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Category Archives: Singing

left this world – and squares

Unnamed artists’ contributions

We were at a funeral where my voice singing some of Dr B’s work was emanating from the speakers. Only we three would have known that, as there was no mention of performers on the memorial card and, although a home audience, it wasn’t one familiar with my voice or Dr B’s work.

I muttered to the Bs that it’s becoming a habit to hear myself at funerals. Yeah. You might wonder if it’s simply that we’ve arrived at the right demographic. I think it’s more that we’re always willing to contribute in acknowledging other creative people, particularly when they’re long-time friends with whom we share – or have shared – creative histories.

Only we three knew how astonishingly special that recording was: one of Dr B’s more experimental works that exists only in his computer, his phone, and now in this version as part of funeral music for our mate. As well as having composed it, Dr B is singing. YoungB is singing, I’m singing, another well-known friend is singing, and the mate we were celebrating was also singing. His was the voice that everybody knew, and the others were relegated to backing vocals. We thought that was the best send-off we could give him and felt that we’d truly played our part(s).

Then it was time to come home and donate to the charity-blanket collection. YoungB drove me to the drop-off point, and I left my squares at the door, in a box already brimming with enough others for a cheery, sizeable rug. It’s not quite from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it’s certainly a different section of the creative continuum; and all the creatives involved in the blanket will also be forever anonymous while being forever immortalised πŸ™‚

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2022 in Knitting, Singing

 

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employment-go-round again

I’ll miss watching the progress – and the view πŸ™‚

YoungB’s contract is at an an end, so he’s on the job-hunt. Again. The thing about our recent elections – both state and federal – is that the change of government (at both levels) means that there are opportunities aplenty in different fields, some of which he might find appealing. He’s had his resume professionally tarted up – I beg your pardon; updated – and it’s impressive.

Me? I’ve officially notified the Powers That Be the date on which I’ll be retiring later this year. Leadership at work seems surprised. I don’t know why! My age is no secret. I’ve clearly been suffering work-related aggravations to existing health problems ever since I started there. I’ve made absolutely no secret of my intentions. Why is it suddenly unexpected, and something they hadn’t foreseen? You know that emoji where you smack yourself? Yeah. That seemed about the right response; but I didn’t.

Someone who appreciates why retirement is a good idea asked me what I’m going to do – apart from all the obvious things like crochet and knit, of course – and I said I might cook. She thought that was a wonderful idea. So did I. I like cooking. I would have to shoo Dr B out of the kitchen – it is his domain, after all – but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me elbowing into his space if it means he has more time to do other things. I would bake, too. It would be gratifying to go back to making bread. That was one of my great pleasures that simply disappeared.

Dodgy back and leg notwithstanding, some routine exercise will also feature large. It’s most likely to be continuing the hydro-pool exercise classes that I presently attend. They’re generally kind in terms of both parts of the physique and, because it’s a therapy pool, the water is always wondrously warm. I would be free to join a book club. Or a gardening club. Or a photography group. Or all of the above!

I could once again suss out options for joining local choirs. This time, when they all respond with some version of, “We rehearse and perform during the day, during the week,” thus putting such delights entirely out of full-time worker contention, it wouldn’t matter. I’d have that availability.

I might by then have reached the top of the waiting list for eye surgery, and, postoperatively, be able to see better than ever – really ever, as I’ve been wearing specs pretty much all my life – and then I might be able to reinvigorate my sewing and make some inroads on all those projects that are presently too difficult. Oh, boy. And people wonder if I’ll have enough to do. Smack-yourself emoji again, I think.

Meanwhile, however, there’s a certain amount of excitement and tension around YoungB’s potential new job. There are choices in fields where he has qualifications and expertise, and there are choices in fields that would suit his outgoing personality. There are jobs with crossover. He’s already sent inquiries and job applications. It’s going to be an interesting few months, watching how everything turns out, but he is likely to have some much-needed downtime before starting in any new position, whatever the field.

During that downtime, I anticipate the mealtime conversation will centre on matters mechanical. I’ll be knitting in my room, if you’re looking for me πŸ˜€

 

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whitewashing the lingo

26 years ago, just singin’ in Italian!

Although we speak Italian at home, it is not my mother tongue and nowadays my fluency is poor. It is, of course, Dr B’s mother tongue and YoungB has native proficiency, for which he is often complimented by other Italian speakers. However, for a variety of reasons, neither of the Bs has a readily identifiable regional accent or cadence, and they use few dialect words that might help a discerning listener to pick that they are northerners. They can be a real puzzle.

Today is YoungB’s birthday. Twenty-six years, if you don’t mind. I don’t know where they went, I say, scratching my head in a puzzled manner. He decided he wanted to – and I quote – “eat Wog food” today, so we had lunch at one nearby eatery and afternoon tea at another. At the latter, the menfolk mentioned the celebratory nature of the day when ordering at the counter. One of our cakes came with a birthday candle and the offer to sing. We thought it was a great idea, so Dr B and I joined in. We, however, broke into “Tanti auguri” rather than “Happy birthday”, and the conversation was entirely derailed.

The waitstaff were astonished at how well Dr B speaks Italian. Uuh, yeah. We laughed and explained. The eatery workforce is almost all southern Italians, and Dr B plainly does not fit their mould. He has decided he has a credibility problem. YoungB has decided that we’ve all been whitewashed. I’ve decided we need to throw a few more dialect identifiers into our conversation. The odd word of Friulano would do, but none of us speaks it. We’re trying to remember a few of Nonna’s best offerings so that we can polish them up to provide a spot of colour to the whitewash.

May your lingo not be so whitewashed that it’s unidentifiable πŸ˜€

 

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bewilderingly different

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How amazing! It looks just like the picture. Oh, wait. It should. Right? I’ve now finished that dangling row and the fourth is almost at that stage.

Via one of those circuitous routes for which www is (in)famous, I’ve spent a few hours listening to some wondrous renditions of folk music. It wasn’t traditional in the sense of being hundreds of years old with more versions than you’ve had hot dinners, but it dated from the 1970s, so that’s probably traditional enough for most of us, and with enough versions to invite good comparative analysis (which, you’ll be relieved to hear, I won’t be entering into).

I started out with the latest post from one of my favourite knitting blogs, among whose comments was a mention of some lyrics from When Yellow’s on the Broom. That caught my attention because it wasn’t a song I knew. Off I scurried to look it up on YouTube. As you do. Right? I clicked the first I found, and I was hooked. It intrigued me enough that I chose to listen to several other versions and seek the lyrics (which you can find here or here – that one is an odd location but has chords if you’re at all tempted – or in a slightly more readable and informative version here).

Because I was otherwise occupied, I let autoplay take over. Via the Fields of Athenry – again, there are many recorded versions – and a few other unexpected delights, I ended up listening to a version of Eric Bogle‘s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. There are many recordings of Eric singing it, too, but I like this one where Eric is older and has unapologetically changed – without oversimplifying – the melodic line to accommodate his older voice.

The version that autoplay happened upon was totally bewildering. I think it’s fair to say we’d all have our own favourite singers and styles. Many would argue that anyone can sing, and anyone can sing anything they want to, if they can. Yeah, I know. I spent many years as a community musician, so I genuinely appreciate the value of encouraging everyone to join in.

To hear what is essentially a folksong sung by an operatic baritone was… unsettling. It wasn’t bad or unintelligent, and he does have a lovely, smooth voice. He has a couple of lazy habits that made me want to smack him – oh, all right, maybe just pull him up sharply in rehearsals and tell him to be more careful. I discussed it with Dr B, because I was struggling with the level of my own discomfiture. The singer’s mix of operatic technique and careful pronunciation with occasional deliberately careless pronunciation or mispronunciation and a few spots where he couldn’t quite make up his mind how many syllables he was going to use (but wasn’t consistent about that), plus the oversimplification of the melodic line (which might have been the arranger’s doing; I’m not necessarily blaming him for that)… the doc and I agreed it didn’t work. Sorry, Nathan. I think it would be a treat to listen to your operatic offerings but, yeah, nah. Leave the folksongs alone, mate.

Someone is going to point out, I dare say, that he’s probably ahead of his time: the day will come when that folksong is only ever heard in quasi-sacred settings in concert halls, and accompanied by an orchestra. After all, someone will say, Gaudeamus igitur began life as a student drinking song. It’s now a fairly serious anthem that gets dragged out for graduations and demands respect. Uuh, yeah. Yeah, I know. I do. I know.

Although I didn’t intend my comment about being hooked as a pun, it’s appropriate because I was, in fact, hooking all the while. I’m now almost halfway through joining the rainbow squares, after weeks of being unable to do much at all (for various reasons, not all Covid-related). I found a method of JAYG that I liked better than the one I originally looked at, which would be quick but leave gaps I’d prefer to avoid. It took me a while to find something else that I thought I would be able to do. I looked at this one, and liked it but decided that I would struggle to make it work with my squares. Someone more experienced could doubtless work it out; but there are days I sadly remind myself I’m first and foremost a knitter!

I dismissed this for similar reasons, and because I didn’t like the end result quite as much. I finally decided that I could make this method work, despite it being also intended for solid squares. Coming from underneath was the trick that sold me on it: you get a nice finish on both top and bottom. Oh, yes, you’re quite right, I could have simply used a (UK) double crochet seam, but that would have given me a ridge. I’m not in the camp that likes ridges. I prefer the join to be a smooth as possible.

My concern now, however, is whether I actually have enough white yarn to finish the job! Bewilderingly, I appear to be running out πŸ˜€

 

 

 
 

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Christmas Down Under

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YoungB helped with the decorating this year. I loved how he was able to leansout and casually pop the star in its position πŸ™‚

We had a thoroughly enjoyable, if exhausting, Christmas Day: coffee and panettone for a late, leisurely breakfast; opening presents; a long Christmas lunch to which everyone contributed varying amounts of effort; and then – well, I just collapsed in a heap and YoungB took himself off to the beach! Dr B and Eldest Aunt watched TV. In the evening, we sang, then sat around and took turns to read aloud the first few stories from Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo. All in all, a lovely way to spend time.

However and whatever you celebrate, I hope you’ve been able to spend time meaningful time with loved ones.

 
 

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oops – lost the title!

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Ooh, look at all that keyboard real estate πŸ™‚

Recently, Youngest Aunt and her friend and I had a rehearsal at the church where, in a few weeks, I’ll be accompanying them as they sing at a wedding. It’s one of the city’s older churches, built in a less secular age, when you might have expected it to be filled each Sunday. I doubt if it’s ever full nowadays, although Christmas might see that singular exception. Many folk emerge to sing at Christmastime. I’m one of them, although it must be admitted that I sing all year – Christmas carols, too. But I’ve explained that before πŸ™‚

We had a longish first rehearsal, nutting out a few performance tweaks. At our second rehearsal, Dr B provided a critical, listening ear. The organ is a fixed point, so we put our heads together as to what we thought was the best location for the performers: one where they could see as well as hear the organ but also one where they could project out into the nave without being drowned out by the organ.

The bride and groom – who were also at the second rehearsal – pronounced themselves ecstatically happy. Well, there you are. That’s all that counts. Right?

May all your rehearsals prove equally as satisfactory πŸ™‚

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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in Singing

 

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the broad inspiration

Felicity107

Funeral pyre stuff, with Tyrian purple cape.

I hope those long-ago cast members don’t mind my sharing this, which I happened to find after I’d made my current version of the costume.

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Different, but definitely a close relative πŸ™‚

If I’d allowed myself more time, I might have made something closer to this tunic style. I suspect that would also have required wider fabric. Most saliently, anything that required vast amounts of time was never going to happen. Right?! Right.

No more fancy dress nonsense now until Christmas. May your plans for that be making rather more progress than mine πŸ™‚

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Sewing, Singing

 

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cobwebs

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We managed Christmas in the middle of a building site. And I’m still using the same carol books πŸ™‚

Our house has more than a few cobwebs, not only because I’m pretty bad at remembering to get rid of them but also because, thanks to our raked ceilings, they are often in such high places that they’re not terribly obvious. I get the brush out now and then if I happen to remember.

When it comes to brushing away mental cobwebs to learn some new-to-me music, I have to admit that remembering is something my fingers don’t do as well as they once did. Youngest Aunt and a friend are singing a couple of hymns at a wedding in January, and asked if I would accompany them. I’m more than happy to do so.

Youngest Aunt didn’t have printed music for either of the hymns, but they are not particularly difficult. I managed to locate both via online sources. One was simply the words and melody with a chord chart. I don’t claim great expertise in that area, but it wasn’t beyond me to work out, and Dr B – who is, after all, a composer – gave me a couple of helpful tips. All I need to do now is practise to make sure my fingers can deal with the bits we tweaked!

While I was able to find online versions of the second hymn, they were all more complicated than what Youngest Aunt’s sung version suggested. My idea? Ask Middle Aunt, who is a practising – as in, current – church organist if she had access to the music. Enquiries elicited the response that, yes, she did. A PDF arrived via email the next day. Don’t you love technology when it works?

I’m swapping between them, to keep my mind and fingers nimble, but they’re surprisingly similar and I have had a few tired moments where I can’t make the transition from one to the other without also making mistakes. Hence the practising πŸ™‚

With regard to the photo, taken at YoungB’s first Christmas, we really were in the middle of a building site. I might add that, 80 per cent completion of the pergola notwithstanding, the circularity of being unable to do things – because A is clogged and B needs to be cleared but B is packed to the gills with C and until A is empty it won’t change – is still with us, these many years later.

May all your building projects be truly completed when they are finished πŸ˜€

 
 

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neighbourhood noises

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If you don’t have your own barbie, or guest numbers exceed your backyard capacity, many local councils provide facilities such as these.

It’s the time of year when all the neighbourhood lawnmowers are kicking up a racket, and many of them are also throwing lots of grass cuttings into the air. Airborne bits of other highly allergenic plants mean that YoungB is utterly miserable with hay fever. I’m not far behind. But, you know, it’s warm enough that a load of laundry will dry on the outside line, which we both find gratifying because it means our work clobber is suddenly a great deal easier to manage and maintain.

Although the coming week is forecast to have cold nights, the days are definitely improving with regard to temperatures and we now have considerably longer daylight hours. It’s not warm enough to move meals entirely outdoors, but lunch is certainly a viable option for al fresco dining. I expect we’ll soon be stoking up the barbie on the weekend. As you’d doubtless agree, a BBQ can be as simple or complex as you like, but the drifting aroma of fried onion and those “scorched outside and half-cooked inside” sausages is an unmistakable part of the Aussie summer. It’s also far more enjoyable than the drifting grass.

But, hey, who could capture better what an Aussie BBQ is really about than the truly inimitable Eric Bogle? As you’ll see if you go to the link, that’s a 1982 recording. I can only say that, after all these years, I still get a laugh out of that song. I hope you, too, might enjoy Eric’s keen observations of what is a quintessential element of the Australian summer.

May all your sausages not taste like fried toothpaste πŸ™‚

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2019 in Food, gardening, Singing

 

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revisiting your own past

1989-09-24 Armidale NSW_01

World premiere performance, concert version, Claudio Pompili’s “Songs for Ophelia” for unaccompanied female voice. Given in Lazenby Hall, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, as part of the Musicological Society National Conference concert, on 24 September 1989.

Sometimes, as the years slide past, you forget the details of the good things as well as the bad. In my case, the bad might include mistakes I sometimes made mid-performance but the good definitely includes how stellar some of my vocal performances actually were. Luckily for my memory and the possibility of sharing some of that splendour with possible future grandchildren, recordings can bring a reminder. A few months ago, Dr B and one of his old schoolmates were working on Dr B’s motorbike together. They’re neither of them entirely capable of staying on the point, so their conversation wandered from motorbikes and strayed across many strata of music composition and performance and getting inside the technical stuff; and their physical presence wandered from the shed into the house for some musical evidence.

Some of the recordings Dr B used to illustrate points were of me singing his music (that’s not uncommon). A couple of works I’d practically forgotten, it’s so long since I recorded them and I probably never performed them more than a few times anyway (they were to some extent experiments by Dr B and not well suited to my vocal range or timbre but I sang them anyway in the spirit of collaboration and because they were too beautiful to let such minor details deter me utterly). Dr B’s Songs for Ophelia remain perhaps the most spectacular things I have ever performed, with all sorts of wondrous vocal pyrotechnics whose sparkle and agility still have the power to surprise even me; and I was the one pulling them off.

I would perform them differently now for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which would be that my voice is considerably older and darker than it was then (1989 – 1990) and, because rarely used nowadays, distinctly lacking in the sparkle and agility. I reckon, though, I’d still get the kind of reaction from the audience that I got the other day from the old schoolmate: a recognition of something special. (And a chuckle from YoungB who reckoned the resulting warbles were remarkably akin to those produced by the damn magpies when they start up at about 4.00 in the morning, as we well know from years of being up at that hour for rowing training.)

Now, you’re probably going to ask where can you hear any of this spectacular stuff and, I’m sorry, I can’t upload without going Premium. That’s probably not going to happen on our single income, particularly when this blog is not an essential part of anyone’s life.

However, I hope I’ve added a link to the page of Dr B’s recording where the Songs for Ophelia can be found; if you have time to scroll down the page. Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day is short – we’re talking 22 seconds – but stunning, if you’d like an idea of why I’m pleased to have unexpectedly revisited that part of my past (yes, unexpectedly because, in the normal run of things, you wouldn’t expect motorbike maintenance to end up encompassing the sharing of what are now close to vintage recordings).

I tested the link, and it worked for me. I hope it will work for you, too πŸ™‚ And of course the photo is of me singing my little heart out to a sizeable audience. The recording was made at the Ultimo studios of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (usually referred to as the ABC, the Abe – think the Beeb – or Auntie). I believe the original recordings have since gone the way of the dodo in one of the many clear-outs; but note that the copyright was originally with the ABC.

 
 

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