Man! I feel like a… Oh

September 19, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Posted in mental health, music | Leave a comment
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Singing, rather than being merely a delightful thing to do while washing up, continues to be all about excavating mental skeletons. It’s getting a bit irritating. After all that enthusiasm over singing up HIGH (which is totally new to me, and feels terribly STUNT) and LOADS of practice, I develop a searing headache that lasts a week and stops me doing anything other than peering, mole-like, at the kettle for just long enough to make a cup of tea.

I run, trying to visualise my head floating lightly above my shoulders. (In the dappled dusk, this is one of the most cosmic experiences of my life, by the way. I keep expecting unicorns to leap out of bushes.) I sing lying on the floor, noticing when I’m pushing my chin forward and my head up, and trying to stop. The bottom end still sounds fine; the middle of my range sounds better; but my newly-discovered top end is basically gone.

I arrive at my teacher’s house and immediately burst into tears. Her: It’s all right. You have to take a step back sometimes and re-learn something. Me: I know, I know. But, BWAAAA.

gorple pic

Teacher’s house, by that clump of trees. In space, no-one can hear you blub

We reach an agreement. I spend an hour happily splashing around in the octave below middle C. Her: It sounds lovely. I always wanted to be able to sing down there. Let’s do it a bit lower.

And I recognise this. All right, it’s a bit of a theme for me. Ignore the stuff you can already do, the things that feel natural and unforced, in favour of busting a gut trying to do whatever you find difficult. It can’t have any worth if you find it easy, can it?

UoL SU card

London-era me. Definitely NOT compensating with the earrings

But there’s something else going on, too. I’m six feet tall and beanpolesque. I’ve got what women’s magazines euphemistically call strong features, and a laugh like Sid James. I don’t really get why anyone would go to a spa or have a pedicure or get their eyebrows threaded. When I used to cycle around London with cropped hair and a tracksuit on, people called me ‘mate’.

Mostly, I manage to ignore my ineptitude at girliness, or subvert it. Salsa, for example, favours short, cute, curvy chicks. (Oddly, male salsa enthusiasts are rarely over 5’6”.) Standing out got boring, so I learned to lead. It IS fun, and you get a LOT of compliments even if you’re not very good, but sometimes, you know, I just wanted to be whirled around the dancefloor, like a Proper Girl.

Now, I’m googling around, trying to find out what voice type I might be. This post suggests contralto, which sounds like a gorgeous, pulchritudinous thing to be, but all the clips are of women singing around an octave higher than me. This chap sings Dowland at the same pitch as me (though I’ll admit I lack his richness of tone, not to mention his sharpness of suit). And he’s a BARITONE. Gulp.

As someone whose ideal day is spent lying on the carpet with a countertenor cranked up to 11, the irony is not lost on me. Just as some people’s reactions to a countertenor are ‘Ooh no! He sounds like a GIRL!’*, I imagine people listening to me and giggling ‘Eh! You a BLOKE?’ Sigh. I’m not sure I’m ready to be an individual AGAIN.

So, I challenge you. Find me some role models. Ideally, they’ll sing happily right down to the D below middle C. My teacher suggested Nico, though that didn’t end too well, did it. Dagmar Krause (the boyfriend’s idea) is fabulous but decidedly idiosyncratic. That one off the Communards, praps? Help me out. Please. I’ll be girlishly grateful.


* these were @jenlovescycling‘s actual words. Don’t look at me like that.

I get ready for GLYNDEBOURNE

August 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Posted in music | Leave a comment
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You may not have realised this but I’M GOING TO GLYNDEBOURNE!

WP_003086After putting up with me burbling on for WEEKS about how Rinaldo features FOUR (4) countertenors, which is basically UNHEARD OF, and one of them is ineffably marvellous IESTYN DAVIES, and it’s written by utter genius HANDEL and this is ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME chance and other stuff mostly in ALL CAPS, @spandelles buys me a ticket as a birthday present. Proving, once again, that he is the world’s best boyfriend.

Despite people warning me to pace myself, offering me training plans etc., I’m still ready to POP with excitement/ terror. I even have a Handel nightmare:

night terror

I decide to distract myself by sorting a few things out. It turns out that when you go to Glyndebourne there are an AWFUL LOT of things to sort out.

1. Outfit. Glyndebourne, terrifyingly, suggests ‘formal evening dress’. I google this to find out what it is. After a frenzied evening trawling through maybe 175842 dresses online, I realise I can put together a fairly respectable outfit from things I already own. None of them are in any sense ‘evening attire’, but I’m hoping if I sprint everywhere, they will blur enough to fool bystanders.

2. Handbag. Ransacking the house turns up three neon backpacks, several well-loved Carradice saddlebags and a Power Rangers lunchbox. Hmm. Tiffany, who is a Proper Girl, recommends TK Maxx. The boiz run about like CRAZY PEOPLE while I yell STOP THAT YOU PROMISED TO BE GOOD YOU BUGGERS and try to remember what colour my dress is. Against all the odds, something completely perfect leaps into my arms. The boiz take turns to cuddle it all the way home.

fyopera3. Accessories. My Loom Band bracelet collection may not cut it. I buy some divaesque dangly earrings, and a necklace which supplies you with all the letters of the alphabet so you can construct your own words. TOO MUCH POTENTIAL.

4. Tights. The less said about this the better. I now have some. That’s five hours of my life I won’t get back, Leeds.

5. Travel and accommodation. Thrillingly, I book a room right in the middle of Lewes, and fantasise wildly about singing in the shower and being Discovered. Or looking out the window and seeing Tim Mead walking past. Hi, Tim! Lots of Sussex people immediately volunteer to meet me for coffee, which is cheering.

6. Dining. This is utter MINEFIELD. Glyndebourne operas have a 90-minute interval, where you’re supposed to have a jolly champagne-sodden picnic with your chums. I’m going on my own. I toy with the idea of stalking the grounds with a Subway, coaxing people into doing voxpops into my Dictaphone. Then I see Glyndebourne has introduced ‘sharing tables’ especially for Wilhelmina-No-Consorts like me. I’d like a little more information on my potential tablemates, but beggars can’t be choosers:

glyndebourne sharing table

I cautiously book a meal, choosing the options which seem least likely to jump off the plate and down my front.

lightkeeper's doggerel 27. Homework. I read the synopsis on the Glyndebourne site, which makes no sense at all. I put this down to its overuse of passivisation and unclear reference, and go to Wikipedia instead. @Lightkeeper helpfully writes me some notes in a language I can understand.

Glyndebourne posts some pictures from the opening night on its Facebook page. Once I realise it contains bicycles, I know it’s all going to be fine.

iestyn on a bike

my night tweet



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