Friday, May 7, 2010

Mozart Requiem

I haven't written about the Mozart concert that I did last week. A few reviews came in today, from interesting sources. You can read the official newspaper review by clicking here (with thanks to my brother for compiling it into a readable format), and a review written by a jazz musician on The Canberra Jazz Blog here. (My friend's dad is the President of the Hobart Jazz Club. Wonder if they're friends?)

My thoughts?

I can only comment on the Requiem, as I didn't see the first half.

For me, personally, singing with an orchestra is an immense privilege, and I am always in awe and terrified of the fact. There is no greater feeling, as a singer, than to know that you have a safe and secure music bed beneath you in the form of a great collection of intelligent and talented musicians. I feel so lucky to have been able to sing solo with two orchestras now.

Having said that, obviously, I am extremely inexperienced singing with orchestras. I also have never heard a recording of me singing with orchestras, so I have no idea what it's like. The organiser of the Mozart concert is sending me a recording of the concert, for which I'm very grateful. I would dearly love to hear how my voice carries with an orchestra (and particularly whether my sound is in metric harmony with the orchestra), and I'd also like to hear how my voice carries in Llewellyn Hall, given that I will be doing a recital there next month.

The hardest thing about that concert was the fact that we could not see the conductor. I suppose, if I want an operatic career, I'm just going to have to get used to that. I had to rely on my ears, and all I could hear were the violins. My inner metronome is languid at the best of times! I know there were moments when I was probably behind the beat, but I couldn't really hear it. An interesting experience, in that regard.

I thought that we four soloists sang the work well, considering our age and experience. All four of us are students at the Australian National University. It was good of the orchestra and choir to take a gamble on four young, inexperienced singers. The oldest of us is 29, and the youngest, 21. Our voices are nowhere near as developed as professional singers in their thirties and forties, and I certainly haven't located the inner womanly oomph to be able to project an enormous sound to a crowded hall. I hope to rectify that in years to come. I figure I have the time... I'm 25. And I'm working my ass hard to become the best singer that I can be. I am my own worst critic, and am very aware of my own faults.

One of those faults is something that I've been working on for years, and need to work a lot harder on. I wrote previously about my knees. (Dislocating, operations, laziness, physiotherapy, clinical pilates.) My knees are incredibly weak at the moment. I can't stand still in any shoes except the ones that will contain my court-shoe orthotics. Ridiculous. My knees lock and unlock, shake frequently, and they've often given way and I've toppled. I think it's worse because I haven't found any clinical pilates to do in Canberra yet. The muscles are wasting away. Again. Anyway, my teacher commented that I need to wear far more glamorous shoes onstage. Didn't help that Ellen was wearing four- or five-inch platform heels! God, they were gorgeous shoes. I have shoe envy! I can't wear anything like that. I performed in stiletto heels once (in January of this year, actually), and I have never been so terrified onstage. I literally thought I was falling backwards the whole time. I... cannot tell you how I got through that performance. I have never been so glad to get offstage!

Overall, I thought the Requiem went well. The choir was a great unit of sound. I was really impressed with them. The orchestra members were lovely and played well. It was a positive experience for all involved, and, again, I'm very grateful that I was given the opportunity to sing. I was nervous, but I did my best. As my dad always says, that's the most anybody can ask of me.

Here are some photos from the night.

Me, with the mezzo-soprano soloist, Ellen Malone.

A silly moment in the dressing room!
Back: Robert Shearer (tenor), Daniel Brinsmead (baritone).
Front: Ellen Malone (mezzo), Pamela Andrews (soprano).

At the after party! My lovely Lucinda, with myself and Dan.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So I'm singing... The Lord of the Rings?

I never thought I'd make a post about The Lord of the Rings.

I'm not, technically. This post is about one of the Elvish languages featured in The Lord of the Rings.

I've been asked to perform at a concert of new works by local composers next week. Not unusual. Did that a lot in Tasmania, often last minute, always stressful. This time, to my surprise, one of the songs I've been given is entirely in Elvish!

I instantly thought of my friend, Gordon Nash. Gordon teaches mathematics in New York, and writes a daily blog. I try to keep up with the blog daily but often end up just reading fifteen entries in one go to catch up. His very dry wit always has me cackling. He's the biggest music buff I know. I met him online through love of Da Vinci's Notebook. Anyway, today, Gordon blogged about me.


Kind of.

I contacted Gordon over the Elvish song, as I knew that he was a huge Tolkien buff, and thought maybe he could give me some pointers. Could he ever! Within minutes, he knew more about the song I'm singing than I did, AND had written me a short essay on the history of the Elvish language dialects. Madness. Wise Madness.

So I'll let you all know how my first attempt at singing Elvish goes.

In the meantime, I am seriously enjoying this song by Peter Bradley Adams. Check it out. It's just perfect chill-out music to me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Heart Week 3-7 May 2010

On December 2, 2000, I was sixteen years old and had just woken up at my friend Bec's house after a sleepover. It was summer in Launceston, and my mum was away in Melbourne with my grandmother, visiting my aunt. Late in the morning, I got a call from my dad. He told me that he'd been driving through Kings Meadows with my siblings to do some shopping, and he'd felt some odd pains down his arm and chest and felt kind of sick. He said he'd gotten home and called his doctor, who'd advised him to drive himself to the hospital and get checked out because he may have had a small heart attack. My own heart froze in my chest at hearing this news. Fresh out of doing a first aid course (that my dad had encouraged me to do, as he was a first aid instructor), I realised that he could well still be in a lot of danger. I told him to stay right there.

Bec's mum and I leapt into the car, and she GUNNED it over to my parents' house, breaking all sorts of road laws on the way. Like me, she realised that the worst could be far from over. Dad was waiting out the front of the house, looking pale and a little shocked. He talked comfortably with Bec's mum on the way to the hospital, which was frankly the shortest trip I've ever taken. Wow, that lady can drive. She used to be a taxi driver. She left us with good wishes, and I took Dad into the emergency ward. He went to the first triage window and explained what had happened to the nurse on duty. The nurse sent him over to the next window to fill out some paperwork so that he could be checked out properly. Dad spent about five minutes at that window. He turned, and started to make his way back to the first window. Then, the strangest look came over his face.

Before I knew what was happening, my dad started to slither to the floor right in front of me. I took a step back, horrified, as his large frame crashed to the floor with a sickening crack, and he started to convulse in front of me. My throat constricted and my eyes welled up as nurses and young doctors vaulted over desks, shouted instructions and skidded to the floor next to him. The most ghastly, rattly, gasping noise was coming from my dad's lungs as his body convulsed, struggling for oxygen. He had lost control over his bladder.

Tears were openly pouring down my face, and I didn't know where to look. A kindly Canadian lady, who was there for a broken arm, got up and hugged me as I cried. I looked over her shoulder, and I could see the doctors using the paddles, and shouting all the things that they shout on All Saints episodes when somebody is having a heart attack. One of the nurses came over to me and said, "You had better go in here," and showed me into a tiny little room with a few chairs, a potplant, and a phone. "Use it to call somebody," she said. Then she closed the door.

Shaking, I picked up the phone and called home. Mum was in Melbourne, so my sister Helen answered. "Um, I think Dad is dying," I said.

"Er... What?" she asked.

"Dad's having a heart attack out in the Emergency Room, and I've been told to call someone."

"... Okay," she said. Helen was 13. Bruce was 15. Rosie was 9.

I tried calling my aunt's mobile. No answer. My mum didn't have a mobile. I was left with no choice but to ring my grandmother, who had only recently lost her own husband, my grandfather.

A few minutes later, I was allowed in to see my dad. I found out later that they let me do this because they believed that he would soon die. I took Dad's diary and began cancelling his appointments and engagements. When I saw him looking so weak, something maternal just welled up in me and I began getting things organised, post-haste. Dad's skin looked yellow, and he smiled at me from the bed, though he was obviously in incredible shock. Dad says that he doesn't remember me being allowed in to see him.

My mum flew back that night, not knowing if her husband was already dead or how long he would live. I found out, years later, that the doctors had told Dad to get his affairs in order straight away as he wouldn't last two days. A week. Two weeks. A month. Two months. Six months. A year. Two years. They kept extending the timeframe, certain that his heart would give out again and he would die.

On December 2, 2010, it will have been ten years.

Dad suffered three massive cardiac arrests that day. If he hadn't been standing in the ER when he had the first one, he would've died. One of the chambers in his heart is dead and useless. One of his arteries is completely blocked. Another two are 90% blocked. The other artery is only a little bit blocked. For nearly ten years, they've been telling him that he needs a bypass but he wouldn't survive the surgery.

My dad has been campaigning for defibrillating machines to be supplied to remote areas in Tasmania. He has succeeded in a lot of cases. He also participates in heart research at his local hospital, and attends a support group. He is a kind man, with an Order of Australia Medal for his service to the community over his lifetime. You will never, in your lifetime, find a man who is so generous with his time and talents as my dad has been with his local community, be it the elderly, mentally ill, chronic pain sufferers, or his best friend, who laid in a nursing home for ten years after a stroke. My dad has, amongst other things, Parkinson's disease now. In the last couple of years especially, it has really slowed hiim up, and he finds things quite difficult now. The one thing that he doesn't find difficult is promoting worthy causes through the internet. He spends most of his time on the computer now.

So, when I got an email today advising me that this week is Heart Week, I realised that the best way to present this information to my friends is by sharing my story about my dad's heart attack. It is so important to know what to do. I just knew instantly that he was probably about to have another heart attack. I didn't think twice. I just did what I had to do. My dad is alive today because of that.

Take a few moments to visit this website and learn what the signs of a heart attack are. It could save your life, or your loved one's life, some day.

Check out my very first VLOG, about Heart Week:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gavin Mikhail

Gavin Mikhail is the most honest performer I've ever heard. His honesty, integrity, belief in himself, his faith in life and humankind, and his directness of speech continues to amaze and impress me every time I listen to him.

Gavin is not the World's Best Singer. (Should that award go to Jessye Norman? Ian Bostridge? Barbara Bonney? Joan Sutherland?) He is not the World's Best Pianist. (My vote goes to Julius Drake, Malcolm Martineau or James Rhodes.) But he IS the best contemporary singer/songwriter I've encountered in terms of delivering and selling a song that he truly believes in.

When you listen to Gavin Mikhail, you know that he means every single word he's singing to you. It's like a conversation that gradually unfolds, letting you in on little secrets and confidences, revealing an often raw history, and always leaving you uplifted about his hope and faith. Let me give you an example before my mouth runs away with me.

BRAVE, by Gavin Mikhail (excerpt)

I am not as brave,
beautiful, and patient
as you are, but
I am safe
in your arms; I listen
as you say: "I'm proud of
who you've become,
and the person you will be
tomorrow. And I know
I would give anything up
for you."
I'll follow through.
I promise to hold on.
I'll never let
go, won't let you down.
If you can stay proud,
I'll be brave somehow.

Help me understand the reasons why I'm here...
Now living a feeling like my fear
I'm outside of this life, I am here
Now, for you...

This slow acoustic version is really beautiful, but I actually like the really rockin' up tempo version that Gavin does of this song. Same song, just rearranged for a different feel entirely. The message is still the same. It's so deeply personal. Hope I'm not getting the lyrics wrong. I'm just listening and typing as I go... That plan may be flawed.

This next one is my FAVOURITE, contrary to what my Last.FM page thinks. If my Last.FM page knew how many times I'd played this song in my car, it'd change its mind...

CATCH YOUR FALL, by Gavin Mihail (excerpt)

I know, for you, it must be painful
to carry the way you do;
though I can't be you, I see through
your silent, feigned indifference, gets you by
and though I'm trying,
I can't tell you when we'll fly --
just know: I care, I'll lift you up to see,
see where I will always be,
be there any time you call,
and I will take us back in to
a life of more than we've been through
beyond the lengths that we went to,
to be here, after all.
And though we sometimes stumble
and you're scared,
I'm always there to catch your fall.

I will be there to catch your fall
Still counting down the days 'til
We will finally arrive but I am
Here now, you are safe now,
I know we're okay now - we'll survive

I really love that one. I much prefer the Strings mix to the regular single, too. What's with me liking all the alternate versions? Something fishy going on there...

ONE OF THESE DAYS, by Gavin Mikhail (excerpt)

Is it time to rise above this?
Is it time to move beyond the choice I made
And say, I can love this

What if I wait around for forever?
Holding onto the hope
that there's something more for me?
Would I waste whatever's left of this life
Living for things I think I need?

But what did I ever do
To make you make my life so complicated?
I hate it.
I wish you wouldn't do those things you do.
So give me what belongs to me,
And spare me all the sympathy you use
To hold me down and keep me tied.
One day, you'll see me rise...

Sneakily, I have played you songs that are ALL available for FREE on Gavin's website. So if you like them, go and download them! Listen to the man. Then do what I did, and buy the albums. He's a top bloke.

Follow him on Twitter.
Stalk him on Facebook.
Listen to him on MySpace.
Download him at his website.

Yours musically,
Pam xxx

I wonder where you are?
I wonder what you need...
Wonder why you mean so much to me
And, after all this time,
I still can't understand why
You say you're never coming back for me...