Lizzie is a singer songwriter and singing teacher. She also writes stories. Her music teaching and performing business is Unlock the Music. She is based in the Midlands. Check the website site:
Teaching in my own home for the last eight years has been real bonus for me in many ways. Of course it keeps my over heads down and I have all my equipment and music at hand. I don't have to travel anywhere and can create a special relaxed atmosphere for my pupils. But having your front room functioning as a music room knocks a big hole the house and over time it has begun to feel that separation of home and work would be more comfortable. For this reason I have been seeking a suitable affordable place to base myself and have found that in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire. This is an exciting time and it will be great to get in the car and drive off to work again, returning home in the evening. We are hoping that a whole day will fill up with individual lessons and group sessions and we can have our lunch in the camper van.
Posters are in place...
Watch this space...
Oh dear, here's another bad hair day shot..proving that singing teaching can be detrimental to the control of hair..
Thanks to Martin I now have an accordion that I can manage. Thanks to Jacky I have some ideas about how one should fit ones fingers around the buttons. Yet I have a seemingly incurable desire to improvise and this won't quite let me follow the fingering rules. I just want to let tunes ring out and so I think I am probably making life a lot harder for myself than is necessary. In my singing teaching I recommend that pupils become their own best teachers, yet I am not, I think, my own best teacher on the accordion. In the good girl part of my personality I think I need lessons and should arrange this. On my wilder side I just want to roam free on this lovely box and invent things as I go along. I just need to remind myself that this lack of shaping up to rules meant that although I drove from the age of 16 a wide range of vehicles happily(and safely) on L-plates, I didn't actually pass my driving test till I was well over 30.
I think its the same thing going on here. I will get to a certain point where I have limited myself with the accordion if I don't go for lessons.
I am glad that I have these tussles with myself because they certainly allow me a good perspective into the ways that my own pupils learn and don't learn.
Anyway, I think I will now seek out lessons and start getting the most out of this new instrument. I love the sound and the easy way to pick it up and just play with others. So much less fuss than a huge hulking keyboard. Here I am with Andy in my first nervous blast at accompanying someone spontaneously.
Well it happened as it does to all of us. One day I was 59 the next 60. It feels good to be called now a Senior Citizen and I feel proud to have got this far. Of course I am not ready to give up yet and shall just be carrying on as before. Becoming 60 didn't really change a thing, yet inside me I know that I got there and sometimes earlier on in life I just could not have imagined that. What makes me sad is when people hide their age or are ashamed of it or embarrassed in anyway.
I'm not going to bang on about age anymore. Its happened and the buss pass arrives sometime later on. That I will relish! But I hardly ever catch buses at the moment.
Well our musical afternoon this Sunday was just lovely. We had a fine turn out of people and so many different genres of music represented. My Auntie Norah used come in if my sister and I were playing music with friends as a teenager and ask:
"Are you having a jam session?"
We all thought that was rather an old fashioned way to describe our beautiful efforts. Yet I think a Jam Session aptly now describes what we get up to in these afternoons. It isn't about being in a position to reach a polished performance. You might get 10 minutes with someone to rustle up a piece that you have never seen before. You might have a little time with someone with whom you are regularly rehearsing, to show the progress you have made on a major project. You might discover the joy of singing in a group. You can pick up from where you left off at the last session. You might play some old favourites with new combinations of instruments or bring something you want to just perform in its current state of rehearsal. New connections get made and in between Jam Sessions people will meet and build up their relationships.
I hope that we will see more ensemble pieces in our concerts as a result of these music making afternoons.
So let's carry on Jamming!!
In the past three months I have been seeing lots of live music. This includes:
At Birmingham Symphony Hall the CBSO performed stunning Faure and Ravel to an enthusiastic yet rather tame mid week house. No encores.
No standing ovations. No whooping.
We were delighted by all the percussion..the gong that only got used once...the beaming castanet player..the cymbals...that snare drum hidden in the centre of the orchestra for Bolero..
Then there was the dancing, fierce concentration and dedication of the wonderful conductor.
..we both came away with heads poured full of great sounds and pictures....check out this review for our concert
In Hay on Wye during the Hay Festival a great amateur string quartet busked through the day, rehearsed and then played a very wide ranging repertoire to audiences under 20 in a local school. We were at two performances and they were stunning.
Again, at the Hay Festival we went to see Hypnotic, the hop hop brass ensemble recommended by Barrack Obama and this was a very strange mix of authentic hip hop fans doing their ting with great fervour; mild mannered folk were getting groovy, but with much less vigour; elderly people sitting in stunned submission, sort of "doing their duty" for Hay and Barrack; and those people who walked out having tried and failed to cope with the thundering ear bleeding bass provided by a sousaphone, even though it was muted. Loving the dance beats, but having move to the back for the same reason as those people quit, the sound improved hugely and that's where a magical entrancement was taking place. An ordinary bloke with and ordinary missus had suddenly found himself drawn in by the rapping brass band. He left his seat in the manner of a cartoon character being hypnotised and started to gyrate. He missus was gob smacked. His dancing was beautiful and had a 70s feel to it, although he wasn't that old. He just kept moving further to the right and getting deeper and deeper into it. His missus and I exchanged charmed smiles. She tossed her arms up in bewilderment...Had this man ever danced before I wondered?
Anyway the happy chappy just kept on grooving and moving more and more the the right and..well we just moved to clear the space and then moved again and then actually AGAIN, which just left us the top step for standing clear of him. He wasn't using the cool rappers hand gestures...he was dancing from his spirit and he seemed so very at peace with himself. Scanning the audience seated around us, plainly many of them were not in that moment.
We left before the crowds poured out and so I don't know how happy dancing man's evening panned out, but I bet it was good!
This was a lovely episode..
If you are reading this and you haven't been to concert for ages then for heavens sake get out and go to one....
I have been banging on about turning 60 this year and now it has happened. Now I am a Senior Citizen and so will no longer apologise for forgetting anything...It is muddling really because partly you wants folk to dispute and say "You look so much younger" and yet you greedily want the concessionary prices now available for entry to all manner of places. Bus pass will follow shortly!!
For my birthday I was bought an accordion and this immediately plunged me into new bouts of practise in order to grasp it well enough to play something. I am sure my heritage is Eastern European as the very first tunes I make up sound so slavonic and plaintiff. Then I begin to realise that all manner of folk tunes are now within my grasp and even one that someone wanted me to play piano with is much easier than he seemed to make it out to be all those years ago.
This accordion is a middle sized instrument and so much more manageable than the full sized one I had way back, which was too heavy for me to manage for very long. We ended up buying from the accordion specialist in Birmingham that we had sold this heavy bruiser to. It was one of those delightful surprise outings that end up in being bought a present and so the coincidence that I had sold one to them previously was an added bit of fun.
The property where these accordions are repaired and upgraded looks like the last house standing after a particularly thorough bombing raid in the war. It is in the middle of a sparsely inhabited industrial estate and over shadowed by a huge towering pylon. Inside is an Aladdin's cave of accordions and workshops. Where the living room would have been a small curved stage fills one corner and the walls are lined with pianos. Out the back are goodness knows how many cases and other random unrelated items that are "being stored for a friend". Obviously the place sees some great nights in: a secret accordion hideaway...but probably not a real secret to any discerning accordionist. www.accordioncentre.co.uk
So now 157, Beanfield is home to my dear new friend the accordion and already I can play it much better than the one I had before. ButI am never going to be fleet of hand on the accordion. I shall never be able to follow accordion music. I shan't play great sweeps of popular music with um cha cha bass lines like my own Uncle Bernard could do with his very flashy glittering full sized instrument. He played in a dance band with his son John playing drums from a very young age. No. Rather, I shall play folk music and my Slavonic tinged compositions and work to find, arrange or write some songs so that I can have another means to accompany myself apart from lugging hefty keyboard out and about.
Playing with other people is going to be a treat:
Already Martin and I have tried Wild Rover!
Being able to read another person's facial expression and body language in order to assess social cues seems to be to some extent contingent on being able to read oneself. The process of reading another is full of mine fields and we are all familiar with misunderstanding and being misunderstood. So we clarify with questions and through conversation we gather some general sense of what another may be feeling.
Apparently having your face injected with botox means that your face may not be able to represent you authentically. It seems to follow that if you cannot express yourself authentically with your facial expressions then you may not be able to read others facial expressions...there is some sort of sense of vibration missing.
So I am thinking that there is a parallel here to the singing voice...now that is a leap I know..but think about what the voice really is: It is a vibration. The vibration of my voice does not just arrive in your ears.
It comes towards you as a vibration of the air and some of it arrives in your ears
Ears aren't giant funnels to scoop up all sounds...they just take in what they can. But the sound of me to you comes in a much broader spectrum and so the vibrations from my voice enter your body in many ways.
When you stand before me and sing, your voice is read by my whole body. This explains why as a singing teacher I have developed a strong empathy for the way that my singing pupils are using their voice.
Hour after hour I experience my own and other peoples vocal sound waves.
I know what my vocal sounds mean and how to adjust what I am doing to free up my voice.
I do get a sense of how pupils are using their voices.
Last week my pupil had a frog in her throat and I cleared mine to help!!
This weekend I found my Inner Gypsy. I was happily able to set up my computer in our dear camper van, Gladys, and take up the threads of children's story that I started last summer and carry on.
Now there are four chapters. It is set in Herefordshire and so writing it there is for me a real treat.
The view over Hergest Ridge from where I was parked was a lovely back drop as the creative juices flowed.
My Inner Land Girl spent the afternoons clearing brambles and nettles.
My Inner Hungry Beast ate huge suppers and I slept like a log.
All to be commended.
It is so hard to find the right time and space for writing. Creativity sometimes requires quite special conditions: Certainly at home writing takes the back seat and even my own singing has to wait its turn. Housework, paperwork, teaching, cooking, gardening, family. All these come first at home.
But away from home with our lovely old Talbot Autosleeper parked somewhere with a view, well that seems to be quite another proposition.
Creative fire burns internally and must be given time and space.....