altos amongst you scoffing - stop it Sarah!) but a leap downwards to get there and I wanted to stay in head voice rather than grind them out in my chest. So I just focused on taking the most relaxed and full breath I could and let that do the work for me. And it did. And more good breathing and the echo-y acoustic of St Mary's Basilica allowed the higher notes to float out easily. For once I was actually reasonably happy straight off.  Just the chamber organ and cello as accompaniment. 

The music as a whole was joyful and uplifting and I absolutely adored 'Illuminare Jerusalem'. So many of the songs are dance-like there were times I wished we could have moved accordingly, but of course choirs in church don't do that, that would be naughty. And the shade of John Knox would come and clip as all around our collective ears and consign us to the fires of Hell. 

And of course what would a concert of carols be without a good hearty rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas, Adeste Fidele - ooh! more of that wicked Latin - and Silent Night.

My next gig is as part of the entertainment at the local Rotary club Christmas party. Apparently I will be on straight after the main meal so hopefully they won't have all nodded off by then. I'm going to lull them into a false sense of security with a Quilter art song and then knock 'em dead with 'A Word on My Ear'.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Winners are Grinners

Wow two posts in one day! :)

As mentioned in an earlier post, Tyler's flippaball team, the Sacred Heart Seals made the finals of their grade last week. So yesterday was Finals Day. Both Chris and I took some time off work to be there. It was particularly important for Chris to be there as he has the loudest voice and can got through the noise to give the kids instructions. They got away to a good start by scoring the first two goals but then the opposition came back with three in a row. Half time 2-3. Plenty of instructions from the sideline and the defence picked up. At full-time it was 5-5. So into Golden Time they went and we scored! The kids were SO excited to win. The school gets a trophy and the kids all get certificates which will be handed to them at school assembly on Monday. Tyler got to choose tea and so off to Maccas we went.

Chris coaching (Tyler's the one with his arms up)

Sacred Heart Seals - Winners of the B grade Flippaball final 2011






What's an election?

Scene: The three of us - me, Chris and Tyler - sitting on the couch. Chris and I are talking about remembering to vote in the election.

Tyler: What's an election?

Chris: Well it's when we vote for who we want to be the the government.

Me: He won't understand the concept of government.

Chris: OK, well it's when we choose the person we want to run the country.

Tyler: You mean he has to run right around the country?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Work those flabs!

It’s been an interesting week, full of birthdays (my Mum, Dad and I all have birthdays within one week of each other), singing opportunities and another session with the voice therapist.

The therapy session was intense and I felt quite wrung-out by the end of it. Lots more breathing and focusing on the muscles involved. I discovered that I am a tactile person when it comes to understanding these things – I need to actually feel what is happening – and so I spent time with my hand placed on various parts of my therapist’s mid-section, trying not to be depressed that she has abs and I have flabs!  We discussed the fact that we girls tend not to breathe freely because we are too busy holding our tummies in. All I can say is that if anyone is standing at right-angles to me when I’m letting it all hang out it they may find themselves thinking about having jelly or blancmange for dessert that evening. NB: I have never eaten blancmange, but I’ve always wanted to use it in a sentence. Excellent, another item crossed off the bucket list.

The evening after my session I was in charge of the programme for the Music Circleof the local Womens Club to which I belong (and which my brother-in-law somewhat unkindly but, it must be admitted, truthfully calls the ‘Grey Hair & Glasses Society’. Actually ten years ago it would have been more accurate to say ‘Wisteria Rinse & Glasses Society’, but I digress). As well as organising the programme of items, I was also performing a duet, an arrangement of Silent Night.

After work, I had a quick run-through. And discovered that instead of being all lovely and free after my therapy session, my voice had….gone into hiding. I could barely reach an F5. I walked into the kitchen and my other half, for whom classical music is something other people listen to while he listens to Glen Campbell, said “You wouldn’t have been happy with that”. Well that ratcheted up the stress-levels to a bicycle-clip factor of 8.5 in a heartbeat. What to do? I contemplated not doing it at all and then decided that with a combination of steaming, gentle warm-up exercises and a real focus on getting the sound forward, I could manage. And thankfully, I did. It certainly wasn’t as good as it should have been, but neither was it a disaster and fortunately the middle and lower register filled out nicely and blended well with my singing partner.  I emailed my therapist the next day to tell her what had happened and we both agreed that it was probably a combination of a long day, intense concentration during our session and the stress of organising the programme.

I sang again on Friday at a function, this time all was well. A rendition of Flanders & Swan’s ‘A Word on my Ear’ which is always great fun. Although it’s surprisingly difficult to sing off-key deliberately!

Work those flabs!

It’s been an interesting week, full of birthdays (my Mum, Dad and I all have birthdays within one week of each other), singing opportunities and another session with the voice therapist.

The therapy session was intense and I felt quite wrung-out by the end of it. Lots more breathing and focusing on the muscles involved. I discovered that I am a tactile person when it comes to understanding these things – I need to actually feel what is happening – and so I spent time with my hand placed on various parts of my therapist’s mid-section, trying not to be depressed that she has abs and I have flabs!  We discussed the fact that we girls tend not to breathe freely because we are too busy holding our tummies in. All I can say is that if anyone is standing at right-angles to me when I’m letting it all hang out it they may find themselves thinking about having jelly or blancmange for dessert that evening. NB: I have never eaten blancmange, but I’ve always wanted to use it in a sentence. Excellent, another item crossed off the bucket list.

The evening after my session I was in charge of the programme for the Music Circle of the local Womens Club to which I belong (and which my brother-in-law somewhat unkindly but, it must be admitted, truthfully calls the ‘Grey Hair & Glasses Society’. Actually ten years ago it would have been more accurate to say ‘Wisteria Rinse & Glasses Society’, but I digress). As well as organising the programme of items, I was also performing a duet, an arrangement of Silent Night.

After work, I had a quick run-through. And discovered that instead of being all lovely and free after my therapy session, my voice had….gone into hiding. I could barely reach an F5. I walked into the kitchen and my other half, for whom classical music is something other people listen to while he listens to Glen Campbell, said “You wouldn’t have been happy with that”. Well that ratcheted up the stress-levels to a bicycle-clip factor of 8.5 in a heartbeat. What to do? I contemplated not doing it at all and then decided that with a combination of steaming, gentle warm-up exercises and a real focus on getting the sound forward, I could manage. And thankfully, I did. It certainly wasn’t as good as it should have been, but neither was it a disaster and fortunately the middle and lower register filled out nicely and blended well with my singing partner.  I emailed my therapist the next day to tell her what had happened and we both agreed that it was probably a combination of a long day, intense concentration during our session and the stress of organising the programme.

I sang again on Friday at a function, this time all was well. A rendition of Flanders & Swan’s ‘A Word on my Ear’ which is always great fun. Although it’s surprisingly difficult to sing off-key deliberately!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Novmber = Birthdays

November is birthday month, in that my Mum, my Dad and I all have our birthdays within one week of each other. Both Mum and Dad's were birthdays of significance this year - 70th's. Both parents chose their style of celebration - Dad steadfastly ignoring the opportunity to party up (Hi Dad!) and Mum gathering close family together at a local restaurant. Helen and I arranged a delicious mud cake from Colonial Bakery for her birthday cake and we had a lovely time celebrating.











My birthday was during the week and to be honest I kept forgetting about it due to numerous other events happening in the same week. However my family made sure I didn't forget on the actual day, even though my birthday tea is atually tomorrow (due to the afore-mentioned numerous events). Helen and Mum colluded to get me this fabulous wall decoration that I had coveted since seeing it in E Hayes & Sons. I don't have a present from Chris yet - no, no don't get all huffy on my behalf, there's a good explanation! I am to get either a tablet, an e-reader or a laptop, but which one depends on a fair amount of research about what will work best. Tyler made me a gorgeous card which me a 'supper' birthday :) We had tea at the Lonestar where I scored a free dessert, being the birthday girl.


Other things we have done recently: Visited Tiwai for a family Open Day. It was really good to see where Chris works (although not very close up due to OSH contraints) and Tyler certainly appreciated the candy floss and kid's freebie pack. We also got to see one of only 29 keas in the world, and a fine fellow he was two. Tyler was quite impressed with him and likes to don this mask which was part of the freebie pack.





I've been doing a bit of singing and am getting getting geared up for my debut as a conductor. I'll be blogging about that here.


Tyler has been enjoying his sports this term and yesterday, he helped his Flippa Ball team, the Sacred Heart Seals get into the finals next week, by blocking all except one of the goal attempts by the opposition. Chris said the kids were so excited at the end that here were high fives and squealing and hugs galore.

Today, Tyler and I went to the annual Santa Parade. The weather was perfect and he enjoyed the floats, especially on where his friend's mother was driving and the friend was leaning out of the window grinning and waving furiously, yelling "Tyler!!!!"




Tyler seems to have picked up Chris' penchant for making lists. Last night, after Chris went off to work, I asked him what he wanted to do and he said "I'll make a list" and here's the result.


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Beautiful Baroque



I think we all have a era of classical music that appeals to us the most. One where, if we were stuck on that Desert Island of radio fame, and were told that we could choose only music from one era, this would be what would choose.

For me? Baroque all the way baby. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi - quite apart from the quality  of those three, there's thousands of MP3 files right there without even thinking about other Baroque composers. Right from a young age I gravitated to the Baroque composers - both in instrumental music and in vocal. What would Christmas be without Messiah? (And my consequent discovery of Emma Kirby. Sshhhh, don't tell my singing teacher).

Of all the works I studied at High School, what do I remember - and can pretty much sing all arias and choruses of without a score still? Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Which incidentally will stand me in good stead when the choir I belong to, A Capella Singers  performs it next year.It wasn't until recently that I discovered the delights of the Arie Antiche, mostly thanks to the CD of the same name by Cecilia Bartoli. Love her or hate her, she certainly immerses herself in the arias. Deceptively simple they are. (Sorry, channeling Yoda there). My favourite? It changes from week to week. Right now it's Vivaldi's 'Sposa son disprezzata' If I could do that last trill as softly as she does at that pitch I would be a very happy soprano.



Beautiful Baroque



I think we all have a era of classical music that appeals to us the most. One where, if we were stuck on that Desert Island of radio fame, and were told that we could choose only music from one era, this would be what would choose.

For me? Baroque all the way baby. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi - quite apart from the quality  of those three, there's thousands of MP3 files right there without even thinking about other Baroque composers. Right from a young age I gravitated to the Baroque composers - both in instrumental music and in vocal. What would Christmas be without Messiah? (And my consequent discovery of Emma Kirby. Sshhhh, don't tell my singing teacher).

Of all the works I studied at High School, what do I remember - and can pretty much sing all arias and choruses of without a score still? Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Which incidentally will stand me in good stead when the choir I belong to, A Capella Singers  performs it next year.It wasn't until recently that I discovered the delights of the Arie Antiche, mostly thanks to the CD of the same name by Cecilia Bartoli. Love her or hate her, she certainly immerses herself in the arias. Deceptively simple they are. (Sorry, channeling Yoda there). My favourite? It changes from week to week. Right now it's Vivaldi's 'Sposa son disprezzata' If I could do that last trill as softly as she does at that pitch I would be a very happy soprano.



Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cupcake fun

On Friday, Tyler brought home his latest choice of Library books. Usually these are of the Zac Power variety but this time he brought home a kid's cook book. "Want to do some baking Mum?" For those of you who don't speak fluent Child, this roughly translates as "You do all the preparation, mixing and baking and I will lick the spoons and scrape the bowl and then do any decorating required until I get bored with it".

The cupcake mixture was a bit different from the one I would normally use and added to the fact that our oven is playing silly buggers at the moment, we ended up with cupcakes that tasted good, but were crunchy on the outside and flat in the middle. Not to worry, the decorating surface was fine.

Tyler chose the colours for the base icing:


Some of our efforts with the newly-discovered icing writing pens

Mum's first effort

Tyler's depiction of Mummy. (Honestly, I don't drink much)



Tyler is now tugging at my arm, requesting that we make popcorn so off we go for another culinary adventure.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Learning to breathe like a baby

I had my first proper session with the speech therapist (Vanessa Jerome, in Dunedin) yesterday. She identified from  my initial assessment that my speaking voice is not as it should be and feels that if we can work on that, it will flow through to my singing voice. So back to absolute basics - learning to breathe properly.

It's amazing how an hour of breathing exercises just flew by. Envisaging myself rhythmically inflating and deflating a balloon with no tension. Then we added an sssssss on the exhalation. Another discovery - I tense my neck muscles on ssssss. I found that by putting my hand gently on my throat I could feel what I was doing and adjust accordingly.  Hmmm yes, but it wouldn't be a good look in a recital! Best I learn to do it without the physical prompt.

Then using zzzzzzzz. When I got it all together it was amazing feeling of power with no effort. So now I need to practice all this and be aware of what I am doing so that eventually it becomes automatic.

Tomorrow I have two lots of singing - firstly normal Basilica choir which will include 'How Beautiful are the Feet' from Messiah and then in the afternoon A Capella Singers has been invited to sing at the St John's Church 150th celebrations. So a couple of opportunities to try and put the above into practice. Wish me luck!

Learning to breathe like a baby

I had my first proper session with the speech therapist (Vanessa Jerome, in Dunedin) yesterday. She identified from  my initial assessment that my speaking voice is not as it should be and feels that if we can work on that, it will flow through to my singing voice. So back to absolute basics - learning to breathe properly.

It's amazing how an hour of breathing exercises just flew by. Envisaging myself rhythmically inflating and deflating a balloon with no tension. Then we added an sssssss on the exhalation. Another discovery - I tense my neck muscles on ssssss. I found that by putting my hand gently on my throat I could feel what I was doing and adjust accordingly.  Hmmm yes, but it wouldn't be a good look in a recital! Best I learn to do it without the physical prompt.

Then using zzzzzzzz. When I got it all together it was amazing feeling of power with no effort. So now I need to practice all this and be aware of what I am doing so that eventually it becomes automatic.

Tomorrow I have two lots of singing - firstly normal Basilica choir which will include 'How Beautiful are the Feet' from Messiah and then in the afternoon A Capella Singers has been invited to sing at the St John's Church 150th celebrations. So a couple of opportunities to try and put the above into practice. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

How to earn money

Tyler has hit on a way to supplement his pocket money. Actually it is his only income as he still isn't getting any pocket money at the moment due to 'the TV v Wii' incident. It goes like this:


1. Get a large bag.


2. Into this bag put a bunch of random toys and other objects that you no longer want.


3. Go up to the nearest adult and say "For $1 you can choose something out of here."


4. When adult refuses to pay $1, say "Well have you got some cents."


(At this point the adult is thinking 'yes I have got some sense and I'm not paying you for stuff I already bought you).


5. Look all doe-eyed at the adult until the adult gives in.


6. Accept the 20c offered by the adult who then randomly draws out of the bag anything from a McDonald's plastic toy to a toy frog that would out-green Kermit.


7. Repeat steps 1 - 6.


It is fast approaching the end of the school holidays. Tyler has grown so much that we had to buy a whole new summer uniform for him. He spent the first week at the OSCAR Holiday Programme which included mini-golf and a karate lesson. I took the last 3 days of last week off and we all hung out together, going to the movies (Real Steel) and getting out on our bikes while Chris went for a run. We popped up to Dunedin for the day on Thursday so that I could see the speech therapist.


And because as I mentioned in a previous post that there seems to be more about my singing than about Tyler and the family, I have created a new blog just for my singing thoughts. It's here




if you're interested in that sort of thing.

As a last hurrah on that front, here are a couple of what I call my opera-diva photos that I had taken for a bit of fun.

Can I have my voice back please?

First the history. Back at the end of the April I sang the roles of the Dew Fairy and the Sandman in Humperdinck's opera "Hansel and Gretel'. It was part of the Southland Arts Festival. These were my first solo roles and it was a completely awesome experience. My teacher sang the part of Gretel, the lovely Amanda Winfield (who is a fabulous soprano and a complete professional as you will soon see) sang two big roles, the Mother and the Witch, and her very talented husband-in-real-life Ravil Atlas was the director and conductor. (I'll tell you about my experiences of singing my first opera role in another post).

Depsite a bit of a head cold, all was well until I woke up on the Saturday morning of the last performance, opened my mouth to say something and was alarmed to discover that an enraged chicken and taken over my voice. Despite the best efforts of a magic gargle and steam, it was clear to everyone that I was not going to be able to sing. Being a complete amateur I thought this was someting of an insurmmountable problem and with what little bit of voice I could muster was apologizing to all and sundry. And yes, I admit it, trying not to cry. 

Ravil decided that Amanda would sing my part from the wings into a microphone leading to a speaker that was already at the front of the stage and I would mime. I got ready to duck, waiting for Amanda to throw a diva-tantrum along the lines of "I'm already singing two big roles and you want me to sing two others that I will have to sight-read??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" *hurls breakable objects at anyone in the vicinity* And what happened next, dear readers is why working with professional singers although being completely nerve-wracking for an amateur like me, is also a god-send when something goes awry. Amanda calmly reorganises her costume changes, grabs the score and lightly sings over my two arias (I slaved over those for weeks!) and then as I launch into my 1,346th apology, she turns to me and says with a big smile "It's fine - really". And it was :)

Anyway, the point of all that is that it was the start of the problems with my voice. My voice came back, but only slowly. And now anything more than about half an hour of singing and I get husky. First stop the doctor and a prescription for antibiotics to ensure no silent infection and then prednisone to reduce inflammation. They might as well have been jelly-babies for all the good they did. (Actually real jelly-babies would have been more therapeutic). So then a referral to an ENT specialist in Dunedin where a camera was shoved up my nose and down my throat - not nearly as bad as it sounds - and I was able to watch my vocal folds on a tv screen. Is it vain of me to say that they looked beautiful? The ENT man agreed that they would make a lovely illustration of what-vocal-folds-should-look-like in a text book. Which is all very nice, but didn't explain the voice problems.

So here's his theory, and the reason why I had my first visit to a speech therapist on Thursday: Because my voice took a while to come back after losing it, I unconsciously started using a number of smaller muscles in my neck and shoulder area to help bolster the sound. These aren't designed to take that amount of work and therefore get strained. So I have to learn to stop using them. Back to basics. Lots of steaming still. Oh and for those of you who have ever conversed with me, this will amuse you  - I have to try and slow down my speech a little. Frankly I think I would have a better chance of singing Mimi at La Scala than speaking more slowly but I'm going to try. I know. I. can. do it. if. I. really. try.


Can I have my voice back please?

First the history. Back at the end of the April I sang the roles of the Dew Fairy and the Sandman in Humperdinck's opera "Hansel and Gretel'. It was part of the Southland Arts Festival. These were my first solo roles and it was a completely awesome experience. My teacher sang the part of Gretel, the lovely Amanda Winfield (who is a fabulous soprano and a complete professional as you will soon see) sang two big roles, the Mother and the Witch, and her very talented husband-in-real-life Ravil Atlas was the director and conductor. (I'll tell you about my experiences of singing my first opera role in another post).

Depsite a bit of a head cold, all was well until I woke up on the Saturday morning of the last performance, opened my mouth to say something and was alarmed to discover that an enraged chicken and taken over my voice. Despite the best efforts of a magic gargle and steam, it was clear to everyone that I was not going to be able to sing. Being a complete amateur I thought this was someting of an insurmmountable problem and with what little bit of voice I could muster was apologizing to all and sundry. And yes, I admit it, trying not to cry. 

Ravil decided that Amanda would sing my part from the wings into a microphone leading to a speaker that was already at the front of the stage and I would mime. I got ready to duck, waiting for Amanda to throw a diva-tantrum along the lines of "I'm already singing two big roles and you want me to sing two others that I will have to sight-read??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" *hurls breakable objects at anyone in the vicinity* And what happened next, dear readers is why working with professional singers although being completely nerve-wracking for an amateur like me, is also a god-send when something goes awry. Amanda calmly reorganises her costume changes, grabs the score and lightly sings over my two arias (I slaved over those for weeks!) and then as I launch into my 1,346th apology, she turns to me and says with a big smile "It's fine - really". And it was :)

Anyway, the point of all that is that it was the start of the problems with my voice. My voice came back, but only slowly. And now anything more than about half an hour of singing and I get husky. First stop the doctor and a prescription for antibiotics to ensure no silent infection and then prednisone to reduce inflammation. They might as well have been jelly-babies for all the good they did. (Actually real jelly-babies would have been more therapeutic). So then a referral to an ENT specialist in Dunedin where a camera was shoved up my nose and down my throat - not nearly as bad as it sounds - and I was able to watch my vocal folds on a tv screen. Is it vain of me to say that they looked beautiful? The ENT man agreed that they would make a lovely illustration of what-vocal-folds-should-look-like in a text book. Which is all very nice, but didn't explain the voice problems.

So here's his theory, and the reason why I had my first visit to a speech therapist on Thursday: Because my voice took a while to come back after losing it, I unconsciously started using a number of smaller muscles in my neck and shoulder area to help bolster the sound. These aren't designed to take that amount of work and therefore get strained. So I have to learn to stop using them. Back to basics. Lots of steaming still. Oh and for those of you who have ever conversed with me, this will amuse you  - I have to try and slow down my speech a little. Frankly I think I would have a better chance of singing Mimi at La Scala than speaking more slowly but I'm going to try. I know. I. can. do it. if. I. really. try.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Gidday.

Welcome to my 'singing' blog. I have another blog, but it's supposed to be about my family and I found I was writing more about my singing stuff some days than about family stuff.

First things first. Is it hard to name a blog or what?! And now I've named it, I've got to figure a way of living up to the Amusing part. As opposed to just musing. I wish I could steal some of Sarah Court's ability to write posts ranging from amusing to downright hilarious.

Now those of you who know me know that I'm not the next big thing. No aural resemblence to Kiri Te Kanawa whatsoever. Frankly, I'm too old to be the next big thing. But by golly I'm going to be the next quite-pleasant-to-listen-to thing if it kills me. I'm going to be world famous in Invercargill. If I fail, don't blame my teacher - she should be given a medal for putting up with me and the weird and wonderful noises that issue forth from my mouth.

Which leads me to the topic of my next post - the reason for the weird noises that issue forth. Stay tuned. (A440 is always good).

Gidday.

Welcome to my 'singing' blog. I have another blog, but it's supposed to be about my family and I found I was writing more about my singing stuff some days than about family stuff.

First things first. Is it hard to name a blog or what?! And now I've named it, I've got to figure a way of living up to the Amusing part. As opposed to just musing. I wish I could steal some of Sarah Court's ability to write posts ranging from amusing to downright hilarious.

Now those of you who know me know that I'm not the next big thing. No aural resemblence to Kiri Te Kanawa whatsoever. Frankly, I'm too old to be the next big thing. But by golly I'm going to be the next quite-pleasant-to-listen-to thing if it kills me. I'm going to be world famous in Invercargill. If I fail, don't blame my teacher - she should be given a medal for putting up with me and the weird and wonderful noises that issue forth from my mouth.

Which leads me to the topic of my next post - the reason for the weird noises that issue forth. Stay tuned. (A440 is always good).

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Disco Fever

Thursday night was the Sacred Heart school disco. Oh the anticipation! Last year when we went, T-man spent most of the time cuddled up to me, only rarely venturing out onto the floor and then just to talk to friends. But this year he seemed really excited about going. We were met by the usual wall of sound, a mash-up of thumping disco music and squealing children. To my suprise the moment we entered the hall, Tyler started busting out the moves! Must get it from his father cos he sure doesn't get it from me.


The obligatory glow-sticks and flashing bit 'n' bobs were purchased and away he went, not fazed at all. As usual, talking to other parents was done by sign language. Here's the end result of ear-splitting disco music and too much fizzy:



-------------------------------------------------------------------------


'The Singing Part of the Blog'


As I have mentioned, my voice has not been the same since I lost it at the end of Hansel and Gretel and after trying Sudomyl and Prednisone to catch any possible underlying inflammation or infection, Plan B was commenced and I headed up to Dunedin on Tuesday to visit an ENT specialist. Ironically the same one who does Chris' 6 monthly cancer checks. Depsite my apprehension, as I have a strong gag reflex, having a camera shoved up my nose and down my throat was not painful or awful, just strange. The best bit was seeing it all on tv. The verdict is (and even I with layman's eyes could see this) that my vocal folds and epiglottal area are purty enough to grace a medical textbook under the section: 'What healthy vocal folds look like.' Which is good from an I-don't-have-nodules-or-other-nasties point of view, but didn't explain the ongoing voice strain.


So the theory is that while my voice was still recovering, I inadvertantly started using a bunch of smaller muscles in the throat and neck area to compensate and that became a habit. And these muscles are big enough for the job and so get strained resulting a husky voice. So I'm being referred to a speech therapist to relearn to use the right ones.


Of course that's not going to be happening in time for Competitions with start on 7 October. The repertoire for Comps is:


Duet (with Ruth Gorrie): Christie Eleison - Bach, B minor Mass


Oratorio: If God Be For Us - Handel, Messiah


Lieder: Wer hat dies Liedlien Erdach - Mahler


Aria: In Uomini, in Soldati - Mozart, Cosi fan tutte


French Art Song: Au pays ou se fait la guerre - Duparc


Scholarship: Test piece - Music, when soft voices die - Quilter


Contrasting piece - Let the Bright Seraphim - Handel, Samson.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Make it shut up

The other day I got the vacuum out and warned Mr T that I was about to vacuum and there would be a bit of noise in the lounge shortly. Several minutes later as I entered the lounge there was no sign of him. I mentally shrugged my shoulders figuring he'd retired to his bedroom. Then as I headed toward the window, I noticed a large bulge at the bottom of the drawn-bacl curtain. This is what I found when I pulled the curtain back:

:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Me me me meeeeee

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I should peel off all my singing stuff into a separate blog. This blog is supposed to be about us as a family and Tyler in particular but it seems to me that my singing is dominating lately. I shall ponder this :)


Anyway, starting with the little dude, he has been complaining the last couple of days about not being able to see very well. We have had him checked over the last few years, given that my genes are of the variety 'blind-as-a-bat' and at the last check the optometrist said that his eyesight was perfect but given that his eyes still have some growing to do, it is quite likely he may end up slightly short-sighted. So we will head off for another check and see what transpires. I was a bit worried when yesterday he was complaining of a sore head and feeling unwell, given that I also have the Auld migraine gene. I'm pretty sure he's too young to get them yet but....


And.....back to singing. :) I had the first RWC (oooh will some faceless beaurocrat smite me for mentioning 'that' Cup?) anthem sing last Saturday. It was great - I was nervous, excited and proud all at once. I think the choir did a fine job - the crowd certainly thought so as they clapped us off the field - but it was a shame that the cameras focused purely on the 2 teams (Scotland and Romania) and didn't even do a brief shot of the choir. So much for my 2 seconds of world-wide fame. Afterwards we scored front row seats in the uncovered grandstand and a fellow choir member and I managed to get on the big screen at half-time, shamelessly mugging to the roving camera. )What was funnier was that about 30 seconds later, the fellow (male) choir member got a terse txt from his partner, sitting elsewhere in the ground, asking who was he sitting with! His response - 'just one of those geeky choir girls'. Hahaha - true :)


I opted out of tonight's Georgia v Scotland game so my next and final game will be Argentina v Romania on Saturday. And we get to keep our pretty scarves - cool!

Friday, 9 September 2011

RWC time!!!

Only a few hours to go till the opening ceremony at the Rugby World Cup and the first game, All Blacks v Tonga. Rugby heaven :) I have the final practice tonight for tomorrow's game. I think I've got the Romanian anthem off pat but still have the occasional blank on a word. Here's the translation of it:
 
 
Wake up, Romanian, from the sleep of death,
Into which you have been sunk by the barbaric tyrants,
Now, or never, make a new fate for yourself,
To which even your enemies will bow.

Stirring stuff!! Tomorrow I have to be at the pickup point at 8:30am to catch the bus to the stadium. Miss the bus, miss the game. Which does not start till 1pm. We will have security checks, sound checks and practices and then have to fill in the time till the game starts. We wear black from top to toe, no logos, discreet jewellery, street make-up (no 'glam' make-up!). No heels on shoes - I guess so we don't make holes in the grass. And any food we take in has to be in non-commercial packaging. A packet of Eta chips? Decant into a plastic bag. Bottle of coke? Decant into a drink bottle. The bonus is that we get to stay and watch the game.
 
 
In other news, Tyler has lost another tooth, so that's $2 added to his coffers however he has blotted his overall copybook by cracking the dining room tv screen by hurling the Wii remote at it, having not put on the wrist strap as we always remind him to. Just waiting to hear whether it is repairable. Both Chris and I were out at the time and apparently when Tyler heard Chris come home he ran into our bedroom and hid under the covers and started crying!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Warning: Contains Willy references. :)

Scene:


Tyler is sitting on the couch watching TV, hands down the front of his pants in the classic male way.




Tyler: Mum, why do have you have to have two balls?


Me: Well it would be a bit much to have three wouldn't it?


Tyler, looking anxious: But why do we have them, because you keep thinking about them, and then feeling them....


Me,feeling slight panicked about where this is heading: Look don't worry about them now, you'll just need them when you grow up.


(Yes I can see you all rolling your eyes and thinking surely you could see where this was going? I could but, a nano-second too late)


Tyler: What for?


Me: Um, because they help make babies.


Tyler: *silence* then with a derisive snort: Nah, babies can't come out your willy!! Oh wait, maybe if you go *scrunches up face and makes sound of person with severe constipation* it will come out.


Me: Oh look, Ben 10's on TV!!!




My dear mother if she reads this, will likely be laughing her head off and recalling an incident of my childhood in which the church minister was at our home for afternoon tea and I, maybe seven? eight? and obviously reading something interesting, called out loudly from the bedroom "Muuuum, where are your testicles?"

Sunday, 21 August 2011

7th Birthday

Just realised I haven't uploaded photos from the wee dude's 7th birthday party so here we are. We started with a family tea on the Saturday night which included a pirate-themed ice-cream cake. Rebecca went all camera-shy in this one:



Of course this was the weekend that the 'unprecedented polar blast' started sweeping over the country so there was some concern given the regular snow showers and gale force winds that his party might end up being postponed but luckily the weather held out. He had 3 girls and 6 boys over and we played some typical party games such as Charades, Pass the Parcel and so on. Here are some of the boys hanging out in the lounge and the girls with Tyler (contrary to the look on his face he was enjoying their company!):



I thought the 3 girls might get a bit side-lined with the boisterous boys, but no, they were right in the thick of things including a game that I will call 'How many kids can we pile up?'




The party was of the typical kids' birthday party variety i.e. containing copious amounts of sugar and fat and virtually nothing of nutrional value. Cheerios, fairy bread, fizzy, lollies, chips etc.






Here's Tyler ready to blow out the candles on his Bakugan cake







Amongst other things, we gave Tyler a watch.




All in all a happy but very tiring weekend for all of us.




In other news, Chris has the middle finger of his left hand in a splint after tearing the tendons off the bone at netball and I have just found out today that I have made it into the local Rugby World Cup choir and will be singing (from memory) the anthems of Scotland, Romania and Argentina. Very excited!!




Sunday, 7 August 2011

Seven sleeps





Only 7 sleeps till the wee dude is 7. The excitement is building and his first waking thoughts are centred on his upcoming party. It's going to be a big weekend for him - on Saturday he has a school-friend's party to go to plus his we're having a family tea here, then Sunday is his own party. I think it will be early to bed on Sunday night, assuming he has come down from the sugar-high. Fairy bread does that to a boy.


His current fav toys are Bakugans (hence the style of the invitation) and Beyblades. The house frequently echoes with cries of 'Ability activate!' and 'Let it rip!'


Apart from that, we are all just ticking along. Singing is about to amp up again with a concert in Alex at the end of the month and then preparation for Competitions at the beginning of October. I have a regime of steam inhalations and tablets for various sorts to follow in an effort to get my throat problems sorted once and for all.


Assuming I remember to charge the camera batteries there should be plenty of photos to upload in a week or so.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Faffing about

As you can see, I'm trying a few things with the layout of the blog. I need to sort out the HTML so I can make the photo at the top a tad smaller (not that I don't love it, but it's a little in-your-face).

We've had a nice lazy weekend, the first of the school holidays. The weather played ball and was sunny for both days. Chris had a big night with the boys last night and so T-man and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am to pick him up. Fortunately this only occurs approximately twice a year, so for T it is an adventure and for me, a way to bargain for something I want :) To clear his head this afternoon, we took Pedro and headed out to Daffodil Bay and ran, walked, jogged and skipped our way around, managing in the main to avoid tripping over Pedro's lead.


I'm back to work tomorrow and the boys are planning a trip to the movies to see Kung Fu Panda 2. The next day T goes to the OSCAR holiday programme and the following day he's going to Kidzone with his schoolmate.


I'm finalising my repertoire for the Senior Vocal competitions at the end of the 3rd term. I'm going all out to win the Scholarship this year. I reckon I would have won last year if it wasn't for the dreadful test piece for sopranos which was twice as difficult as the tests set for altos, tenors and basses. Fortunately this year's is very straightforward - Music, When Soft Voices Die by Quilter. I have yet to decide what my contrasting piece will be. So far I'm doing Mahler for the Lieder, Handel for Oratorio, Duparc for French Art and Bach for the duet with my friend Ruth. Now if I can just figure out how to reliably get into my whistle register.....