Friday, November 28, 2008

More on the charity single

Check us out here! There's even a video where you can see me in all my curly-brown-hair-and-glasses-standing-next-to-the-blonde-soloist glory if you're paying attention.

And now my hair is much darker, with some red though the top of it.

Right, now I'm off to finish my wings for tonight. They will look awesome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Something interesting at last

Spent this morning doing something pretty cool and exciting.

Recording a charity single!

I'd explain it but I can't be bothered, so just read this article instead.

Tomorrow I'm having my hair coloured (probably red, but haven't decided yet).

And Friday I'm out with some of the girls from choir. We'll all be dressed as fairies.

And I now have a new little studio/workshop as I've taken over our tiny third bedroom with my polymer clay/jewellery stuff, which means we can actually use the kitchen table again. Yay!

Well it's not as boring as last week, anyway...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Body, don't do this to me

Been feeling rubbish the past 10 days or so.

Pretty much the usual I guess, tired, everything too much effort, not getting anything done, not feeling like doing even fun stuff, not sleeping, not taking care of myself (which I'll admit, usually means not showering/cleaning teeth as often as is necessary, and can also mean eating rubbish or not eating enough), not wanting to see people or talk to them, being very boring, and generally wandering round like a zombie.

I missed three rehearsals in as many days simply because I couldn't face the thought of dealing with public transport, being sociable, sight-reading and then more public transport. Not to mention the almost impossible tasks of showering, washing hair, removing unnecessary hair from face (what's the deal with that anyway? Hormones, what the hell did I ever do to you?), choosing what to wear, and organising the myriad of bits and pieces that I can't leave the house without nowadays (pencils, water bottle, sheet music, snack, diary (which I don't even use) notebook, and occasionally knitting).

And that's not like me, I never miss rehearsal no matter how crap I feel. It's always been like the one thing I can keep up with no matter what. But not now, apparently.

There have been a couple of times this week when I've been feeling miserable and thought, "Hey, I know this feeling... I DO NOT want to be depressed again thank you very much". It's not like wanting-to-cry-all-the-time depression, or a feeling-like-I-want-to-die-but-being-too-exhausted-to-actually-go-through-with-suicide depression (been through both and neither are fun), it's just ordinary run-of-the-mill I-can't-do-this-anymore-continually-unhappy-for-no-obvious-reason depression.

And yeah, I'm feeling sorry for myself.

And why on earth have my eyelids suddenly turned against me? I wake up every morning with sore eyes because my blepharitis is back - sometimes my eyelids are actually stuck together. And the creases of both lids have sore flakey itchy patches of what I think is seborrhoeic dermatitis. It's driving me crazy. It's been bad enough to crack and break the skin and make closing my eyes difficult (it's improved since then). You know your eyes are really sore when even baby shampoo stings (washing the eyelids with diluted baby shampoo is the usual treatment). I don't wear makeup often but since I can't right now, I want to, dammit.

Plus my ears as well as the skin behind them right into my hair, and to a lesser extent the whole of my scalp, are all flakey and horrible. If I scratch, it weeps and then crusts over. Not pretty.

Is it the weather (miserable)? Or just generally feeling run down? Or am I reacting to a load of evil chemicals in the environment or something?

Damn. I need to think of something fun to do, quick.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Concert went well, we sounded good.

Pete's advice about singing high notes worked, because the high Fs in Messe Basse didn't bother me (and I usually crack or squeak a bit). But working really hard in rehearsal on Thursday, singing for two hours (or something like that) at Meadowhall on Friday, then rehearsing hard all afternoon Saturday was obviously pushing it a bit when my throat hasn't been right all week, because by the time we moved onto the Requiem I was having problems.

The third movement, Dies Irae, is fairly loud and shouty and it was at that point I felt my voice going wrong. Most of my low notes were fine. The high notes were a bit strained, but okay. Middle range? Rubbish.

For those of you who aren't singers, you basically have two parts to the voice: head voice, and chest voice (there are other ones, but those two are the main ones). I'm not going to expain properly what they are, but on the higher notes you use head voice, and the lower ones you use chest voice. If you sing up or down a scale you'll find your voice "breaks" at a certain point as you change over from one voice to another (for me this is around the B above middle C, which is pretty normal for an alto - a soprano has a higher break). As you train your voice you learn how to blend the two voices together over these notes to hide the break - so as I sing upwards and approach the B I can gradually increase the proportion of head to chest so by the time I get to the D I'm pretty much completely using head voice. Make sense?

So what happened to me was, I lost the ability to blend. My sweet(ish) choirgirly high notes were fine, and my rich low notes were fine, but if I sang upwards I'd crack, and if I sang downwards I'd go all quiet and breathy. Which was pretty useless since the majority of the Requiem's in my middle range. Oh well.

And I woke up this morning with a really sore throat - hurt to talk and swallow, and my tonsils are swollen.

So I've avoided talking as much as possible, and tried to drink lots. I have a rehearsal tomorrow, and I'll probably end up sitting there and not singing because I don't want to damage my voice any more.

I'm actually scared stiff of getting vocal fold nodules and not being able to sing for a long time. Better to rest now I think, rather than lose my voice altogether. Hopefully I'll be all recovered soon.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Mozart Requiem tonight. Should be good.

And we sang carols at Meadowhall yesterday, for their turning-on-Christmas-lights thing.

And I was amused to be pretty much the only girl there who wasn't all excited to see Vernon Kay, who pushed the lights-on-button. They think he's gorgeous, and of course he's famous(ish), but I just find him a bit annoying.

And we were on the local news.

But it's still too early for Christmas carols - it's not even my birthday yet!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I'm having unmistakable symptoms which signal the beginning of a sore throat, possibly with accompanying cold:

Difficulty swallowing
Aching eyes
More than the usual muscle pain/discomfort
"Tight" feeling in the neck/throat
Sleeping more than usual/tiredness
Difficulty concentrating/thinking/remembering anything
Pain on high notes

Which is just what I need when I have a concert on Saturday.

If you're around on Saturday evening you should come along - Mozart's Requiem and Faurés Messe Basse and Cantique de Jean Racine (all of which I like). 7.30pm, Firth Hall, Western Bank, Sheffield. Should be fun.

I must be ill. It's 9.30 and I want to go to bed - that's very much not normal.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

You know, I learned something yesterday

Went to a singing workshop yesterday, run by my conductor Pete and our accompanist Robert, both of whom are singing teachers as well as conductors.
The first half was Pete teaching us how to breathe, warm up, etc. (most of which I already knew but always useful to be reminded), how to sing with different parts of the voice, how to sing louder, and most importantly of all for me, how to sing high notes without that horrible closed up squeaky nasy-sounding effect I usually get on anything higher than a top F (and sometimes get on lower notes than that).

Sometimes I do high notes quite well. There are times in rehearsal when we're warming up by singing scales which get successively higher, and I can manage to keep up with the sopranos almost all the way. I mean it doesn't sound nice, but I can do it.

But with the tips and techniques Pete gave us, I reckon I've added a whole lot of notes to the top of my range, which still sound good - and it was easy. Apparently it's always been there, I just didn't know how to do it before. Watch out sopranos! I might test myself later and see how high I can actually get, because it's always good to know.

Oh and I added a tone to the bottom of my usual range as well, but I don't know how I did that. Now I can sing almost all the notes in the tenor range (I can sing down to a low E, and the bottom of the tenor range is a D), and I've reached my actual physical limit. Cool.

The second part was Robert teaching us sight-reading, with a lot of useful short-cut type techniques. Now when I joined SingSoc 3 years ago I was awful at it, but I've definitely improved a lot since I joined (particularly when a certain alto who always got everything perfect left and I could no longer just listen to her and sing what she was singing).

I think my main problem in the past has been over-reliance on my ear, which has always been very good. I always learned everything by ear because I could - however in a choir you often don't get anything played to you unless you get it horribly wrong.

We went thought loads of exercises yesterday, of the type you get when you take instrument/voice exams at Grade 4 and above. The first ones I didn't find too tricky because they were just pitching notes - this gave me confidence because I thought I'd struggle.

I did struggle on the next bit though, when we moved onto actual pieces of music - I had trouble with doing pitching and rhythm at the same time. I blame it on being tired after all that work though, because I usually manage better than that with more difficult music. I'll try the exercises at home and see how I do when I'm not exhaused

In general, I feel much more confident. I mostly held my own with people who had much more musical experience and knowledge than me (if not singing experience) which means I'm better than I think I am.

And I also learned something important about sight-reading - I perform much better when I relax a bit, and stop working so hard. There's a part of my brain that knows all this stuff fairly well, and I should just stop thinking so hard and let that bit do the work for me.