This week has felt a little like an after-shock, which I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t realise how much an emotional impact postponing the wedding would have on me, combined with the unrest in society and also the fear that I have for the future of the performing arts industry, and how theatres will survive in a world constricted by social distancing.
But once again I found solace directly from all your support here on my blog and across my social media platforms. I feel secure knowing that people’s love for music and their need to be entertained is prevailing. Thank you all for this.
Endless Pleasure – Handel Deh Vieni Non Tardar – Mozart Batti, Batti O Bel Masetto – Mozart Piangero la Sorte Mia – Handel Neghittosi Or Voi Che Fate – Handel
This week, George and I performed a selection of Handel and Mozart arias from our balcony for a variety of reasons. It was rejuvenating for me to reconnect with characters and arias that I’ve rested from my repertoire and see how much they have matured since I last performed them. The choice of program also took a little bit of pressure off myself, in the sense that I knew I would feel comfortable with this repertoire whilst allowing myself some time to reflect. However, I want to say a huge thanks to George for pulling it out the bag, as some of the Handel is devilishly hard to play in such a short time scale. I think he did brilliantly. In hindsight, it was also fun to see that there is nothing quite like an 18th century vengeance Aria to express the frustrations that surround us at this time.
I took real enjoyment from watching the Royal Opera House present it’s first live event since lockdown on Saturday. It gave me a sense of calm and hope for the future. Showing how we as an industry, and an art form can continue to adapt and strive to share and make music with those who miss having it in their lives.
With that positive feeling in mind, I feel that I’ve expressed my grief and angst through my performances and I am ready to re-emerge for whatever unknown adventure the future holds for me and for George.
What are you missing the most during these lockdowns? and what is bringing you comfort whilst you wait for normal life to resume?
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:
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)
Concert number Nine! Wow – How the time has flown and yet it seems that this new normal will continue into double digits.
We enjoyed performing our Italian themed program last week, so we decided to select songs that had a common connection. We drew inspiration from the abundance of Birdsong that we are now hearing from our windows at home. Have you noticed any changes to the sounds around you during lock down where you live?
We settled on the following pieces and invited our neighbours to join us for a musical garden party which we hope that you enjoy too.
Sweet Chance That Led My Steps Abroad – Michael Head The Sound of Music – Rogers and Hammerstein When Daisies Pied – Thomas Arne Traditional English song The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze – Gilbert & Sullivan Down by the Sally Gardens – John Ireland Traditional English Song Three Ravens – Traditional English Song Green Finch and Linnet Bird – Sondheim from Sweeney Todd Finally, my Nana’s favourite that I should have put in my Italian concert last week but that I have included just for her. Time to Say Goodbye – Sartori/Quarantotto
On the day of the performance, we had a couple of hiccups with the live stream. But luckily George was quick to turn on our back-up camera and so we managed to record most of recital, (excluding the first piece).
One of our future plans is to record an album using the repertoire from our Balcony Concerts. What pieces have been memorable to you? We want the CD to become a positive memory of this situation so that we can look back at how we created strong bonds with our friends and neighbours here in our complex and online.
This week George and I transported our courtyard into an Italian Piazza with an assortment of Italian songs and arias.
Vaga Luna che inargenti (Bellini) Me voglio fa’na casa (Donizetti) O mio Babbino Caro (Puccini) Danza, Danza fanciulla (Durante) Libiamo ne’lieti calici (Verdi) And a cheeky Encore!
We had a lot of fun preparing the repertoire for this week’s concert, as we revisited a couple of songs from 5 years ago as well as a couple of completely new pieces 😊
This week we also transformed our home into a recording studio with the help of a few pieces of kit, kindly lent to us from our friends Bob and Maya.
This allowed me to collaborate with Jenny Martins and Roger Paterson. Two wonderful colleagues, who I worked alongside last summer at Northern Opera Group in their production of Much Ado About Nothing. We decided to get creative during lockdown and challenge ourselves to record a duet from Act 2. Jenny kindly edited the piece together and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you.
Much Ado About Nothing Duet:
Jenny Martins (Piano) Roger Paterson (Tenor – Claudio) Charlotte Hoather (Soprano – Hero)
This Friday marked the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, a celebration of the peace in Europe that followed the end of World War 2 and brought an end to the tragic loss of life and the suffering that was endured by so many.
Despite the restrictions on public celebrations, it was lovely to see people engage virtually with this historic moment in different ways. From acknowledging the 2 minutes silence at 11am, to organising a “safe-distanced” street parties with bunting and sweet treats to share.
George and I wanted to remember loved ones whose lives were changed immeasurably by the events of World War 2. To celebrate the freedom, we are so lucky to have and the lasting peace we so gratefully enjoy, all thanks to the courage of many by singing three songs that we felt caught the atmosphere of the day.
We’ll gather Lilacs, Danny Boy and We’ll Meet Again.
We combined these three songs with one of our favourite English Songs, Love’s Philosophy. Fun Fact – this poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley will feature as part of our delayed wedding favours.
We decided to finish with a flourish of Operetta, Art is Calling for Me and we hope that you enjoy our programme.
Preparing for rain, Felt safe under the brolly. Did not predict wind! C. Hoather & G. Todica
As April was ending and Summer approaches, I find that under the current lock-down one day starts to merge with the next. For us, having our Friday Balcony Concerts for our friends and neighbours has helped to give George and me a definite end to each week and something to work towards, which has been so important for us both to remain focused.
Last Friday just before our concert, at around 17:20 we began our set-up. We sellotaped our back-up camera to the plant pot frame because the live stream failed in week four and placed a stand ready to hold my iPhone to live-stream the 6th Balcony Concert, when the weather took an unexpected turn. I was in the kitchen at the time, cleaning dishes calmly, when George shouted from the other room “OH NO, RAIN!” We dashed out without a moment to spare, to protect the camera and keyboard at all costs! Within minutes we started to prepare for the worst and we dug out all of the brollies in our home. We experimented with different contraptions built from what we had in our flat, settling for the unlikely marriage of clothes hanger stands, graduation scroll holder (thanks RCS) and umbrellas (oh, the things you can create last minute when you apply a little improvisation and plenty of duct tape).
As the clocks struck 18:00, all seemed well. So, we began and managed to keep performing despite the weather’s mood swings. If you haven’t time to watch the full concert and you’d like a giggle, jump to my Mary Poppins wannabe moment around 13 minutes in!
Repertoire this week:
Let it Go (Disney – Frozen) a personal favourite of George’s young nephew Marcu
Nella Fantasia (Ennio Morricone)
Muttertändelei (R. Strauss)
Schlagende Herzen (R. Strauss)
Mein Herr Marquis – (J. Strauss – Die Fledermaus)
This was the first time I’d ever sung ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Mein Herr Marquis’ which I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks, so I hope that you enjoy them.
Just before the lock-down George’s friend helped us out by building a couple of IKEA flat-pack cupboards to help store all of our music books, sheet music and scores in. However, the third cupboard which was due to be delivered just as we found ourselves entering lock-down, was put on hold. This week it finally arrived and so we decided to try and put it up ourselves. I discovered how to use a drill and the importance of following instructions (or not LOL). Finally, the last cupboard is now up and attached safely to the wall even though I did have to unwind the screw and put in a raw plug – who even knew such a thing existed, thanks Dad, I even put in an automatic light and push to open thingymabobs and I am feeling very proud of my achievement (with a little help from George of course)!
This week marks the 5th week since the lockdown in the UK on the 20th March and you can catch our 5th Balcony Concert at the bottom of this post. It has been great to see how my friends and inspirational sources have taken on these turbulent times and turn to creativity to stay positive and stay afloat financially. This week I have interviewed my friend and colleague Michael V. Jones, who has taken up inks instead of arpeggios to release his imagination and try to build a business.
I have worked with Michael on two different projects, ‘The Fire of Olympus’ with Radius Opera and ‘Christmas Elf’ with Northern Opera. He is a delight on and off stage and this week I received a special gift from him in the post! An intricate ink painting of one of my favourite streets in Greenwich! I love this street as it leads to the Historic Greenwich Market – a pleasant place to visit at the weekend – something to look forward to in a post-Covid19 World. I have immediately ordered a frame and I cannot wait to hang this ‘one of a kind’ piece in my music studio.
It was such a delight to connect with Michael virtually and I really enjoyed learning and discussing his process and I thought I would share it with you on my blog.
When did you first start creating these fantastic drawings?
Well I took GCSE and A Level Art in School, and before going to Music college to pursue Opera I had every intention to pursue an Art career, however music and singing won in the end and I haven’t painted seriously for about 10 years. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown I’ve had all my singing and teaching work postponed and so have had much more time on my hands. I started painting again a couple of weeks ago and have been pleasantly surprised at the response to my work.
What medium do you use to create these one of a kind pieces?
I mainly use Black Indian Ink and paint it on watercolour paper, using water to vary the tone.
How long do they take you to make?
It completely varies, but on average about 6 hours for an A4 piece and 10 hours for A3.
Do you listen to music whilst you are drawing?
I actually listen to audiobooks, usually something I’ve already read so I can ‘zone-out’ and get into the artwork. For your piece I was listening to Circe by Madeline Miller.
What is your personal experience of the Lockdown?
At first it was a massive adjustment as I’m used to working 6 days of the week with various teaching and singing jobs, so trying to find things to do with that massive amount of time was hard at first. Finding and using Art as a creative outlet has been a godsend, I actually feel calmer than I usually do!
Have you got any coping mechanisms to share?
Finding little tasks and completing them, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, really helps me. The feeling of having finished a job really makes me feel better. Baking has also helped.
Is this something you have always been interested in, or is this a newly acquired skill?
I’ve always been quite good at drawing and painting, however experimenting and using solely ink to create the effect is new and is definitely something I want to continue to pursue.
Have you found a platform, where people can see and purchase your art to help to get you through the Lockdown?
I’ve actually sold most of my work through social media. On Facebook I have an MVJones – Art page detailing prices and works that I’ve already sold, and on Instagram I also have an MVJones – Art page. I’m in the process of setting up a website for my art separate from my singing one, so watch this space! My email is m email@example.com for all art related queries.
As I mentioned before I’m also an opera singer, so please feel free to visit my website www.michaelvincentjones.com to see what else I can do 🙂
I wish Michael the best of luck with this new venture! I miss singing and performing with him and all my other colleagues. But in the meantime, here is our 5th Balcony Concert where we performed a musical cocktail featuring a little bit of Musical Theatre with a sprinkle of Rachmaninov and Dvorak.
Here’s our program:
Dream Valley (Roger Quilter)
I Dreamed A Dream (Claude-Michel Schönberg, Les Miserables)
Home (Maury Yeston, Phantom)
они отвечали,They Answered (Rachmaninov)
Pisen Rusalky O Mesiku,Song to the Moon (Dvořák, Rusalka)
This Friday marked our fourth balcony concert, and it has been a real joy to sing to my neighbours and friends online alongside George. Despite being limited to our own home for a few weeks now, it has been a breath of fresh air to feel close to the lovely people who live near me. I feel connected to a bigger community, a neighbourly relationship that reminded me of my childhood as we grew up with lovely neighbours and were in and out of each others homes, George also grew up in a really close community where all the neighbours knew each other
As a musician, who practises at home, I was nervous about upsetting my neighbours during the lockdown. I limited my singing hours to be conscious of those around me and I made adaptations to my home such as hanging homemade sound panels (created by George!) above our electric piano. After our first concert, we were overjoyed to feel the support and encouragement from our neighbours and the request for more music. We even received some chocolates, flowers and even beautiful drawings from our little neighbour upstairs.
On one of her art pieces, she told us that her favourite song was ‘Baby Shark’. So as our encore to four American Songs by Aaron Copland and Glitter and Be Gay by Bernstein George and I sang, (with all the actions) ‘Baby Shark’ for our little friend above us.
Unfortunately, our live stream dropped out during the concert cutting the recording short but one of our new friends filmed the encore on their phone. I hope you enjoy the clip.
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