Just a quick update as I realised I hadn’t written one of these for a while…..busy busy as always, and June looks to be more hectic than ever! So for now, just a quick rundown of where you can hear me perform, or sing with me, this coming month.
I have just finished a whole day of in person singing with York youngsters, which was fantastic! So lovely to sing with these young people in person, some of whom I had only worked with previously online. Check out the York Music Hub social media for pictures of the day…….here.
COMMUNITY SINGERS – OUTSIDE AND ONLINE!
June brings the return of outdoor/online sessions for my Wednesday community singers. I can’t wait to see them all and am just hoping for good weather as the government restrictions do not allow for more than 6 singers to shelter inside. Quite ridiculous when you consider what is allowed to go on. If you agree, please sign this petition.
I have a lovely group signed up for Community Singers, but I have a few spaces if anyone else wants to join in, either outside(in Easingwold) or online(from anywhere!) 4 Wednesday evenings from 9th June, 7pm, £20. Get in touch if you fancy joining us!
SINGING FOR ALL…online for now
Singing for all continues online for now, with Mondays on YouTube and zoom on Tuesdays at 11am continuing from 7th/8th June. All are welcome to join us for an hour of informal singing and chat – please get in touch if you would like to take part. I am looking at some options for possibly getting together in July “in real life” but it will depend on restrictions and how people feel.
fields and lanes – live At The Mill, 26th June
Mick and I are delighted to be performing fields and lanes live at Stillington Mill as part of the “Summer at the mill” programme of music and theatre. The setting is absolutely beautful and tickets are available here.
I am delighted to be involved in a 2 week trial of sessions aimed at the more mature generations, run by an organisaation called SAGESTREAM in the USA. I will be performing a session on Monday 28th June in the evening (UK time) , live from the NAAP Facebook page. See more information here….
LIVE IN EASINGWOLD MARKETPLACE
The first Saturday in July, I am performing LIVE in Easingwold Marketplace as part of their Summer of Music plans. The town council has arranged a wide selection of musicians to come and busk in the centre of town, for the enjoyment of those sitting outside at cafes or just walking by, and it is my turn on SATURDAY 3RD JULY. So do pop by between 1pm and 3pm, I have as always a wide selection of songs for everyone to enjoy. Whether I will be allowed to encourage audience participation by then is not clear…..maybe humming!
Alongside all this, I am continuing with all my other activities : my one to one students, York Military Wives Choir (again, weather permitting!), teaching music at Wigginton Primary, and now and again even seeing my family! Thanks for reading folks. This was meant to be a simple list of dates but, as always, brevity is not my forte.
Hope to sing for/with you soon,
PS Here’s me teaching my latest composition to a choir in Australia!
After a couple of weeks of a less busy schedule (much of it spent writing songs and notating ones I had written a while ago!), next week my singing larks begin in earnest.
Singing For All with Jessa CIC is back with a swing, with sessions on YouTube on Monday and zoom on Tuesday, both at 11am. These will continue for 7 weeks (apart from the bank holiday Monday!) and I am looking forward to seeing some of the gang again, as well as welcoming any new singers who want to join the fun. Singing For All may well be the last of my activities to be able to return “in person” so it is really important that I recruit as many people as possible to these online sessions, to help keep the groups going and make sure I can continue.
Did you know that Singing For All had its very own facebook and instagram pages? If you don’t already follow, do search “Singing For All with Jessa” and give us a like/follow.
Some of my lovely singing students are starting this coming week, others are starting the following week. I am looking forward to singing with them all and working on some new songs and targets. Some of these young singers have been working with me on zoom for over a year and it is amazing the progress they have made. The exciting thing is, I am going to be teaching back in school from next week, so will be able to hear some of my budding singers and pianists IN REAL LIFE. (through masks and screens, but still in real life!) Very exciting!
Here is my little zoom highlights video I prepared for our “virtual recital” at the end of last term. I think it captures some lovely moments, including me preparing my zoom face!
Community Singers Online had a sea-faring March , enjoying some wonderful sea-themed songs, including raucous shanties and some more reflective ones. We finished with a fun “shanty shindig” on the 31st March, and everyone was sent a shindig party bag with themed snacks, props, and instructions on how to make a sailor hat! Great fun was had by all, including me, as can be seen in the highlights video ….
Community Singers Online have an extra week off, to give me a chance to prepare some new songs…. I can’t wait to see the gang on Wednesday 21st April. I even have some new songs ready to start which I have written myself….I hope they like singing them as much as I do!
So lots of singing ahead…. very happy to be able to spend my time doing what I love. I will also be spending time scouring the country for suitable venues for “Fields and Lanes” and “Songbirds” for performances through 2021, as restrictions ease and these things are allowed again. I spent a bit of time today picking some highlights of “Fields and lanes” for a taster video…. so I’ll leave you with that! (If any of you can put us in touch with any suitable venues near you, do get in touch! Fields and Lanes and Songbirds can travel!)
I hope to sing for or with you all sometime soon, whether in real life or on our screens.
On 28th March 2020, with all my forthcoming performances and choir sessions cancelled, even outdoor park sings, I had the idea of sharing a solo “field sing” on Facebook, with me singing a well known song for people to enjoy listening to or singing along with at home.
Here I am….
This seemed to go down quite well with online followers, friends, and my choir singers, and even inspired one of my “Singing For All” group, Harry Waterworth, to create a watercolour fieldsinger portrait! I was so touched by this and I think he captured my first fieldsing really well. This first #fieldsing now has over 2300 views on Facebook.
So I decided to continue – the next week I recorded “You’ve got a friend”, then “Wild Mountain Thyme”, “My love is like a red red rose” and “Fields of gold”. These were all pre-recorded then posted on Facebook and You Tube at 10am each Saturday morning.
Then in week 6, something changed……I had had a particularly busy week (if I remember rightly ,it was the week I performed a 26 song singathon for Dementia Forward!) and hadn’t had a chance to think about recording a song. So , for the first time, I performed the field sing live! This meant a little added pressure and a few nerves, but also it added something special to the event and I had lots of positive comments about the heightened armosphere of a live performance. I also really enjoyed seeing a few people join in live, reacting and commenting as I sang. The field sing idea was never intended to be a “perfect performance” but a natural one, singing with the birds, in all weathers. Here is the first “live” #fieldsing – “The fields of Athenry”.
Since then, I have never looked back.
Every Saturday, whatever the weather, I have gone outside, to fields, lanes, woods, and performed whatever song seemed apt at the time. Some weeks I have a song in mind all week, some weeks I decide 5 minutes before I leave the house or even as I walk to the field!
Some weeks, I chat for a while about my week, and any forthcoming events that people can get involved with ; other weeks I don’t feel like chatting much so will quickly get on to the chosen song.
Some weeks, I feel upbeat and energetic – others more reflective, and the song choices reflect this. I decided to record all the field sing choices I have done so far to mark the 50th #fieldsing last Saturday- here is the list…
Lean on me
You’ve got a friend
Wild Mountain Thyme
My love is like a red, red rose
Fields of gold
Fields of Athenry
It’s a lovely day tomorrow / Look for the silver lining
My favourite mash-up!
She moved through the fair
Catch the wind
Sing / Teach the world to sing
When you’re smiling
Blackbird / In my life
Edelweiss / A bell is no bell
Yesterday once more
I have a dream
World of our own
Top of the world
Keep right on to the end of the road
Those who wish to sing
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
Some kind of wonderful
Stand by me
A little peace
Spread a little happiness
Love me tender
May your cup always be full
My love my life
In the bleak mid winter
Mary, did you know?
The angel Gabriel
Something inside so strong
The water is wide
Bridge over troubled water
Drunken Sailor / Sailing
I have a dream
You’ll never walk alone
Falling in love with you
After the rain
LEAN ON ME
..It was only when I went to write all the songs down that I realised I had performed “I have a dream” twice! But no apologies for the repetition of my first #fieldsing choice, “Lean on me” for my 50th week. Bill Withers’ lyrics are so so relevant…..
“lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on, for, it won’t be long , ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”
#fieldsing 50 – a repeat of lean on me, with a list of all the songs performed so far #inafield
The whole fieldsing idea has prompted me towards other online singing projects and challenges. While away in Norfolk last Summer, I performed morning #seasongs for 5 consecutive days on my solo walks.
Leading up to Christmas, I performed a song live every day in December for my #Adventsingalong in aid of Singing For All, helping me to raise funds to keep Singing For All with Jessa CIC going through these lean times.
These structured routines of singing at particular times have really kept me going. Although I am generally very lucky with my health, like most people, I have had rough times and down days through all this. But each Saturday, I know I am going to get up and out to sing. Having this expectation of myself has really helped keep me motivated – and we all know that singing makes you feel better!
It is so true for me, and from some of the encouraging comments I have had, the fieldsings have had an uplifting effect on listeners too.
All this has also led to an exciting collaboration with my better half, my actor husband Mick, who has been reciting poetry down country lanes throughout the lockdowns. Together, we have created a show inspired by our outdoor performance, “Fields and lanes”, which we are very excited to be performing at Helmsley Arts Centre this Saturday – a live stream performance. Although I regularly perform live on You Tube and Facebook, the idea of performing our full show in an empty theatre is a strange thought…
Any any case, we are both very excited about it and hope that lots of our friends will be buying tickets to tune in and support. This time, we have also recruited some more performers to the outdoor performing craze, with our creative fields and lanes project! These fellow actors and singers will be appearing in the show virtually and it has been really moving to put together their contributions and to collaborate with them. These colleagues are wide-ranging ; they hail from all over the country from Essex to the North-East, and range from experienced professional performers to avocational singers seeking a new experience. It has been so valuable to have every one of them on board and to spread the joy of performing outdoors. If you would like to join us, here’s how…
Sometime on Saturday, will be #fieldsing 51….leading up to a full year of field singing and a full year of online singing performances, classes and lessons . A year which has seen me develop and embrace so many different skills and ways of working.
My next step will be to negotiate the next 6 months….continuing to use all I have learned and continuing to engage people from a wide area, while gradually reintroducing “real life” aspects of my work.
A huge challenge…watch this space for developments!
Every week has its challenges at the moment. I am very lucky in that I spend my time doing things I love – singing and helping others to find joy in singing – but nothing is straightforward at the moment and it is difficult to maintain a routine or plan ahead very far. So when little surprises happen, and when things I have been “nervcited” about work out well, it is particularly pleasing….
Surprise announcement – award nominations!
For the past year, all I have been doing is trying to keep doing what I do, in whatever way I can.
*For my singing students, this has meant teaching them 100% online via zoom (This has its challenges, but I can honestly say I enjoy teaching this way and all my students have risen to it and are making fantastic progress!)
*For my work in school(I still work 1.5 days a week for Wigginton Primary School, teaching music and leading singing), this has involved some working in school with bubbles, and lots of cold and wet outdoor singing, as well as many many videos of singing sessions and music lessons.
*For my other singing leading and performing work, this has meant taking everything online and/or outside – zoom choirs, You Tube lives, Facebook performances, fieldsing, masked outdoor sings….all in a quest to keep people singing and keep my own singing going.
All this has meant a huge learning process for me – as well as fitting in lots of actual training (including 3 weeks of Vocal Process Online Singing Teacher Training and the Vocal Health First Aider certificate with Vocal Health Education), I have learned so much from fellow singing leaders around the world, particularly from the Creative Choir Leader group and the Inspire Club. So many new skills that I never thought I’d need.
I have done all this, just to get on with my work in whatever way I can, so I was so surprised and delighted to find out last week that I had been nominated for two Music and Drama Education Awards!
I have been nominated and short-listed in two categories…..here are the descriptions from the #MEDAWARDS website…
The #GOLDSTARS award…
“UK teachers who have gone above and beyond during this extraordinary period in educational history. For music or drama teachers who have shown particular compassion, flair and creativity during the pandemic. “
The Francesca Hanley Inspiration Award, sponsored by the Musicians’ Union.
“This award honours an individual music teacher or performer who has had a hugely inspirational impact on students of any age in their music-making. The judges will be looking for evidence that this teacher has made or continues to make a real and significant difference to the lives of their students through their teaching, whether in a school or non-school setting.”
This was such a lovely surprise and it has given me a real boost, especially as the nomination has come from a music teacher I admire and respect so much as a colleague and friend. Very humbling.
When words fail, music speaks….a day at #virtualchoirlab!
As a musician with many and varied roles, I often feel like I am dipping my toes into the water with all my various work – never having enough time and energy to devote to any one area to make a real difference. My fairly mad schedule of contrasting work means that I never get bored! At various times in the week, I am a singer, a singing teacher, a choir leader, a singing leader, a music teacher…….but the area I feel like I have grown the most during this past year is that of choir leader.
A year ago, I was running several choirs a week, undertaking regular training and workshops, and confident in my own circles. But in the past year, as well as setting up SFA as “Singing For All with Jessa CIC’, I have grown so much in my confidence and skillset when running my community singing sessions with both adults and young people, and have developed an array of technical equipment and strategies I hadn’t dreamed of a year ago.
Like most people, I still have technical disasters every now and again, but I have to pinch myself when people ask me how to use a loop pedal or how to edit a video – yes, this actually happens sometimes!
So when creative choir leader fellow #inspireclubber Matthew Finch was looking for workshop leaders for his virtual day of singing, “Virtual Choirlab”, I put myself forward and was amazed to be selected, with my “Sing your cares away” session scheduled alongside a huge array of very experienced singing leaders!
When the day arrived, I was pretty excited but fairly nervous, especially as I was scheduled for 3.30pm and had the whole day to watch other people’s sessions while practising my own! The day started with everyone learning a new round written by Matt, “When words fail, music speaks” – hence the mug picture above! If you click on the lyrics in the heading at the top, you will see the result of that opening session – a beautiful combined performance.
It was actually really lovely to see the wide range of singing leading talent on show….from gospel to classical and jazz, pop tunes to musical theatre and family favourites, so much….and as I watched, those voices were bubbling gently in my head…. one saying, “What are you thinking of? You are nowhere near the level of these high flyers!” and the other, “You really can do this!”
3.30 came and the session went as well as I could have hoped, even better really. As soon as I started, familiar names popped up on my screen as friendly creative choir leaders added encouraging comments – that really helped me find my flow! (Thanks Mary for this one!)
I was able to share some of my current favourite rounds and songs with a group of singers and singing leaders from all over the country – accompanied by my new best friend(my loop pedal!), I layered up songs and harmonies so people could sing along with their chosen part. I even included some of the little songs I have written myself – my new “Sing your cares away” song which incorporates lots of warm-up exercises into a bouncy song, and the calming sea-themed round, ‘Breathe with the waves” which I wrote on the beach in Norfolk.
I was also able to celebrate the work of some of my fellow singing leaders by sharing some of their songs….”Reap” by Em Whitfield Brooks , “Sing out loud” by Louise Blackburn, “Cold Wild Sea” by Jenny Cook, and my current favourite song, “Good Friend” by the late Jan Harmon. Such a beautiful melody and touching words….
Well, my writing/admin/catch up time is nearly over, 5 students and choir are calling me…..so I will finish with these thought-provoking words.
“The singer lasts a season long while the song, it lasts forever.”
Well, this has been my first week with all my plates spinning, and I can say with confidence that I haven’t smashed any yet! Highlights of the week include my first YMHSing session on Monday, the first virtual singstars session on Friday, and the launch of my new series, #roundandround.
Singing For All with Jessa – a new artistic contribution from Harry!
My Monday Singing For All session on You Tube included some of the usual favourite songs and mash-ups, but some new choices proved popular – “Football crazy” brought back memories for some, and “This old hammer” proved soothing. The round “Whose pigs are these” even inspired our resident Singing For All artist to create another masterpiece….
Here’s the session for anyone who wants to catch up – and do share with anyone who might be interested in joining us for Singing For All – either live or at their own convenience. You Tube sessions are on Mondays at 11 and zoom Singing For All is on Tuesdays at the same time. Singing for all now has its own Facebook and Instagram pages – do look up “Singing For All With Jessa CIC” and give SFA a like or follow to help spread the singing joy.
YMHSing! – a new session for York Music Hub
Monday saw my first YMHSing! session for York Music Hub. I feel a special kind of energy in these live sessions – the idea that people are singing along with me at home, responding to what I do, without me actually seeing them. I am doing weekly singing and music lesson videos for Wigginton Primary too and it is quite wonderful to see photos and videos of the youngsters singing along to me – often with me on their TV screen! This week I have seen several videos of young singers singing and dancing along to “throw catch” while throwing teddy bears in the air – so lovely.
A year ago I would not have predicted that this is what I would be doing several times a week! These YMHSing sessions are lively and fun – for me and hopefully for those taking part. I would say these are suitable for the young and the young at heart. Some whole families are enjoying joining in together which makes a change from everyone sitting at their own individual devices working from home.
Here’s the first session – I am live on the York Music Hub channel at 4pm on the next 3 Mondays so do tune in if you can.
It occurred to me this week just how much I use rounds in my sessions, whoever I am working with. They are such an easy way to achieve harmony with groups and I absolutely LOVE using my new favourite toy – my loop pedal – to perform the rounds myself. Recently, I have started writing a few songs, and many of these have been rounds. So I decided to start another little series of videos! Not wanting to put more pressure on my already busy schedule, I haven’t set any promises about how often I will upload the rounds, but by the end of January I hope to have quite a collection on the way. Just two in there so far – here is the first…I am trying to post each one on Facebook, YouTube , Twitter, and Instagram, so do make sure you are subscribing/following/liking my pages on there to keep up with the rounds and everything else I am up to. All likes and shares are much appreciated!
Field sings continue – with a sea theme for number 44!
Every Saturday, for 44 weeks in a row, I have performed a song outdoors for #fieldsing. I am quite proud of this! So many people have been in touch with me to say how much they have appreciated my outdoor singing(and Mick’s outdoor poetry), especially those who have not been able to get out much, or those who are missing their real life singing groups. I am sure there are still more people who would enjoy singing along with me and the real songbirds in all weathers, so I will continue. Each week, I get closer to the magic number of 52 when it will be a full year of weekly fieldsings! I am already considering what I will do for that one – it will have to be something special I think for the fieldsing birthday party. Fingers crossed for good weather that day.
This morning, the weather was perfect – chilly but crisp and still. I performed a sea shanty – What shall we do with the drunken sailor – complete with bucket bashing….and if you watch to the end, you will find out what happened to my poor wooden spoon…. all part of the fun of live videos!
Virtual choirlab….. and other chances to sing with me
Anyone who would like to join in with my Singing Larks, there are loads of opportunities, from the live You Tube sessions to the more interactive zoom sessions. Do get in touch via the contact page if you fancy having a go at Singing For All or Community Singers Online.
I am delighted to be one of the many singing leaders involved in a really exciting event next Sunday – VIRTUAL CHOIRLAB!
This is a whole day of singing workshops, with a huge range of styles and genres from family sessions and community choirs to classical, jazz and gospel. The sessions are all taking place on You Tube via secure links, and all the sessions are available afterwards for those who book – so you could do a couple of the sessions on the day then catch up with others at your leisure! Here is the website to find out all about it and book your place if you fancy it – Matt Finch, who is running the event, has described it as “ChoirTV” which is running all day – for you to dip in and out of sessions as you please.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my singing larks for this week. I am so grateful to all of you who are taking part in my larks in some way – whether that is joining a singing session online, watching a field sing, or just liking or sharing a post or a You Tube video. You are all helping me spread the singing joy and helping me to keep doing what I am doing.
2021 promises to be full of song – but initially, 100% online.
(Apart from my weekly #fieldsing of course!)
So much is happening over the next few weeks…..I need to take a few deep breaths before diving headfirst into this songfest…..but I can’t wait to sing with everyone again! (via my screen of course)
Singing For All with Jessa CIC
I am determined to keep Singing for all going, however I can, through these lockdowns and restrictions, and I am so grateful to those individuals and organisations who have contributed to our “Advent Singalong” campaign during December to help with this.
Now, in these online times, distance is no object, and anyone from Easingwold or York, Birmingham or Brisbane (or anywhere else!) is welcome to join in with our lively Singing For All online sessions. There is no need for any amazing musical skills -if you enjoy singing and want to connect with others, you are welcome! We sing a huge range of songs, from folk to pop, show songs to rounds and mash-ups, and we don’t rehearse songs or learn complicated parts – we just sing songs for the fun of it. A singalong – in one session we might get though anything from 15-20 different songs!
Monday sessions take place on You Tube Live, at 11am. Just tune in to my channel at 11 and I will appear! Here is the very first session – my first ever live session online, back in March 2020. A scary moment, and I have grown so much in my confidence and skill level since then – but still a fun singalong for anyone who wants it. All the sessions are left on afterwards for people to sing along to any time.
The Tuesday Singing For All sessions are held on zoom, again at 11am. Anyone who signs up is sent a secure link which they just have to click on to take part, and all you need is a computer, tablet or phone, and an internet connection.
Do help by spreading the Singing For All word – many of my singers, whether they are living with dementia, caring for a loved one, feeling isolated or down, have found the sessions a lifeline during 2020. Sharing songs with others, connecting – even if it is via a screen or chat box – is SO valuable at this time. DO get in touch via the contact page if you want to give it a try or know someone who might.
I have just set up Singing For All’s own social media pages today – here are the links to the SFA Instagram and Facebook pages – please like and share!
I am really looking forward to seeing my Wednesday crew again, after a few weeks off for Christmas and New Year. This group is a lovely mixture of people from my “real life” choirs in Easingwold and Helmsley, and others from far and wide who have joined the online group. The group is around 20 so far, and there are places for more to join – do get in touch if you fancy giving it a try!
I am very excited about starting some of the new songs I have prepared for the group – a wide range, from emotional pieces about the joy of singing, to wild pop mash ups and silly rounds. My multi part tracks are ready and my loop pedal is polished, ready to create that “choir” feel for everyone singing on their own from home!
CSO sessions are on Wednesdays at 7, running for just over an hour, with a virtual tea break in the middle – if you are camera shy, this is optional! So you can choose to stay and chat or go and get an actual cup of real tea. (or glass of wine!) Here’s a little taster of one of the songs we are starting this week…
As well as these two groups, there are lots more singing-related activities continuing or starting in the next week – people often ask how I manage to do so many different things! The answer is often, “only just”, and with a very carefully managed diary…
So many different work streams, with different preparation, different types of groups and activities. But I love them all and wouldn’t actually want to give any of them up. Another point to consider is that music is how I earn a living – through teaching singing and music, performing, and leading choirs and groups. Any one of those currently would not pay the bills on its own! So many community musicians like myself have a similar “portfolio” of work – and of course, I never have a chance to get bored!
So my aim for the next 5 weeks is to get all the musical plates spinning, and to pace myself, try to get outside and walk whenever I can, try to pay some attention to my poor husband and teenage children who do get neglected in these busy periods…….and hope I make it to half term with no smashed plates!
Here’s a picture of my week ahead…see you at the other side!
Those who know me, know that December is usually ridiculously busy – dashing from one place to another, many many festive performances and singing leading events, from school productions and massed choir events to performing all over the place and leading the Easingwold Lions Carols in the Marketplace….all of which I love doing.
This year had to be different.
But I’m afraid, not much quieter!
Singing For All Advent Singalong
As part of a quest to raise awareness in (and some funds for) my beloved Singing For All, I decided to perform a song every day in December as a “Singing For All Advent Singalong” challenge! I haven’t missed a day so far, and plan to continue until the 24th ; songs so far have ranged from the Mince Pie Calypso to Mary Did You Know, via Deck the halls, festive mash-ups, and many more….and more to come! They are all available to watch any time on You Tube or Facebook, and most days I also include a little taster of the Singing For All experience from the comments book. The virtual busking hat is here.. Here’s my favourite so far, a looped up arrangement of “God rest ye merry gentlemen” from December 8th.
One of the highlights of my year is usually my concert at Easingwold Galtres Centre, with performances from myself and Malcolm, my singing students, and Easingwold Community Singers and Singing For All. This year, I did my best to create an online version of the event! Singing and piano students prepared video performances, SFA and CSO singers stepped out of their comfort zones to send me video and audio recordings, a singer’s kind parent(who happened to be a tech expert!) stepped forward to host the event and take over the technical side, and we had a concert!
There were laughs, a few tears, festive songs a-plenty and many many lovely comments from participants and attendees. I felt quite overcome at several points in the event, thinking of the journey we have all been on this year and the loyalty shown by my students and singers that has helped me carry on, even when I have struggled.
Filming for virtual events
I have been lucky enough to be involved in a couple of really special virtual events this Christmas.
When I got a call from Big Ian a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to hear about his latest idea and bit his hand off when he asked if I would like to be a part of his “Big Christmas Care Singalong“. A few days later, there I was in a massive building on an industrial estate, in front of a greenscreen, filming my favourite festive numbers! Freezing but great fun, and I can’t wait to see how the whole thing turns out. Hopefully it will raise a few smiles this Christmas Day.
Last year I was involved in 3 different Light up a Life services with St Leonard’s Hospice – I led the York Civic Youth Choir at the York event, conducted my Community Singers at the drizzly Easingwold service, and performed 2 songs myself at the Selby Abbey one. So when Sue got in touch and asked me to be a part of this year’s virtual service, of course I accepted. After months of singing at my screen, you can imagine how I felt to sing in the beautiful setting and acoustics of Selby Abbey, accompanied by Malcolm on the grand piano…very special.
The service is now available to watch at any time – I would recommend watching the whole service, it is really very moving and beautifully put together. If you want to find my songs quickly, they are around 7 mins and 22mins in.
I still can’t quite believe that on Sunday 20th December, Malcolm and I will be performing “Songbirds” to a live audience at The Joseph Rowntree Theatre. This show was first performed a year ago, then we only got one more performance in (at Helmsley Arts Centre) before “all this” happened. We were booked in to perform at the JRT in April – but that was not to be. I did a solo online stream on You Tube in April, then Malcolm and I did a highlights of Songbirds live Facebook stream in July….but there is nothing like performing live in a theatre and we can’t wait! Performing a show on 20th December which is not Christmassy at all will be quite strange but refreshing in a way….and we do have an extra song planned which will be a nod to the time of year without departing from the show’s theme.
Half the (very limited) tickets are sold, and all the safety procedures are in place…. here’s the link if you would like to snap up any of the remaining seats!
Although I have been really busy throughout this year, despite all the lockdowns and restrictions, trying to keep all my groups going, teaching my students online, and doing my best to find performing opportunities (even if that is confined mainly to fields!), I am so pleased that I have made time for some quality lockdown learning.
To be honest, in the first few weeks of “all this”, I learned more than I have for years! In the space of a few weeks, I learned how to live stream, run choirs and lessons on zoom and You Tube…..soon after, I was able to do (very basic!) video and audio editing, broadcast live on Facebook and You Tube at the same time, and even use live looping!
But, in addition, I have made time for some mind-blowing training with these inspiring folks….
I would not be exaggerating here to say that Vocal Process has changed my life!
In the past few years, my skills, knowledge and confidence in myself as a singer,singing leader and performer have been transformed through taking part in their intensive courses – they call them “retreats”, and for good reason. My everyday life is packed with many different and varied roles, and, much as I enjoy every one of those, it is hectic! “Inside the singing voice”, “The performers’ retreat” and “The musical directors’ retreat” gave me time and space to slow down and focus on one thing only, while learning SO much about voices. (including my own!)
Like many of us, Gillyanne and Jeremy from Vocal Process have had to adapt and change how they do things this year, and have taken all their training online, which has been a huge success. The thought of taking part in their Online Singing Teacher Training in the Summer was a little scary to begin with – I am easily intimidated by people with impressive lists of qualifications and experiences! But as soon as the course got underway, I realised I was in a safe space to learn, experiment, and grow as a singing teacher, alongside a wide range of teachers from different styles, backgrounds, and continents. What an amazing opportunity, which would not have happened in the same way in “normal” times. The VP courses are such a positive learning experience, that they always make me hungry for more – so when the opportunity came to continue to do Week 3 of their online singing teacher training in September, as well as several “pop-up’ courses on different aspects of singing, I jumped at the chance. I will always be grateful to #teamVP for the inspiration, encouragement, and the gang of like-minded friends I have made through their sessions, including Vocal Intuition and Singing it Back. (#choirleaderinakayak, mermaid friend of #fieldsinger !)
It was through a Vocal Process “Let’s Talk” event in London just over a year ago that I first met Nicola Harrison, where she gave a fascinating intro to her Embodima research. The last 3 Sunday mornings I have spent in Oxford (virtually of course!) with Nicola and 5 other singing teachers, learning about Embodima and learning to use this carefully researched concept in my singing and teaching. I really believe this is a liberating pathway that I know will help set singers free from some of the confusion and over-thinking that sometimes bogs us down. Let singers sing!
Vocal Health First Aider success!
I have long been an admirer of Jenevora Williams, having used her book as the go-to since I started teaching singing one to one. (Anyone teaching young people to sing really needs to digest this – “Teaching singing to children and young people” – available on JW’s website.) Early in the first lockdown I took an online seminar with Jenevora on vocal rehabilitation, which I found fascinating, so when, along with Stephen King, she set up Vocal Health Education and offered the vocal health first aider course, I was keen to be a part of this.
For the next few weeks, I spent much of my spare time at my laptop, watching the lectures, taking notes, and revelling in the wide-ranging learning, from medical learning about the systems of the body and possible voice problems, to the mind-body connections, mindfulness, and mythbusting.
An entirely holistic view of the voice that felt so right to me. So interesting and all so relevant to all of my work with people’s voices, and my own!
The end of course assessment was online, and I was delighted with my result in that….even though part of me (the perfectionist part!) wanted to resit the test to try and get 100% . The final part of the assessment was a short interview over a video call – I was a little nervous beforehand but the interviewer put me at ease straight away and, after our brief chat with some interesting but not too scary questions, he pronounced that I had passed and duly sent my certificate and badge to be worn with pride!
Why do I do all this? Some of my close friends despair when I tell them about my next course, knowing how busy I am and how wobbly I get sometimes. I have been working with voices for 25 years…..working on my own voice, teaching young people in schools, choirs, one to one lessons, working with adults in community choirs and musical theatre…..I have learned from so many inspiring teachers and singers over the years…and there is so much to learn. The more training I do, whether it is in person, live online, recorded webinars, even just networking and sharing experience in online groups such as the Vocal Process one or choir leader crews like The Creative Choir Leader, MD Brunch and Choirs Online, the more confidence and knowledge I gain.
I gain confidence in what I DO know and what my strengths and skills are, and understand better the areas I need to learn more in.
Nobody ever knows it all, and the professionals I admire the most are those who learn from others, including their students.
Every week I learn from the people I sing with! If you would like to join in with my sessions over the next few weeks, when we will be learning some gorgeous festive songs in preparation for my ONLINE COMMUNITY CHRISTMAS event on December 12th (more about that next time…), do get in touch via the contact page.
Singing really is a tonic for the body, mind, and soul, and I am so lucky to spend most of my week enjoying that tonic with so many lovely people.
The past seven months have been full of “firsts” for me. Before this March, I was not at all keen on video calls. I had never broadcast a live stream. There were a handful of videos on my You Tube channel and I was running seven choirs a week on top of teaching, performing solo concerts and the odd workshop.
But as soon as “all this” started, all I could do was work out how I could keep singing and keep my groups going, and this involved an unprecedented learning curve as I got to grips with zoom choirs, You Tube live streams, and finding as many new ways of singing as possible. In the past 7 months, I have added 100 videos to my You Tube channel, including 31 fieldsings and 29 live Singing For All sessions. In July I celebrated my 100th online group singing session and have since added around 30 more to the total. I have networked with other singers and choir leaders from all over the world and have even started writing songs for my groups (and others) to sing.
Even though “firsts” are a regular thing for me at the moment, I was particularly excited(and nervous!) about this week’s…
My first ever hybrid rehearsal – roomers and zoomers!
Since March, I have been running my Community Singers sessions online on zoom, and despite the obvious restrictions of these sessions, I have actually grown to love these uplifting Wednesday nights, and there are many positives to be found. Most of all, the singers are safe in their own homes, are able to catch up in the virtual tea-break, and can easily learn each other’s names from the zoom screens! My skills have developed so much over this time, and I still can’t quite believe I am confidently layering harmonies with a loop pedal several times a week!
However….some of my singers were really keen to get together in real life and, as I like to try and keep everyone happy, I decided to do something about it. Easingwold Priory agreed to hire me their hall (after approving my risk assessment which incorporated their thorough venue procedures as well as my choir-specific “rules”.)…. and I decided to go ahead with a trial “Roomers and Zoomers” session last Wednesday, 21st October. I admit that prior to the session, I was in a bit of a tizz. I had to totally dismantle my home audio set up : keyboard, stands, mic, mixer, laptop, etc etc…and set it all up again in the church hall! Not to mention the measuring, setting out and cleaning chairs, getting resources and songs ready, making sure the room was ready and that everyone had booked their place and signed up to all the rules – including maintaining a 2m distance at all times and keeping masked throughout.
Despite all this, I couldn’t wait to hear my community singers again!
This short highlights clip gives an idea of the atmosphere of the rooomers and zoomers session…..it was so lovely to hear all the voices again, and even those on zoom found it emotional to hear.
The feedback I have had has been really positive and encouraging – a few people were not too keen on singing in masks, and of course it doesn’t feel as friendly as our usual positions crammed into the town band room – BUT most people accepted those new conditions as the price to pay for the joy of singing together in a room as safely as possible.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Mick and I have really enjoyed working together on our “Fields and lanes” show, and our performance at Easingwold Community Library in September was a very special moment for us. So, when Graham from The Joseph Rowntree Theatre got in touch, saying they were looking for a show to test out the theatre’s Covid-secure procedures, we were very keen to help out. We have performed in this gorgeous community run theatre together many times with York Musical Theatre Company and I have loved performing my one woman shows ” ‘Til the boys come home” and “Some enchanted Sondheim” there. (The excerpt below is a rehearsal recording of myself and Malcolm Maddock, preparing for our tribute to wartime women.)
On Saturday 24th October, we arrived at the theatre, both a little shaky, having not stepped foot in a theatre since March. Aided by fantastic lighting and sound technicians Mike and Ollie, we were soon underway with a quick, socially distanced “tech”, and in no time the “audience” (in fact theatre volunteers who had booked their spaces online to test out the covid-safe system) started arriving to be temperature checked and escorted to their socially distanced seats.
The blackness of the auditorium was a massive contrast to the blue skies(or grey clouds) of the outdoor performance spaces we were so used to. The audience, despite their spaced out arrangement and masked faces, responded so well and my Twitter feed was full of positive comments afterwards….we were so pleased to be able to perform our show in this very special theatre and hopefully it will pave the way for shows to be booked in with actual paying audiences….in fact, there is a provisional date for “Songbirds” for myself and Malcolm for Friday 20th November! York folks, check your diaries and watch this space!
That’s quite enough for now. I am having a slightly less scheduled week, aiming to fit in some family time, some rest time, some online training, and some time to plan my next 6 weeks of Singing Larks….hopefully to include more hybrid sessions, more zoom and You Tube sessions, and, fingers crossed, a live performance!
I will finish with a little taster of a new seasonal song I have been working on…some kind of recording should appear before too long..
Chill in the air, now that Winter is coming,
Soon the snowflakes will fall, fall to the ground.
Dark is the night, now that Winter is coming,
Dark skies are littered with stars, stars gently glow.