Archives For Community

As the Mad Hatter might say: ‘A Very Merry Unwedding-Day’ to us and to all the other couples who have had to postpone their wedding plans because of the Covid-19 virus. This week’s concert was particularly special to George and me as it was on the Eve of what would have been our Wedding Day on Saturday 6th June. Despite making the decision to postpone our Wedding when it became clear that due to the restrictions it would not be possible to go ahead with our plans, we felt a surge of pent up emotions rushing back at the start of this week.  We decided not to fight them but to embrace them and ride the waves of our feelings as the week unfolded in front of us. So on Monday 1st of June we sat down together and chose a selection of songs related to weddings that were special to us both from our past and in our future.

Our first song Let Me Be Your Wings, was performed at both at my Brother’s wedding to his husband Alex, and my Bridesmaid Ellie’s wedding to her husband Rory.

We then performed two Disney songs, Once Upon A Dream and A Whole New World. We had arranged for these songs to be played by our musician friends Maria and Jobine on Violin and Cello as we were to have walked down the aisle.

Followed by Love’s Philosophy: George’s Best Man Daniel was to create our wedding favours printing the poem by Percy B Shelley that Quilter used in this song onto artwork we had chosen. The next Two German songs are about dedication.  Schumann wrote Widmung as a wedding present for his wife Clara. A personal touch is that George played the Liszt arrangement of this piece for the processional walk at my brother’s wedding. We then performed Zueignung, by Strauss because it was the closing piece in our first duo program that we performed at the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary Competition back in 2013

Finally, Qui la Voce. Bellini wrote this beautiful aria for the character Elvira in his opera I Puritani, she has been driven to madness after her beloved abandons her on their wedding day. She dreams in the faster section of the aria of his voice and hopes that they will meet again and fulfill their wedding vows. Though George did not abandon me, I did find new resonance with this character and I can’t wait for our new wedding date! BRING IT ON!!

Little did we know, that our wonderful Neighbours had secretly arranged online a surprise for us after they had read, we were supposed to be married this weekend. On Friday morning we received a personal video compilation of messages and congratulations. We were so moved; I must admit I cried a little!

Then as we began to move our keyboard onto the balcony, we were moved to see a display of multi-colored bunting decorating over 25+ homes in our courtyard. One of our neighbours, Shannon came to the base of the balcony to greet us five minutes before our concert to explain that the bunting was for us and that our neighbours wanted to say thank you for performing to them over the past 11 weeks, they had also left a gift for our balcony outside our door and a bottle of champagne! I managed not to cry until after the set – although I did get a lump in my throat a couple of times, when I started swaying with a friend on his balcony making me smile, it was one the most difficult performance challenges to date. I couldn’t look at George for too long, in the worry that I might blub! I am so glad that we were able to film this concert and share it with you. I will remember this act of kindness forever.

I would also like to add a special thank you to our families and to all of our friends who have reached out with messages and sent us gifts to show their support and keep us in good spirits. We were so touched and felt so loved we can’t wait to celebrate with you all.

P.S Our Shoulda-Woulda-Wedding day started with a bang! After a friend of ours told our story to the BBC Radio 4 Today program we were invited to have a brief interview and sing live from our home to close their Saturday segment ahead of the 9am news headlines. We had brilliant fun setting up our Pop-Up recording studio equipped with microphones, two laptops, lots of wires, and three blankets hanging from the wall. We’d had a test run earlier in the week and using the iPhone/FaceTime meant the mike on the piano receded when I started singing so we learned a new trick to get the balance right.  Sadly, the song that we prepared only aired for 10 seconds but it was a brilliant experience and a great way to start our day and we had lots of lovely messages from teachers and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.

We’ve enjoyed selecting pieces tied together by a theme or a place over the past two weeks. Since the West End is temporarily shut, George and I thought we could bring a taste of the West End to the Courtyard with a selection of pieces from Musical Theatre Shows.

Growing up I was a huge fan of Doris Day and the classic Musical movies, like Calamity Jane, and live stage shows such as Cats, Wizard of Oz, and Phantom of the Opera. I particularly enjoyed Calamity Jane, as the story featured a fierce lady with a big heart who learned how to find strength and love in vulnerability. I personally think that as a performer allowing yourself to be vulnerable on stage, in the sense of releasing your emotions honestly, creates a special bond between you and your audience. Over the last 10 weeks, I have felt this connection with our audience and this bond has made me feel supported and encouraged me to take more risks during live performance. Such as holding my notes as long as I can and singing quietly.

I want to take a moment to thank you for listening and sharing this unknown journey with us. We will continue to experiment with how we can make and share music, whilst prioritising people’s safety. You can listen to our tenth balcony concert below:

Songs:

If I Loved You (Carousel)
The Deadwood Stage (Calamity Jane)
Secret Love (Calamity Jane)
Memory (Cats)
Popular (Wicked)
Think Of Me (Phantom of the Opera)
Encore: Don’t Rain On My Parade (Funny Girl)

Happy Easter and Joyous Passover one and all. I hope that in spite of the quarantine situation you all managed to find creative ways to enjoy this long weekend and the beautiful weather that came with it.

At the moment, I am so thankful for technology and for being able to video call my loved ones. On Good Friday, George and I performed another Balcony Concert, which now is slowly turning into a series! It is nice to experiment with live streaming as it means my friends from all over the world can become part of our small community whilst we perform, and our neighbours in our block who don’t face into the same courtyard can still enjoy the show safely. Thank you for supporting us and we hope you enjoy watching our next performance on Friday 17th April which will be Balcony Concert #4

After the performance, I was able to FaceTime with my close family despite the huge distances between us and a enjoy a Disney themed karaoke and compete against each other in a friendly pub style quiz.

On Saturday I dedicated the day to arts and crafts. I spent time calling my good friend Emily, and whilst we spoke we enjoyed drawing exotic animals such as frogs and geckos, (who doesn’t love a challenge).

Then after lunch, I painted empty eggshells with my close friend Rebecca, who is a fantastic artist. I’ve not done this for a few years and it was good to revisit childhood memories and see if I could remember how to blow out an egg. In the evening, over zoom, I played a board game with my brother Matt, his husband Alex, and George, where we had to complete a stained glass window. All in all a great time was had.

What have you been doing recently? Any fun indoor activities to share?

For those of you who may have missed our performance last Friday I have included the link below.  George’s Mum suggested this week that we include a few songs for the children in our block, which seemed like a great idea at the time. It wasn’t until we walked out on to the balcony that it struck me how long it had been since I last sung any of them 😊

Repertoire this week:

Do Re Mi – from the Sound of Music

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – from Mary Poppins

Part Of Your World – from The Little Mermaid

Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal – Roger Quilter

Quando M’en Vo – Puccini

Je Veux Vivre – Gounod

I took inspiration this week from the videos of people sharing music on their balconies during the quarantine in Italy. I saw these videos on my Facebook newsfeed and I found them so moving and thought that they really celebrated community spirit.

On the Facebook group of our apartment block, there was a request to do something similar at our shared home. So, George and I said that we would be happy to get involved. One resident was worried that as everyone has different tastes in music that we should be careful not to disrupt the normally peaceful atmosphere. Our small community has families with young children, elderly residents and homeworkers so I thought this was a very thoughtful comment and so I suggested that we limit the live music time to after normal working hours and pick a date so that there is as little disruption to everyone as possible.

So last Friday, 27th March at 18:00 George and I were gearing ourselves up to take our electric piano onto the balcony and sing three songs:

  • Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  • Somewhere (West Side Story)
  • You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I must admit that I was a little nervous, I didn’t want to upset anyone so I tried to pick songs that I thought most people could connect with, whilst still sending a message of hope and togetherness. After all the people I would be singing to are my neighbours. But we thought it was time to be brave and try to do something nice for our community using the skills we have.

We set up and let rip. One by one, we saw windows open. People came out onto their balconies. One young woman in the courtyard who was on the phone began to share the experience with her loved one during their FaceTime call. There was a father dancing with his daughter. After we finished the first song, there was applause. It gave us the courage to continue and we started to perform our little hearts out. After the three songs, we were surprised to hear people ask for more and we said that we will try and perform again next Friday if the current situation doesn’t improve.

We were then surprised that our performance was filmed and shared by a few of our neighbours on our community Facebook group and this has allowed me to share this short video with you. Please continue to stay safe and healthy and know that you are each loved.

Here is the interview that I did with Ben Huberman editor at WordPress Discover .  I hope you enjoy reading it 🙂

How Soprano Charlotte Hoather Took Her Singing — and Blogging — to New Heights

Whether you’re a writer, creator, or business owner, it can be challenging to pursue your passion while maintaining a consistent online presence. British opera singer Charlotte Hoather does just that. Charlotte’s blog celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year — so we recently chatted with her to learn how she manages a demanding, globe-trotting work schedule while posting and connecting with her readers.

How did your blogging journey begin?

As an undergraduate student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) I was criticized for not being able to write essays with enough academic authority and sensible structure. I had always struggled with mixing up words, incorrect spelling, and creating a flowing argument. It was very frustrating, and despite all my hard work and research, I wasn’t sure how to improve.

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The RCS suggested that I get tested for Dyslexia. It was a relief to discover after all those years what had been causing me problems. I was encouraged to start an online journal to explore reflective thinking and critical writing. To fuel my posts, I participated in a creative-writing module where we would critique live theatre and discuss general topics. I hoped that by using WordPress, I could improve my English skills and develop my artistic confidence in communicating in words. I obviously still make mistakes, but that was how my journey into blogging began.

How would you define your blog’s niche?

I share my passion for opera with others, whether they are novices or keen Puccini lovers. When I was young, I hadn’t ever experienced classical music and opera. Auditioning for conservatoires was so alien, and I was the first person to do it at my sixth form. I genuinely wanted to get discussions going and to share my world with other people from mixed backgrounds, rather than just talk and interact — which I also love to do — with a small clique of musicians. I wanted people to see why we train for so long and how opera is like athletics and sports. It takes daily practice, patience for long-term goals, and incredible self-motivation, which I am continually testing!

Was earning money through your site a priority?

I haven’t monetized my blog, but I do use it and other social media to encourage people to listen to the songs I recorded on iTunes, Amazon, and any of the leading digital platforms like Spotify, Napster, and Deezer. I’m hoping to record a new CD now that my post-graduate training has finished at The Royal College of Music in London, and I hope that people can hear the progress I’ve made. Now, to find a recording studio and the time!

You currently maintain a Jetpack-powered, self-hosted website, as well as a bloghere on WordPress.com. How did you become a WordPress user?

I can’t remember the program the RCS suggested we use, but I didn’t like that the platform owned all the content — I could never delete anything if I wanted to and I had no control. I looked at Blogger and WordPress, but you can’t self-host Blogger. I liked the blogs I read on WordPress and felt the community was warm and welcoming, so I jumped in, initially with a free blogging theme, and have added in extras through the years to improve the functionality and style of the blog and make it more independent and unique.

It was super easy to set up, and came with lots of free themes and good support. I have gone for a mix of a self-hosted WordPress website and a blog hosted through WordPress.com.

If you could magically add a feature to your WordPress site, what would it be?

It would help if WordPress had a Grammarly plugin so that when you form your replies to comments, they are automatically checked for those people who need it. There are so many brilliant writers and storytellers on WordPress it wouldn’t need to be there all the time.

You’ve garnered a massive following on several social platforms. Do you have any advice for people who are still struggling to find an audience beyond their real-life circle of family and friends?

Of my social media platforms, my blog came first. WordPress community members recommended I set up a Facebook page and linked it, and then another blog friend was surprised I didn’t have Twitter and suggested that and also advised me on how to set it up. Google+ followed, and a couple of years ago Instagram — although I still need to get my head around hashtag use. I try to treat them all as individual platforms now, but I’m really no expert — I just muddle along getting tips from people.

Beyond her blog, you can also follow Charlotte on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Google+.

WordPress used to be easier to attract readers, do follow-backs, and build communities, but as I got busier in my studies I found it hard to keep in touch with everyone. But I do my best. I would recommend that you visit, like, and comment on other blogs and build friendships even if you can only do this once each month. Just like friends in real life, if you ignore people for too long they drift away. Blogging is more about sharing and caring about others than just about you.

Training to become a professional soprano is — one would assume! — an often-grueling process. How do you find the time and energy to connect with fans and music lovers online (not to mention others from the blogging community)?

Training to become an opera singer is very taxing, but I adore it. I try to fit my blogging and connecting with my friends through social media around my tightly packed schedule. The way I blog and my expectations of myself have changed over the past five years. I used to post twice each week. I was able to use some of the posts toward my academic credits, and earlier in my training, I had a bit more free time as I was building up my vocal stamina — I could practice a lot less than I can now. As I progressed through my training, I decided to cut down my posts to one per week, preferring quality over quantity. This ensured that I could keep the conversations going and keep in touch with people enjoying my adventures.

I love knowing that on Sunday, I need to create a post! No ifs, no buts! It means that at some point in the week I need to have done something interesting or complete some research on an area of opera that I would love to share with people. It taught me to enjoy the little moments: if I have a quiet period in my career and visit family and make paper flowers, then that’s what I share.

I wish I had more time to answer everyone on my social media platforms individually. I hope that people understand; if they want a reply or a discussion, I ask that they comment on my blog — this platform easily allows for that.

Do you have any practical advice for aspiring bloggers on a busy schedule?

I wake up early and go to bed around 10:30-11:00. I have always had a full-structured, energetic day. I often dictate my thoughts into my iPhone and convert them into text. I think this allows for a conversational style of writing, which I can later edit grammatically. I answer comments as I go along on public transport, or if I have any downtime between appointments. I usually copy the comments into a word document and edit them over a few days. Once they are all complete, I put them all on at the same time. My Dad helps with videos and resizing photos, and my Mum checks my post for spelling and grammar.

On a more personal note, what are the next goals you’ve set for yourself?

After six years of training at Music Conservatoires in both Glasgow and London, I want to apply everything I’ve learned so far and put it into practice. During my studies, I managed to find my own small work projects. Now I want to develop my professional working portfolio while continuing to advance my language, singing, and dance skills, which take a lot of time and investment.

I hope that over the next five years, I can enter a Young Artist Program or Fest Contract at an opera house and maintain a career in opera. I would love to continue working internationally, as I have really enjoyed working abroad, trying new cuisines, conversing in different languages, and partaking in special customs.

But for the next few months, the hope is to keep my head above water, stay motivated, and earn enough to support my training and become an engaged member in this industry.

Do you have a dream role (or roles) you’d love to perform?

My dream roles change constantly, depending on my mood and personal development. At the moment I would love to perform Musetta from La Bohème (Puccini), Zerbinetta from Ariadne auf Naxos (R. Strauss) and The Controller from Flight (Dove). But one thing I have learned recently is that if you are surrounded by a wonderful cast, every role is enjoyable — even the smallest role has a big story to tell, full of personal hardships and glory.

Any other exciting plans for the near future?

I had some great experiences this past year performing in Manchester, London, Cornwall, Oxford, and even Paris and New York, and I’m currently on a tour with Scottish Opera in the Highlands of Scotland. After that, who knows? That is what makes life such an adventure, and hopefully gives me enough blog content to continue.