Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Signs of Spring in Photos.

There are signs all over the garden of Spring now (about time we had a break in this rainy, miserable weather) so I went out with my camera to capture a few moments.

 Snowdrops are in their full glory

a nicely weathered pot of dwarf iris and crocus, these literally appeared this morning. I don't like my pots to look pristine, much preferring the well used look. The moss that has gathered all over this pot is a pretty spectacle in itself I think.

Such a wonderful colour.

My daffodils at the base of the apple tree, just coming. 

 The beginning of this year's rhubarb crop.

My tulips, the bath is full of a now forgotten colour, looking forward to finding out what I chose, with three long tom pots crammed full with cream tulips all now poking their heads through.

Not all is good though, my lovely two box balls look very much to me like they might have box blight! I think there is little I can do if they have and I will just have to destroy them.

This is a good time of year and everything seems happy enough, box aside. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Monday Morning at 9.14 and my high horse.

It's Monday and, yes, it's raining again. I was determined to get out in the garden and take some photos of all the emerging Spring flowers but there's no way I'm putting my wellies on today so that will have to wait.

Had a good and interesting weekend as I was the adjudicator at a music festival. So Saturday morning at 9 am saw me with the pleasure of listening to 4 hours of piano players all playing their party pieces while Saturday afternoon I judged the singers (mostly from Wales it seems). It was very very heartening to hear the huge amount of talent from these pianists, it is easy to become cynical in these times when lots of young people want instant gratification and praise from very little effort, but to get to hear youngsters who have clearly put hours and hours and hours of practice in was a complete joy. Luckily, as is so often the case, there was a very clear winner in every class, the first of which was a boy of about 15 who played the piano with such poise and dedication and understanding of the instrument that I was literally bowled over by him, it was also lovely to find him unassuming and modest of his talents. There were also 2 brothers who must have only been about 11 and 13 respectively who both played some of the hardest pieces in the repertoire, almost note perfectly to a standard that any adult professional pianist would be hard pressed to reproduce. Practice time must be divided incredibly in their household as, to play a piece this well would take about 3 hours practice daily, that is true dedication in a youngster. Is it any surprise that I have no time at all for crap TV talent shows which often show someone weeping because they didn't get through, whilst wailing soppy remarks such as 'I just want it so badly, this is my big chance'. No it's not, it takes huge amounts of effort, work and dedication to be a master of your craft and in the end only you are responsible for the work you do with any talent you may have rather than looking for that person who will give you a career on a plate. Most of them have to get real, it comes through hard work and determination and hours and hours of work, every single day.
So it was with pure joy that I heard kids with this grit and determination play and it restored my faith somewhat.
The afternoon was a different story, not that it was any less enjoyable, but the average ages of the singers in all the classes were between 50 and 80 probably. This says a lot about how we are losing our tradition of classical singing in this country and I wonder if in 40 years anyone much will even do it any more. Maybe most people don't give a flying fig that much of this wonderful music will be lost with the next generation, but I do.

So I will leave you today with a youtube video of Renee Flemming singing Gretchan Am Spinnrade (Gretchan at the Spinning Wheel) by Schubert, purely for the example of someone who has mastered the technique and craft of singing but more importantly for the outpouring of emotion that comes from that old favourite of feelings - LOVE - when put in the hands of a master. We all know and understand the feelings expressed, but Schubert has managed to find that desperation and put it into music. It's well worth the effort of 3 minutes listening and if it touches just one person then it was worth it.

The translation is below the video.

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.
Where I do not have him,
That is the grave,
The whole world
Is bitter to me.
My poor head
Is crazy to me,
My poor mind
Is torn apart.
For him only, I look
Out the window
Only for him do I go
Out of the house.
His tall walk,
His noble figure,
His mouth's smile,
His eyes' power,
And his mouth's
Magic flow,
His handclasp,
and ah! his kiss!
My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.
My bosom urges itself
toward him.
Ah, might I grasp
And hold him!
And kiss him,
As I would wish,
At his kisses
I should die!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Time off

Nothing much to report here. Survived the storms with just one panel blown out from the greenhouse which was duly fixed by me the next day. Weather is nasty still, if it's not blowing a gale it is raining so I am holed up indoors rather than outdoors.
Anyway, nothing much going on right now except to report great success from the electric propagator, what a little beauty it is.
Will be back in touch when something interesting happens.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Thought I would write an update on how things are going since my 'big' decisions at the end of last year.
Currently I have 5 students, so my teaching practice is slowly building and it is great, I really thoroughly enjoy teaching singing and my students seriously seem to get something from it, they are all happy withe me as a teacher anyway. So that was a lucky gamble that paid off.

Meanwhile another startling thing has happened that was rather unexpected. It has become known about the place that I am no longer really prepared to do long rehearsals away from home so much, and on the back of that I have been asked to stand in in Don Giovanni later in the year. What this basically means is that when the cast member is unable to do one show in a run of 20, someone (ie me) steps in and does the show for them, because it is a role I have sung a lot of times. It is quite nerve wracking because it will be performed on only a 2 hour rehearsal on the day, in other words, I'll be making up the movements as I go, with the help from the other cast members of course. Certainly a nice thought that it will keep me singing and performing, but I won't have to go away for months at a time to rehearse, in fact the whole episode will only take one day of my life (the man who should be doing the part is getting married on that day instead, so he's forgiven). Sounds good to me. Here are some photos of me in the last production of Don Giovanni I did 8 years ago:

Mean and moody.

Oh it's fun to look back.

The duo partnership we set up (baritone and piano (me)) has been advertised about the place a bit, we have one music society interested for their 2015-16 season (yes, it is so far away as to be almost laughable I know, but that is the way these things work) meanwhile we plug away at it, trying to get more.

And finally I am judging 3 competitive music festival competitions in the next month, which is always enjoyable.

So if the money is not exactly rolling in, then at least things are moving in the right direction, I am hoping to build on my reputation as a singing teacher, as this is largely word of mouth, so now I have some students, hopefully they will talk and more will come.

So a quick update from chatting about gardens (because, quite frankly the weather is so bloody awful that there is little to say on the outdoors).

Saturday, 8 February 2014

I just couldn't help it.

It is February and the temptation to start planting some seeds is very great. I've been holding off and holding off but today I succumbed. I wasn't going to but then my father told me that he had planted a few and that was enough to break my will.

I didn't plant many (compared with the hundreds of seeds I will be planting this year) but I have been itching to use my new electric propagator (Christmas present) so I chose some of the seeds that suggest January-March as the sowing time. I will have an awful lot of seeds to sow come March so decided it would be good to get a few under way to lighten the load (see how I justify it).

Sitting on my bedroom windowsill.

It's a dinky little thing and costs a tiny amount to run as its actual heat is so tiny, it barely even gets warm to the touch, the seven little chambers are a good size to get a decent batch of seeds in.

I have sown geums, chrysanthemums, echinacea,  a couple of free varieties of sweet peas, digitalis and one other thing which I have forgotten already. Once they have germinated and grown a bit I hope to transplant them freeing up the propagator for the next batch in a few weeks.

Maybe I am too early, who knows, who cares. It brought me a bit of Wintry pleasure for a Saturday afternoon and that is worth plenty.