Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Update : Easter and Turning 19

On Easter Sunday, I turned 19 - which still hasn't quite sunk in yet. It is strange how quickly time passes, especially the past year. 2015 has slowly realised 2016, and that is becoming apparent now.

It was a good day to spend with family: a birthday wouldn't quite be a birthday without my dads jokes, and my grandma and mum debating which dessert sounds best. The restaurant was quite busy, with complimentary Easter bunny mascot, but the music was good and we had fun trying to learn Turkish to impress our waiter. My family even found the first ever nut free store bought birthday cake!

Now that I am another year older, I look back and think of the things that I have achieved so far. Each little thing sparks another memory until I remember 5,000 things I didn't even know were there. It makes me glad that all of that knowledge is still in my mind somewhere if I only know how to look for it - kind of like a more optimistic version of that maze from Harry Potter and the goblet of fire.

There were two things I really loved about this day though, which is a lot because I am not a fan of ageing nor hence a fan of birthdays:

1. Because it was Easter, I got a chance to share the celebration with my family and to celebrate all of us, making sure to give them lots of chocolate!

2. The post - there is something about getting hand written letters through your post box that makes everything seem a million times better. Reading silly quotes from my friends (the inside jokes we made up in high-school) and seeing where my friends have been travelling, it just makes me really glad to know all of these different and incredible people.

I think I read a quote on that once - I'll have a look to see if I can find it...

And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden

As for my new years resolutions, my family, boyfriend and friends have been kind enough to help me on the way with those - books largely (there are some realllllly exciting books I cannot wait to read including Sapiens, A shepherds life and Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe. My mum even got me a sop. recorder so I can carry on with my 10 instruments resolution - which is even more incredible because of how much she hates the sound of them haha (I will have to try and practice quietly, though I'm not quite sure how to go about doing that...) But all the Baroque recorder!!!! It's going to be fun.

It's still only the beginning of the half term really, we get three weeks 'holiday'/course work time overall. So far I am still sick with tonsillitis which is proving brutal and refusing to go away which is quite frustrating when I know how near my final recital for the end of first year is and how much work on that material is still to go... But hopefully things will start to get better as soon as they can because out side of work, there is so much I want to do this next few weeks - the freedom of the beginning of spring/summer is prime time for hiking! 

Being inside the house a lot just makes me realise how much I want to go swimming or hiking or canoeing... and I've never even been canoeing - one more for the bucket list. 

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Update: Disney, New Years Resolution's and HYC

So the past month has been pretty hectic! With practical exams fast approaching it was just my luck to get sick before the half term the day before my singing lesson... things don't feel the best, but I'm trying to use the time my throat is recovering to get on with the academic side of things and by planning fun projects for the future which I am sure you will be hearing about soon. I probably won't be well/back on my feet for another week or so yet... so we'll just have to see how it goes for now.

Firstly - All things new years resolutions. You can see what my original resolutions were in my post in January and so far I am not doing too bad. My progress so far has been on the first three resolutions those being:

1. To read 100 books (18 in so far, thanks to the train journeys)

So far this year, I have read 54 of my planned 100 books, with some of my favourites so far being Angelou's I know why the caged bird sings and Lauria H. Anderson's Speak, both of which I have wanted to read for absolutely ages, and they did not disappoint! But I'll talk more about this challenge at a later date. I also added 'watch a 100 movies' to this marathon challenge and have so far seen around 30, with the last being Zootopia, which was Disney so obviously it was pretty amazing! In case you didn't know, I'm a huuugggee Disney fan and am currently in the process of saving up for the adventure of a life time... Disney land Florida! But for now I'm just settling for re-watching as much Pixar as I can before I am well again, especially Monsters inc:

2. Visit 10 new places in England (Including Stratford upon Avon and the Bronte Parsonage because this year is after all the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte and also the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare's death)

This is going fairly well so far, with rehearsals in Birmingham in the near future, already having been to Southport (which I count) and the Bronte Parsonage in Howarth. I also had a trip to York early last month (I don't count Leeds, I am there every day) so so far that is around 4 places out of 10 which isn't too bad! For my birthday, my family and I are planning a trip to the birthplace of Shakespeare - Stratford upon Avon which is written in big block letters on my calendar...

I wonder if it will look anything like Chester? When I'm in Manchester, one of my favourite places is the area around the Cathedral and Cathedral street because they have such fabulous architecture, such as this Tudor pub which looks beautiful covered in flowers and ivy in the summer:

3. See a Shakespeare play (King Lear in April - so excited)

Fast approaching is the 2nd of April, when I will finally be getting to see a Shakespeare play live - albeit not my favourite of all his works nor in the Globe theatre, but all the same the cast for King Lear at the Royal Exchange sounds like a really exciting line up - their interpretation especially is something I cannot wait to see! Obviously with the new Macbeth movie, there were mixed opinions over matters such as Duncan's death being present on stage (when the whole point is that this is a Greek theatre technique to have it off stage and make it more horrific because we each imagine it individually) but all the same, this is one of the new years resolutions I am most looking forward to.

I've also decided to add another few resolutions to my original 6:

7. Give blood and do more volunteer work

With the NHS desperately in need of more volunteers for giving blood, I though why not me? I'm fairly healthy (when I don't have tonsillitis...) and other than never having thought about it before, I don't see why I shouldn't go and get checked up to see if I am able to do my bit. This was also my response when I saw that Oxfam had several shifts open and needed more workers. So now I am officially working at Oxfam which is challenging but also really rewarding and fun - working with the particular till they have has been the most taxing thing, but it is really enjoyable to be able to help people in this way and to be able to make people realise that second hand is just another way of saying Vintage! 

8. Do the race for life

In the past, my family has always done the race for life with a few of my mum's friends from university. But after grand dad got sick this was something we didn't really have time to think about. Now that that period of our lives is past, it can be difficult sometimes to think about how to move on. But I think one of the best ways is to not forget the trials you have been through but to push yourself as an individual to help stop all of the things you have had to experience as a result of the atrocities such as cancer. So I will be running the race for life over summer and aiming to do a swimming decathlon for Marie Curie and Macmillan next summer. 

Also, I'm hoping to train myself for said decathlons with my activities for achieving my Duke of Edinburgh Gold award - because the training is going to be challenging, so having a schedule will be extremely useful. 

9. Go whale watching and pick my own fruit

It feels these are pretty self explantory but both are on my bucket list and I would really love to get to do more of the things I have been wanting to do since forever this year. 

10. Learn 10 new instruments

I already play quite a few instruments, with my main obviously being voice which I am studying at music college. But I want to widen my knowledge of music in general by learning to play as many traditional, ancient and modern instruments as possible. So far this year I have started properly with cello which is progressing quite quickly which was a nice surprise (I blame the violin!) ukulele and soon will be learning clarinet! Plus I have a general idea of what other instruments I would like to learn - viola, something brass, double bass and possibly some Baroque recorder stuff which looks really difficult but sounds fantastic!

Overall this year is going so fast - I mean in the past few months I've lost track of the fact that we're already several months into 2016, Crazy! And getting to explore new places, such as the Graft newspaper and printing exhibition at the national peoples history museum, is pretty awe inspiring - the past 100 years seem to have gone pretty quickly too. Singing Vaughan William's and hearing how modern and significant to the present made me realise this more than ever.

 Unfortunately we won't get to sing that piece or with the Halle Youth Orchestra again until our tour in July... But we have lots more to come this season, so if you have an interest in 20th century music or nationalism, keep your eyes on the Bridgewater hall website over the coming weeks.

Just think - last June I was in Ireland with my friend Laura when she visited from Austria and this year I will be visiting her in about a months time after my exams are over. She sent me some of the photos she took the other day, including this one she took of me reading our map outside St. Patrick's cathedral:

My nut allergy this year is taking second place to the want for adventure and new experience (which is way outside my comfort zone but worth it) like when I tried a croissant for the first time last month

So I think that is all that I have to update you on for now, but there is plenty coming up over the next few weeks so I'll be back shortly to share more of this memorable year, when I will hopefully not be sneezing this much... Toodle-pip

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Creative project week - Working with children in music

Creative project week was fun as always, challenging to all of us who chose the teaching project and pushing us to try out ideas suitable for these different age groups which was a little challenging at times as, because we are no longer small children, sometimes it can be quite difficult to leave our shame at the door and embrace whole heartedly the idea of singing nursery rhymes with actions out loud... but it was actually really interesting to do this, and to create content for each of the age groups we were taught about.

Our teacher introduced the three age groups to us through the Simpsons -
- Maggie's age group were the toddlers through to primary school.
- Lisa's age group were the juniors through to the end of primary school.
- Bart's age group were at the beginning of high-school up until around the age of 13.
The reason activities change in each of these areas is because of the context of age - obviously we do not stay small forever, and after 100 hours of teaching we are all able to read, write and do simple mathematics, so this changes drastically our outlook on the world. Also, our interaction with our peers and the society beyond school impacts us differently as we age. Where the age group that Maggie is a part of is one which is very much about playing together and alongside each other, Bart's age group will possess that element of peer pressure, will not be as monitored as much by their parents in terms of what music they listen to (for example) and they will have their own groups of friends opposed (unfortunately) to being friends with everyone as they might have been when they were younger.
In terms of teaching, I found it quite interesting to see how with very small children the anthropological state of things is extremely important: the Western classical/ traditional style is also more influential in the content than you might thing (e.g. some form of antiphony in early forms of call and answer, diatonic melodies, middle range of pitch, following the standard harmonic laws) These children actually learn to speak through pitch - we practically sing to them when talking to them in a cheerful voice from which they begin to pick up vocabulary, maintaining the pitch before the word itself. It is a very anthropological state of learning and is all about what feels natural. In contrast, older children already know much of this content and music is about identity so it is much more internal in meaning than external.
For our planned lesson plans and activities my group had to put together:
- For the youngest age group, a nursery rhyme or some form of simple original content with actions (we wrote a song about going on a school trip to the zoo)
- For the middle age group, something that allowed students to work together
(We experimented with the idea of singing a round, but decided instead on a samba/ drum based exercise that allowed the introduction of students to simple rhythms via colours that sounded like these rhythms, such as Violet for a triplet)
- For the oldest age group, something that allowed students to feel free in their production of music yet also have the ability to practice their own varying degrees of musical knowledge as some may play instruments
(We got the chord structure for a simple blues and allowed free improvisation of students on their instruments based on Johnny be Good)
Now in the midst of writing up my reflective review of this course, I am finding it further interesting to research this subject through many varying texts. This includes hearing the different type of music in the market for these age groups (such as Cbeebies) whilst comparing them to the list of features and analysis that we were taught in class, but also means many interesting books (hooray!)
Three of the most interesting books I have read so far have been:
- Bounce: the myth of talent and the power of practice by M. Syed
- Music, informal learning and the school: A new classroom pedagogy by L. Green
- Dumbing us down: the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling by J. T. Gatto
I could not recommend all of these resources more - they have such important content told in a well structured and fairly debated way that is the most freely written introduction to one of the most complex areas of society: education. The last of the three texts is the oldest, which I was shocked to learn as it is so modern that it applies perfectly to the teaching system in place today in both England and America - the examples still stand (give or take the development of some of the statistics over the years since the latest edition was edited and released) and speak out for us as a society and as students.
Well, back to writing up essays - it's getting to Easter time which means lots of drafting, redrafting and final drafting for the first week back. I also know it's exam time for all of your - so good luck with the revision process - I hope it all goes well!
Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Nationalism

As times passes, music develops, changes and progresses to fit the tastes of the people in the world around it. In every society within every culture, there are trends and ideas that allow us to invent and play with music to discover all of the possible outcomes. Often this means that we get a genre within a genre (a sub genre) and so on, meaning we get blues leading to jazz, and then a fusion of blues and folk etc.

Despite classical music not being its' most popular in the modern day, it is still continuing to develop in an exciting way with the work of modern composers creating contemporary pieces. Many of them are premièred on a regular basis, such as the work of Birtwistle at the BBC proms. But that is another story.

Today we'll be looking at nationalism, especially English nationalism in the twentieth century (which includes some of my favourite pieces)

As war and the industrial revolution struck at the beginning of the twentieth century/ late nineteenth century, the world began to adjust in its' own. In England, the traditional rural methods were clung to by many as factories and smoke began to create what we now think of as the Victorian age. This was true of many art forms - some of the most famous poetry was written in this time, such as that by Blake (his songs of innocence and experience) and Wordsworth.

For music, there were two musical giants who led the emergence of nationalistic music in England and that was Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In classes, my teacher accented that these composers were very different characters to one another despite the similarity of their sound in terms of pieces. Critics held mixed views on their works at the time (Williams' being more popular as a composer, Elgar better known for his work as a conductor) with one critic labelling the music as having the desired effect of creating a 'cow watching field' feel (or something along those lines)

Nationalism is basically just another word for patriotic and it can be seen in many elements of music around us, such as the national anthem. But this music was nationalistic because it drew on the English countryside, that rural aspect, and depicting it through the melody and harmonies. Often this meant drawing folk music into the pieces and mixing it with new ideas, such as the lark ascending. 

Although Bartok, Dvorak and Sibelius are composers better known for their direct copy and pasting of folk music (in order to preserve the traditions of their respective homeland) the English composers too had large collections of folk music. Such as the obvious: Butterworth with his Banks of green willow which we spoke about in a previous article:

By mixing folk music with the Western classical style and sonata form, we are able to not only hear a beautifully written orchestral piece but we also get dissonance in the harmony which brings out emotion in an audience and creates images of the sublime in the head of the listener, who would also hopefully have had this feeling when gazing upon something such as a beautiful landscape from the top of a mountain in the Lake district. And above all, a feeling of belonging - a sense of the purest kind of feeling at home.

We all have different experiences when listening to this music, but for me it is some of the greatest because it is not immensely romantic, nor is it the biggest shift in musical development. But it does possess that magic quality of just dropping out of thin air in a manner the impressionists such as Debussy would pick up (think of his Sunken Cathedral) and it possesses that potential that the next generation of composers would follow on from, pick up and experiment with.

Like their music, these composers were not Mozart. They were not prodigies especially and they were largely working class - they worked for what they achieved. Perhaps that is what makes them so popular with audiences: we can relate to what it is they have put in the music. We do not have to go back in time to the courts of Mozart and imagine ourselves back in the strict costume and manner, we do not have to gasp in astonishment that Beethoven decided to remove a section from his otherwise standard violin concerto, nor do we have to shun a piece because every body else is doing so and if we don't, this would make us as disgraceful as the blasphemous composer who created it.

Although the two composers are equal favourites of mine, Elgar is the one of the two that I feel I know the most about. In the central library in Manchester there are several books on the composer, including some pretty old ones. One is from shortly after his death and is only around 30 pages long - in it, is described The world of Elgar which largely consists of his favourite cottage to visit in the summer, where a piano was kept outside to keep him closer to nature. Can you imagine that? A piano kept outside in that beautiful, freely grown English countryside? Now that would be a great place to play!

Elgar is also an extremely private figure: although we know certain things, such as his love for his dogs and that he was brought up by a working class father above a music shop, there is not much we can add to this list. To see our idols as human is hugely important, and video footage of Elgar conducting his music is definitely humbling and amazing - it sounds like so much longer ago than it actually was:

And that's all I have to say on nationalism for now! So I'll leave you with this clip of the fabulous Jacqueline du Pre playing the Elgar cello concerto (if you haven't heard it - go listen! You won't regret it!) :

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Update and International Womens Day

Well... a busy weekend followed by a busy week! This week is creative project week (more on that soon) which means that the time table is all jumbled up and I have to keep double checking everything in relation to where I am meant to be and where which is proving fairly stressful, but fun as always.

Looking at the weather over the weekend, which was sunny where we were, you wouldn't believe the snow that fell on Friday leading to many schools to close for the end of the week. As fun as the snow was, my feet were soggy the whole day and I really regretted not taking wellingtons ...

On Friday my dad turned 40 (hooray) so this meant visiting lots of family, which is always lovely. We also went to see Goodnight Mr. Tom at the theatre, which was so special - I remember reading the book when I was really small and it was still just as magical to see it come to life on stage. Also it was mothers day, which was another lovely day with my favourite people. I treated mum to breakfast in bed and we went for lunch at Frankie and Bennies (which awesome as they actually have a nut free menu meaning I can eat bucketful's of chocolate ice cream, huzzah!)

And today, of course, it is international women's day so it felt like a great time to talk about mothers day but also about the women in our world that we find inspiring. There has been a lot of discussion about women and the role of gender in society recently, but I am not going to go into all of the political detail. This is simply to talk about those who have an impact on our society and our lives, who just happen to be women.

In music, female composers usually composed under the pseudonym of their male husbands - one of the biggest mysteries enshrouds the wife of J. S. Bach as it is believed that she possibly composed two of his most famous works: namely the cello prelude in G major and the prelude in C major which is the opening to the well tempered Klavier. The original score for the cello prelude went missing - possibly due to Bach's time in prison for debt, but more likely it got lost when many scores were moved by the Nazi's during world war II and never recovered. There are many similarities between these two pieces, so the composer of one is most likely to be the composer of the other. And due to the 'original' score for the cello prelude being absent, the only aged copy of this score we have is a copied manuscript signed by Anna Magdalena Bach. Forensic musicologists are still exploring this theory today!

Inspiring composer she may have been, but A. M . Bach was better known in her day for being a talented singer! I only wish we could at least have had wax cylinders back then so that we could hear what she sounded like. Clara Schumann, wife of the composer, was also a well known performer, beloved for her piano playing. There were also well known female composers who were known under their own name, such as the infamous and old music of Hildegaard of Bingen.

Beyond music history, we have the music present with pop artists now largely leading the way for girls and providing a strong role model for them, as has been the incident with movies/ pop culture such as Disney's Frozen (which if you haven't watched, is also equally fun as it is inspiring)

But for me, it is the women of every day who are inspiring - who care for their families or follow their ambitions in order to achieve their goals. And girls such as myself, who I see in university all around me, working hard and progressing so far.

And above all my mum! My mum is such an amazing woman who has followed her ambitions in many fields, from teaching ballet dancing, to achieving a law degree and working for the police force, and now working for a school. I'm so proud of her because I remember how hard she worked to put together her dissertation whilst trying to keep me and my dog happy (and quiet enough so she could concentrate haha!) and there will never be a day when I don't count myself lucky to be her daughter, because she has taught me so much about what it is to be a good person, and to stand up for what you believe in - to believe in the greater good. Of course we all learn from our parents and admire them, but my mum is a person I aim to become in many ways - not exactly the same, but with a similar optimistic outlook on life that makes things into the incredible things they are.

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you!