Thursday, 13 August 2015

Results day

Throughout this whole time I have been writing about university and my wishes to go, there was always an aspect about it that seemed unreal. Even now everything seems surreal. Last night I couldn't sleep - the last minute self doubt had set in and it seemed impossible that everything could be going so well. At 6am, the intranet was loaded and I saw my exam results and at first I was confused - because ABB was far better than the  CCC I had been wishing for. But now the relief and the immense happiness is starting to set in and it is starting to seem real - I am going to Leeds college of music in September!

When people are younger, they always have something they want to do with the rest of their lives. As odd as it sounds, I wanted to grow up not to be a particular thing (an astronaut, a ballerina, etc) but to go to university. I remember being around 4 years old and my grandparents giving me a set of childrens classics, which I still have now. My grand dad told me that if I worked hard, one day I might get to go to Oxford. That was the first university I ever heard of and from that moment I always wanted to grow up to study at one. For me, the rest of my studies until this point have been fun, they have been difficult, challenging, interesting - a million other things I could list - but they haven't been university. Now I get the chance to give that dream a chance, and a part of me (the soppy melodramatic part who shows up far too much in these articles) hopes that a much younger version of me would be proud of this achievement and think that everything so far in life has been worth reaching this point. Because right now, despite all the difficulties of the past few years, I am the happiest I have ever been.

One of the best things about today has been sharing that joy, with both friends in a similar situation and family. A few of my friends are also heading towards Leeds, so hopefully we shall stay in touch for a very long time. Seeing so many people looking forward to setting off on this bit of their lives is quite incredible - all of my friends are such geniuses! How did I not notice this more thoroughly in the past? (though to be fair, it was pretty obvious when they were quoting really long equations at me that I couldn't understand written down, let alone spoken!)

Some of my friends didn't get the grades they wanted today - but they have inspired me more than anyone, because they didn't let it be the be all and end all of everything. One of my friends told me she knows there will be more opportunities and another quoted the infamous phrase 'there's more than one way to skin a rabbit' (aka more than one way you'll get to where ever it is you need to get to) And I know they are going to do equally well, if not better, than the rest of us. Because like I say usually (when I am not so happy I am smiling a Cheshire cat grin) your life doesn't begin or end at 18 - it simply carries on to the next chapter. I hope you are all happy with your results, or simply having a good day today! I can't wait to carry on writing here over the next year, to fill you in on that next chapter of my life!

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Monday, 10 August 2015

Update: The last week

The last week has been many things - it has been a week of waiting, a week of learning, another week of living, and probably a thousand things that could be listed for an endless number of pages. The nearer we get to exam results day the more things seem to drag, and the more the news begin to feature terrifying stories of how A level results might be sent by accident or misread... those are far scarier than any horror story you could tell me currently. Yet I am remaining optimistic by reminding myself that things are not always as bad as they seem, and that there is always opportunity.
There have been a lot of aims I had on my list of things to do for this holiday, and after the Halle tour ended, it feels like I have time to do those things. Although I still have rehearsals, the days are rather quiet and leave me time to explore new places; do all the things I want to do before I move away from home. Every morning I go for a walk and come across things I didn't even realise how grateful I was towards, such as the butterfly in the photograph - getting so close to one reminded me what it is to be in primary school and come across something amazing up close for the first time. I miss that sense of awe and seek it in all things.

There has been time to feel that sense of awe - there have been so many things that filled this summer: getting to know a pen pal I never thought I would meet, travelling around London and Dublin, singing in the BBC proms - things have been ticked off my bucket list that I never thought would be and now that I look back, I realise just how constant everything has been until this point and it makes me want to feel a thousand different things. As well as walking near home, my family and I have been going hiking, especially near this one lake which is an incredible place to be in summer - it feels like being in some lost land from a book; like Treasure Island.

One of my biggest aims has been to fill an entire note book with just new things I have learnt - for the purpose of expanding the horizon that is knowledge and simply because I have never in my entire life managed to fill an entire note book that wasn't a school book! It has encouraged me to read more, to draw more:

Visiting galleries has really brought about an interest in the Victorian era - their paintings for me are some of the most intriguing, especially the smaller ones that are as magnificent as their famous counterparts yet exist in little known peace in a tiny university library, where no one would expect to come across something so intricate. Although my sketching is not what it once was at Art GCSE, rediscovering something I haven't had much time to do has made it all the more enjoyable a task - to sit in a gallery and sketch for a few minutes, and just be happy. The same feeling as with a good film or a good book - I guess it must be something which relates to anything which makes you realise something in self revelation.

Work wise:
There has been much song to learn in other languages, for events coming up over the next few days. Learning music with a singing teacher over months means you learn the language gradually and when you are asked to do a concert, the words are just there, in your head. But learning Schubert based on German poetry over a short time is really challenging - something I have found over the past days. But the German is in good practice. After undergrad, I would really like to study in Germany at some point, as my granddad did - he kind of inspired me in that aspect. It is a tremendous amount of work added to all of the stuff that a music degree encompasses but is also well worth the effort. I spend around two hours a day studying German, and around half an hour of French. In order to study in Germany, you have to have a qualification to prove you are able to speak the language, namely in my incident the DSH. 

Reading wise: 
I find myself reading things a lot more towards the non fiction aspect of the scale. Books obviously on languages and music, but also on the news, and surprisingly a large amount on literature. Particularly Shakespeare - for some reason I am really interested in his work recently, perhaps it is the consequence of studying his texts for the past two years, and knowing that isn't part of something I shall be studying any more. One book I just finished yesterday was about his style of writing as well as his life - one chapter was devoted entirely to informing us as readers, what his library might have contained, or at least the texts he read and studied and in what languages. There were many critics quoted and voiced throughout the book, and one of my favourite expressions came from an author whose books have been old friends of mine for a while:

'That the whole world is a work of art; That we are parts of the work of art.
Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about the vast mass that we call a world.
But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven;
We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself'
- Virginia Woolf

Science journals have also provided intriguing points of thought - such as what we can learn from films of any kind, the effect that music can have on the brain, why honey has the longest shelf life of any given food, why we dream and have dreams we would like to accomplish, photography and breaking the fourth wall in relation to fiction. All of these articles and more have made me realise that although I will now specialise in the subject of music - something I love more than anything - I now am responsible for my own variety of thought. It is up to me to make sure I continue to learn about this amazing world we live in, beyond the realm of music, in all aspects. Living afterall, is learning. And learning is making the connection to thinking, and then finally to creating. T.S. Eliot claimed life is a 'pattern of endless moments' and we as humans get to choose the moments we remember and learn from: That is one of the reasons I am looking forward to being in a questioning environment, a university, to learn and to think and to create. As Shakespeare said through his King Lear: ' speak what we feel, not we ought to say'

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Friday, 7 August 2015

Preparing for the AS - English literature (theme - Comedy)

Knowing a little more on the subject can be really helpful when applying for a course. Especially when you are choosing your AS levels. Traditionally, or at least in the beginning, I was going to study German, French, Music and History. In the end, I only studied three A levels - Music, Literature and History. Knowing what you will be studying can be hugely influential, particularly as the college you choose to go to does probably have a curriculum that differs to others, even if two colleges are on the same exam board that doesn't mean you will be studying the same content for both places. So I thought I would start this series of web posts to try and fill you in a little on the types of things you might be studying if you have chosen similar subjects to me.

In my first year of studying English Literature, The content was mostly work I had read a lot before - particularly pride and prejudice which I have read a great deal (well over 30 times) in my life so far. Our course was based on the themes and ideas that encompass the whole genre of Comedy. At first, I thought this meant that the texts we would be studying would be quite uplifting and funny - but this wasn't always the case. There are many types of comedy, including dark comedy and satirical comedy. If this is the genre you study, you will study a lot of those different sub-aspects.

For the comedy aspect, we had to produce two pieces of course work in addition to our exam. Both pieces of course work had to be 1500 words long with a bibliography of all the texts we had used. If you had used internet pages, this was perfectly acceptable as long as you gave all the appropriate details and also listed the last time you had accessed the page/content. Normally, your year will allow you to have more time on the first piece of course work than the second as the exam approaches very quickly, due it being May/June time. The first piece of course work we did was based on a traditional comedy, which is for most classes where I studied, a Shakespeare play. My class studied Twelfth Night which is an absolutely fantastic comedy and really made me fall in-love with the work of Shakespeare in a way that I hadn't really been able to before. Now I am Shakespeare mad and aim to re-read at least 4 of his plays every year.

My essay on Twelfth night focused on the idea that in comedy, the reason we laugh is because the misfortune that does not fall on us falls on some one else - we are relieved, hence we laugh. My essay focused mainly on the character of Malvolio to argue that this statement is true, as those such as Maria and Feste manage to trick him often. Some aspects of the play can also trigger sympathy for him - at first he is quite pompous but after being tricked, there is a vulnerability that we can recognise in our own selves; the type of vulnerability that occurs if you take a joke too far. But to argue against the statement, I used examples such as Feste - who is very wise, but manages to downplay this often and make people laugh with his wit - he easily cheers up the grieving Olivia.

Our second essay for coursework was on a modern comedy, this time we studied the weird and wonderful work of Pinter. Our class studied The Birthday Party - and despite studying it and writing a similar essay to that of the one I wrote for Shakespeare's Twelfth night, I found that some of the symbolism could be off putting and much more disturbing than the lighthearted Shakespeare. It is the symbolism and exploration of comedy which meant I did not enjoy studying this text as much as the previous - the focus on those aspects meant there was no true storyline, and for me that is usually what draws me to a text. Despite this, it was a though provoking piece to write on because there is so much to pick out and think on.

Note - Because as mentioned previously I did not enjoy studying the second text as much, this actually really helped in my exploration of it as it meant I was not as biased towards my favourite characters. Having a different view point, or having an opinion at all, will really benefit you in English Literature as critics in this area are allowed to use their opinion to be critical, as are you, as long as you have evidence and quotations etc with a thorough explanation to back you up in what you write. As my English teachers always said to me 'just because you don't have a masters degree, doesn't mean you can't be a thorough critic'

For the exam itself, we studied Austen's Pride and Prejudice as mentioned earlier. What a fabulous text to study! (Maybe that is me being biased...) The characters will make you laugh so easily - there is, at least I believe, a character for everyone. Of course the heroine is found in Elizabeth, but so too I found that heroine in characters such as Georgiana Darcy and Charlotte Lucas. It was also fun to know so much about the text and have so many opinions on it before we began studying as when I arrived I was able to have debates with my teachers, and explore the text in further detail - just because I knew a little more on the text than my class mates, this did not mean we slowed each other down - there was extra work I could do in the meantime and I really liked that I didn't have to repeat the same things after knowing them already.

The other novel we studied was Mccarthy's The Road - a very bleak text set in a post apocalyptic world. Due to going through a difficult time myself when we were studying said text, this was not a text I enjoyed. I found it far too concrete and much too relate-able in some ways - hence I did not focus on those aspects as other people did. But I did enjoy the religious aspects repeated throughout - with the boy being portrayed as a Christ like figure in that he is capable of saving the world by surviving. The theological symbolism throughout is incredible - my favourite quote from the whole thing was 'There is no God, and we are his prophets' They are the type of clues you can spend absolutely hours trying to figure out and still leave with nothing. It is all about how you interpret them.

We also studied two poets - Keats and Christina Rossetti. As a poet enthusiast it was lovely to get to know these two poets who I knew little of and by the end be so acquainted that they felt like old friends. Especially with the work of Rossetti, I found myself empowered by all of the things she had to say and how beautifully she phrased them. I think we studied around 12 poems by her which we had to know from memory and three poems by Keats, with one being around 30 pages long. By Keats my favourites to study were The eve of St Agnus for the use of descriptions to include all of the senses, but mainly La belle dame sans merci for its' cyclical and simple structure which was based on medieval origin and reminded me in some ways of Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll's way of writing. As for Rossetti, it is hard to pick a favourite, so I'll pick the first one I studied cousin Kate and the one I found most useful, which was The Convent Thresh-hold which I used to discuss similarities and contrast with the religious symbolism from The Road.

The outcome : 
My first year in English was perhaps the most fun of all my AS studies, even though I adore music over all the others. But the content was familiar to me, and knowing new things about it was refreshing - it was a break from other subjects. This by no means makes the subject easy, it was just that my other subjects to me seemed more difficult, so English class was always kind of a research opportunity - it felt less like work and more like fun, as the best classes due to the best teachers always do. I got full marks on my English exam and was two marks off full marks in both of my course work essays. To me this was a relief and also gave me a sense of accomplishment - because although I had worked hard, in the end it hadn't felt like it. I wish that I could have that attitude in all aspects of work I pursue. And I wish the same to you.

If you enjoy reading content like this and would like to hear more from me, Blogger of the year is coming up and I would really appreciate if you could vote for me - you can do so here and if you do vote, you could also be in with a chance of winning some vouchers! 

Monday, 3 August 2015

The fourth day of tour - the last day

After three manic days, this day was much calmer although still busy - it is just the bulk of the time we had was taken up by the coach home. Which was also late... hence we didn't get home till late. The early morning packing was bittersweet but welcomed, for all of us were  tired. We left the hostel and got the underground from Paddington to Waterloo, walking around and seeing the sights we had missed out, including the London eye which I can't remember having been on before until this point. You can see the view from the top of the wheel above (it was the best I could - we did have a choir taking up the majority of the pod afterall) Then it was onwards to the church for our very last concert of the tour and of the season (Until September when we resume)

The program was the same as on the third day, with the addition of some short and cheerful 'shaker songs' based on American folk music workers used to sing there in earlier centuries. After our encore of one of my favourite of the pieces (not one sparrow is forgotten) it was officially time to leave. I'm glad that the journey was not a quiet one - quiet doesn't fit us singers, especially as me and my friends are quite loud people. The journey home consisted of so many conversations and random harmonisation, and after that I feel these people who are my friends, both the new and the old, I feel like I know them so much better and it is only going to make me miss them more over the summer - especially the friends who won't be returning to the choir in September. All good things must come to an end, as they say, yet the poetic part of me doesn't want the chapter to end yet. I'm not terribly good with goodbyes.

Yet the realistic part of me knows that memories are important, as is the future. Looking forward, there is so much potential to make use of an so much to do. The other lasts before now (e.g. last college concert) haven't felt so much like lasts, because they were things I had done before. But the Halle tour was kind of a first and last - I think the reason it is harder to say goodbye to than the other things I have had to bid farewell to this summer, is because this is something I have been associating with the end of summer all year. It is also the last thing that was keeping me busy - now there isn't too much to do. Yet this makes me want to make reading lists and travel lists - miniature bucket lists every day which I can use to tick of the things I want to get done. Things I don't want to miss out on. This past year, looking back on it, has been one of the busiest - I have done things, learnt things, seen things, travelled to places and become a person I never thought it possible to become and that makes me so very happy and also quite nostalgic too. It makes me wish I could back into the past to a younger self and ask them to keep doing things the way they were,  but to appreciate the time a little more. But for now - I am just trying to keep calm for results day, to keep living and to not live like this is an inbetween link to the next chapter. The next chapter starts now.

I'll see you in that next chapter.