Singing dates coming up


Very soon, Vocal Chords choir are launching our third CD Songs of Protest, with a concert at Conway Hall. 24th May 7.30, with guest Julian Littman. Get your tickets here! (£10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a little further away on Saturday 16th June, we are singing at Crystal Palace Festival at 16:15 at the village green bandstand in Crystal Palace Park.

 

Vocal Chords at Crystal Palace Overground Festival this Sunday


Sunday 18th June 1pm for only half an  hour, so make sure you get there on time! At The Secret Garden, Coxwell Road, 70 Westow Street SE19 3AF.

More songs of protest and change.

Here’s a snippet from the Brockley Max gig to get you in the mood

 

TODAY: Songs of Protest at Brockley Max


Copyright Ben Mueller-Brown

 

Vocal Chords are reprising our Songs of Protest repertoire for Brockley MAX Festival today, Sunday 4th June at 3.30.

St Hilda’s Church, Courtrai Road
SE23 1PL

We are joined by Carrie Cohen & Silas Hawkins who will read poems from Arachne Press’ Liberty Tales anthology.

£7 on the door (proceeds to Wheels for Wellbeing)

Books Sales & refreshments available

Carrie Cohen

Songs of Protest


Back in the day, when you went on a march through London – something I did a lot of in my youth, starting with the march against the Corrie Bill, and moving on to Section 28, the Police Bill, Anti-Nuclear marches with CND, Reclaim the Night, anti-cuts marches with various unions, Lesbian Strength, Gay Pride (back when it was really a political march not a fun day out) …gosh so many marches – anyway, way back then, we used to SING, and in local protests more recently (library under threat,  arts venue funding being cut, entire hospital threatened with closure) we’ve gone out and sung too.

I’ve been on a few marches recently, the political climate having taking a heave to the right, and feeling the need to do some shouting in public, but no one is singing anymore.

Why NOT?

There is a fantastic tradition of protest songs, and they are (Usually, from necessity) easy to sing and easy to remember.

And they are fun too.

I’ve been suggesting we do a season of protest songs at Vocal Chords, my regular choir for a couple of years and we have finally done it. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about protest songs in perfect harmony in a church – they should really be rough round the edges and raucous, and full of joy and anger and defiance, and most importantly – outside! However, I’ll take what I can get.

Come and have a listen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 1st April 7pm for 7.30

Holy Trinity Church, 66 Lennard Road SE20 7LX

£7 on the door in aid of Wheels for Wellbeing.

Reprising at Brockley Max festival Sunday June 4th 3.30pm at St Hilda’s Church Courtrai Road SE4.

out and about with Carmen


I’ve not been on here much recently, there’s been too much happening.

The opera – of course the opera! Each year I’ve done more and written about it less. Barely managing a faint tweet now and then this year. Carmen, under the direction of Chris Rolls had us on stage almost all the time  even when not singing – so no time for gathering thoughts to get on the blog. IMG_4585I’m in the background here somewhere (photo © Lena Kern) foreground Don Jose, Adrian Dwyer and our amazing Carmen Hannah Pedley – so good we tended to get caught up and forget we should sing too. This run sold out weeks ahead of the performance so I know a lot of people were disappointed. You can read a (5 star) review here, and you can catch us singing the choruses between 3 and 5pm TOMORROW (Saturday 23rd July) at Greenwich Park bandstand, and stop to chat while we picnic between sets. (I may not actually be singing myself, as the company throat infection caught up with me as soon as we stopped performing.)

Between performances I hurtled up to Derby to be on a panel (Is high fantasy getting more literary?) and run a workshop (Writing with Your Ears) at EdgeLit5. I’m doing more of that at NineWorlds at the Hammersmith Novotel 12-14th August, with creative writing panels: The Feminine Voice and Writing Female Characters in 21st Century Fantasy Fiction and Writing Queer Characters. I’m not sure of the timings yet, but there’s loads on, workshops, panels, book launches and so on and the finalised timetable will be up soon.

So: writing! Sci Fi Novella turned down by Tor, flash fiction published on line by Spelk, if you like your literature short you might enjoy a free haiku walk (should that be a Haik?) round Horniman Gardens with friends The Museum of Walking on Thurs 4th Aug.

And finally, I got my first ever bit of fan mail – as in hand-written, from someone I don’t know, who loved The Dowry Blade! I think it’s such a fat book that it’s taking people time to read it, but there is now a very nice review on Goodreads too.

I think that’s me caught up for now.

World Premier… my very first tune


Organising Longest Night kept me away from my own blog for a while, but it was completely worth it, not least because it gave me an opportunity to share my first ever musical composition with musicians who would do it justice. Here are Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd singing The Cold Time.

This is a Trobairitz song from the late 12th Century, written by Azalaïs de Porcairagues, in what is now Languedoc. It is written in a form of Provençal known now as Occitan. The tune is lost, and I came across it in Meg Bogin’s book The Women Troubadours, while researching my historical novel about Cathars and Trobairitz, The Cold Time, which I may eventually finish.

I actually wrote the melody a very long time ago, but coming up with harmonies has been a slower process. Ian & Sarah were incredibly patient with me!

I learnt Provençal, and tweaked Bogin’s translation for poetic rhythm and sense. The original song is a much longer work, but only this first section stands alone without understanding the social mores of the time and the geography and architecture of the city of Aurenga (Orange) – it was only when I went there and visited the museum that I understood a reference later in the song to the ‘Arch with the Triumphs’. A Roman triumphal arch, which for several centuries was built into the castle, effectively forming the front door. This was certainly the case when Azalaïs knew the then count,  Raimbaut d’Aurenga. These days the arch sits on a roundabout to the north of the city centre, and getting to it is a death defying race across, dodging massed lorries.

Roman triumphal arch, Orange, Provence

Raimbaut d’Aurenga’s Front Door

Notionally the section here is a typical Troubadour song of the seasons, although Spring was a more popular subject than Winter. However, the song is in fact an extended metaphor and a farewell to Raimbaut, Azalaïs’ ‘Nightingale’. She does not say so, but he had died.

Join In: Folk Song Workshop for Winter


LESTER SIMPSON FOLK SONG WORKSHOP

SECULAR WINTER SONGS

LEARN AROUND 5 SONGS

long LONGEST NIGHT BASIC LOGO2 copy

SATURDAY 28TH NOVEMBER 2015

12:45- 17:15

ST HILDA’S CHURCH HALL

COURTRAI ROAD SE23 1NL

bus routes 122, P4, 171, 172 stop on the corner.

train to Crofton Park or Honor Oak Park 10 minute walk.

advanced booking required

Book Here

£25

INCLUDES REFRESHMENTS

all abilities welcome.

 

How Idomeneo looks from here


The audience are never going to experience an opera the way the chorus does. Even though performance in the round gives them some idea, as they peer through the crowds to catch a glimpse of th action, but actually, the action is what they are peering round.

Our chorus experience is  sweaty, loud and partial – we never get to see the whole show, but the bits we do experience are visceral.

Idomeneo - Mozart - Blackheath Halls Community Opera - 14th July 2015 Musical Director - Nicholas Jenkins Director - James Hurley Designer - Rachel Szmukler Lighting Designer - Ben Pickersgill Idomeneo - Mark Wilde Idamante - Sam Furness Ilia - Rebecca Bottone Electra - Kirstin Sharpin Arbace - William Johnston Davies Pupils from Charlton Park Academy, Greenvale School, Year 5 from Beecroft Garden Primary School and Year 5 from Mulgrave Primary School Blackheath Halls Chorus and Blackheath Halls Orchestra

escaping the monster IdomeneoBH copyright Robert Workman

This is quite a physical show, and we are very glad that the carrying corpses off stage was cut, and we weren’t convinced we’d manage it without injury, to us or the ‘corpse’. The costumes are very hot (winter weight flying jackets with 2 inches of wadding in them, gas masks…) but at least there are no quick changes – last year’s nun-to soldier-in-3-mins is mercifully not challenged for award for fastest change. The emotions change faster, one minute a concerned civil servant,

concerned civil servants copyright Robert Wiseman

concerned civil servants IdomeneoBH
copyright Robert Workman

the next an anxious guard,

Anxious Guards - IdomeneoBH copyright Robert Workman

Anxious Guards – IdomeneoBH copyright Robert Workman

then a cheery well-wisher (although an imagined one!)

Imagined well- copyright Robert Workman

Imagined well-wishers IdomeneoBH
copyright Robert Workman

and finally a zealous follower of Poseidon turned vigilante – (no photos of this, will have to see what we can do in the dressing room!)  but there is a lot of anger throughout, I just have to remember what I’m being angry about and ‘on whom rest the blame’.

If you would like to discover who is to blame, we are performing again tonight at 7pm and on Sunday at 2pm. tickets and info here

Orchestral Manoeuvres


One of the delights of being involved in the community opera at Blackheath Halls is working with the Blackheath Halls Community Orchestra. We don’t get to hear what they are up to until the sitz probe, when we run through the entire opera and work out the corners. This is one of my favourite sessions, because we rarely hear the whole work. Then we get two stage & orchestra rehearsals and a couple of dress rehearsals (two of everything because of the split between the schools we are working with) to get used to what the music sounds like full on, before the first night.

Sitz Probe

Sitz Probe

And very necessary it is too, when we’ve been working with a piano accompaniment up until then. Jeremy, our assistant musical director plays a cut down version of the orchestral score magnificently, and it doesn’t always seem possible that he has enough fingers.

I wonder how much attention the audience pay to the orchestra, there is so much going on in an opera, although they are at least visible in our production.

I know I listen differently as a performer to how I would as an audience member – ear tuned to the instrument that will play the note I need a bar and a half before I have to sing it, that sort of thing; making it hard to take in the whole, but two things really struck me last night during the first performance of Idomeneo.

One was how very full and brassy the sound is considering how little brass there is playing – Mozart makes fantastic use of horns, but that’s about it.

The other was during a brief interlude when the tenors & basses are up with the orchestra for our ‘off stage’ chorus of drowning mariners during the storm. We all creep on and lurk at the side and wait for our cue. This gives us an unusual ‘conductor’s eye view’ of the orchestra. I can’t imagine the concentration and eye for detail it takes to conduct an opera, with orchestra soloists and chorus to pay attention to – I couldn’t even begin to make sense of the full score. Nick Jenkins, I salute you! Anyway while waiting for the music to cue us in,  I noticed these waves of movement going through; not the documentary film cliché of the bows all moving at the same time (although of course they do), but for example, a point at which all the violins put down their bows as one, and plucked the strings instead. It was an incredibly elegant little movement, which delighted me – and then I had to get on with singing and had no thought for anything but coming in correctly on the tricky bit…