|But back-yard mutts can surprise you. The woman who first taught me dressage . . . did wonders with a series of back-yard mutts.|
I’m glad to hear that on a couple different levels. One is that some day I will need to look for another horse for myself, and it’s good to have those stories tucked in my memory to encourage me to look at “any” horse. . . .
Yes—with those quotation marks firmly in place. I was trying to think of what I would say you must absolutely look for in a horse—four sound legs is always a good place to start, and while Grace’s mare always was sound, no, you know, sane person would have risked her, with that crooked leg. In Grace’s defense she was very experienced as well as knew the mare from a foal, had done most of her Heinz 57 mum’s training and was a friend of the original owner who as I recall insisted she’d always have her back as a pasture ornament if she broke down.
I’d say the bottom line non-negotiable in a horse for ordinary—um, rider mutts—like you and me is a kind eye, very visible, I might add, in the photos of Amore. Having established the eye you want something who likes its work—which is a little harder to ascertain in the usual for-sale try-out, but that’s where your secret weapon, Rachel, is deploying herself on your behalf. Rachel will know!
The second reason I’m glad to hear that is because of a big change that’s coming to our barn…it’s time to get my girls their own horse. . . .They are OVER THE MOON about this, naturally!
Snork. Naturally. When are you going to get your husband on a horse?
. . . we can get whatever horse is the best fit for us and worry about getting a next step horse for the girls later. Another thing I love about my trainer is that she is happy to work with ANY kind of horse, which is a great attitude to be working with.
It’s really the only attitude to be working with. Yaaaaay for Rachel.
And if there’s a good story attached to it, I’ll see if Robin wants another horse guest post.
YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT? ROBIN ALWAYS WANTS ANOTHER GUEST POST. IF IT’S ABOUT FABULOUS HORSES, SO MUCH THE BETTER.
I’m still assuming—by not thinking about it too clearly—that I’ll ride again some day, but I admit I don’t know how or under what circumstances. The problem is that I went over the casual-hack line decades ago. I don’t want to have the occasional amble on horseback over the countryside, even this countryside*, I want to have a relationship with a specific horse, and contribute to its quality of life, well-being and training as it contributes to mine. And that kind of relationship takes an investment of physical energy I simply haven’t got.
But I still think in horsy terms. My MGB, who is still in the garage at the cottage while I dork around endlessly about selling her, was my little cream-coloured mare from the moment I set eyes on her—the old-car garage who found her for me had actually brought her in from Dorset or Lithuania or something. I’m pretty sure describing her as such still exists on the web site somewhere—and shortly after I’d put that bit up I received a Very Huffy email from a preteen girl who had a horse telling me, more or less, that she had Lost All Respect for me for preferring a car. It wasn’t a question of preference, it was a question of bank balance.
And, about a year later, it began to be a question of ME. Feh. But there are other things. I totally identify bell ringing as a partnership with a live creature with a mind of its own at the other end of a rope/rein. One of the tangential pleasures of Nadia as a voice teacher is that she rides.** I’m not one of her, cough-cough, better students, but I’m easy to get stuff across to, first because I have more imagination than is good for me, and if Nadia tells me to close my eyes and become a tree, I close my eyes and become a tree. . . . And second because I’m another horse crazy and she can tell me to get my weight off my forehand and my hocks under me.
Possibly on account of Bratsche’s horse story I’ve been thinking about singing in horsy terms even more than usual. But I’ve mentioned here that for some time now my voice has begun to feel a lot like another critter, some live thing that is my responsibility, that needs kindness and exercise and attention. Gleep. It no longer feels like my voice—where is all that NOISE coming from??—and ‘I’ feel overhorsed. I don’t know what I was expecting when I got into this voice-lesson shtick but I was not expecting this disconcerting mixture of strength and lack of control. Horsy metaphor: when my voice is warm and full and open I can’t frelling do anything with it, and it reminds me rather a lot of the four-year-old warmblood I exercised for a while many years ago. Four years old can be pretty young in a big horse. This one had barely been backed and had everything to learn, including how to make his legs function in an orderly sequence. Some of you will know about teaching a young horse to canter under saddle and how all over the landscape they can be as they try to figure out how to perform this complex task. This boy was a sweetie—speaking of the kind eye—and totally willing to try, but oh my. Mostly we trotted, which is, of course, what you do with a horse that can’t canter yet. The more stable and rhythmic the trot, the more possible the canter. But he had one of those gigantic warmblood trots as well as being a loose cannon. Actually he was a lot of fun and I hope he grew up to make some nice human rider very happy. But at the time trying to enable him to move in a straight line or a gentle curve even at the trot . . . is a lot like me trying to carry a tune now when my voice is up and running. If I shut down and go all control-freak on myself I can hold that tune, no problem, as I’ve been able to carry a tune fairly reliably all my life . . . but it’s not a sound quality you want to encourage. As soon as you—or more often, Nadia—wakes up my inner young warmblood . . . I’m all over the planet, tune-wise. Arrrrgh. One of the ironies is that at the moment I sing worse for Nadia than I do at home—because she can get the voice out of me whereupon I go to pieces. ARRRRRGH.
Another horsy metaphor: I was singing some poor innocent song this Monday at my lesson, soared up to my Big Note and . . . lost my bottle and went flat. I said to Nadia afterward in frustration, this is exactly like coming up to a biggish fence on a horse you know can do it backwards and if you put it up another foot, and at the last minute you bottle out and sit back on her—and she raps it with her feet and brings a rail down. ARRRRRRRGH.
I’m still hoping I’m going to grow up to make some nice human rider very happy.
* * *
* Which at the moment is eyebrow-deep in mud anyway.
** She was a bit of a hot shot in her youth. It wouldn’t surprise me if she dusted off her hot-shot status once her own kids are a little older.
I lay in bed last night listening* to Aethelstan playing chimney-pot rugby with his buds. And today pretty much the entire Soggy Bottom road is under water, not just the bridge over the ford—and the lake at the Gormless Pettifogger** crossroads is back. You can just turn around and go the other way, as some people do, and in another couple of inches I will too, but at the moment the small sea still passable by anyone who isn’t glamorously low-slung. Wolfgang is neither glamorous nor low-slung. So having ascertained there’s no one in the immediate vicinity who is going to plunge in before you, you take a deep breath, aim for the centre of the ominously shimmering water***, put your foot down and hold your nerve because your bow wave will briefly wipe out the view through your windscreen and if you stop you’ll stall.
Diane in MN
. . . Years ago, I took someone who didn’t have any experience of opera to see Butterfly, and it just about knocked her over. . . .
The first Butterfly I ever saw live, which was well into my opera-going career—largely because it wasn’t a favourite and so I wasn’t in any hurry to spend opera-ticket prices on it—included a Butterfly tittuping briskly onto the stage just before she sings Un bel di, wearing some kind of faux-Japanese footgear and . . . taking a spectacular header full length on the floor. WHAM. Ow. Suzuki, who didn’t have a stage direction for this, just stood there with her mouth open†. Butterfly, poor thing, pulled herself together, staggered to her feet . . . and sang. In her defense, this was a touring company—I think it may have been the Met, back in the days when the Met still toured—so this was an unfamiliar stage with unknown hazards. This sort of thing must happen to touring companies kind of a lot. But I remember almost nothing else of the production—haven’t a clue who was singing, for example.
But opera doesn’t lend itself to realism (say I), it’s not what it’s for.
I think this is quite right. . . . I’ve always felt that the plots are secondary to the music anyway: the texts chosen by a composer might not hold up for a century or more, but the music is about emotional truth and that stays relevant and keeps us coming back.
Boldface mine. TAKE THAT, RICHARD STRAUSS. Yes. Absolutely. You can’t worship at—say—the Verdian shrine, which I do, faithfully, and maintain any dignity arguing in favour of equal textual validity.†† But the music is about emotional truth. Yes.
. . . About ugly Americans and Kate showing up completely inappropriately off a US Navy warship… it’s an exotic opera, right? 19th (and early 20th) century Europe was obsessed with the Exotic Other… anyone outside the pale of “civilized” Europe. There are so many exotic tropes: childlike, naive (Butterfly) cruel, barbarian (Turandot), controlled by feelings more than reason (Butterfly and Turandot both), and over-sexualized (Pinkerton). The thing that’s hard to remember (at least if you’re American alive during US-as-world-superpower era) is that Pinkerton is every bit as exotic as Butterfly in that opera. It’s an Italian opera… Americans were exotic to Italians. So I don’t find it at all surprising that the librettist wouldn’t've checked his facts about who would’ve been allowed on a Navy warship: facts don’t matter when you’re writing about exotic peoples. They are the Other—we get to project on them whatever we want. . . .
I know you’re the professional musician with the PhD in music history and I’m not but . . . I don’t agree. Or don’t accept this argument as adequate. Chiefly for two reasons: first. Butterfly was written after the turn of the last century, and Puccini lived till the ‘20s. I know they didn’t have the internet yet (!) but sheer bloody parochialism is always with us and is no excuse—just by the way, Americans are still exotic in, let’s say, rural Hampshire, England, in 2014, which blows my mind. But a hundred years ago is not the Palaeolithic. By 1900 you had precious little excuse for officially having no clue about the reality of other nations—or for not bothering to check big fat crude factoids like whether or not wives are permitted on US Navy warships. Second. These verismo bozos don’t get to have it both ways: either there’s a veneer of genuine realism on their work or there isn’t. I still call it a melodrama, not verismo†††, but part of what makes Butterfly both so effective and so infuriatingly manipulative is the gloss of ‘reality’. The reason Butterfly works for me is because her role is so devastatingly magnificent: her last aria, as she’s about to kill herself, is shattering. And it carries me over seeing Kate trailing up the hill behind Pinkerton calling Butterfly! Butterfly! A lesser piece of work and Kate would throw me out of the story—and the agony—altogether.‡
I love Un Ballo in Maschera—which premiered the year after Puccini was born, in the mid-1800s—and that it’s supposedly laid in Puritan Boston doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But, as I said about La Trav the other night, Verdi never wrote anything close to verismo as it’s usually defined: he gets into people’s hearts amazingly‡‡ but most of his librettos are trash. I’m also aware that Un Ballo got moved to a Boston locale for tricky European political reasons—speaking of exotic: oh, the barbaric North Americans won’t care—but my point is it doesn’t matter. It’s backdrop. That’s all it is. Fifty years later operas are beginning to be integrated into their storylines. I know the march of progress isn’t a united front, but for example Jenufa was pretty much contemporary with Butterfly!!
And I’d better shut up before you get your PhD off the mantelpiece and wallop me with it. . . .
. . . my most common stabby thought while playing opera was always along the lines of “Can we PLEEEEASE stab the soprano now (maybe even by the end of the first act!) so we don’t have to play for her dying for the next 15 pages (exaggeration but not by all that much!)??” My biggest frustration with playing opera in general is that, yes, there are some absolutely ravishing parts of operas, but there is so much else that is just plain endurance on the part of the orchestra! At least the audience has the floor show (so to speak) to watch while the tenor or soprano repeats things over and over. . . .
NOOOOOOOO. YOU ARE A PHILISTINE. YOU ARE AN EVIL PHILISTINE RATBAG. PUTTING MY FINGERS IN MY EARS SO I AM NOT HEARING YOU. LALALALALALALALALA.
Hey, that’s a thought. It’s still (comparatively) early. I could sing.
* * *
* ‘Sleeping’? What would that be?
** Not my favourite pub.
*** Maybe it already is that extra couple of inches deep and I’m about to be very embarrassed and have to ring the RAC to send someone with chains and very high tailpipe clearance to rescue me.
† Not very living the role of her.
†† Ernani? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Il Trovatore? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. La Forza del Destino? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. . . . Stop, stop, you’re killing me. . . .
††† Il Tabarro? Verismo? Oh, right, wrapping your wife’s lover, whom you’ve just murdered, up in your cloak, so you can have the big reveal and spook her the frell out^, YES. VERY REALISTIC. VERY, VERY REALISTIC. Melodrama. One of the things that bites me about this story is that you have that sad and touching (in that manipulative way Puccini is so good at) scene earlier where the jerk of a husband turns all wistful and says they used to be happy together before the baby died and you think, oh, poor them, no wonder they’re having problems . . . and I’d even go with the murder. Unhappy husband presented with worst fear: his wife’s much-younger lover. I DO NOT GO WITH THE WRAPPING THE CORPSE IN HIS CLOAK. Husband is still wearing the cloak, you understand. GROSS ME THE FRELL OUT. Melodrama.
^ How to ruin someone’s day big time
‡ I may also be a trifle preoccupied with what a thankless role Kate’s is as it’s usually presented.
‡‡ I will take one Verdi to seventeen Puccinis any day. Just by the way.
Radio Three’s Live from the Met[ropolitan Opera] series has semi-migrated this season. Sometimes it happens on Saturday as it always has, and which I admit is no longer ideal because I’m at the monks’ for most of it; but sometimes it happens on Monday. I am not in favour of the Metrofrellingitan Opera hammering me on a Monday. I have my dinglefarbing voice lesson on Mondays. I am feeling fragile on Monday evenings* when it comes on, if it’s a Met Monday night. It was tonight. And it was Madama Butterfly, for pity’s sake, one of the hugest soprano roles in the flapdoodling repertoire.** I’ve decided to devote the rest of my life to collecting pieces of string too short to save.
I went in to Nadia today saying, I am having a crisis. As crises go it is not an important crisis and since I have no intention of giving up singing it’s not really a crisis at all but I listened to my recording of last week’s lesson and TELL ME WHY I AM BOTHERING.
She said, I wondered if I should let you tape last week. You have a lot going on in your life right now and it’s sitting on your voice. Yes, you have tuning problems, and you have a habit of going flat when you’re under stress, that’s you holding on. You’ll get over this. That’s why you’re bothering. (Also, you love to sing.) And right now? Don’t obsess. It’s the SITUATION. It’s not YOU and it’s NOT YOUR VOICE. Sing. Keep singing. Um, try to enjoy it?
I stared at her, wondering how much I was going to risk believing. Okay, I said. But . . . how do you STAND it? I sound dreadful.
Only to you, she said. Yes, you’re flat a lot of the time. Yes, you sound worse than you did two months ago. But I can hear a lot more than you can hear. I can hear what’s underneath what’s weighing on you right now.
. . . Okay. Just to be going on with, I’m going to believe her. . . .***
* * *
* Fragile isn’t really the right word. ‘First cousin to chopped liver’ might be closer. It astounds me that I used to go bell ringing regularly on Monday nights, after Nadia. I have thought that it was a sign that either the ME or old age was creeping up on me that I can’t any more but I think in truth it’s that I’m investing more in my voice lessons. I’m not becoming a great singer, but something is sure getting winkled out of hiding and integrated with the rest of me. This is a tiring process.
** I’m a late convert to Puccini. I’ve always liked Boheme, but I was also always a little cranky about what seemed to me the bogus gloss of verismo, and yes, I know, Puccini gets on the list of verismo opera composers, it’s what he does.^ But stick to the tragic love story and let the poor starving artists thing be a little background colour, okay? You can still bump Mimi off. Violetta dies of consumption too and no one has ever accused La Traviata of being verismo.
But I failed to warm to Butterfly. The ugly American aspect got on my nerves and Pinkerton bringing his wife along on his US Navy warship is a piece of suspension of disbelief I am incapable of.^^ And I always found Butterfly herself way too much of a blunt instrument for thwacking the audience into Tragic Mode. ALL RIGHT. I GET IT. NOW BACK OFF. I also heard Butterfly the first thirty times or so with Renata Scotto singing it and—sue me—I’ve never liked her voice.
I’m not sure what happened. But ten or fifteen or twenty years ago—it was in England but at the old house—Un bel di, that old war horse among old war horses, Butterfly’s most famous aria and one of the most famous tunes in opera^^^, came on Radio Three and it stopped me dead in my tracks. Oh. I can’t even remember who was singing it. (Not Renata Scotto.) But . . . oh.
The problem with having come round to Butterfly, however, is that the opera really is that emotionally manipulative and if you go along with it you squirt out the other end and fall with a splat like the last squeeze in an old tube of toothpaste.
^ Uh huh. Now let’s talk about Turandot+ and ::PET PEEVE ALERT:: the homicidal fairy-tale princess who kills a lot of guys but is INSTANTLY CONVERTED TO SWEET FEMININITY BY TRUE LOVE’S KISS and everybody lives happily ever after, except, of course, all the dead guys, including the slave girl she tortured to death because the princess is a bad loser. No amount of fabulous music can save this libretto and Puccini loses a lot of points for trying.++
+ And Tosca? Verismo? Please. A famous opera singer, her famous painter lover who is doing well enough to own a villa and the sociopathic chief of police. And all of these people eat, wash, sleep and dress well. It’s a melodrama.#
# I admit I can’t actually think of many operas I’m willing to call verismo. Carmen, certainly. Cavalieri Rusticana, which kind of started it all. Maybe Pagliacci, which CR is often paired with. Um . . . ~ But opera doesn’t lend itself to realism (say I), it’s not what it’s for. Melodrama is what it’s for. All these ridiculous people bursting into song all over the shop. It’s a tough job for realism.
~ McKinley, stop thinking. You have to go to bed.
++ And that it killed him is no excuse.
^^ Do your frelling homework. Show me a maker-up-of-things, and I’m assuming it’s as true for painters and sculptors and performance artists as it is for writers, and I’ll show you someone who has got it wrong in public in ways that, if they are prone to insomnia, keep them awake at night.+ But at least check the obvious stuff, okay?++ Cheez.
+ Ask me how I know this.
++ Illustrators who blithely draw dogs and horses and haven’t bothered to make sure they know where the joints in their legs are should be . . . made to hose down kennels and muck out stalls and hang out with the occupants of each till they learn better. There’s always a shortage of critter-care staff. So these pinheads could be contributing to society while they de-embarrass themselves. Call it a work-study programme.
^^^ And I’m sure it’s been used to sell loo rolls and coffee grinders and lawn mowers.
*** And while I was mostly still flat—and it’s not like I don’t know I have tuning problems, especially when I’m upset about something or feel overfaced by what I’m trying to learn to sing, BUT TAPING MY LAST TWO LESSONS HAS BEEN REVELATORY AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY—Nadia had a very good go today at releasing some of the seethe that’s going on under the lid I’ve involuntarily slammed over myself: by the end of the lesson I was making my own ears ring.^
My warm-up exercises hadn’t started off too well and Nadia stopped, looked thoughtful, and said, what’s your favourite swearword?
Um, I said. *&^%.
Okay, she said. You’re going to sing *&^% on a descending scale. Go.
*&^% *&^% *&^% *&^% *&^% *&^% *&^% *&^% /!!!!!!! I sang.
Excellent, said Nadia. Now let’s try a song.
^ I didn’t tape it today. . . .
Interested to hear how the recording went.
AAAAAAAAAUGH. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. Anybody not know who Florence Foster Jenkins is?* If you are so fortunate, allow me to ruin your evening/ morning/ afternoon/ life. Go google her and come back. I can wait.
You now know everything you need to know about my singing.** ::Bangs head against wall::*** Nadia did warn me last week, when I took the recording doohickey in for the first time, that recent events were audibly weighing on my voice and if I was going to record and listen to the recording, to try not to be discouraged. . . . †
Nadia has also said that contrary to apparent reality, tuning is not my problem and that it’ll come right when the rest of it comes right—like not cranking your horse’s head in to get him/her on the bit. Concentrate on getting your seat and legs right and the front end will sort itself out. So my musical seat and legs equivalent still need a lot of work.††
When I wrote the blog entry for last night I hadn’t played this week’s lesson back yet. I had listened to last week’s recording before this week’s lesson and had more or less managed to absorb the punishing truth, which is that I sang more flat notes than accurate ones but that was last week. This week I went in prepared to lighten up a little††† so that my voice wouldn’t keep breaking its fingernails trying to hoick itself up over the edge of the right note.
Well. I may have thought I was prepared. HOW DOES NADIA STAND IT? WHY DON’T I JUST TAKE UP KNITTING? ‡
Speaking of erratic leaps forward… they don’t really happen for everyone who slogs, you know.
I imagined it. I take it all back.‡‡
The teacher has to be good
That I have in full measure. Have I mentioned lately that Nadia walks on water?‡‡‡
& the student has to be honestly trying to change things, not just putting in hours . . .
Dunno. We may have a slight semantic difference in the definition of slog. Slog as in dragging aggrieved hellhounds through hip-deep mud, well, no, this does not improve with practise.§ Slog as in loyally doing your grindlefarbing vocal ratblasted exercises and learning, so you thought, the notes to your new song . . . yeah. I think that catches up with you eventually. Sometimes it’s more catchy and sometimes it’s more eventually. . . .
Although thank you for being supportive.
I’ve met plenty of—well, let’s call them musicians for lack of a better term—who’ve been stuck in the same place for years. They’ve essentially hit a musical wall, either through bad teaching, no teaching, or pig-headedly not listening to advice.
Yes, like bell ringers who don’t want to learn anything past call changes, or maybe trebling. They’re not going to learn methods and you can’t make them.§§
That you’re getting More Voice (and I’d lay money that people besides you & Nadia can hear the difference)
Yep. They can, poor things. I’m LOUDER. I’m seriously louder. I’m not loud like Nadia or Joyce DiDonato is loud but I’m loud compared to the average congregation member at the annual carol service. Siiiiiiigh.
is credit both to Nadia’s excellent teaching and to your own engagement with the process.
Oh, engagement, schmengagement. Yes, I love singing, but then . . . so did Florence Foster Jenkins. The thing that I was leading up to last night—before I heard this week’s lesson playback§§§—is that I’ve been formally invited to join the ‘band’ for the evening service at St Margaret’s. You know, singing.
* * *
* I’ve mentioned her here before but you may not have been paying attention.
** Except I haven’t learnt the notorious Queen of the Night aria yet.^
^ Ha ha ha.
*** This will doubtless have an enormous positive effect on my singing. Doubtless.
† Of course it’s possible that Little Recording Doohickey is possessed by demons. Most of my tech is.^
^ Everyone’s favourite trick at the minute—that is desktop, laptop and iPad—is suddenly to go, This page cannot be displayed because you are not connected to the internet WHEN I’M CONNECTED JUST FINE ON THE OTHER OPEN TABS.
†† I was never much of a rider either. Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
††† I’d brought a crowbar, you know.
‡ Oh . . . right. And I don’t show any great talent for knitting, either.
‡‡ The leap forward anyway. Possibly not the erratic.
‡‡‡ Which with the weather we’ve been having is a very useful skill.
§ Neither does the hellgoddess’ temper.
§§ This is a somewhat controversial and contentious subject in the ringing world. I think if you enjoy ringing call changes, especially if your tower is short handed, which most towers are these days, and you don’t want to break your brain and insomniacify your nights with learning methods, you shouldn’t have to. But at the same time I can’t imagine not wanting to go on, to try for the next level, and most of the people I’ve known—a limited group I admit—who have stopped with call changes have Other Issues, including being taught wrong. Either wrong in an absolute sense or wrong for them. The problem with difficult skills is that there’s also more than one way of learning them and bell ringing is volunteer and most towers are lucky to have anyone even relatively able and willing to take on the frequently discouraging and onerous^ task of teaching at all. There’s also a controversial and contentious conversation going on about teaching ringing teachers and setting up some kind of system whereby a teacher has to pass some kind of competence standard . . . and if you’re asking me, it’s going to end in tears.
^ Because of the spectacular attrition rate. Bringing a beginner on is a colossal investment of time and effort from the entire band, especially the teacher, and then they go and quit, usually at whatever point where it realio trulio dawns on them that ringing is a DIFFICULT SKILL and is going to require BRAIN and COMMITMENT. I don’t blame people for deciding they’d rather stay home and shampoo the cat, but I wish they’d figure this out a little earlier in the training process.
§§§ All right, yes, I did sound better this week. BUT I’M STILL HORRIBLY FLAT. What I do notice, and I can’t decide if this is hopeful or even more frustrating, is that every now and then when I hit a note more or less like true and full . . . it’s not bad. And it’s spectacularly not the thin sour noise I was making several years ago. If all my notes sounded like that, which they do not, I could get into that goodish choir. But I was saying last night that my new voice doesn’t feel old, it feels young? My relationship with what I’m trying to sing is a whole lot like watching a newborn foal try to get up on those four spindly things stuck on the corners of its tiny squished-together body. Now, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS. Um. Well, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS. And so on. I always used to think that whatever my shortcomings I could carry a tune, and . . . apparently I can’t any more. And this feels like the result of having more voice. Nadia even said as much—not on the subject of carrying a tune; she’s tactful like that—that it’s like when you shift up from the 13 hand pony you actually outgrew a couple of years ago and you’re on a 15.3 hand thoroughbred and . . . WHOOPS.
Maybe I’ll figure it out. Whimper.
Back before Christmas—back before Peter’s stroke*—I had taken one of those erratic Leaps Forward in my voice lessons that anyone who keeps slogging at anything will eventually take, even if it’s perceptible only to the slogger and her teacher.** I must have blogged about this before. And I thought, in one of those vague self-improvement spasms that afflict most of us, that I should find that little recording doohickey that Peter gave me for my birthday years ago . . . I think to enhance my piano-lesson experience (hahahahahaha) rather than my voice-lesson experience (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA) . . . and employ the freller. I did manage to take it along to Nadia once or twice quite a while ago—I think before she went on maternity leave for Renfrew—but playback, despite the advantage of being able to hear EXACTLY what Nadia had said, was so depressing that I gave it up.
And then Peter did have his stroke, and my focus, concentration and energy levels have gone a bit phut generally. Although I’m certainly singing I’m singing for sanity as much as for any sense of working toward that distant mythic goal of finding and being accepted by a nice-ish choir.*** Only in the process of trying to clear out some of the accumulation around the piano at the mews so that I can shoehorn a little more of the overflow from Third House† there instead . . . I discovered the little recording doohickey. And I got Raphael to remind me how to USE IT, since it is yet another of these flapdoodling overspecified pieces of ooh-shiny tech . . . all I want is an on and off switch. And a method of getting batteries in and out that does not involve a mini-screwdriver whose shaft is the approximate diameter of a hummingbird’s tongue. Gaaah.
. . . And at this point I am going to start what may be a horrifying new tradition, and declare TO BE CONTINUED††. We went to Tabitha again this afternoon and my brains feel pummelled. Also, this compromising with Peter about the time at which things happen—things like when I pick him up after the daily shopping excursion, since in fact he’s only comfortable walking one way—is a ratbag. If you figure that he’s getting out of his bed when I’m getting into mine you’d only be a couple of hours out and he likes to do his shopping in the morning. . . .
* * *
* We have the follow-up appointment with the stroke unit at the hospital on Thursday. Any of you so inclined, all prayers, positive thoughts and finger-and-other-limb-crossings gratefully received. I’m trying to remind myself they are not going to wave a magic wand and they do not have a schedule sheet that says ‘by the end of February you will . . .’ and ‘by the beginning of May you will not . . .’. Still. I would like it to be somewhat more informative and possibly even comforting than merely the poor old weary beleaguered NHS ticking another box on its paperwork.
** I’ve told you, haven’t I, that with the new school semester, and Stella, Nadia’s daughter, in primary school, we’ve had our lesson times and order shaken up? And Boris—the baritone who could have been professional—IS after me? After that meltdown I had and everything?? Nooooooooo. When the doorbell rang last week I started trying to climb behind the piano^ but when Nadia came back from letting the invader in, she said it’s okay, it’s only Boris’ wife, Boris is sitting in the car practising his German. This week when the doorbell rang and I started trying to climb behind the piano^^ Nadia said no, no, Boris isn’t coming this week, it’s only Myrtle . . . who is another of Nadia’s, ahem, mature beginners, and who makes a little squeaking noise when she sings, like I used to. Although I was thinking as I (relatively speaking) made the windows rattle (it’s a small house with low ceilings) with my Sebben Crudele^^^ that hearing me isn’t necessarily doing Myrtle any good, nor giving her hope for her future, since I’m kind of the aural version of the large clumsy ungulate in the vintage knick-knack shop. I KNOW THAT NOTE IS AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE. HERE, THAT’LL DO, WHAP. I realise that you can’t start doing something with your voice till you have a voice to do it with but still. . . . I was thinking, as I ricocheted off the walls this week at home that at my age I should be worrying that I’m going to develop a little old lady quaver before I get all that far with letting what voice I have out of durance vile—and of course I do worry about this because I worry about everything—but my own experience of my voice is not that it is old and frail and tottering toward ultimate retirement and (possibly) resentful of being prodded out of the shadows . . . but young, like it’s been in suspended animation all these years, and clueless and has NO IDEA what it’s capable of or even what it’s for. There must be someone else out there who started taking voice lessons late? What was/is it like for you? —And in this case I specifically mean voice lessons, since the whole your-body-is-your-instrument thing is a crucial part of the weirdness.
^ Which is against the wall, the unhelpful thing
^^ This week I brought a crowbar
Sigh. I don’t sound like this at all.
I don’t sound anything like this either:
All you other mezzos out there will know these are absolute standards of the student repertoire and EVERYONE SINGS THEM. Including, probably, a lot of people who have hung their recitals on YouTube who shouldn’t’ve. I lost my taste for student recitals some while ago.
*** That’s not a slap at the Muddles. I’d still be a member if I could stand either the length of their rehearsals or the funny air in their choice of practise venue.
† Remember Third House? Speaking of sagging energy levels and loss of focus. Sigh.
†† It’s not a real cliff hanger. I’m just talking about singing. There are no swords or banners with a strange device.