Monday, 30 November 2009

Me, the 02 and..........JULIE ANDREWS!!

For anyone who knows me, this won't come as any surprise....but I have a secret obsession.

Ok. It's not really a secret, more a a full blown fact. And not really obsession, just mild fascination and adoration.

Yes. I am a Julie Andrews Fanatic!

Ever since I was a child and I used to watch the Sound of Music on my gran's TV, I found my singing voice at an early age and was given Julie Andrews videos to study, from the moment I danced along to Mary Poppins I knew she was everything I wanted to be.

And why this fascination? Well I think she comprises of all the things I wanted to be growing up. She's typically British, with her long vowels and slightly old-fashioned outlook. But also an ambassador for British eccentricity which we all love and admire. She's also an amazing singer with a beautiful tone and range (never changing no matter what the song, but with a voice like that who needs to?).

But long into my adulthood this flame has continued to burn and I have watched diligantly as she lost her voice and went through painstaking amounts of therapy and treatment. I was delighted when two years ago, in a rare moment of hope, she sang four short songs to show her development. But the best is still to come...........

On the 8th of May 2010 I will be sitting in the 02 Arena listening to the lady herself! Singing all the songs that made her famous (which lets face it, could be any of them). This is a one off concert. ONE OFF! How excited am I!

Think of the merchandise I will buy/wear/drink out of/stick up on my wall/listen to endlessly.

Think of the songs I will be singing non-stop between now and the show.

Think of the songs I will continue to sing after this date and for the rest of time.

Think of the brownie points I'll earn at my weekly Sound of Music Appreciation Society meetings (ok. That's a joke..................but..............)

I hope you can join in my excitement for this amazing news! No doubt I will be posting blog after blog about it after I have been!!!!

(Having bought my tickets however, I'm not sure I can afford to eat.)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Vocal Play

‘The Human Voice knows no bounds’ I said in a particularly impassioned section of my research seminar on Monday at St Mary’s.

Many weeks ago now Michelle asked me to deliver a seminar to St Mary’s Staff about a National Voice project I am co-ordinating and delivering called ‘Vocal Points’ (more on that in a few weeks when I go to Newcastle for the final culmination event at The Sage Gateshead on the Banks of the Tyne). I was happy to do it, having delivered a lot of presentations about the project throughout the year and across many different mediums.

The seminar went well I think, allowing me to discuss a topic incredibly close to my heart – the power and potential of the Human Voice, not just for Performers but for ‘real’ people too (said quite deliberately). Looking at social etiquette and how it kills vocal spontaneity and freedom in early years. Why do we make noise so willingly as children? And more importantly, why do we stop? This all leads to the sort of problems - anatomical, psychological and emotional that I have to deal with every day. So what can we do to combat this? How can we get people to respect the notion of ‘play’?

Some interesting questions were asked and I fielded them as best as I could, but this will never be as important as experiencing the work first hand. When I went into the field of Voice it was never focussed on the Voice of the Performer, but about realising and releasing the human voice in Community settings, promoting self-advocacy, vocal ownership and confidence. And the Vocal Points project has been a big part of that.

I struggled as I attempted to find words to describe how important and enjoyable vocal expression can be……….I should have just bought them all tickets to see Naturally 7 last night………….

The show opened to 7 of the coolest men I have ever witnessed, walking onto a bare stage. One by one they turned into a 7 piece band/modern day orchestra. Beat-boxing, vocal scatting and instrument imitation filled the Royal Festival Hall for over 2 hours, until the normally stale upper class defined atmosphere felt more like a high school pop concert.

The sheer impressive success of these men was not only in their vocal trickery, obvious bond with each other or dynamic stage presence but their amazing technical ability for pitch, volume, breath control, power and flexibility – all of my students can learn a lot from these men!

As I sat and watched them move from piece to piece I became inspired by this spectacle. How amazing if more people like this acted as ambassadors for vocal tradition? If new vocal rituals could be started from performances such as this. Gone are the days that we readily use text and speech purely for pleasure or entertainment in mainstream contexts. But we could start something new, something age defying, gender defying, class defying and ‘talent’ defying (vocalising for pleasure, not product).

As the end came on my night in the Royal Festival Hall, and in the company of this amazing act I walked to the train station past posters of X Factor finalists, and Ex Britain’s Got Talent auditionees who were ‘lucky’ enough to get a break. If the Grand Canyon were merely a crack upon the surface, the gap between Naturally 7 and these other acts was a huge gaping hole.

Naturally 7 are performing at the London Jazz Festival and can be found on you tube

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Oooh, it makes me mad!

This is a rant. I am not apologising for it, but I do think it fair to warn you....

So, this weekend Ben (the Piscatorial Pianist (check out his blog if you haven't already)) and I went to Newcastle to see off our friends Stu and Sam as they embark on their 6 month trip to Cuba. A good time was had by all..........blah blah blah.

Anyway, on the way back I was listening to Radio 1 on the long journey from Newcastle to London stuck in a two hour traffic jam at the Chiswick roundabout and lots of people were calling in talking about the week they were having, fulfilling some need to broadcast into our homes what kind of sandwhiches they were enjoying today (?!?!) when one girl rang up and said she was on reading week and she was enjoying having a chance to relax because she'd been working so hard over the first part of her third year so far.

Fantastic I thought, how lovely that she's been working so hard. And what a positive message! 'What kind of things have you been doing to make you so busy?' enquired a tepidly interested host. 'Well.............'

'I was on freshers team and I had to look after all the first year students. That meant going out and getting drunk every night for a week which is really hard work'

'God yeah' replied the presenter.

'Then I have been doing a promotion in our local students union where I had to sit in a hot tub in a bikini whilst people came in and joined me and had pictures taken. My skin was all wrinkly and the bikini was really chaffing'

'Terrible!' replied the presenter with growing enthusiasm.

'Then I slept in last week and missed the first 3 HOURS of my lecture because I was so tired from all the work and so I have missed loads of notes and things. And the lecturers haven't put the notes on the e-learning website for me to look at. How am I supposed to learn?'

The presenter suddenly burst into action; 'That is so unfair. It's like they don't understand how much work you've been doing.'

'I know. Now I have to catch up on all the work I've missed because I've been so busy at work during reading week. Rather than chillaxing (?!?!?) with my friends.'

'Oh no. That sucks.' said the presenter in a sympathetic voice.'And where are you now?'

'In the PUB'!!!!!!!

OK. I'm going to sound old now. I know, and I admit that whole-heartedly. But am I the only person who finds this completely appalling. I know how important it is to have fun at uni (I was there not too long ago myself and had a great time) but there is a fine line. Students must be able to organise their priorities and understand that lecturers are not here to work around you, but work with you to help you learn. Whether you pass or not is another matter, and one which is solely your responsibility.

And, responsibility is key. Who is responsible for their own education? Does this change depending on where you are or what level of education you're in? Time after time I see students who struggle with the responsibility University life comes with. Not having looked after themselves before, not having been treated like an 'adult' before in an Educational setting. And this is not entirely their fault, of course not. They can't be expected to know what goes into being responsible for their own actions if they've never been ALLOWED to do it before.

However, in the case of this girl above, she seems to have her priorities all wrong. Going to university is an EDUCATION. It is about growing up, it is about a 'coming of age', but more importantly it's about being given an opportunity to learn, to better yourself and to be in charge of your own time. It is a huge honour and I hope there aren't too many students out there wasting it.

Finally on the radio show, listened to by millions of listeners, students, or teenagers about to embark on a degree or higher education course, the presenter said; 'No-body bothers reading in reading week anyway. It's just an opportunity to bunk off anyway, isn't it?'.

I give up.