Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mostly concert and singing

So we had a concert on Saturday.

First time I remember doing a concert where I felt prepared and relaxed, and like we weren't struggling to get everything together during the last rehearsal Saturday afternoon. I guess this was due to our hard work over the previous weeks, and the amazing organisation of the committee. Go us!

And it all went well - about half of the concert was the main chorus, and half Socii Cantorum (the chamber choir), along with some solos. So I sang in everything apart from the solos.

I noticed a couple of things.

I'm definitely getting better, in terms of concentration and memory and confidence and stamina. Singing's hard work mentally and physically, and sometimes I can struggle with it, but there's an improvement. I think a fair bit of it is being confident in myself and my ability, particularly when it comes to sightreading. I don't pretend to be great at it, but I'm happy to sing out now, because I'm no longer scared that people will think I'm stupid. They don't. Jenny told me last night that she'd noticed a massive improvement in me since I first joined SingSoc 2 years ago. A fair chunk of what I sing when I'm sightreading is actually right, or at least if it isn't I'm wrong in a sensible sort of way, if that makes sense.

It's not just me that's improved. Several people (including Pete who conducts the main chorus, and Robert, director of music at St John's and a conductor himself) have commented on how good Socii sounded, so I'm rather proud of us. Especially as a good proportion of Socii members are new this year, so we've essentially only been singing together for seven weeks. I've posted this before, but I might as well put it here as well. This is us last year.

Harriet, who conducts Socii, has been particularly mean this year. I mentioned last year that we weren't allowed to stand with other people in our parts - well she's gone one step further. As well as that, we had to do five of our eight of our pieces from memory, which is surprisingly difficult when there's no-one in your part close enough for you to hear. It's definitely stopped me being so lazy, I have to concentrate and learn everything properly and not just rely on listening to the other altos. I was worried that we'd miss Liz this year (she's working in Edinburgh) because she's been singing forever and she always does everything perfectly and I used to just follow what she was doing - but we're managing fine by ourselves! Anyway, mixing us up and stopping us from hiding in our scores is one of the things that's made a difference to us, we definitely sing a lot better like that. I think we've all improved individually too, and Harriet's definitely improved as a conductor and director.

Anyway, my grandma came to the concert, it's the first one she's been to. First concert of any kind she's been to, I guess. She told me she didn't think she'd enjoy it but she did, and that we were very good. She also asked me to dye my hair blonde, because she likes it that way. I told her I'm not keen on bleaching it because it looks awful when the roots grow in dark, at which she looked a bit confused and said, "But you've always had blonde hair!" Well no, actually I haven't. My current brown is only a bit darker than my natural colour - I was blonde as a young kid but it was always that dark goldy-blonde that turns darker. This prompted Holly to ask me if I was really blonde! Sigh. My own grandmother doesn't know my real hair colour. I wouldn't mind, but no-one's blonde in my family. The lightest is probably my cousin Emma, who's a mousey mid-brown. Her daughter Olivia is blonde at 3, but it's just like mine was, and it'll end up darker too.

I'll add more pieces to my sidebar once I find the programme (I know I picked one up, just don't know where I put it down again). You noticed my sidebar, right? It's almost becoming my musical CV.

So yeah. The concert took it out of me I think - I was all energetic all day and pretty much pain-free, but I crashed on Monday after a bad night Sunday, going back to sleep instead of to my lectures. I woke at 2pm in the end, feeling tired and draggy and awful. I think I'm getting a cold. After some internal conflict I decided to go to rehearsal instead of staying in with a book like I wanted to, and I'm glad I did, even though I struggled with a brain that didn't work properly and a body that wanted to go back to bed, because it would have been much harder to learn new songs next week when everyone else has already learned them. And I did enjoy it really.

I'm a bit better today, but nowhere near dragging myself out of this low-energy thing. I don't know whether to rest, or force myself to do stuff. Oh well. Might go back to the doc.

And it's 3.15am, so I probably should go to bed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Moaning again...

I'm tired.

Some of you will know what I mean. It's not just your run-of-the-mill could-do-with-an-early-night-or-a-bit-of-a-rest type tired. I could do with sleeping for about a week.

I know the way I deal with my fibromyalgia isn't helping. I do too much and exhaust myself or I over-compensate and laze around - both make me feel worse. After 11 years of fibromyalgia I still haven't worked out the balance.

I'm currently eating crap too - far too much chocolate and biscuits and sweet stuff, when I'm not even hungry. And I can't be bothered to cook sensible food.

I don't want to do anything, but I'm sick of doing nothing. I'm bored and restless but can't seem to motivate myself to start anything, and even if I do start I give up very quickly because I just can't be arsed any more.

I don't feel quite real. I'm grey again, like all my emotions are dulled. I'm never really happy, never really sad. I'm not angry. I just don't really care very much. It worries me a little because without my emotions I'm just a robot version of myself - emotion is such a big part of who I am and how I define myself. I'm jealous of other people because they're getting to experience feelings like love and excitement and joy and fear and lust and pain and I can't touch those things. There's a big fluffy grey cloud in the way.

And I'm very easily distracted. Like just now, when I thought I'd just have a quick look on YouTube and sing through O fortuna. And half an hour later, I'm typing again. On the plus side I did find some fantastic choral pieces on there, with the score as the video! Excellent idea. I'm completely in love with this piece, it's the most beautiful thing ever. I don't like the vocal colour of this version, especially the growly basses - in my not-at-all-professional opinion this should be sung with a very pure tone, simple but expressive, with the eight parts weaving seamlessly in and out of each other. Still, you get the idea of the thing, and hopefully can see why I like it so much.

So anyway. I need to try to get myself out of this. Just need to find some energy to know where to start. I'm trying not to think about what happens if things don't get better. I can't carry on living my life like this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trying to catch up

Story of my life at the moment. Bah.

I know, I haven't posted for ages. I really did mean to, and I have quite a few things to post about. I think I'll have to condense them into this post - I just don't seem to have the energy recently.

So. Last weekend (3rd and 4th). The wedding I mentioned before. It was okay, I guess. I didn't think much of the church, but then I'm used to cathedrals and St John's in Ranmoor (link doesn't work right now, sorry) which is a very impressive church, and the pics of beautiful churches that Pete posts. The choir wasn't up to much, the two congregational hymns chosen were uninspiring (Morning Has Broken and All Things Bright and Beautiful, possibly the two most obvious hymns for a wedding). I had a music geek moment when I recognised both organ pieces at the end (Rutter's Gaelic Blessing (which we call "Garlic Dressing"), and God So Loved the World from Stainer's Crucifixion). Both bride and groom cried. And the groom wore a kilt, because his dad's Scottish. No excuse if you ask me.

A lot of fuss was made regarding money, and how much things cost. The groom pointed out several times that his kilt cost more than the bride's dress, his dad couldn't help but casually mention how they're having their already huge house extended (seems a bit silly just for the two of them) and how he complains when he's paid several thousand pounds for a night in a hotel and gets a plastic glass with his drink, and there was probably 5 times as much food and drink at the reception as could possibly be consumed. Seems like they're all obsessed, and have more money than they know what to do with - the worst is they think that it makes them better than everyone else. I couldn't help but be pissed off when the groom confided that he'd proposed because he couldn't think of anything else to get her for her birthday. As Michael said, that's what happens when you have so much money that you can just buy everything someone wants. It's not a problem we have, let me tell you! I wish they'd just donate to charity or something - either that or stop going on about the money thing. Anyway.

The reception turned out to be kind of fun, mostly because there were some people there who I know from my live roleplaying days, and I enjoyed catching up with them.

On the Sunday I'd agreed to sing at the aforementioned St John's, Fauré's Requiem which I've done before and really like. It wasn't until I got to the rehearsal that I realised it was a remembrance service, one they do every year (I sang at the one the year before last) for people who have died. Sort of, "God, these people have died. Let them into heaven please." Like God (I don't believe in a god at all, but hypothetically) needs us to make decisions for him!

Anyway, it made me think of Boo, because I always said I'd sing some of the Fauré for her one day, and I never had chance. She asked me to do all 4 parts simultaneously, in typical Boo style. It seemed a perfect opportunity to sing it for her, even though she's not here anymore, and I don't believe she could hear it. I lit a candle for her, and added her name to the list that was read out. Perhaps she'd forgive me for it being in a C of E church! I remember her saying that she had such a bad voice she never even sang in church - I like the image of her looking down and singing her heart out along with us, either with her new beautiful angel voice, or with her own voice just not caring who could hear her. Sometimes I envy religious/spiritual people because they can believe in something better when we die, so no-one's ever really dead. I comfort myself with the fact that she's still there in our hearts and memories. But of course I miss her.

The Fauré also made me realise how much I've improved these last two years musically. The whole thing went very well I thought.

Other things of note: Tuesday was my birthday, so Michael had the day off and we went to Fairburn Ings, which we've been meaning to visit for a while now since it's our second closest RSPB reserve. It's rather nice, nothing earth-shattering bird-wise (35 species in 4 hours) but a nice walk and well worth another visit. I particularly enjoyed walking through young woodland and being surrounded by a flock of 30 or so long-tailed tits, realising that some of the calls were too high-pitched to be LTTs and tracking down three goldcrests, which are lovely tiny birds. Lots of birds on the feeders too.

My grandma's birthday is the same day, so lots of us went out for a Chinese meal at Chef de Canton. I've been before, it's a sort of all-you-can-eat-for-£13 type deal. You order what you want and they bring it, and you continue to order as much as you like (although they do ask you not to waste food). I don't rate the place really. We were a group of 14 and we were seated on two tables which was not ideal. The food isn't great, it's a limited menu of rather bland sweet English-type Chinese food and very little for vegetarians (or people like me who want a little chicken, some rice and a lot of veggies) - I wouldn't go again. Wasn't my choice to go there in the first place, but it was nice to catch up with family again, as we don't see each other that often.

My brother wanted to go but he was working, so we've arranged for him to come up from Derby on Friday and we'll go out then. I've booked a different Chinese place which also does Thai and Malaysian (yum!) so my unadventurous parents can have Chinese stuff they know they like, we'll have something more interesting and Adam can have a decent choice of vegetarian meals.

Other than that, things are pretty boring, especially as Michael's now in Edinburgh again. Me and Emma took Summer out to Linacre Reservoirs today, which is one of Summer's favourite places as she has both woods to sniff round and not one but three lots of water to swim in! I enjoyed some cracking views of a kestrel and several jays (don't see them often so they're exciting) and a grey heron and a quite confiding little grebe. We had a pretty good walk too.

And that's about it.

Oh, and I have a concert on Saturday which I'm excited about. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 05, 2007

My first Fun Monday!

I've been enjoying reading Fun Monday for a while, and finally decided to get involved.

Basically each week someone sets a challenge or asks a question or similar, and everyone posts about it.

This week is hosted by Deborah, from The Humble Housewife.

And this is what she wants from us.

I want to hear about or see a holiday tradition, recipe or event. It can be any holiday you like or that is special to your family. With Thanksgiving and the Winter holidays coming up, those would be especially apt, but anything that is special for your family is fine. If you have pictures - it's a bonus! Whether it's your Mom's famous stuffing recipe, going caroling on Christmas Eve, Diwali dances, or even the inevitability of Great Aunt Polly having one too many brandies and knocking over the Christmas tree - I want to hear about it!!!

My family isn't big on the traditions really. Being English and atheist, we don't do the church thing and we celebrate Christmas in a eating lots and giving presents kind of way. But we do have out little routines which I suppose you could call tradition.

For me alone, Christmas starts in the couple of weeks before the 25th. Because this is Carol Singing Time. Those of you who know me, know I'm really into my choral singing, so the vast majority of my spare time during those weeks is spent with my choir(s), belting out the carols like none of us will have sore throats at all the next day. This is usually in the form of a sort of pub crawl, doing the old favourites and taking requests in every pub we go to. And collecting money for charity - it's not unusual for us to collect over £500 over a couple of nights. We have mince pies and wine and everything is good.

Now fast-forward to the 24th, and on to the family stuff. I don't remember writing to Santa, but I was taken to see him in a department store to tell him what I wanted, until I was about 6 and stopped believing in him. However I had to pretend for quite a few years because I had a little brother by then. You know, the old carrot for Rudolph and mince pie and can of beer for Santa (my dad doesn't like brandy or sherry).

One year when I was young, Mum decided that cooking the turkey on Christmas day was too much work, with everything else she had to do with two young kids. She wanted time to see us opening presents, so she hit on the solution of roasting the turkey on Christmas Eve, and eating it cold with Christmas dinner the next day. Brainwave.

Because this lead to the ritual of Hot Turkey Sandwiches on Christmas Eve. Actually my favourite bit of Christmas - all the bonhomie but none of the stress. Mum aims for the turkey to be ready around 9pm, we drink, and demolish a leg (never the breast, because if you cut the breast when it's warm it goes very dry) and make unnecessary amounts of sandwiches on white bread cobs and drink some more and eat trifle and chocolate and drink. My brother ruined it a little when he became vegetarian, but we forgive him, and he eats some sort of quorn roast thing instead.

Christmas day sees presents, and more food. When I lived at home we'd be woken by my brother very early (I'm not a morning person), even when I was working in a nightclub and didn't get home til 3am. The presents would be under the tree (as a kid it would be decorated with coloured fairy lights and tinsel and bad taste ornaments that had been given to my mum, a lot of which I'd made, recently Mum goes for bad taste fibre optic trees, loads of that gold stuff that looks like long separate bits of tinsel that I can't remember the name of that falls off the tree all the time, and gold and red ornaments - me and my brother mock it every year). I remember the living room being literally half full of presents when we were young, it's much less so now when we get small presents like DVDs and stuff. But my parents still spend silly amounts of money on us, even though I keep insisting that I'm a big girl now, and don't need so much.

Present opening happens after breakfast, and now we're older, proceeds in an orderly fashion. Someone (usually me) sits near the tree and picks out one present at a time, reading the label and passing it to the appropriate person. I try to make sure I do this evenly, so no-one's sitting for ages with nothing to unwrap. Summer always has a couple of presents too, which we are childishly amused to see her unwrap. Recently she's taken to "giving" presents to us as well - she even writes on the tag (with my help of course!). Silly but fun. We then stack up the presents neatly, and new toys are played with and I try to persuade Mum to let me help with the dinner.

Being Northern we say dinner and not lunch. Turkey, roast pork, sage and onion stuffing balls (the family resists any attempts to introduce more exciting stuffings), little cocktail sausages wrapped in streaky bacon, Yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roast parsnips with honey, carrots, broccoli, peas, sprouts (yuk, but traditional), cabbage, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, mint sauce for my dad who eats mint sauce with everything, and of course lots of gravy made with gravy granules and meat juices. There's so much food, I take a little of everything and still have a massive plateful which I struggle to finish. Afterwards we have a choice of Christmas pudding, more trifle, Christmas cake (made by me) or whatever cold dessert Mum bought. More drinking, liqueur chocolates and cheese and biscuits for anyone who's not already exploded.

Boxing day would see my mum catering again, for people who weren't at Christmas day mostly. Auntie Lorna and uncle Keith, Grandma and Grandad. And the rest of us again. This year the venue was different - I insisted that we move to my house, so mum could have a bit of a rest and Michael could have a drink! And Michael's mum and dad, and my uncle John were added to the guest list.

The food was the same though. Leftover meat, salad, jacket potatoes, cheese, coleslaw, a huge sausage roll thing with hard-boiled eggs in it that mum makes. I added roasted veggies and halloumi and a bulgar wheat salad with feta. Wine, beer, and electronic entertainment, such as a Who wants to be a Millionnaire? game that kept my dad quiet for a good hour.

I like the time with family. Usually we manage to avoid arguing and sniping at each other too much anyway, so it's all good. Just remind me not to eat so much this year.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pain in the neck

My neck's worse this morning. Think I'm going to go to the doc.

I now can't hold my head straight - it's pulling over a little towards the uninjured side and I can't physically move it back. It's like the muscles don't work. And my shoulder and back are stiff and sore too.

Apparently you can get a pretty bad neck strain or even whiplash just by sleeping in an awkward position.

Again, I'm being a big baby, but I really am hurting a lot. I feel like crying, to be honest.

Right. Off to find an ice pack.