- 3rd. August, 2021 -
‘Consideration For The Fitter’
“I spent literally days
On finding new ways
Of sizing your hat,
To fit you like that.
I know it’s a mile
From the first-mentioned style:
The pattern is better -
I’ve worked to its letter.
You wanted ‘quite wide’...
So I’ve shaped it to hide
Its width, after all,
By making it tall.
What suits you, you said,
Was a ‘wide-brim-topped’ head,
So I’ve left off a brim...
To help with the trim.
I’m sorry it’s late
And that you’ve had to wait...
It was for a day
I think in late May?
Ah, March was it? Oh..
I thought it would go
Much better with what
Will be stylish or not
when summer is here,
The crux of the year;
The wedding is when?”
“Last Thursday at 10.”
“Please do try to see
How things are for me:
My wishes come first
In avoiding the worst.”
“It’s elegant - yes -
But it’s just so much less,
And - jaw on the floor -
It costs ten times more?!”
“For fitting that’s nice,
Expect a tall price.
The fee is just fine
For a talent like mine.
And all other firms
Have similar terms -
It’s all about me;
Shall I wrap it? - it’s free.
You really don’t like it?
It’s not what you thought?
Well, here is the bill
For that hat you have bought...
A million pennies -
You think that is dear?
Well the price will be double
To leave the hat here.”
© Emma Winscom - 10th. March, 2021
- 29th. July, 2021 -
Blessed are the clear thinkers;
They shall always walk out of the fog.
Blessed are the honest;
They shall always sleep well.
Blessed are those who try someone else's life, if briefly;
They have earned the badge of empathy.
Blessed are those with good intentions;
Their outcomes will not be judged.
Blessed are those who take responsibility, as well as reward;
They will be fulfilled.
Blessed are those who accept others;
They know understanding.
Blessed are those who smile at a bully;
Blessed are the victims;
They are granted the advantage of the fullest perception.
© Emma Winscom - 19th. March, 2021
- 16th. July, 2021 -
★ Grace Barton ★
How could I not love a job that connects me with lots of amazing people?! All the time. All related to singing. Grace is one such amazing person.
The evolution of a singer is a miraculous business. It is completely intertwined with personal identity, experience, environment and nurturing. I can’t resist a new voice: the start of each journey with each new singer is addictive. Many singers travel assorted paths during the course of finding their ‘best fit’ singing. Very gifted singers, underneath it all, often have an innate sense of where their strengths are - but still they might (and often should) shift in an out of different zones along the way, whilst honing their vocal niche.
Even as an emerging teenager, Grace’s colour was amazingly mature - she clearly suited pop, although she came to me from a learning context of classical singing. We visited that and also looked at some musical theatre pieces to develop her platform skills. Within just over a year, she auditioned for a large scale, professionally structured youth production of Les Misérables and was given the role of Éponine.
Before the age of 18, she had played Nancy and Mary Magdalene too - all to full houses, wild and rapturous applause and fabulous reviews. But running along through all of this were several things - interspersing her theatre songs with bursts of ‘Christina’, Grace's own recording, guitar playing and songwriting and building up her acoustic sets. In one particular session for me, I noticed how absorbed she became in the singing and the recording process itself.
Grace has a drive to get things absolutely right, to create her absolute best vocally - and, added to that, gorgeous tone and phenomenal musicality. It will be of little surprise, when you read her lovely interview, that her first release was a huge success and that her career is progressing at a rate of knots. Grace is one to watch and I am so thrilled for her that her gift is opening up a brilliant path for her.
Today, Grace‘s most recent release becomes available on Spotify and Apple Music and the accompanying video will be released in a week's time (23rd. July).
I have linked to the track at the end of the interview and also to a few other clips of her previous work.
- 12th. July, 2021 -
© Emma Winscom - February, 2007
I hope this clip of my dear friend, soprano Mhairi Lawson, transports you to La Serenissima.
- 11th. July, 2021 -
To think of time as something that you spend
Suggests a balance, measure or account:
It is, in fact, of infinite amount
That anyone can borrow, save or lend.
To think of time as something that you mark
Implies an answer, boundary or score -
Yet using it will open up a door
That speeds you on when next a day is dark.
To think of time as something that you waste
Shows bittersweet remembrance of events,
As human curiosity’s immense
And tries the less good fruit to learn its taste.
To think of time as something that you give
Is only half the story, after all;
For every ladder needs a solid wall
And sharing time is learning how to live.
To think of time as ‘lost’ is losing more -
And racing are the hands of every clock;
The decorated key for every lock
Frees fast the mindful prison and its door.
Time simply is the joy you’re living now;
Your heart’s life-hours, all beautifully compressed:
The old, the new, the next, whichever’s best -
Whichever gems your conscience will allow.
© Emma Winscom - 8th. July, 2021
- 30th. June, 2021 -
I am VERY pleased to present to you this interview with my client/colleague/chum/general excellent person, Les Bubb.
★ Les Bubb ★
Les Bubb is one of the most innovative and accessible physical comedians working in Europe. Career highlights include three HARRY POTTER films, touring with TAKE THAT (rôle of Mad Professor) and playing Jane's dad (Jim Porter) in the 3D feature film TARZAN. More recently he wowed audiences in LET'S CHALLENGE THE WORLD, Japan's most popular television show and in 2018, started work on the animated feature film, DETECTIVE PIKACHU, directed by Rob Letterman, which was then released in 2019.
From 1997 to 2002, Les starred in and co-wrote the hugely popular children's television show HUBUBB, which ran for five series on BBC1. During this period, he also became a popular variety act on television, making many appearances across the globe.
Between 2002 - 2012, he toured extensively worldwide with his own full length theatre show MAKE YOUR BRAINS GO POP! The show successfully crossed cultural boundaries and won him many awards along the way. Closer to home, he's performed numerous times at the Glastonbury and Edinburgh Festivals.
In 2014 Les co-starred in THE WORLD CUP FINAL 1966 at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and in 2015 he starred as the Maitre D in Theatre Damfino's THE TABLE OF DELIGHTS in Bristol & London. In 2017, he joined Kneehigh Theatre's touring production of THE TIN DRUM, to rave reviews.
Recent television projects include SPOT BOTS, an animated sitcom for CBeebies and ANDY'S PREHISTORIC DINOSAUR ADVENTURES (26 episodes) for BBC Worldwide, where he played the accident prone Janitor. He also featured on ITV1's DANCING ON ICE as a 'movement expert' and ITV1's GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER 2015 as a Mentor.
Les has also worked as a slapstick & stunt consultant on the West End production of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and Sheffield Theatre’s THE FULL MONTY and run movement workshops for the RSC and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Les first began performing as a teenager with the National Youth Theatre, then went on to study at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Training continued at the Desmond Jones School of Mime in London and in Paris with Phillipe Gaulier (L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq) and Etienne Decroux.
After sharpening his skills on the streets of Europe (Les speaks several European languages) he quickly became popular with his unique blend of mime and metaphysical clowning, joining the “new wave” of alternative comedy with contemporaries Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie & Harry Enfield. He supported them live in theatres across the UK, while making regular appearances on FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE and MAX HEADROOM.
The renowned film director, Werner Herzog, sought Les’s unique talents several times, including the multimedia show VARIETE and as ‘Herr Rothschild’ in his art-house film INVINCIBLE, starring Tim Roth.
Les worked on three HARRY POTTER films; The Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. More recently he voiced the role of ‘Jim Porter’ (Jane's dad ) in the new 3D animated feature of TARZAN and provided the motion-capture movements for the character.
Les remains one of the most innovative and accessible physical comics in the world. His original act; the unforgettable stuck suitcase & balloons, the invisible piano, the flying bottle and the inflated rubber-glove head, have influenced several generations of physical comedy performers… a cacophony of comical illusions!
It is not lost on me that an interview with a mime artist may seem an unusual choice for a blog about voice! However, Les’s work encompasses a wide range of things and the power of communication is at the foot of all his activities. This is also true of singers and actors.
Les has an amazing voice and ear and, as you will see from his interview answers, is a fascinating and wonderful person. Some of my other clients have had the chance to work with him this year and the online sessions have worked well.
Please enjoy Les‘s interview and perhaps try mime - it’s a wonderful thing, harder than it looks but makes you feel great! It’s a human wonder and will teach you many unexpected things about yourself.
- 29th. June, 2021 -
I have mentioned a few times in this blog the benefit of the right words at the right time, particularly for formative singers.
I have benefitted so many times from the wisdom, kindness, observations and advice of friends and colleagues - and it reminds me, each time, of the intrinsic, undeniable value and necessity of live exchange, especially musically.
I encountered Evelyn Tubb at Dartington many summers ago and had the privilege of working with with her in a masterclass. It was transformative for me in a matter of minutes - and her guidance was so generous and free-spririted that everyone in the room, whether listening or singing, opened up like flowers.
Such a gift.
And to this day, I visualize what we did in that session, how she asked me to sing and move; and how my horizons changed from then. I shall remain grateful for that and all the beautiful exchanges that have followed.
Singing early music at The Red Lodge in Bristol in July 2019, with Rosafresca, put me in mind of Evelyn again - and the endless, continuous and surprising path that all singers are on.
I link here to Evelyn's exquisite and haunting interpretation of ‘Sweet, Stay a While’. Please listen and be transported to a landscape of pure vocal and spritual communication.
- 25th. June, 2021 -
‘True Love’ rose
© Emma Winscom - 23rd. June, 2021
This haunting Sting song, made known by Alison Krauss and Sting himself, is covered here by Cassandra Coleman.
Cassandra's stunning voice stands out beautifully a cappella, perhaps even more than when she accompanies herself.
This version is just lovely - her voice is poignant, poised and beguiling.
- 24th. June, 2021 -
Altos and mezzos have to spend much time negotiating and balancing, during the course of establishing the technique to support voices of lower range and often greater weight or darker colour.
It is so helpful to listen to lots of other voices throughout your singing life - but particularly in the earlier stages of training.
A friend who played for years with a renowned orchestra mentioned Margaret Cable to me, when Margaret was a soloist for a concert in which he was involved.
As you will hear in the Handel clip below, her ornamentation is gorgeous and her tone used so stylishly.
I was so grateful for the tip-off and indeed to be able to hear a wonderful working alto.
I have mentioned to Margaret that I would be putting these clips up and I shall direct students to listen to them carefully, as I did.
I have linked to ‘He Was Despised’ and, following that, Margaret's interpretation of ‘The Frostbound Wood’ by Peter Warlock.
- 19th. June, 2021 -
photograph: ‘Newton's Cradle’, by MattX27, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
I knock you - and you knock me.
I nudge you - and you nudge me.
I tell you and you tell me.
Back and forth - the way to be.
You're the fifth and I'm the first;
Which is best and which is worst?
The three within absorb the shock,
While those surrounding watch the clock.
A new sensation passing through -
A new thing for the world to do.
A measured journey there and back:
Some balls, some wire, a metal rack.
We wonder will the new catch on,
So wipe our minds 'til pasts are gone.
Ahead should lie the next and best,
With feigned disdain now laid to rest.
Momentum drives the circle round
To memory ponds where thinking's drowned;
And, timelessly, we, one and all,
Are guided by a silver ball.
How pulsing ceases no-one knows -
Things fade - so, too, the feeling goes
Of urgency - a need to meld -
A fraction of that thought you held.
And further needs will lie ahead
For you to move the things you said
In time with tapping, firstly slow;
The impetus within your row.
The tap is you, at least in part,
But, equal to its gradual start
Is winding back, like garden hose,
And when it's finished, no-one knows.
© Emma Winscom - 19th. May, 2021
- 18th. June, 2021 -
Please have a scone!
They're really good -
Quite healthy, too:
A ‘super’ food.
They're over there,
Behind the cake,
The walk you make.
They're really nice -
A well cooked treat;
The sort of thing
You'll love to eat.
You'll clearly see
How good they are -
The chef, I've heard,
Is quite a star.
The taste is rich
And full and lush:
To beat the rush?
Do try them soon,
As I have done;
And hurry or
They'll all be gone..
Looks like they have -
An empty plate -
So you'll just have to
Learn to wait.
A week, a month,
It's hard to say
When next it will be
© Emma Winscom - 1st. June, 2021
- 17th. June, 2021 -
Surveying The Blues
Encountering ongoing demoralization on a scale unimaginable for a year and a half has been a challenge in every area which my work encompasses; and so, in honour of every colleague, client and friend with whom I work, I feel obliged to stress openly that harms resulting from our present circumstances are more deep, wide, cruel and far-reaching than many could even process.
Weighing up harms after 18 months of harms is, at the most polite, pointless.
As I posted on my main web site in March last year (and re-link here), more than ever, please sing.
Every day, any day, any time, any song, any words or no words.
Your voice is yours.
Your heart is yours.
Your experience is yours.
Release what you don't need, re-discover your vocal identity.
If the people standing in front of you are wearing blue, while banning the wearing of blue, then they most likely have no care for you.
Take those blues and sing them, your way.
Reclaim your world.
- 31st. May, 2021 -
© Emma Winscom - 27th. May, 2021
Bank holidays have seldom been as quiet as this one. That's not a complaint but more a grateful reflection on the chance to spend more time in green places.
Gardens are where I breathe and think - and go to feel better.
Singing comes fairly close - and singing in nature takes some beating.
Just now and again, something stops you in your tracks. The voice of Grace Griffith is one of those things.
In reading about her, listening to the other-wordly beauty of her voice, the stunning lyrics and images in this film, all I want to do is sing this song.
Then listen to her again, then sing it again.
It is the whole point of what singers do, feel and intend.
‘My Life’, sung by Grace Griffith
- 24th. May, 2021 -
Blowin' In The Wind
- 20th. May, 2021 -
20th. May, 1609, was the publication date of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets.
Below is number 8.
Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”
- 19th. May, 2021
‘Messages Of Hope’
© Emma Winscom - 9th. May, 2021
I send this entry to several different people I know - and lots I don't.
Please remember - the only thing stopping you is yourself.
And when you decide to re-start - songs like this stunner will only make it easier.
To read ‘The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree’, please click on the image below:
‘The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree’
Jack and Jacky were twins.
They were impish and bright - very bright - but their impishness never led to destruction. It was more for fun - to unravel - to challenge - to cause a question.
They were the best of chums.
That was a wonderful thing.
In their dance class was a sad girl, who looked much more sad in particular places.
Generally, the sad girl endeavoured to try and look happy. She did this to imagine that her world was better than it was. Most people thought of her as happy, as they took that from only small exchanges with her. She needed a lot from the world and we understand that she got it ..... but much later on - and after quite a lot of difficulty. In fact, she is the culprit in the dodgy part of this tale. Ordinarily, it would spoil the story to tell you that earlier on - but, this time, it’s easier to get it out of the way.
The tale will unfold and it feels helpful for the reader to know the ‘villainess’ first. It makes it clearer and quicker to get on with the task of unravelling what can happen.
Jack and Jacky both had beautiful voices. They had sung in their local faith community. They had special choir rôles, which afforded them wonderful opportunities. They sang often - in praise, in concerts, in other events that came out of people knowing that they had a love of singing, a great sound and an understanding of the demands of singing in public. In fact, the twins had been instrumental in ‘making even’ the singing opportunities for boys and girls, through the very fact of being twins. The pastor at their church had instantly spotted that choristers had only hitherto been boys. Upon welcoming the twins into his faith community, he changed the rules for singers. He created choirs of all sorts, for all kinds of singers and all kinds of abilities. The twins expressed an interest in several of the choirs, auditioned and were selected for four. A boys’ choir, a girls’ choir, a mixed choir and a community choir.
This church was steeped in singing as a way of life - indeed singing was revered as a potent tool to make life better. The sad girl belonged to the church down the road. She could have applied to the other church, as it had welcoming policies and choirs for such people who practised their faith in different buildings and in different ways. The sad girl, whom we shall call Tristessa, to spare her feelings, felt very sad indeed. Home was sad. Church was sad. Singing was not as it should be, as her parents would not permit her to sing other than where they chose.
The pastor’s daughter, Fleur, attended the same dance class as the others; she was a creative child, loving all things related to flowers. Fleur particularly liked making bouquets for the dancers when they were presenting shows. She had made honeysuckle arches for the last show; they had been a visual and fragrant success.
Tris also saw Jacky every week at a class of willow-weaving. Jacky felt they got on quite well and was often trying to make Tris feel better. That was going to be something that didn’t happen until around ten years later, after much pain, a dose of disillusion and the benefit of hindsight. Tris’s aunt, apparently, was a very talented singer. She was known as ‘Sweet Caroline’ in her family, as she had lots of apple trees of all varieties - and she had a special area full of the variety of the same name. Tris told Jacky that she had learned lots from her - that she now almost knew as much as her aunt about singing.
Jacky was a ‘down-the-line and straightforward’ sort of person. She expected that everyone else was ‘down-the-line and straightforward’. Her home and her church were that way too. She was not without instinct or judgment but she and Jack had always realized their good fortune in being singing twins - and they had been raised to be inclusive and respectful of anyone who needed it: even slightly naughty friends. That was a little annoying sometimes - but that was how they lived.
In willow-weaving, you worked in pairs, usually - certainly in no more than a four. It was a quiet, fulfilling activity, impossible to be rushed. It promoted self-supervision. Meditative quiet. Measured productivity. All great stuff. And it allowed Tris the one bit of her week where she felt powerful. Never underestimate the power of an envious and emotionally hungry person. And so the ‘drip, drip’ began. Humming while weaving. An ancient institution - work songs. But historically done by groups of all ages and guided by the voices of elders.
“Gosh, don’t you sing differently?”
“I’ve never heard a sound like that before...”
“Are you choosing to sing a little below the note?”
Tris was a clever girl but so unconfident that she could only use her skills to undermine and diminish. Before her parents had declined her requests, she had shown promise - but her confidence had faded as time went on. She would have been hard-pushed to do a solo now.
Picnics were part of the fun at willow-weaving. Exploring what was in everyone else’s picnic was the best fun of all. Tris always brought apples. Her parents had orchards with all sorts of varieties. Each week, she would bring a different one. Polished. A perfect specimen. You had to admit it - she knew masses about apples. She would hold it up, look at the light reflecting off it, tap it and shake it - for a ‘knock’ and a percussive shake from the seeds. Then ‘Crunch!’. And then that week’s discussion of that particular variety. Jacky was most impressed. Such expertise was to be marvelled at - it also gave Tris a reason to smile fully, if briefly. That thought made Jacky happy. Although she needn’t have bothered - Tris’ secret thrill came from the planned recruiting of Jacky into her apple authority. Part two of the willow-weaving session always followed the picnic. More singing.
“There it is again - that unusual sound; can’t you hear it? Might you be hurting your throat?”
The weaving term ran to ten weeks. By week seven, dripping was finally starting to wear away the rock of Jacky’s confidence.
Jack and Jacky were offered a duet that Sunday at their church; Jack couldn’t wait but Jacky developed a cough - well, a very dry throat at least, starting off with clearing her throat a lot. Jack cajoled her into doing the duet anyway - but sensed her inner twitchiness, which nearly got a grip of him too. And she had an apple in her pocket the whole time and was twisting the stalk between her fingers, after the service, whilst people were congratulating them.
Week eight at weaving was for installation of created pieces in the grounds where the course was run. Pairs set off to locate pitches and then they bound their creations, ready for the final display. No communal picnic that week. Tris would have a good two hours plus to wear away at Jacky. “You can get the same sound if you bounce the apple on your head - it’s great. I did it for my aunt, as she said it would be better than singing all the time - you know, on days when your voice is tired - you would still have a special sound that you could make. Different. Special.”
By the end of weaving session number eight, sure enough, Jacky was bouncing the apple on her head, inwardly thinking a range of things .....
‘This will make Tris smile...’
‘I am helping Tris to feel confident about singing...’
‘Tris is helping me...’
‘I need this to compensate for my scratchy voice...’
‘In case I sound ‘off’, I can always bounce an apple...’
‘I must have an apple nearby...’
‘I am at the forefront of apple knowledge - of singing knowledge...’
‘I am helping Tris...’
Well she was helping Tris - by removing herself from everything she had previously loved, by narrowing the field, really. Tris’ field of normal co-existence.
The stalk-twiddling continued; the throat-clearing became more frequent. Eventually, Jacky was popping out of choir practice every fifteen minutes to go and bounce an apple on her head. It was now a necessary ritual. And, in between, the fear of making a bad sound stopped her (and of course her twin) from making any reasonable sounds at all. As she was outside, bouncing the apple for the fourth time in hour one of rehearsal, Tris passed by the church. She noticed Jacky, without being seen, and laughed inside herself. She still looked sad though, outwardly.
Jack came out to find Jacky, saw the strange routine and said “That’s it - enough!”, taking the apple from her and clutching her hand to take her home. The loss of the apple made her weep for two months.
Singing just fell away, for a good few years. Tris called round often to see how Jack and Jacky were and they were both pleased that at least she had started to smile.
Some years later, Jacky and Jack had started their own homes, quite near each other and their parents. Jack hoped that Jacky might be persuaded to sing again but was always careful with what topics they discussed. As luck would have it, Jacky’s neighbour was Fleur. She had actually let them both know when their respective houses came on the market. Jacky’s cottage adjoined Fleur’s and they shared an old brick wall which edged their gardens. As you might expect, Fleur’s plot was full of the sweet smells of gorgeous flower fragrance, with everything from roses, honeysuckles and vibernum to cherry and apple blossom.
The branches of several trees hung over Jacky’s wall and she liked that. She had returned to enjoying apples and could reach them easily from Fleur's overhanging tree. She also loved the shower of white and pink petals that confettied her lawn each year. The older tree sprawled across the wall and did its best to offer up something each spring, weary but willing. Fleur had often commented that it didn’t seem to thrive as she might have expected - this variety seemed to need just the right spot and, although the tree gave out something every year, she didn’t feel that it was the best offering in her garden. Birds liked both plots and the friends often enjoyed the many twilight tunes from either side of the wall.
Fleur had become a perfumier and liked to use essences from the plants in her garden. The job suited her ideally - and she was in high demand.
Jacky sacrificed indoor house jobs for time spent on her garden - and so Jack’s house was ready first. He had a housewarming. Fleur was away at the time, promoting her latest range.
Tris was there but had arrived late, after collecting a present for Jack. Jacky was in the living room when he opened the door to Tris.
“I made it”, she said. “A personal item - you’ll have the only one.”
It was an ornamental apple made of willow, to put in the hearth.
Jacky said instantly “Gosh, that takes me back to all those classes when we sang together .....” then, unexpectedly, at the point of finishing, burst into tears.
A 110 decibel silence enveloped the room ...
Jack was frozen in space as the penny dropped - he had never known about willow-weaving. He had been knocking a ball around a park at the same time each week. That was with Rufus, Tris’ brother.
Rufus always looked so sad, Jack had thought...one of those ‘brave smilers’.
“How is Rufus ?” Jack asked Tris, although his facial expressions were a cocktail of horror and ‘get out of my house’.
“Oh he is an umpire - well, was. It suited him for a while.”
“And do you still dance?”
“After a fashion”, she said.
“I make the rules for the Fruit Inspectorate. And I sing - well, I expect you knew that.” She smiled. “A lot. Do you both sing at all?”
Two years later, with housewarmings complete and all shock subsided, Jacky and Jack were once again known for their wonderful singing, together and alone. They had a loyal following and the maturity in their already lovely voices was always commented upon.
Fleur’s old tree leaned its way into retirement. The birds continued to dance across it, from her garden to Jacky’s and back again.
Some time on, after Fleur’s grand old tree had slid away, a new one of the same variety sprung up in Jacky’s garden. How this came about, no one quite knows. The location of the reincarnated apple tree in Jacky’s garden mirrored that of the old tree in Fleur’s. That variety seemed to fare better there - much better. Once established, it provided years of fabulous fruit and, almost more exciting, was literally the essence of Fleur’s new range.
The twins’ concerts became known far and wide, not only for the stunning singing, of course, but also for their beautifully crafted and fragrant flowers all around their stage.
Tris faded into a fruit shop somewhere and, after quite a spell of isolation, learned how to smile and how to earn smiles back from others, if ever anyone found they were passing her way.
Jack and Jacky continued to grow their own fruit, as they weren’t so keen on fruit shops any more.
© Emma Winscom - 15th. May, 2021
To close, please click on the image.
- 10th. May, 2021 -
I am delighted to be giving a presentation at this year's BVA conference, ‘Choice For Voice: Crossing Boundaries In Voice’.
The poster can be downloaded using the link below and all relevant details and booking information can be found on the BVA's web site:
- 9th. May, 2021
‘Le Temps Des Lilas - Lilac Time’
© Emma Winscom - 8th. May, 2021
‘The Pheasant Under The Lilac Tree’
“It’s not much but it’s mine”, she thought -
A little ambitious to call them nests, truth be told;
Hardly ‘room for a pony’...
More like ‘sea views’, once she’s flown up to the branch that can barely support her.
Someone told her she was supposed to fly and sit on branches;
So she’s gone on doing that, all her life.
It always felt unstable -
It was unstable -
But she limited her balancing time.
In March, her outer colouring
Completely matched the dead leaves
All around the foot of the limping-leaned-over trunk:
A tempting fantasy mixture of taupes.
The males get the colours.
She would get a few more, with maturity;
But the males were always the ones to notice,
The ones who stood out;
And nests much like a dimple in the earth,
Sandy soil beds - polite craters,
Whose proportion didn’t offend -
Whose shape didn’t offend -
And whose inhabitants and guardians
Were melded into its taupeness.
The noises were good though -
You can always determine pheasant ‘song’-
Willing, robust, screechy bursts,
A sound worth being heard;
The toast of taupe-land.
She is often busy, following him.
The little ones follow, too,
Learning how to outgrow taupe
In a line behind the painted leader,
Then back under the leaning lilac
And then in for the evening - leaves, soil and all.
Another ‘des res’:
Barring the odd screech.
© Emma Winscom - 14th. March, 2021
© Emma Winscom - 9th. May, 2021
The firework that is the typical British spring explodes from beautiful May onwards. Creative representations of spring are often tempered with the knowledge of things passing, fading or having a season. ‘Nowness’ is the key - and, of course, the joy which accompanies that wisdom.
‘Lilac Time’ is interpreted here in two very different ways. The first version, ‘Le Temps Des Lilas’, is a setting of the Maurice Bouchor poem by Ernest Chausson. This luscious vocal interpretation is by the magnetic Measha Brueggergosman. The second link is to the completely different but equally heartfelt song, ‘Le Temps Du Lilas’, by the singer, Barbara.
In each, focus is given to what may be lost in a moment - and, therefore, what should be relished.
- 5th. May, 2021 -
La Belle Voix
Celeste has been on my list of fascinating voices for a while. The universal secretary operated superlatively today, of course - and guided me to read a little on Celeste...and of course, it is Celeste's birthday today. Seems like the perfect day to listen to her.
So - here are some links for you to enjoy some of her innumerable and absolutely amazing sounds.
- 3rd. May, 2021 -
‘Digital Bank Holiday’
Twinkle, twinkle, god of rain,
Now we’re stuck inside again.
Lovely May-or-may-not sky
Drops its showers in our eye.
Twinkle, twinkle, god of rain,
Now we’re stuck inside again.
Twinkly raindrops shine afar;
Walking’s off - we’ll take the car.
Duffeled up we’ll sit outside,
As the sea spray turns the tide.
Twinkly raindrops shine afar;
Walkings off - we’ll take the car.
© Emma Winscom - 3rd. May, 2021
- 3rd. May, 2021 -
Another weekend has spawned yet further clearing.
Another file full of programmes - one caught my eye, as I had given a song recital as part of a recital festival over the early May Bank Holiday weekend in 2002 - in fact, from 27th. April to 4th. May.
Amongst my songs was the well-known Dvořák aria ‘Song to the Moon’ from ‘Rusalka’, together with pieces by Elgar, Fauré, Seiber and Tchaikovsky.
I was accompanied my dear friend, Milada, who spent much time with me, helping me try to nail the pronunciation of the text in Czech.
It was a lovely recital which we both loved giving.
I have helped several students with that aria over the years, carrying Milada's voice in my head.
More recently, in autumn 2019, I was giving a masterclass and this aria featured in the running order. Again, Milada and I spent a riotous session exploring the challenges of Czech sounds but, this time, I recorded the sounds of the words and was able to use the recording to assist the pupil in question.
Milada also accompanied in the masterclass, beautifully, of course.
Subsequently, Milada and I started to plan another recital that we could perform sometime in 2020...I imagine that you can guess the end of that story.
However, the time spent emptying boxes has thrown a spotlight on yet more of life's perpetual circles - I found that programme on 30th. April. Dvořák, it turns out, passed on 1st. May, 1904 - and the recital was 2nd. May, 2002. My universal secretary has done well again, so here I can offer another entry.
There are several further synchronicities to those listed here and I shall detail them another time. My life operates that way, most of the time - and I have come to expect and welcome that, now.
The singer in the link below is Lucia Popp and her interpretation is glorious.
- 27th. April, 2021 -
★ David Whitley ★
photographed by Ulrich Wolf
I linked to a wonderful singer, David Whitley, on the 16th. November, last year.My subsequent interview with David, on Good Friday, was joyful, generous and candid. From his biography below, you will see the vast range and compass of his work:
David Bruce Whitley was born on November 12, in Washington, D.C.. He started singing at the age of 4, in church. He then went on to study voice at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
He then moved to New York City, where he received his Bachelors of Music from The Manhattan School of Music. He then went on to receive his Masters of Music from the Juilliard School of Music.
David was very active with the Boys Choir of Harlem, under the direction of Dr. Walter Turnbull, touring the world.
He then went on to become a part of the ensemble with the New York City Opera touring company.
Following his passion of musical theatre, he moved to Germany, to perform the rôle of John in ‘Miss Saigon’, in Stuttgart. He has also performed the rôle of John in Klagenfurt, Austria.
David has also performed in the German play ‘Rutsch m’r doch d’r Buckel nuffn’, as Matatta, at the legendary Maules Mühle Theater.
He later went on to perform the rôle of Zorus in the award winning production of ‘Pomp Duck’ in Stuttgart.
Following his heart to record, he has produced 5 CDs, to great acclaim.
He went on to participate in the casting show, ‘The Voice of Germany’. He was in the top 25 out of hundreds and had major success with the show. Since 2015, he has done the musical ‘The Blues Brothers’ at the Mannheim National Theatre and also recreated the rôle of The Reverend and Ray Charles, in the Stadt Theater, Augsburg.
Besides performing on stage, David also does vocal coaching. In May of 2014, he was the vocal coach of the Pro 7 show, ‘Keep Your Light Shining’.
Being a classically trained singer, David has sung with many orchestras - notably the MDR Musiksommer ‘All Rise’ in Leipzig, under the direction of Kristjan Järvi.
In September, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to perform with the pop star Cassandra Steen, Randy Newman and a 100-piece orchestra in the ‘Hollywood in Wein’ production. This performance was broadcasted in 28 countries.
It was an absolute pleasure to chat with David and the clock just ran on...so there is a lot of material here. I am sure, though, that all of it will be of huge interest to all sorts of singers and aspiring singers. David spoke with great humility and wisdom and I am thrilled to share the interview with you here.
- 23rd. April, 2021 -
‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’, Act II, Scene I
A wood near Athens. A fairy speaks:
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moone's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I'll be gone:
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.
© Emma Winscom - 20th. April, 2021
The following exquisite arrangement of ‘Over hill, over dale’ is by Amy Beach and is sung by the stunning Etherea Vocal Ensemble:
- 23rd. April, 2021 -
For St Georges Day, I have added a song about knights, valour, castles and darkness. The song is ‘When A Knight Won His Spurs’, by Jan Struther.
Each beautiful version has its own ‘power of the truth’. I love them all equally.
- 22nd. April, 2021 -
Solace and clarity follow our sleep, and the world is the place that each of us needs it to be.
Sometimes, our visions overlap with those of others. Throughout time, the world has gone on doing what it needs to do; we simply fit into its corners.
- 21st. April, 2021 -
A Little While
Of late, time has felt shapeless. Identifying days, hours and months has become, for many, a pleasant blur.
As today is the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, I started to look through a few folders and it occurred to me that a jubilee must be imminent. In 2002, I entered the ‘Emma Winscom Young Singers’ into the Sainsbury Choir Competition. The singers in the group at that time were of vastly differing experiences but the process was a magical and highly instructive one. I shall write about it fully another time.
The programme that we presented included a piece by me, entitled ‘Jubilee Lullaby’, written to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee and complement the rest of our programme - Brahms, rehearsed in English and German, ‘Siyahamba’ and a musical theatre number. Our piano accompaniment was wonderfully supported by Huw, the late husband of my dear friend Liz, who also has her birthday today, along with another dear friend, Akiko.
The heat in 2002 took place on my birthday. The excitement in the air was tangible and the singers absolutely ready and bursting for the opportunity to share their sound.
They did, along with many other highly accomplished choirs.
It was widely acknowledged that they excelled themselves, by known and unknown audience members alike. I was proud beyond words and they exuded joy at the singing they had produced. It was magical to see young singers feel that completion from a job done the absolute best that it could be. That was reward in itself. Greater than that, though, was the sensation and shared experience following the announcement that we were one of the two winning choirs of that day.
For around a year or two afterwards, all the girls and young women in that group walked taller than I could ever have imagined. The growth in confidence in all of them spun out in myriad directions. Some of the shiest in the group readily accepted performance opportunities that they would never have done previously. Their posture was better. They smiled more. They embodied inner confidence. They were all interested in what their co-singers were doing. Friendships amongst them and their supporters were forged. More music was made. More joy abounded. Everything that happened was ‘more’.
The potent, empowering effect of singing, especially singing in good harmony, is a beautiful and immeasurable thing. It should never be underestimated as a force for good and a tool for perpetual healing.
I am in touch with a good number of those singers still and would love to gather them all together next year to see what has happened in between. We'll see... Time, after all, is elastic, and works in many ways. With one photo and a quick thought, that day for me was just a few hours ago. And so it is.
Birthdays today - time to reflect, celebrate and look back and forwards.
And it's always the right time to sing.
- 16th. April, 2021 -
Today is World Voice Day.
Voices are endlessly different, fascinating, significant and unique.
To mark the day, I have added below this year's information leaflet from the British Voice Association, along with two special quotes and a small selection of links, showing what extraordinary sounds can emanate from the human larynx.
Have a happy day and make a noise any way you can!
“The only thing better than singing is more singing” (Ella Fitzgerald)
‘Den som vill sjunga hittar alltid en sång’, meaning ‘Those who wish to sing always find a song.’
I'd like to thank Annabel and Jacky for their English and Swedish versions of this proverb.
- 4th. April, 2021 -
On this day last year, I started this Voiceblog.
This day, in 1991, was the opening of an exhibition which I organized at the Chapter House of Worcester Cathedral. The participants were myself, my late mother the artist Hazel Winscom and my two dear friends Jo Lewis and Chris Frost. Jo presented mixed media contemporary artwork, Hazel oil and pastel and Chris photography.
The exhibition’s theme was ‘Contemplation’ and the show lasted about two weeks.
To mark this, and in contemplating both my mother and that moment, I am delighted to share with you a small online exhibition. Jo and Chris have kindly contributed again and the central thought for the show is embodied in a poem I produced for an anthology for the first show. The anthology was entitled ‘Chapter and Verse’.
The title of this presentation is ‘From Here To Where?’ I hope it might lead you into thinking about what stillness, expansion, imagination and movement mean for you. I hope you enjoy it.
I thank Chris and Jo from the bottom of my heart and I celebrate Hazel.
View the exhibition here
- 2nd. April, 2021 -
The Chapter House at Worcester Cathedral
© Emma Winscom - 31st. March, 2021
The Remains of Guesten Hall, Worcester Cathedral
© Emma Winscom - 31st. March, 2021
Faith, prayer, belief and wonder are special and individual the world over.
Cathedrals are places of song and silence.
Silence pervades just now - so I have linked here to a hymnal vocal celebration of renewal...
- 2nd. April, 2021 -
For my precious friends Simone and Awantika and anyone who has ever enjoyed singing or dancing...
‘Song of the Dance’
Man wrote the rule
Since time began;
We’re all the essence
Of that man.
And so, too, have
Our wings been caught
By yins and yangs
Of distant thought;
So stay in step with me.
The dance you do
Is not like mine -
My hand extends
But you decline;
We step again
And work to be
In mirror and
So stay in step with me.
Allow me please
The ballet ribbons
Allow me, if you will,
The endless patterns
That I know.
So stay in step with me.
And girls can sing
And boys can sing
At all can sing -
And I can dance
If you will too:
It matters not
How well you do.
So stay in step with me.
In simple steps
We form a bond
Through dancing’s magic wand -
Some movement from
A willing heart -
To meet, to learn,
To make a start.
So stay in step with me.
For, where you are,
I’m soon to be -
Then you will likely
And, for a second,
Still we stand
And you can offer me
A hand -
So stay in step with me.
Or walk behind
Or walk ahead -
But let me hear
The words you said;
There’s nothing in
Life’s game of chance
That can’t be soothed
With song or dance -
So stay in step with me.
© Emma Winscom - 2nd. April, 2021
- 30th. March, 2021 -
A floral and musical tribute to my late Uncle Tony.
© Emma Winscom - 30th. March, 2021
- 27th. March, 2021 -
Milk and Honey
Influences are fascinating things. Musical influences wind around people's lives in many nuanced ways. Most striking are the influences from musicians who are fundamentally quiet or less seen.
Such was Jackson C. Frank, whose life was beset with challenges but whose musical influence and effect are almost tangible when you listen to him. He died at 56, just after his birthday in March, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
This wonderful, simple song, ‘Milk and Honey’, was included in his sole album, released in 1965. The truthfulness of it, sung by its creator, is magical.
‘Milk and Honey’, sung by Jackson C. Frank
- 26th. March, 2021 -
Forces of Nature
© Emma Winscom - 26th. March, 2021
Today is the birthday of A. E. Housman.
In photographing my first bluebell this year, I hoped to find a suitable and representative piece to accompany it.
I landed on this Housman poem, through the Housman Society webpage. It was only then that I actually learned of the significance of today's date.
‘In my own shire, if I was sad’
by A. E. Housman
In my own shire, if I was sad,
Homely comforters I had:
The earth, because my heart was sore,
Sorrowed for the son she bore;
And standing hills, long to remain,
Shared their short-lived comrade’s pain.
And bound for the same bourn as I,
On every road I wandered by,
Trod beside me, close and dear,
The beautiful and death-struck year:
Whether in the woodland brown
I heard the beechnut rustle down,
And saw the purple crocus pale
Flower about the autumn dale;
Or littering far the fields of May
Lady-smocks a-bleaching lay,
And like a skylit water stood
The bluebells in the azured wood.
Yonder, lightening other loads,
The seasons range the country roads,
But here in London streets I ken
No such helpmates, only men;
And these are not in plight to bear,
If they would, another’s care.
They have enough as ’tis: I see
In many an eye that measures me
The mortal sickness of a mind
Too unhappy to be kind.
Undone with misery, all they can
Is to hate their fellow man;
And till they drop they needs must still
Look at you and wish you ill.
I have loved singing many beautiful settings of Housman poems over the years; the words of this poem, particularly, seemed timely for now.
Below also is a photograph of Housman’s birthplace, taken in the snow. The daughter of the family who live there is a former student of mine and who went on to be one of the recipients of my Mervyn Winscom Awards, named after my late father - more of that will follow later in the blog. The house is called, appropriately, ‘Housmans’.
I am most grateful to the Sapwell family and to Mr. Max Hunt, who is the Membership Secretary of the Housman Society.
I am very glad that I photographed a bluebell this morning. Look at what can happen.
- 25th. March, 2021 -
Chain of Fools
(Photo of a sign kindly given to me by my lovely student, Caitlin)
Aretha Franklin's divine voice carried me through every day of my first year as a student. ‘Chain of Fools’, ‘A Natural Woman’, ‘Respect’ and ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ were blasted out daily to sing along with; and my dear singing friend, Rachel, and I used to walk home from one of our choir sessions every week, singing one or all of the above as we went.
Today would have been Aretha's birthday and, interestingly, yesterday was the birthday of Don Covay, who wrote ‘Chain of Fools’.
Listening to Aretha fills you in a way that's hard to explain. The list of choices here could have been endless but I have chosen ‘Chain of Fools’ to illustrate how extraordinary her voice truly was. An amazing gift.
‘Chain of Fools’
- 20th. March, 2021 -
★ Dawn Williams ★
photographed by Adam Hills
Dawn literally radiates happiness. She is often known as ‘Smiley Dawn’, for obvious reasons. Having known her for around 20 years, I can safely say that this has always been the case.
In working with her through phases as diverse as touring, West End, re-auditioning, helping to nurture follow-on talent, college auditions, right back to her first foray into solo singing in her tender early years, I have always seen the same Dawn - someone who is joyous, hugely talented, ready to share, open and giving, hard-working but above all modest.
Dawn regularly inputs her experience and advice to any of my students heading in similar directions to hers. Everyone loves and respects her generous advice.
The fact that her work has been continuous is testimony to her wonderful traits. She adores what she does and loves even more extending that joy to those who watch her.
I caught up with Dawn a few weeks ago and I am thrilled to share our conversation with you here.
- 19th. March, 2021 -
There is no-one on this planet cleverer than the wisdom that made this:
© Emma Winscom - 18th. March, 2021
- 12th. March, 2021 -
Pilosella aurantiaca ‘Devil's Paintbrush’
© Emma Winscom - 30th. July, 2020
The earth sent me an email -
It travelled from my foot up to my head;
It rumbled through the night-time,
Even in snow, when life's sounds should be dead.
A fox grew in a flower bed,
Gold, smiley heads on wily lengthy stalks,
Like orange-green umbrellas,
In unfound ground on strange, unscheduled walks.
An owl gave me a concert,
It whooped its eerie singing in the night;
Its message was a clear one -
And clearer still, as soon as it turned light.
A ‘wood’-be exhibition
Presented smoother snapshots, still unnamed;
A barking presentation,
Displaying all the ways our life's been framed.
I saw a bulb too early:
It poked its head then vanished under snow;
I thought it was a light bulb -
It seems it chose the heavy way to grow.
A branch became an archway,
It started out supported from its root,
But it was better severed
To ease it from its happy crop of fruit.
The moon threw out a shadow
In playful competition with the sun -
The sun chose not to dabble
In moonlight ponds - and so the game was done.
The daylight took my photo,
I gladly raised my smiling to the sky;
Developed in the snowdust
It's easier to notice how things lie.
The silence is my theatre -
The static world with only me for noise;
A place to fashion wonders,
Where games have stopped - and people are the toys.
The gravel is my travel -
A getaway the broadsheet would suggest;
With zero distance covered
And lots of time to give my feet a rest.
The pasts become the present;
A future glance as yet is not restored,
So roundabout's the answer:
Stay wise, stay sane, stay you, stay now, stay bored.
The doorknob is my handshake;
A tightly fitting coat must be my hug.
An old film is my laughter,
While I stay warm and wise and safe and snug.
© Emma Winscom - 25th. January, 2021
- 4th. March, 2021 -
In random acts a management can work us
To be the willing viewers at the circus;
The clue is in the twirling of the mind -
The ribbon-dance that leaves all sense behind.
An upside down performer’s learned to cope
With dangling downwards from a flimsy rope -
And we join in the false anticipation
Of waiting for their poor configuration.
If truth be told, the plan may still work yet
Without the need for any safety net;
We gasp, they grasp, all mostly will be well:
We know that they could manage if they fell.
And so we join the club of being led
Into mystique and bending of the head;
A flirting with a need to feel complicit
With cheeky thrills that such rich games elicit.
© Emma Winscom - 24th. January, 2021
- 2nd. March, 2021 -
for a friend...
‘Through Slender Glass’
In sliding down towards a land of memory,
Maintaining ‘now’ is delicate as glass,
Suspended by a thread of disillusion -
No longer can you choose which way to pass.
Perhaps all of humanity is riven -
Two groups - those needing people, and those not -
But through our lives, we daily have been given
the characters, the scenery and the plot
that is our own, and overlaps with others,
In plaited talks or chosen solitude,
In moments all together and then parted,
Unique as you and all the things you've viewed.
For even in our moments of despairing,
Or aching loss, as well as heightened smile,
The most exquisite aspect is the sharing,
For years, days, hours - or just a tiny while.
People present no reason to be fearful -
The only thing worth fearing is yourself;
So burn the paper labels full of warnings -
Return the book of worry to the shelf.
For those who need no others, carry on then -
In perfect isolation, if you please -
And for the rest, the most in any nation,
Continue to relate and share and please;
For soft as cloud and simple as the rainfall,
This is the way we were supposed to be -
Just there for when another might invite us
to care, condole, to offer - just to be.
© Emma Winscom - 18th. February, 2021
- 24th. February, 2021 -
Today is my birthday and my treat is all of the following exceptional links. I share these with anyone else who gets it.
Janis Ian certainly does, as shown in her remarkable speech given at Berklee College. I was lucky enough to chat with Janis after a gig in 2011 and I have added a link to her genius, iconic song ‘At Seventeen’, to start my birthday playlist.
‘At Seventeen’, written and sung by Janis Ian
Janis Ian, speaking at Berklee College of Music
‘Baïlèro’ from ‘Chants d'Auvergne’, sung by Victoria de Los Angeles
‘Angel’, written and sung by Sarah McLachlan
‘Vincent’, written and sung by Don McLean
‘Casta Diva’, from ‘Norma’ by Bellini, sung by Maria Callas
and three different versions of ‘The Voice Within’, all sung by Christina Aguilera and which she co-wrote with Glen Ballard:
a very recent version
the original music video
an acoustic version
- 18th. February, 2021 -
★ Prof. Janice Chapman FGS, AUA, OAM ★
photographed by Fran Marshall
I have known Jan for many years as a colleague and, of course, she is widely known because of her internationally-selling book ‘Singing and Teaching Singing: A Holistic Approach to Classical Voice’. She is one of the most experienced and sought-after specialist opera singing teachers in the world.
In 2013, I asked Janice if she would help me re-explore my voice and she kindly agreed. After a challenging phase for me - containing, for starters, some 15 bereavements, 2 car-crashes, ensuing postural issues and a huge workload (!), I felt that the time was right to re-visit my own voice. I had seven targets and I achieved six of them from the process, as well as some additional ones - the seventh only had to be compromised, when weighed against the balance of my pre-existing work schedule and commitments going forward at that time. It was a fascinating experience on many levels.
I think teachers should always regularly put themselves in the position of what they ask of their clients and I have always followed that rule. I have never asked anything of a singer that I have not experienced myself and I have gone to vast lengths to facilitate putting myself in those situations.
Janice was so very kind and helpful to me, albeit in a firm and structured way! The whole experience was of such benefit to me, in many more than those you might expect and I shall always be grateful to her for the work we did at that juncture.
When life and work are very busy, some things have to be put aside. That is just the way of things. For many singers who also teach, I am sure they would agree that the act of teaching is so creative and fascinating that it can become near all-consuming. Particularly if you are a people-person, which many creatives, performers and coaches are, the rewards of helping people in voice, expression and emotion and music are overwhelming and wonderful. The balance of maintaining your own performing is a finely judged one and each person will have a unique set of circumstances to juggle in this regard.
I have always continued my own singing alongside my other activities. That has not been easy or without its challenges - and I have always regularly checked in with expert colleagues too, during the course of my all-consuming career, at different times and for different purposes.
Janice's book is available from most main suppliers and the course ‘SATS’, evolved from her research, has become an annual event.
I am delighted to present here Janice's interview, which I know will be of great interest to classical singers at all levels.
- 16th. February, 2021 -
‘The Art of Recitals’
Song recitals present an opportunity for unusual, thematic and creative programming. They are performance conversations.
I love recital singing.
I have given many - a lovely example of this was for the Cheltenham Lunchtime Recital Series, in which I was honoured to be scheduled several times. One of these was on this day - 16th. February, 1999.
The presentation had several themes, incorporating paintings by my late mother, Hazel, and also two particular songs in a programme of around 12 songs by different composers. Two were written by a singing colleague of mine called John Gibson, who had written a special song cycle entitled ‘Five Songs of Love for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano’ and who gave me the great honour of singing them. The two that I sang that day were:
‘If it's Ever Spring Again’
‘She Tells Her Love’
It was a warm, full room and a beautiful atmosphere, with honest and contented exchange between singer, accompanist and audience.
A singer’s life is made enormously easier by a skilled and sympathetic accompanist. I was blessed with the amazing playing of Veronica Jamset on that February day.
If ever there was the need for a revival of that honest exchange, it is now: the labour of love in composition, arrangement, painting, rehearsal, preparation, programming, offering and receiving. The value in experiencing the product of all that human endeavour, in live venues of measured size, where the silent response of an audience is tangible and the rewards indescribable, should never be underestimated.
Here’s to a recital renaissance with new and old live audiences, being as real as the performers.
John Gibson can be contacted at:
- 14th. February, 2021 -
‘Giving Irridescence A Rest’
- a story for big and small children everywhere.
Polly Beetle had a lovely shiny jacket. It suited most purposes, as she'd had it for years. It fitted her beautifully, because she had finished growing, and she loved it very much. You would probably call it purple, or moss green, or turquoise, or tulip pink, or buttercup golden. Its irridescence was a favourite feature to Polly and it made the jacket very useful. It had served her very well and had many more years of service left, for which she was grateful. But just for a bit of a change, she fancied a new one. She wanted to have another item for several reasons - to feel attached to the current trends, to have a different feeling in what she wore on some days, to give irridescence a rest. Usual sorts of reasons.
She could have had a lot of jackets over the years but was sensible in her purchasing. She also had much beetle wisdom and was a community beetle, social, kind and interested. Polly booked to see the very extensively promoted designer, The Big Jacket Potato - strapline ‘Beauty for Bugs’ - as a special treat for herself. It wasn't a birthday but she had a twinkly reason to have a treat and was excited to arrange an assessment and fitting.
‘The Jacket Racket’ where The Big Potato operated was on a slopy valley. It was a little dank but not too long and there were lovely flowers just at the edge of it, so it felt like a pretty place.
“Well yes, I can see you might need a 37, a B9z and nailheadziptac”, said The Big Jacket Potato.
Polly was impressed at the speed of his assessment, although she had hoped for a little more fuss, or perhaps the word was care. Anyway, he wrote things down very fast on scratchy paper - a sort of scrapy noise - at lightning speed - almost too fast for anyone to write at all. Polly felt honoured to be fitted into his obviously very important timetable and was imagining what her new jacket might be like.
The deal with The Big Potato was that he knew best what would suit you. In fact, he had become known for knowing best what would suit anyone, whether he'd met and assessed them or not. He did have pictures of his jackets all over the walls and most impressive they were indeed. A little grander than Polly's usual style - but the word around was that BIG BEETLES wore his stuff. You know, BIG beetles. Oddly, though, his fabulous posters only had one or two models, which Polly found surprising, as there were SO MANY jackets photographed.
The next appointment would be the ‘Tweek and Peek’.
Polly was amazed that by the next time she slid to the bottom of the valley near the flowers, she would be trying on the special jacket for final adjustments.
‘Tweek and Peek’ day came.
Polly had an early grub paste sandwich and set off. She slid down the valley, past the lovely flowers, and reached ‘The Jacket Racket’, where The Big Potato was visible through the Racket Office window. He always was 4.7 minutes late. He never apologized for that. He wasn't a great one for words, but his arms did swirl a lot and the scraping sound was something that stayed with you.
“Here, now”, he said, “we must make sure that the lines are right on you. That is very important. It must look, feel and seem like your own skin and jacket. It must.”
Polly found his words a little uniform in pitch and did wonder to herself why it would not fit, as The Big Potato made special (and expensive) jackets all the time. It was his thing. He was known for it.
The Big Potato put a swathe of cloth around Polly's middle and pulled fairly hard, a bit like what's needed to make a corset. He pulled, three times.
Polly thought: “Thats' a bit tight.”
“Hmm?” he said. “Good? what you want?”
Then he pulled again. It was getting almost a bit too tight to breathe.
“Not that much, thank you”, said Polly, gasping in some more air.
“Gosh yes, sorry”, said The Big Potato. “Yes, good - that's good. Are we done here? Wrapping? So lovely, thanks. Must plough on.”
Just as Polly recovered from the squeezing of the new jacket, she pulled out her money pods to pay. She was about to find some nicety to exchange with The Potato and looked straight at him. It was then that she saw that what she had thought was his face was not his main face. It was his second face. He seemed to want to pack the jacket up and conclude quickly. Beetle wisdom told her that something was not quite as it seemed. She slowed her talking a little but he said:
“I can't spend too long. It's the air, you see.”
A strange potato expression covered his face. Usually, potatoes had a round, smooth countenance with little hidden. The Big Potato seemed bothered, nearly anxious, and was speaking carefully. Polly walked round the side of the counter and further into the Racket Office. Then she could see. Like a lion with a thorn in its paw, or a dog on an unwelcome leash, The Potato's face was much bigger - but it was on the other side, sideways, under an enormous mechanical boot that kept it pressed into the dank green below. The face that she had been talking to was face number two, constructed, if brilliantly, with a cruel mechanism of limited action and almost true potato-like movement.
“Oh my goodness”, said Polly. “How long have you had two faces?”
The Big Potato wept freely, in huge relief, and said:
“Ever since I won the Jacket Prize and my ‘Potato Skin’ range got reported in the ‘Dank Times’. The old boot (he gestured with a weird, angular nod of the head backwards) was ‘given’ to me. I could choose where to be clamped and I chose here. ‘The Jacket Racket’ Office gives me a view of the flowers up at the top of the valley. It's OK, most of the time. I can see them. I can't smell or pick them though. I can't move, really. I have to lie, and talk, and work only here. People come - I'm very busy and I like to work fast because it means that more people visit. That is lovely. It breaks up the day; then I'm only alone when I'm not working.”
Polly sighed out at what he said, as if to help him breathe a bit better. Beetles have great empathy, but stiff upper shells.
“May I mention”, she said, “that you sometimes squeezed the measuring ribbon very tight?”
“I know”, said The Big Potato, “I hate that feature but it's out of my control. The boot also has to re-boot, regularly. Each time, it presses my real face down and so I have to hold my breath briefly. I am sorry - but that's usually when I squeeze the ribbon a bit too tight. It's always quick, so that's a relief, but I never know when the re-boot will happen.”
“Well, well”, said Polly. “What an amazing potato you are! A King Edward, in my book”.
The Big Potato smiled as a little cheery tear rolled down his freckled but now smoother skin.
“Can you remove the boot?” Polly asked.
The Big Potato cried again.
“No-one has ever stayed long enough to see or ask me any of this. Yes, I can - it just needs someone to see it and say it.”
“Deal done”, said Polly.
And at her words, a great mechanical clunk happened. a metal round widgety thing or two fell away, The Potato rolled over, shook himself like a wet dog and faced her properly. Just the one face, this time. He rose and showed her to The Racket Office door.
“I think your office could do with a spring clean”, said Polly.
At that, the Big Potato walked with her to where the pretty flowers are, took a handful and walked back down to put them in a vase. The Racket Office looked better already.
At home, Polly unpacked her new jacket. It actually was very lovely, if a little snug around the middle. It was a gorgeous pond blue, with tiny, tiny patches of rainbows all over it. Irridescence, it seemed, was always going to be near Polly. She was fine with that. She was a very happy, lucky beetle, with a new jacket, for when she wanted a change. She looked at her older jacket and smiled. Like all good stories, Polly had ended up where she started, but with a better view.
The same could be said of The Potato, except he was moved to change much more than Polly had. His designs improved, he extended his premises, he planted flowers and even more people came for ‘that something different’ in the jacket line. They got all they hoped for and more.
Every year, Polly received a personalized brochure from The Potato showing all the work that he had done. He would have sent her a new jacket, too, but she didn't really have the space and, with beetle wisdom, she was just pleased that he wanted to. He did ask her to be a model, though, for one of his most stunning collections and she was more than happy to take the job. That was thrilling, and special and unique and she loved it. The collection was called ‘Irridescence’.
© Emma Winscom - 26th. January, 2021
Disturbed is the mind
That finds this OK
Disturbed is the sleep
Of each person each day
Disturbed are the thinkers
As ignorance is key
Disturbed is the longing
To once more be free
Disturbed is the system
Disturbed the routine
Disturbed is the movement
That goes on unseen
Disturbed is the schedule
The what, when and how
It's just ‘temporary’ -
A year, so far, now
Disturbed is the judgment
Of those shaping plans
Disturbed as the scrape
Of the skin on the hands
Disturbed is the balance
Of what had felt right
Distorted are lenses
Now shaping our sight
And more than ‘disturbed’
Is the thought of ‘disturbing’
Describing our paths as
We're forced to be curbing
Our natural instincts
For love, life and care
These things are now dreadful
You must be aware
Curl up in the weirdness
And focus your thought
On the horrid new living
We're trying to be taught
And if you don't like it -
Distortion, I mean,
It's one on from disturbance
So keep your eyes keen.
© Emma Winscom - 31st. January, 2021
- 9th. February, 2021 -
I've lost count of the times I have played, sung, accompanied, harmonized or listened to this wondrous sung. Right now, in my head, I am singing it across the world for anyone who needs it and, right here, I am singing it at my piano, on Carole King's birthday.
Being introduced to the album ‘Tapestry’ - even the styling of its cover - opened a special door into my sense of self and my human purpose. The whole album is timeless and Carole King is a genius. You can hear all the warmth and love in her voice.
Please listen to her, over and over again - and join in, over and over again.
The lyrics have special meaning right now.
‘You've Got A Friend’, sung by Carole King
- 5th. February, 2021 -
★ Giles Taylor ★
Giles as Dr. Craven, in ‘The Secret Garden’
Giles and I met through the fire door (!) which separated our buildings at university. It has been my joy, pleasure and privilege to have his friendship over a long time and to be able to have glimpses of his vast acting portfolio, through the years.
I have been delighted to direct many of my students towards his book, ‘Dramatic Adventures in Rhetoric’, to encourage them to go and watch him live - and, most recently, to work with him online, to refine specific aspects of their skills.
I am delighted to present to you here his answers to my questions. I am sure you will find them full of insight and joy.
- 4th. February, 2021 -
Pamela Cook, MBE
Pamela Cook was the director of the choir in the clip below - the Cantamus Girls Choir - and she was also my singing teacher for many years.
Today would have been Pam's birthday. She was an amazing woman.
I didn't sing in her Choir and the soundscape I sought with my ensembles and choirs was not the same as she sought with hers - but we both understood that about each other. She was a strong, wise and formative force in my singing evolution. She was no-nonsense, firm and a brilliant judge of character.
In my early years, she gave my practice a whole weekend of her time. I had asked her to observe my teaching, in an effort to refine yet further my very specialized style of work and to have the benefit of her vast experience.
All my students had a fantastic and instructive time with her and she wrote the following words to me afterwards:
As well as working with her on my own singing, she kindly asked me to arrange a folksong for her Choir and to translate some Latin from one of their pieces. In my research of female adolescent voices (one of my main specialisms), she also allowed me to interview and listen to a large number of her singers, to help with my work.
In 2010, I was giving a presentation on my teaching at the ‘Choice for Voice’ Conference at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Pam turned up at my session, unexpectedly - together with Ann Irons, who now runs the Choir. A formidable audience, quite apart from the other august attendees on that day!
She was so interested in the presentation and I was humbled to hear that she was proud of what I had done.
I didn't see Pam again and, just as I was hoping to resume my own singing after a mad-busy phase of teaching and conducting and a lot of life events, Pam sadly passed away.
However, her legacy is strong, if intangible and hard to define. You see, singers and singing teachers are some of the best judges of character in the world. They are also patient, understanding and human.
What she would make of the world at the moment I can scarcely imagine.
If you're listening, Pam, for all the singers and choir members on our blessed planet, can you sort it out please?
My love to Ann and the current Choir, who are living online at the moment...
we all know the real deal and, I am sure, so does Pam!
If you'd like to discover more about the Choir, here is a link to their web site:
Cantamus Girls Choir
and the following clip is a charming and rare video recording of Pam, conducting the Choir.
‘Fix You’, sung by Cantamus
- 31st. January, 2021 -
‘The Singing Will Never Be Done’
- The perceptual challenges and rewards of unusual soundscapes
- Observations from Meirion Bowen
- The perceptual challenges and rewards of unusual soundscapes
It is sometimes easier to stick with what is in front of you than to delve too deeply into why it is there, why it is so or why you do or don't chime with it, or chime with it straight away.
Humans are complex and singers are complex but very interconnected humans.
Some singers respond best to a simple tune, harmonized sympathetically and fairly easy to remember.
Some prefer a little challenge - a slightly more intricate or tortuous accompaniment that ultimately resolves and sits happily in hand with the main vocal line.
Some actively enjoy clash and dissonance - and can cope with and enjoy sustained lines of seemingly discordant music.
A bit like gritting your teeth through a film which is about an intense but formative chapter in history. You might bristle, initially, but you stay inside the extended uncomfortable moment, partly waiting for the musical resolution to happen.
Imagining the various ways in which that resolution could happen can sometimes be enough. Musicians develop inner hearing at high levels which makes the journey through challenging music more layered but also often more rewarding.
Chorally, dissonance and delayed resolution are fabulously suspenseful and many-coloured. I think there is even greater richness in singing such music than listening to it.
When the composer gives birth to his idea, it comes from a moment, or series of moments, and is then to be presented to the wider world.
The impact can't always be presupposed. It is unwise to guess at the intention of a composer, when asking people to receive the musical architecture of his thinking.
As we all process uniquely, and have unique prejudices, all audiences will experience a concert uniquely, both as a group and as individuals.
Today, 31st. January, is the date of the premier of Sir Michael Tippett's ‘Lullaby’ by the Deller Consort in 1960 and so today would seem the ideal day to offer this recollection.
As part of Sir Michael's 85th. birthday celebrations, I had the privileged opportunity to sing the solo in ‘Lullaby’.
The choir was conducted by David Ponsford and I am so very grateful to David for giving me the opportunity to dive into this music.
Learning and feeling its sound was like stabbing the air with an icicle. The soundscapes within the ‘Lullaby’ are other-worldly at times and highly transporting. As an alto, it was wonderful to live inside a piece with rewarding lower registration and supported by sublime yet tortuously beautiful ensemble.
Sadly, we didn't record our version. In searching out another, I listened to and was taken aback yet again with the extraordinary qualities of the piece.
The best incentive for me to nail the piece was that Sir Michael himself was coming to listen.
He did, and was very pleased - which salved all my anxieties in learning it and having tried to make it as exquisite as it was intended.
I am proud to have sung it, thrilled to have met and pleased its creator and enriched by sharing its performance with the ESO Choir.
I still find it hard to put words to the sounds of this piece.
Better just to listen.
‘Lullaby’, sung by the BBC Singers
Here is a link to David's web site:
and the concert programme...David is in the photo. The concert was in the Countess of Huntingdon's Hall (now Huntingdon Hall), in Worcester.
- Observations from Meirion Bowen
In putting this item together, I contacted Meirion Bowen, who had been a key part of the structure of the events for the 85th. birthday celebrations.
Meirion sent a generous reply, which I attach here. It is enlightening and fascinating.
I'm delighted to hear from you.
As regards Tippett and the Voice, I would comment as follows:
“ The human voice might be said to be at the root of all the music by Michael Tippett. In his early years, one day as he walked home he heard a shepherd singing to his sheep in the field. The song moved him to tears - and he found that he could remember it exactly when he got home and was able to play it on the piano.
Several decades later he incorporated this song in the third of his Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles (1948): and indeed, this was the last work he conducted, when in his 90s and in a wheelchair, he appeared at the Proms with the Northern Junior Philharmonic Orchestra.
Tippett's professional career took a long time to establish itself. He became fascinated early on with folksong: and while working in the North of England amongst the unemployed, in the 1930s, he had them singing arrangements of the folksongs that he knew.
Interestingly, in the course of his life, he became fascinated with a great variety of singing styles. In the 1930s, for instance, he got hold of records of Bessie Smith and other jazz/blues vocalists. Hearing recordings of Negro Spirituals, he was so deeply moved that when he came to compose his most famous work, the oratorio A Child of Time, which he modelled on the Bach passions, he used five negro spirituals to sum up each of the sections of the work. Some snooty English critics at the time said he should have used Christian hymns, but his decision to use the Spirituals derived from an awareness that the music could express the feellings of people oppressed anywhere.
The oratorio was indeed the first work of his to go round the world. After a performance in Dallas, Texas, black chorus members came to him afterwards and said, “How did you know how we felt?” After a performance, there was a similar response from audience members who were relatives of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing.
Amongst the most moving performances were its first performance in Germany 25 years after Auschwitz, again attended by relatives of many of the victims. There were similar responses from poor people in Brasil and aborigines in Australia. The work recently made a great impact when Sir Simon Rattle recently conducted its first performance in Russia.
During Tippett's maturity, the second part of his Third Symphony was conceived as a series of blues, sung by a soprano, with a flugelhorn obbligato - an instrument with which he fell in love when he heard Miles Davis play at Ronnie Scott's jazz club one night in London's Soho.
In his largest, full evening work, The Mask of Time, the chorus and soloists engage in every sort of singing style, including effects he first heard when he attended a performance of the Monkey Dance in Bali (whose music is entirely for male voices, chattering, stuttering, bellowing, reaching up into high falsetto registers).
When Tippett composed, he sat at the piano and sang everything he composed. So none of his instrumental compositions is “abstract”, divorced from human physical expression. Every form of vocalisation is there from the most soothing to the most violent and declamatory (as in his second opera, King Priam).
His fifth String Quartet is the most intensely lyrical of them all, cast in two movements, the second of which is simple, yet profound in its concentration of solo lines for each instruments. And his very last work, The Rose Lake, he called “A song without words for orchestra”. He was then almost completely blind and very frail. He had to dictate the work to a pianist - sometimes trying to sing parts of it and often shrieking when the pianist got it wrong!
Tippett was a wonderful choral conductor, able to demonstrate all the strategies for singing music expressively or dramatically. Conducting orchestras, he generally vocalized in many different ways what he wanted players to do, articulating his melodic lines. And if he went wrong when conducting, he put his baton down and burst out laughing: and the orchestra joined in.
Always openly emotional, Tippett laughed a lot, cried openly; he sang around the house, in the bath, when out walking in the countryside, on buses and trains. At the top of the Schott's building, one also knew when he was on his way up the stairs, for he sang all the way, teasing staff and making them laugh.
The title of the last chapter of his autobiography, “Those Twentieth Blues” is “The Singing Will Never be Done.” ”
© Meirion Bowen - 2021
Meirion's web site: http://www.meirion-bowen.com
- 29th. January, 2021 -
© Emma Winscom - 23rd. January, 2021
If you’re sitting there in silence,
Frozen up by what we’re in,
Then please give your mind permission
For the thawing to begin.
Understand that you may differ
From the guides who show your way;
Step politely where directed
But then think the other way.
Do not panic if those near you
Have surrendered all their power;
Deep within them they are waiting
For the new taste to turn sour.
And politely they’ll continue,
Treading softly on their way,
With no sign of boats, or rocking,
Well, at least, not for today.
In your solitary confinement
Make a bargain with your heart
That in every waking second
You will plan a brand new start,
Wrapped in layers of the old one
And cocooned in wider thought,
Ripe for sharing and for shouting
When the battle has been fought.
You have the right to own the plant,
The compost and the pot -
You're the tender of the tender
And the sifter of the rot.
And filtration of your feelings
Will achieve a cleaner air
And a balance of your breathing
And a world that’s nearly fair.
So serve your time in knowing -
Reflect, record and wait...
And while your soul is growing
Mark the hour to celebrate.
© Emma Winscom - 23rd. January, 2021
© Emma Winscom - 23rd. January, 2021
‘Ring Of Fire’
It’s like I pressed a button
To paint the sky I chose;
A pale blue drift of cotton
Hemmed around with clouds of rose.
A filigree of branches,
Ink-black and well-defined;
An atmospheric blessing
For the balance of the mind.
The pink then turns to amber,
The blue a deeper deep;
And soon in shade we clamber
To a long-awaited sleep.
And maybe in the morning,
Another gorgeous sky -
A pause, a glance, a yawning
And a little wonder why.
© Emma Winscom - 23rd. January, 2021
- 24th. January, 2021 -
★ Ashley Maher ★
photographed by Zina Saro-Wiwa
The Sands of Time
In my initial phase of auditions, assessments, competitions, lessons and concerts, the work of unwrapping my voice and making it consistent was, as it usually is, largely done alone.
Rehearsals and concerts were full of people; but vocal routine-forming and note-learning is a solitary business. Then, as now, I devoured sounds of all kinds. It was my work, my relaxation - everything. I adored voices, percussion, dance, costume, theatre - and still do. Most of the soundscapes came from listening to albums - and, much as I loved the theatre, the costs of training myself in all the areas in which I wanted to develop my work prevented much spare money to go to shows as often as I would have liked.
In latter years, I have loved being able to restore that balance and go to countless productions!
I had also always loved world music of all kinds. Our late aunt had been an extensive traveller, including to several regions of Africa. African music became a passion of hers, along with jazz, after an elegant if more restrained musical induction of classical piano and Glyndebourne in her twenties. She was a wonderful pianist. She introduced me to even more African music than I had already been lucky enough to sing or listen to.
Ashley Maher’s albums ‘Hi’ and ‘Pomegranate’ were for me a magical mix of both scenarios - the worlds of auditioning in western commercial cities against the lush vocal harmonies and percussive influences of Latin and African traditions. The sounds of those albums swirled around my head all through that phase and were a fantastic alchemy of hope, performance, aspiration, travel of the mind and body, and harmonic and atmospheric flavours of African music. It also gave me a tiny link to my aunt, so far away.
Ashley’s subsequent releases just pull you in more and more to her unique sound.
So I am THRILLED to bring you this wonderful interview with Ashley herself. She is a beacon of uniqueness and musicality. Her path is fascinating - she embodies the influences of many genres whilst embracing her gorgeous tone, free dance identity and the hypnotic effects of the sounds of Senegal. I am sure you will find it fascinating reading.
I have put in a link to one of Ashley's pieces, in my earlier blog entry on 8th. December.
- 21st. January, 2021 -
One of my mum's favourite singers today, with her exquisite version of the song ‘Misty’ - written by the jazz pianist and composer, Erroll Garner.
‘Misty’, sung by Sarah Vaughan
- 21st. January, 2021 -
© Emma Winscom - 19th. January, 2021
For my godchildren and my dear friend, Margaret -
A faerie lantern pokes its head
Through crunchy leaves now brown and dead.
The snowdrop bulb has been turned on -
The winter's gloom is nearly gone.
So plant a penny by your toe;
Think hard where it is going to go.
It will become a tree of gold
To keep you warm when you are old.
And from inside your woolly snood
Peer out and see the birds seek food
Just like a faerie, off to scout
For better things to think about.
You can be small, or round, or tall
Or anything you wish at all -
A leaf will make a canopy,
Or maybe two - or maybe three.
But just keep building what you need:
See every moment, plant a seed
Of what might be, not just what’s now -
The fun is in the wondering how.
The elfin world has staggering strength;
It’s measure is of infinite length.
The gentle power of feeling small
Will climb atop the thickest wall.
And for the flowers that bolted high,
They send their glance towards the sky
And miss the faeries running round
The gorgeous hallowed lower ground.
Little is as little was,
Life is magic, just because
You live it, gently, crease by crease,
In acorn cap and moss chemise
And sometimes in a flouncing down,
Wrapped up inside a petal gown,
Do all you want and love it all
'Til next the snowflakes start to fall.
© Emma Winscom - 19th. January, 2021
- 21st. January, 2021 -
‘The Icing Off The Cake’
A white hair clip is the trowel
For muck and dust
Between the cooker and the worktop.
It’s fascinating -
It fills a good half hour.
A bit like knitting -
You can do it
Mindlessly- or mindfully.
The news is now the olds,
Same old sane old;
Grinding us down to limit our imaginations,
Because how high worth can imagination really be?
Unless, of course, it is an imagination borrowed from a boxed film.
If you hear something ten thousand times do you suddenly think it is so?
For some, probably.
The drip on a faulty tap can drive you mad...
Mostly one note, you see.
A landscape of only pink offers little extended vision.
A few pinks and you start to get excited -
Then back to one pink again;
And so it grinds along,
Like a pearl necklace suspended like a washing line,
Waiting to stand out against a beautiful dress.
But dresses are off this week;
Dresses, visits, most things actually.
Until it begins to feel like reason was
The knife that cut the cake of fear,
That that very knife was the only knife suitable for the task.
You probably have a drawer full of knives- some like the one that split the icing,
You used to cut the cake yourself
But now you pick it up in a brown bag,
A solitary event in the middle of your doormat.
Official, licensed cake.
Better than your own cake, probably.
You won't know that until the box tells you tomorrow,
So that’s a relief.
And later on you punctuate a flaccid January afternoon
With a thank-you note,
A necessary 'unneeded' that fills an aching hour
But reaches significance in a brave old world -
a world that quite likes and misses its even older, hole-filled socks.
The final appointment of the day is with another uniform pink horizon -
Only one colour allowed today -
And then a special box telling if you will want cake tomorrow.
Don’t think as far as the icing yet - it might be too much for an individual mind to manage.
You were always sensible with implements and temperatures and risks before,
But you really can’t trust that you still are.
Although quieter than normal, nature is still getting on with it, it seems.
Why is that then?
© Emma Winscom - 18th. January, 2021
- 18th. January, 2021 -
'Twas Ever Thus
The eternal is captured in this stunning song, written by jazz musician Benard Ighner, who was born this day in 1945.
This amazing version, by the legendary Nina Simone, makes you feel the lyric in a way that's hard to describe.
Change - life's constant.
‘Everything Must Change’, sung by Nina Simone
- 15th. January, 2021 -
I am excited to share with you this interview with Sarah Leonard, as the opening InterAct interview of this new year.
★ Sarah Leonard ★
The circular nature of life is constant.
I linked to a clip by Sarah Leonard on 5th. December, 2020.
Most people will know Sarah's voice from singing ‘Silencium’ - the theme for the ever popular TV series ‘Silent Witness’.
The first recording of Sarah that came my way was her album ‘My Heart is Like A Singing Bird’, recorded in 1992. I was in a phase of hunting out various interpretations of English songs, as I was in a recital phase in my own singing. My teacher at the time, the late Pamela Cook, suggested lists of singers for me to listen to. I happily added Sarah's album to my growing list.
In 2017, I was delighted to be invited to present several sessions at the Summer Conference of the Association of Teachers of Singing, which was a great honour. The venue was Wills Hall in Bristol, which was my old university Hall of Residence. The room in which I gave my lectures was not even dreamed of when I had been a student there - a very surreal moment, presenting in a conference facility that I used to know as a garden.
In yet further circularity, conference meals were in my old dining hall. On the second day, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Sarah and we ended up discussing a student whom, by chance, we had both taught. It was fascinating that, through our conversation, we had the same view as to where the strengths lay in this student's identity. After me, and before her, he had learnt in a different style and we both felt that this had not been his optimal fit. In a pleasing circularity, he had returned to the gear he started in and the one which really worked for him best.
The conference finished and my thoughts about vocal demand and identity continued for a good while.
Sarah seemed a wonderful choice for interview in my blog as her career has spanned such wide-ranging repertoire.
I am so thrilled to share her responses with you and am very grateful to her for her care in providing such thorough detail in her answers.
I hope you enjoy them.
- 9th. January, 2021 -
Humanity - The Sweet Sound of Joan Baez
What makes a voice iconic is near impossible to define - but it is a rare, simple and beautiful thing when a singer connects completely with his or her own voice, and then connects through that voice with the outer world.
Listening to Joan Baez is like watching a waterfall. Calming, soothing, full of power and compassion. Since my parents introduced me to her sound as a child, I have loved to return to listening to her, time and again. Each time, it's as if I had never stopped listening.
Today is Joan's 80th. birthday. Wishing her waterfalls, trees, leaves and flowers forever.
- 8th. January, 2021 -
Inspiration seemed a good way to start the year.
Genius, gift and musicality on a stratospheric level - Amy is a complete singer.
She represents complete connection to her inner self and something beyond all of us when she sings. Her sounds are beautiful, real yet spiritual, warm and subtle.
Few singers are brave enough to show their core through their sound like this.
And the meaning of her name - ‘Loved’. Of course.
Her talent was as wide as the galaxy.
‘Back to Black’, sung by Amy Winehouse
- 8th. January, 2021 -
Before me is a blessing -
To you it is a curse:
I need the time to make thought rhyme,
To spin my heart in verse.
And others do as I do,
They cast their thoughts as thread;
They draw a shape, and try to drape
Some beauty on what's said.
You find my words are ‘pretty’ -
They're paintings of our view:
I feel that it's a pity
That their point is lost on you.
For thinking is what ties us,
It can make good seem bad,
It can make friends despise us,
And waste the bonds we had.
What holds us close can cleave us,
With friendship sawn to dust:
In fear, good sense can leave us,
Firm iron turned to rust.
So weave your words in caution,
And, better still, hear fair,
Think hard as you apportion
Your judgment, mind and care.
The definition given
Of what you must call ‘foe’
Could be a bond now riven
With one you closely know.
Words also can mislead us;
The truths are in the act -
To go where people need us
To prove the honest fact
That life is for the living
And fear is little use -
Give out, give out, keep giving,
Renew your sacred truce.
You may not think like I do,
I still may like you, though,
Accept that we are different
In ways we choose to go.
For there is no denying
Our targets are the same:
Great happiness, no lying,
Trust, honesty, good name.
My pictures may not please you -
And that is fine with me.
I offer them, regardless,
As offering pleases me.
© Emma Winscom - 30th. December, 2020
‘Shades Of Rust’
© Emma Winscom - 30th. December, 2020
- 31st. December, 2020 -
A Whole New Year
May it be just that for all of you.
I offer thanks and love to everyone touched by this blog. The need for it was unexpected and I have been overwhelmed by the countless, positive reactions and contributions to it.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to anyone who has enjoyed it, sung along with it, or been cheered by it - and shared their experiences in the InterAct section.
There will be much to follow - see you in 2021!
‘Feeling Good’, sung by Michael Bublé
- 31st. December, 2020 -
Music For A While
© Emma Winscom - 31st. December, 2020
Here is the gorgeous voice of Chris While singing the gorgeous Joni Mitchell song, ‘River’. I absolutely love this ballad.
Recorded or live, Chris' singing is equally stunning.
‘River’, sung by Chris While
- 25th. December, 2020 -
I am so very grateful to everyone who contributed to my JustGiving page, named and anonymous. I have hit my target of £500 for Ataxia UK.
This is the best Christmas present - thank you.
Happy Christmas, wherever you are and whatever you are doing today.
‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, sung by Sam Smith
- 24th. December, 2020 -
The Way Of A Stranger
(fits the melody (set by W. J. Kirkpatrick) of ‘Away In A Manger’)
An odd-thinking stranger
One day lost his head -
He had mad ideas...
Then used them, then fled.
The stars in the welkin
Knew not what to say;
The tiniest problem
In everyone’s way.
The traffic is slowing,
The conscience awakes -
But little weird stranger
Won’t put on the brakes.
Who loves thee, stark stranger?
The question is ‘why’?
We all can’t be near you -
Be outcast and sigh.
Be lonely, odd stranger,
Live like us this day,
'Til all your odd thinking
Is wafted away.
Bless all of your victims -
You’ve few friends to spare.
We know what you wanted
- for you we can’t care.
© Emma Winscom - 23rd. December, 2020
- 24th. December, 2020 -
Narcissus in December
‘Narcissus in December’
© Emma Winscom - 21st. December, 2020
At the turn of the winter solstice in this strange, strange year, I had two beautiful surprises a few days ago.
My garden threw out the golden lamp of a narcissus head. Its own season, I feel - and its own statement at its own time.
Next, I found this version of a song I hadn't known before but which I shall sing in my next recital. I have loved Carol Kidd's voice for years - how I found her is a story for another time. I heard her version of ‘Seven Daffodils’ for the first time just after I photographed the bold little bulb shown here.
Much as I am all about uniqueness, now and again a version of a song is so right that you just want to listen to it and sing it too. Such is this song.
For this time of year, the lyrics have a purity of meaning which should touch everyone.
Even flowers are clever. As part of nature, they have to be, as nature is the cleverest, truest and most meaningful thing of all.
She gives us narcissus in December this year and I take every message that is helpful, again, from her and from the garden.
‘Seven Daffodils’, sung by Carol Kidd
- 19th. December, 2020 -
I am so pleased to be able to share with you my recent interview with Dan Cassidy.
★ Dan Cassidy ★
Dan has an enviable reputation as a player and teacher and I'm sure you'll find his answers interesting.
There is a link to track of him playing ‘Stardust’ at the end of the interview and you'll also find another track, in my entry on 2nd. November.
- 16th. December, 2020 -
Ludwig First and Last
Fabric: ‘Fidelio’, by Crowson
© Emma Winscom - 22nd. November, 2020
On this special anniversary, I link here to the fabulous Christa Ludwig, performing ‘Abscheulicher!...Komm, Hoffnung’ from Beethoven's opera ‘Fidelio’. Her sound is hard to describe but is compelling, rich, warm and bright, all within seconds.
If Beethoven is watching, he would appreciate the vast amounts of people who will be playing his music to commemorate him.
Perhaps our greatest and most unexpected gifts from him are an appreciation of the internal drive needed to create and the quiet gestation which spawns the highest creativity - like snowdrops erupting from solid earth. He felt his music through the floor and we get to hear it and feel it. The sharing continues.
I like to think that Beethoven IS watching, listening and knowing a great deal more than we can.
250 years isn't so long ago.
A year, this year, can be gone in a blink if you think about the right things. Amongst those things are beauty, music, art, humanity, kindness, affection, ensemble, harmony, love, light and endeavour. Eternal things, essential things.
Things which make us human.
‘Abscheulicher!...Komm, Hoffnung’, sung by Christa Ludwig
- 14th. December, 2020 -
I am delighted to bring you my interview with one of the UK's most widely-known and highly respected ENT surgeons.
★ Declan Costello MA, MBBS, ★
Declan has become even more known to many this year, through his resarch into the risks attached to singing in the context of Covid-19.
Declan has an insightful position of being both an active singer and a surgeon.
I had the pleasure of hearing Declan sing at a recital in Liverpool Cathedral, as part of the BACO 2009 Conference, at which I was an avid if not slightly unusual delegate.
Declan is currently the Honorary Secretary of the British Laryngological Association Council. He is also a member of the British Voice Association and, over the years, has offered some of my clients great wisdom, kindness and expertise in his clinic.
I hope you enjoy his interview!
- 13th. December, 2020 -
In Good Faith
I offer this link for how it might make you feel, not for its faith connection. It transcends its text, although you may wish to look at the text of Psalm 51, if you are of this faith, any faith or no faith at all.
I cannot even begin to describe how healing, unified, respectful and near perfect I find this version of Gregorio Allegri's ‘Miserere’, and how transporting.
This music was the bedrock of my early choral training, along with Bach, Tallis, Britten - the list is vast. I thank Jan Jarvis, Wendy Edwards, Michael Pegg, David Ogden, Glyn Jenkins, David Ponsford, Donald Hunt, Adrian Partington, Pam Cook and countless others for their innumerable guided tours through the places where such music can take you, during my many moments of exquisite and priceless choral experience.
It is far beyond one faith.
I hope you love this too.
‘Miserere mei, Deus’, sung by Tenebrae
- 11th. December, 2020 -
Today is David Gates' birthday.
His voice is so pure and calming and his song-stories so fantastically universal that they should be taken daily.
Notice your heart rate drop as you listen to these three stunning songs.
- 8th. December, 2020 -
Seven - The Utter Joy Of Voice
Ashley Maher's songs spin - and her angelic voice travels through the air with clarity, warmth of tone, heavenly harmonies and the measured beats that only a dancer understands.
There are many stories in ‘Seven’.
It is a pearl of a song.
- 5th. December, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 5th. November, 2020
Ravens and crows carry bookfuls of legend, folklore and portentous imagery. There is an eerie confidence associated with them - as symbols of revenge, power, mischief, secrecy and many other things. As the first released bird from Noah’s Ark, the raven's symbolism has sustained connotations of strength yet darkness throughout time.
Much creative material has been made around the tales, superstitions and motifs of the corvidae, including dances, songs, poems and striking visual representations of all sorts.
I have picked out two here - a quote from ‘Hamlet’ and a divine vocal version by Sarah Leonard of ‘The Three Ravens’, arranged by John Harle.
Fables often have good endings.
When the raven left the ark, soon after was the dove.
As with everything in living, thinking, breathing and existing, most often your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. Balance and self-knowledge bring freedom and wisdom. Moments of obscurity and epiphany will occur, regularly - and all individuals balance their own individual scales.
Chiaroscuro, even for non-painters.
We all are part dove, part crow.
from Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet’ (Act III, Scene II):
“Begin, murderer; pox, leave thy damnable faces, and begin!
Come, the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.”
‘The Three Ravens’, sung by Sarah Leonard
- 25th. November, 2020 -
I am delighted to share my next InterAct interview. It is with my dear friend, Lit Smith.
★ Lit Smith ★
A Written Voice
Amongst the things that I had to abandon this year was a very special event and film to raise awareness of the condition Ataxia and, hopefully, raise funds for Ataxia UK. I still intend to complete this planned project - but it absolutely requires human contact and participation, so it clearly can’t be right now.
My beautiful friend Lit has Ataxia - a condition about which I know a little - certainly more than I did. It is not, however, very widely known or understood.
Its impacts are many and infinitely challenging - but the spirit with which Lit and her family rise to meet those challenges soars higher than the mountain of difficulties, in what would be, for you and me, any ordinary day.
As a ceramicist, Lit has become particularly known for two things - her classical style torsos and her interpretation of unique leaf patterns through fired pieces.
A little while back, during an anniversary of my group, the ‘Emma Winscom Young Singers’, I asked Lit if I could commission a large number of leaves for me to give out to the singers in my practice, at the time of the anniversary. She agreed and came up trumps with the order - an example of one is in the photo here.
I was so thrilled that she took the time and I was able to present to my singers her wide range of ceramic leaves - and with my anniversary logo kindly added.
Lit has continued to produce and exhibit beautiful work and you can see it and read about her shows on her web site.
Just under a year ago, I had a Christmas party and Lit and her husband Ian were amongst the guests. How glad I am that we had that party, oblivious of what was imminent in 2020.
It has not been possible to visit Lit so far this year and so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to have this written conversation with her instead. She is an inspiration, a talented artist and part of a family that radiates love. She is also a fiercely supportive friend, a mother, an individual and a strong and sometimes highly irreverent ambassador for Ataxia - telling it like it is and living it the best she can. I am humbled to have the chance to show a little of her life here.
Please enjoy sharing her thoughts and words - please become aware of Ataxia and support it if you can. I have a ‘JustGiving’ page here:
Emma’s ‘JustGiving’ page
And Lit - please know that the event and film will happen, somehow. All your friends treasure you. xx
Read Lit’s interview with Emma here
- 25th. November, 2020 -
On 25th. November, 1952, the film of Hans Christian Andersen was released, starring the iconic and brilliant Danny Kaye.
All the songs are inspired - they have meaning for everyone, as good stories don't age.
The song here is reported to have influenced some of David Bowie's songwriting.
Please enjoy - then watch the whole film and share with all the children you know - young and old!!.
‘Inchworm’, sung by Danny Kaye
- 20th. November, 2020 -
In my early phases of finding music which matched my vocal colour and range, I was given many very helpful suggestions of material to look at. The list grew and grew but certain items were things I might well not have found, without someone else's direction.
One such work is ‘Das Lied Von Der Erde’ by Mahler. The coach who mentioned it to me at the time was a big Mahler fan and he did so, having heard me sing certain French and German repertoire.
I took his advice and bought the CD of Agnes Baltsa's recording of it.
When I first played it, I found the music of ‘Der Abschied’ so emotional that it was almost painful, as Mahler often feels.
I couldn't finish listening to it. In fact, I didn't go back to it for a good while, somewhat overwhelmed by the whole piece.
I confessed this to the coach, a little apologetically, and made an internal promise to find the strength to work through it.
In my evolving, relentless and ongoing search for amazing moments of voice, in all its forms, I then landed upon the stunning versions by Christa Ludwig and Dame Janet Baker, both equally thrilling and out of this world - but in unique ways.
I had the pleasure of presenting a highly gifted solo student and an ensemble in a special festival that was adjudicated by Dame Janet about 5 or so years later and her advice and assessments were even warmer than her voice. It was an amazing afternoon - and a story for another time.
Life again, it appears, is circular.
The music's richness and ethereal quality are very special. The premiere of ‘Das Lied Von Der Erde’ was the 20th. November, 1911.
I haven't linked to it here as it is a substantial piece, worthy of considered listening, perhaps on a long and quiet afternoon.
It will transport you.
- 19th. November, 2020 -
Today is Agnes Baltsa’s birthday.
She was one in a library of voices I was advised to listen to, in the earlier part of my classical training. I took that advice and started a substantial collection of recordings of iconic voices, particularly singers showing colours which were akin to those in my own voice - as my then teacher, the late Pamela Cook MBE, suggested. She was a very wise woman and I do miss her, as much for her humour and intuitive guidance as for her musical intelligence and precision.
I relished listening to those other voices, as much as extending my own.
Today, I link to Agnes’ gorgeous version of the aria ‘Habanera’, from Bizet's ‘Carmen’.
It is joyous. Agnes’ voice soars to a place that is hard to define.
- 18th. November, 2020 -
A Rose-Coloured Welcome
© Emma Winscom - 14th. June, 2020
If you are struggling today, you are amongst friends, known to you or not. Your experience is shared by millions and that fact bonds you with them invisibly: shared experience means you are part of something.
As this song says, dare to dream. Build as many dreams as you can.
Beth Nielsen Chapman’s voice is purely the sound of an open heart.
All her songs are beautiful and all her notes sung with love.
The song ‘The Color of Roses’ is linked here in two versions. I found the first one years ago and the second yesterday - both wondrously honest.
Her voice makes me weep - so weep with me.
If you are struggling today, you will feel better tomorrow.
‘The Color of Roses’ (version 1)
‘The Color of Roses’ (version 2)
- 17th. November, 2020 -
Things never stop -
They only wait,
Just like a friend
Who’s always late.
By pausing things
To help those friends,
You talk ’til late:
It all gets said,
The photos shared,
The letters read.
And so, in nature,
All goes on
Without a thing
To blame it on.
A bud bursts out
Two weeks ahead -
Things still get done,
Few tears are shed.
The dams of life
May shape your way
But, badly built,
They wash away.
This year are rife -
They blossom round
Our twisty life.
The Winter Jasmine,
Fresh and bold,
Bedecks a wall
With gentle gold.
A season’s end -
Or find its start -
As if a friend.
Is needed most,
The year’s great loss
A fading ghost.
With oxbow bends
We walk again;
We make the now
A bitter ‘then’.
And after Jasmine,
We lift the world
With spring in sight.
A world of care,
Both new and old -
But one we choose,
We love, we hold.
© Emma Winscom - 10th. November, 2020
© Emma Winscom - 9th. November, 2020
- 16th. November, 2020 -
I am known for nurturing and preserving uniqueness in all the singers I help on their journeys. This is the only way a singer can sing with integrity.
In hunting out clips, I had the pleasure of playing through phenomenal versions of ‘I Can Only Be Me’, written by Stevie Wonder and performed by the stunning Keith John, the sublime Stevie himself (an unreleased version), the legendary Eva Cassidy and the staggering male vocalist, Fletcher.
I love them all - but have chosen to highlight here the version by David Whitley. Something in his voice spoke to me in a very special way.
He is also a vocal coach (the best people!) and his mission is to preserve uniqueness in the voices of the singers he works with...
The power of a voice is limitless.
Here, a perfect song, a perfect, unique singer.
Nothing can touch that combination.
‘I Can Only Be Me’
- 12th. November, 2020 -
I am delighted to present my next InterAct interview - here, I chat with Dame Felicity Lott.
Her stories are fascinating!.
★ Dame Felicity Lott DBE, FRAM, FRCM ★
photographed by Trevor Leighton
Felicity - The Reward Of Singing
I am blessed with many fascinating and kind friends.
One very talented and dear friend from university, who was soon to add a stint at Number 10 to her work profile, shared with me a gift from her grandma; she had been offered tickets to Glyndebourne.
As I was then embarking on classical singing training, she very generously offered me the chance to accompany her. We went and watched Felicity Lott in Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ in the summer of 1989 and it was a key moment for me in many ways.
I heard Felicity again live at a recital and interview at The Forge in London in 2014, following which we chatted and made plans for an ISM event at later date.
A little time passed.
Then 2020 happened - and amongst the chaos and disappointment for all musicians, my own various tasks included trying to lift the spirits of my clients and colleagues. Particularly, I hoped to keep positive a gifted singer who was hoping to audition for classical singing courses; I had scheduled recitals, festivals and competitions for her, in the crucial 6 months leading up to audition season. All of this had to be cancelled; as well as this, she had been mostly indoors, singing a little online and battling the mental challenges that most singers have in this weird year.
She could not audition in person either, which was a great shame as she has a wonderfully engaging platform manner, together with a beautiful voice.
Felicity most kindly offered to chat with her online individually, prior to her audition recordings - and also to give a Q & A session to other experienced performers in my practice, which she kindly did a few days ago.
Both events have been wonderful in restoring and boosting confidence for my clients and illuminating for some of them the mysteries and demands of an intense performance lifestyle.
I am so grateful to Felicity for her generosity in sharing her experiences. The interview here covers much of the detail in the Q & A and a few extra areas.
Life is circular, it would seem.
Watching ‘Arabella’, I could not have anticipated the technology that now makes this interview possible, nor the clients I have currently, who were not even born then (!) and who would benefit in such a way from Felicity’s kindness.
Read Felicity’s interview with Emma here
- 11th. November, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 30th. July, 2020
- 10th. November, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 30th. August, 2020
So yellow leaves the way for things of green,
An imprint or an outline shows its head,
When arms of trees and paper leaves seem dead -
They simply veil what's coming, yet unseen.
The playlist of the seasons rumbles on;
The track before - and several yet to play,
The sky presents new colours every day,
The lyrics of before are mostly gone.
The themes we loved we hear time after time,
Like favourite jumpers, helping us stay warm.
Some new designs inside a well-loved form -
And, waiting in the wings, a richer rhyme.
To keep the flow of life's unending script,
Each backdrop will belie what's coming next;
Obscured by coloured cloths and subtle text -
That vibrant ink in which life's pen was dipped.
With hushed, hibernian moment things move past;
The ‘big reveal’ just in suspension still,
About to wave its ‘gaudies’, if you will
To knowing watchers, from a knowing cast.
Beneath the soil of now there is much growth;
Regeneration of creative hearts -
And combination of all gorgeous arts:
A silent, soul-based, universal oath.
Minds will continue seeking the sublime.
Makers will make from whatever they can find;
Sharers will love sharing what those gave,
Before, and now, and 'til the end of time.
© Emma Winscom - 20th. October, 2020
- 9th. November, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 22nd. October, 2020
This link is to the beautiful song, written in 1949 by Ralph Burns and Woody Herman, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
Here it is, sung by the iconic Ella Fitzgerald.
- 6th. November, 2020 -
I am delighted to present the next one of my InterAct interviews. This one is with Avril Owton MBE, whom I have known for a number of years.
Her story is inspirational.
★ Avril Owton MBE ★
The Positive Power Of A Kind Conversation
Voice is one of the most key components of being alive for most humans.
Hearing it, using it and joining with others. Shared conversations - in fact, shared anything - add a richness of quality, a proportion, a perspective and an enhanced experience.
The very act of verbalizing, as many therapists and coaches will endorse, is a potent tool for shaping and releasing a thought. Words form, expression is given to the internal and magic happens. Not necessarily comfortably, either - but vocally articulated thought is the oil that soothes and cleanses the human emotional machine.
A good few years back, I attended a Women In Business Conference. It was yet another fabulous unknown which life sent me into. A little daunting but, as always, full of unanticipated benefits (not least cupcakes sponsored by a consultancy firm and winning a mug for an impromptu pitching task in a marketing workshop - both very surprising!)
One of the key speakers was Avril Owton. She appeared often in public and her story was known to many in the room. I was fascinated to hear how she had overcome all manner of challenges and achieved almost the unimaginable with her work and life, following difficult times.
After the conference, I contacted Avril and asked if she would be able to spare me some time for a chat. I was at one of my crossroads moments - there have been a good few for me and all, I now realize, for the right reasons - and I was looking for a different and wise perspective.
Avril kindly invited me to meet with her at the Cloud Hotel, which was still her business at the time, and gave me the most fantastic, positive, practical and unexpected advice. My situation had unique challenges during that phase of my life and my head was running circles in trying to think of solutions. It turned out that I was not as far out as I thought I was. She encouraged me through her focus, determination and positivity; she helped me clarify that the very intimidating and demanding position I was in was just part of that old rich tapestry thing. That sometimes you can't believe what is in front of you - that sometimes people put you in near-unmanageable positions and you have to find a way out. That hard work can always be 10 times harder - and that, if you need to, you can find 10 times the reserves you think you had.
I have never fought shy of hard work and my path has been in equal measure joyful and exacting but Avril's words fired me even more. I was feeling out of steam and she made me feel that I could find a new pot of steam just by looking and re-thinking.
And she was right. That challenging situation went on longer than it should have and was not from a good place but I found inner depths to meet it. She highlighted for me, again, the need to refresh, work, work more and observe all the details that lots miss out - punctuality, efficiency, presentation. All crucial for a dancer and in business.
I too had been a dancer, as my mother before me.
I knew these things but my disbelief at the plate life had put on my table was getting in the way of my pushing on with the very tough jobs in hand.
That phase passed. They always pass, eventually.
I have been in touch with Avril on and off since then and I will never forget her kindness in giving me the right words at the right time.
It was up to me to seek her out though, in order to find that golden advice.
This year presents challenges in the most automatic of responses - being social.
And people are coping with it in ways that are creative, supportive and endlessly human.
Please think of my meeting with Avril. A view from the outside can turn your world round for the better. The change may not be instant, but it will be possible.
Please read my interview with Avril and please seek out wise ears and wise words wherever you can in this most unusual time, as often as you need to.
Enquiries won't stop.
Conversations won't stop.
Humans need humans.
Read Avril’s interview with Emma here
- 5th. November, 2020 -
Fawkes and Spoons
The parents of a student - later a friend - acquired a small castle in Worcestershire in 1998.
As well as the excitement of that fact in itself, the building carries fascinating connections with the Gunpowder Plot.
Some years later and, fortunately for me, the 400th. Anniversary of the Plot was looming (in 2005) and the owner and his wife kindly invited me and some of my senior students to present a vocal programme on the 5th. November, at a special banquet in the castle.
Three very accomplished senior singing students of mine prepared part songs from various eras, crafted around the theme of the anniversary. What an honour.
It was another wonderful and unique experience in a lifetime of amazing and unique experiences.
For the singers involved, with whom I am still in touch, it was another step along the road to confidence in presentation, harmonious co-operation, in all its meanings, and celebration of the unusual.
One is now a lawyer, one an actress/singer in Australia and one a music therapist.
They are all still fabulous individuals, adding their voices in many ways to the world's soundscape.
Singers are a rare breed. Singing extends and facilitates pretty much everything.
Moments of harmony leave their print in the air for as long as a person has memory.
More information about the history of Caldwall Castle (PDF file)
The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, 1605
by Crispijn de Passe the Elder; engraving, circa 1605
© National Portrait Gallery, London
- 4th. November, 2020 -
After A Dream
As mentioned in my entry on 17th. May, I have always loved the songs of Fauré and continue to do so.
Après un Rêve was the first French song that I presented publicly, at a school recital, and it has accompanied me through my recital life ever since.
On this anniversary of Fauré's passing, I offer two very different versions of this iconic song.
The first is by the legendary and unique Mireille Mathieu and the second by the beautifully smooth-voiced and accomplished soprano Sabine Devieilhe.
The lyrics are from an unknown Italian text, set by Romain Bussine.
- 3rd. November, 2020 -
Vaga luna, che inargenti
One of Bellini‘s best known songs today, sung by the wonderful Renata Tebaldi.
- 2nd. November, 2020 -
All recordings of Eva Cassidy show her intense sensitivity and musicality.
Particularly special is this link to her version of ‘Fever’, which also features the magical fiddle playing of her brother, Dan, on the same track. It is beautiful to hear the family connection in this musical conversation - yet another iconic snapshot.
I have been lucky enough hear Dan play live several times: he talks through the strings and the listener is quickly wrapped up inside the moment of the piece he is playing.
Modest and brilliant - a rare thing.
- 1st. November, 2020 -
- 31st. October, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 19th. October, 2020
Below is a link to an enchanting version of this famous song, sung by the stylish and vocally extraordinary Kristin Chenoweth.
It is compelling and wonderful.
‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’
- 30th. October, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 25th. October, 2020
The word ‘σοφια’ in Greek means wisdom and the song ‘Chanson d'Automne’ was used as a clever code in World War 2.
The poem of this song was written by Paul Verlaine. Reynaldo Hahn's brilliant setting floats around like a leaf and Anne Sofie von Otter's exquisite voice leans beautifully left and right throughout.
‘Chanson d'Automne’, sung by Anne Sofie von Otter
- 29th. October, 2020 -
- 28th. October, 2020 -
- 27th. October, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 16th. September, 2020
Great songs make you listen - as do truthful singers.
Both of these songs have the title ‘October Roses’ - the first is sung by Mike and Carleen McCornack and the second by Gail Rundlett.
Both have honesty and richness. Better still, they tell a story with every word and note.
These are just beautiful.
Mike and Carleen McCornack
- 23rd. October, 2020 -
It’s staggering how a fragment of life from decades before can be triggered by a single, split-second sensation. The father of a very dear friend of mine, who has dementia, wades through confusion to recognize his son, my friend - but, together they can find, albeit briefly, momentary united purpose in the singing of music hall songs.
Such is the power of the brain, the memory, the feeling of singing, the shape of a song and a shared purpose.
I come from a long line of synaesthetes - and the creative bounty of such a state is immeasurable but also unexpected. In other ways, too, triggers happen for lots of people - from a scent, a fabric design, even using a treasured mug or garden rake.
So, today, I was polishing furniture (the annual event, as I am not excited about housework, other than maybe during a lockdown, when it is very nearly exciting!). The brand of polish I was using (and I won’t say which but it has been around a while) suddenly propelled me right back to an era when polished wood was a regular fragrance at home, the internet had not been invented and the things you dreamed of could not be manifested in minutes, as they often can now.
The fun was in the expectation - it still can be, actually, as instant communication and gratification are only that - instant.
When blinding truths and monumental discoveries happen, they have most often been preceded by a bunch of instant answers; and then you spend a lifetime threading them all together to achieve a full picture - and maybe validate insightful childhood hunches.
Instantly, at the first whiff of that polish, a particular song for absolutely no reason at all came to mind. That song was ‘Love Comes From Unexpected Places’. I loved it then and love it still. I first heard it sung by the amazing Barbra Streisand, who exquisitely pours the emotion of a thought into every word she delivers. This song stuck, along with many of hers.
Later I found Kim Carnes’ own lovely version. She wrote the song with Dave Ellingson for her album ‘Sailin’. In 1977, it was included in Barbra Streisand’s album ‘Superman’. The song won the American Song Festival and the award for Best Composition at the 1976 Tokyo Song Festival.
If ever the lyrics were needed it was now - especially the lines
“Alone again I search a street of unrelated faces
Where strangers look the other way
They’re so afraid my smile might say ‘come in’”.
Don’t be afraid - be open to the unexpected. If you only live in an algorithmic place you always know what’s coming.
The unexpected could offer good or challenging things - 2020 has shown both. But I do trust these lyrics and offer them to you. And if it weren’t for the internet, I would not be able to share my thoughts with you as I am here. I’ve stored loving this song and this version for decades. I know potentially that the whole world now can know that I like it.
Wow - I love that.
Organic evolution and science combined at their best.
‘Love Comes From Unexpected Places’, sung by Barbra Streisand
- 18th. October, 2020 -
‘Un Avenir Désuet’
Je voudrais donc que tu me donnes
Un baiser quand tu pars
Peut-être tu préfères aller
Tout seulement à la gare
Sentant le parfum de ton âme
Et sans les mots qu'tu penses
Je te regarde joyeux et triste
Les deux, les choses immenses.
Ta maison est ton inquiétude
Ton jardin est ta paix
Ton matin est pour réveiller
Ton soir, plus calme, plus vrai
La vie éclaire le chemin,
Des milliers de chances
De peur tu restes et tu te tais,
Cachant sous ta puissance
Et donc nous restons dans ce temps -
Où on ni bouge ni change
Sentant le même, faisant le même,
Les deux, vivants, mensonges.
Le monde demande dormir encore
Jusqu'à la guérison
Il nous faudrait considérer
L'humeur de notre chanson
Nous nous réveillons maintenant
Comme l'air et le soleil
Vers beauté, vers un miracle,
Vers sagesse et vers paix.
© Emma Winscom - written between 5th. September and 5th. October, 2020
With thanks to Neil, Neil, Lynn, Clare and Sue
- 18th. October, 2020 -
World Singing Day
Did you sing yesterday?
Every day is singing day.
The third Saturday in October is World Singing Day - its mission - to unite the world by singing.
It actually already is.
Singing together stops all negativity - singers know this.
The link below is to a clip of a different but powerful event in 2010, at Veltins-Arena - ‘Sing! - Day of Song’.
Bobby McFerrin is amazing. And all those people - together, in unity - because of singing - are also amazing.
Bobby McFerrin, improvising at Veltins-Arena
- 13th. October, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 11th. October, 2020
I was looking into one of my favourite songs - ‘Autumn Leaves’ or ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’ - which this year is 75 years old. The song was written by Joseph Kosma with lyrics by Jacques Prévert (French) and Johnny Mercer (English) and has been recorded by countless artists.
There are many lovely versions to be found and I myself love to sing it.
In listening to some of the recorded versions, I found this completely beautiful one by the legendary Yves Montand. Today would have been Yves' 99th. birthday, so it is perhaps a good day to listen to it.
‘Les Feuilles Mortes’, sung by Yves Montand
- 12th. October, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 3rd. September, 2020
12th. October, 1978 was the release date of Billy Joel's album ‘52nd. Street’, including the beautiful and haunting song, ‘Honesty’. I have attached a link to the song below.
The Latin name for the plant ‘Honesty’, shown in the photograph, is ‘Lunaria Annua’, due to the moon-shaped silver seed pods for which it is known.
There is also an apt line in Shakespere's ‘Hamlet’:
“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand”.
‘Honesty’, from Billy Joel's multi-award-winning album, ‘52nd. Street’
- 8th. October, 2020 -
Voice has been my lifelong vocation and my business for decades.
Consequently, I have interacted with many thousands of people with absolutely all situations, experiences, opinions and personalities.
The work is life-affirming and wonderful and I have maintained lasting relationships with a huge number of those wonderful people - colleagues, clients and alumni.
I am thrilled to introduce this new platform on my Voiceblog, to share with you some of our myriad stories.
★ Moa Myerson ★
Moa is talent, humanity and warmth from head to toe - and rather beautifully modest and giving to any younger students who ever need her help.
I hope you enjoy reading her answers to my questions and go and watch her or hire her whenever you can. She is next appearing in Alan Bennett's ‘Talking Heads’ at Malvern Theatres from Tuesday, 13th. to Saturday, 17th. October, 2020.
Read Moa’s interview with Emma here
- 30th. September, 2020 -
Rare and Beautiful Jessye
Discovering Jessye Norman in my early years of classical training was as exciting as a small electric shock - never in one voice had I heard such majesty, nuance, richness and also agility. Because of her, I included ‘Love Is Here To Stay’ in my first recital programmes, set about learning ‘Dido's Lament’ and dared to listen to repertoire which I had not previously visited.
She shaped my path in many ways.
- 22nd. September, 2020 -
Cheek to Cheek
© Emma Winscom - 5th. July, 2020
Today's and tomorrow's dates offer interesting links with the clip below - the composer of ‘Cheek to Cheek’, Irving Berlin, passed away on the 22nd. September, 1989. He left an enviable catalogue.
The version below, beautifully executed by the ever twinkly-eyed and fabulous Tony Bennett and vocally gymnastic and stylish Lady Gaga was from the album of the same name, released on 23rd. September, 2014.
The insects on the bramble just wouldn't comply with current regulations, whatever I tried!
The fruit of that bramble has subsequently been picked, baked in a cake and eaten!
‘Cheek to Cheek’, sung by Lady Gaga, featuring Tony Bennett
© Emma Winscom - 26th. August, 2020
- 19th. September, 2020 -
Just checking in with my inner self today. This is what an actor looks like; this is a concert, a prom in fact. This is real, human, live, fantastic; this is what I and most of my beautiful friends and colleagues live for. This is vital, natural, expressive. This is eternal and necessary and intangible. This is how expression works. If you didn't know that, give it a try. It will tap the deepest well of your responses. This is the point of a free society - to think, feel, create and share.
What envelops the health of humanity is artistic expression; it is the river that sustains the greenery of the human soul.
This iconic song from Sondheim's ‘A Little Night Music’ is timeless. Of all its lyrics, “sure of my lines...no-one is there” have special meaning at the moment. Nevertheless, the exquisite genius of Dame Judi raises goosebumps in seconds.
Wishing you a life of goosebumps.
‘Send In The Clowns’ - sung by Dame Judi Dench in 2010
‘Send In The Clowns’ - sung by Dame Judi Dench in 1995
- 13th. September, 2020 -
The success of the song ‘Get Here’ is due to several things - the fabulous, rich and unique voice of Oleta Adams, the shape of the melody and the wonderfully wistful lyric. Perhaps my favourite line, in its placement in the song, is ‘you can reach me with your mind’.
The song was created on 13th. September, 1988 by Brenda Rusell, for her album of the same name and Oleta Adams’ recording made it known worldwide in 1990.
The link for the official video is below.
Evoking travel, resolution, plans, intention, journeys, memories, love, contact and relationship, it is a warm song to wrap around everyone on a cool September evening.
Everyone gets where they need to go, one way or the other.
‘Get Here’, sung by Oleta Adams
- 11th. September, 2020 -
Reflections of Summer
In 2019, on this day, I had the lovely opportunity to give a recital in the beautiful surrounds of St. Stephen's Church Bristol.
It was one of the happiest atmospheres I have experienced while performing. It is a super venue and the audience was a wonderful mixture of new friends, old friends and friends-to-be.
I was fortunate to be accompanied by the brilliant Steven Kings and I am grateful to Martin Le Poidevin for his kindness in offering me the slot in such a wonderful Recital Series. I look forward to the Series' return in less strange times.
Recitals are wonderful musical snapshots, offering a chance for inventive programming and uniquely creative performance. This series offered both of these, last year, and I am sure will do so again.
I wrote a piece called ‘Song of the Thorn’ for the concert and the lyrics seem ironically poignant now, considering the current restraints of the nation and the world.
I am sure that intriguing and creative programmes are being put together right now.
‘Reflections of Summer’ concert rehearsal...
(photographs reproduced by kind permission of Martin Le Poidevin)
- 3rd. September, 2020 -
An Anniversary Song
- 2nd. September, 2020 -
Full Moon in Pisces
As a Pisces, a singer, a writer and photographer, the moon has deep symbolic significance for me. The same significance would seem to be true for most creatives in the world, judging by the myriad interpretations and descriptions of its power, meaning and mystic beauty.
It is often also the symbol of that which is illusory or yet to be fully revealed.
James Taylor has a voice as pure as light and I love it every bit now as I did when I first heard him when I was a student.
I hope you love his recent version of ‘It's Only A Paper Moon’.
I hope the truth in his voice hits you in the heart.
The song is another triumph from the wonderful Harold Arlen catalogue, with lyrics by Yip Harburg (his co-creator of ‘Over the Rainbow’) and Billy Rose. The song highlights how the falseness of the world becomes bearable if there is someone to bear it with you - its first title was ‘If You Believed in Me’, before it became ‘It's Only A Paper Moon’.
‘It's Only A Paper Moon’, sung by James Taylor
- 29th. August, 2020 -
‘Bird’ - Charlie Parker Centenary
- 28th. August, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 28th. May, 2020
28th. August is the birthday of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.
From his vast and wide-ranging canon of work, his poem ‘Heidenröslein’ was written in 1771 and set to music most notably in 1815 by Schubert.
‘Das Veilchen’ is its companion poem and was set to music by Mozart.
‘Heidenröslein’ was set also by Heinrich Werner, who directed its first performance in 1829. The title for Werner’s version of the song was the first line ‘Sah ein Knab’ ein Röslein stehn’.
Both settings have remained firm favourites with singers over the years but the Schubert version is probably more widely known, recorded and favoured by concert recitalists.
Below are three versions of the Schubert setting:
and two of the Werner setting:
The King’s Singers
- 22nd. August, 2020 -
The dramatic tango dance emerged in the 1880s and is a combination of Candombe, Habanera and Milonga.
In August of 2009, UNESCO approved a joint proposal from Argentina and Uruguay (where the dance originated) to add it to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
Tango is now recognised, taught and performed all over the world.
The fabulous clip below is of the wonderful Dianne Reeves at the ‘International Jazz Day 2013 All-Star Global Concert’ in Istanbul, with her astonishing vocal - the piece is called ‘Tango’ and that is what she does with her voice! Her tone is fascinating and gorgeous.
Dianne Reeves singing ‘Tango’
- 27th. July, 2020 -
Song is ever-present in Shakespeare's plays. The lyrics of many of them have become more widely known over the years.
On this day last year - 27th. July, 2019 - I was invited to present a programme of such songs by the creative and wonderfully inventive ensemble ‘Rosafresca’. Our recital was at the stunning Red Lodge Museum in Bristol. It was one of the hottest days last year but the temperature did not deter the wonderful and sizeable audience.
It was an honour to take part and was a beautiful afternoon.
This year provides space for me, like many, to write, prepare and practise for future performances.
Singing and speaking are as fundamental to people as eating and staying warm. Shared experience through voice just happens. It is what we are.
And for the number of people on the planet, there are many times that number of songs and versions of songs; in infinite arrangements and translated into all kinds of languages.
A bit like seeds, or snowflakes. All unique.
Isn't that amazing?
- 9th. July, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 18th. August, 2015
I was looking at this lovely rose, named ‘Scarborough Fair’, which flowers annually in my garden. It reminded of the folk song of the same name.
Each of the following versions is as light as a rose petal - and each of those petals is a slightly different colour.
Simon and Garfunkel
Mike Masse and Sterling Cottam
- 21st. June, 2020 -
I am very pleased to have been a part of this...
NYCGB alumni sing ‘Shenandoah’
also on YouTube
Some 400 or so alumni took part and the guys putting it together have done a fantastic job.
The song is very meaningful for me - a throwback to a time when I was in the National Youth Choir. We sang it at Heathrow on our return from a tour of America, as it had been one of the items in our tour repertoire. It was the start of many fabulous lifelong friendships and an endless path of singing.
This recording has friends of mine both singing and on the production side; and my own alumnae, who also became members of the Choir, can be found singing here too. Some 30 or so of my students have been part of the organization, over the years.
I hope it reaffirms that ANYTHING is possible. Singing is the whole deal, the real deal and brings many amazing moments.
It will all get better in the world soon - so keep practising!
- 14th. June, 2020 -
A Song of Hope
Below is the link for the Andra Day song, ‘Rise Up’, sung by Jordan Rabjohn and his mum, Katherine Hallam...
Their voices are stunning together or solo and the message of the song is poignant, powerful and positive.
I hope it uplifts you.
- 7th. June, 2020 -
Where you stand at this moment, or minute, or day,
Is the right place following all the minutes before,
And the start of any minutes to follow
What helped, helped -
What didn’t, didn’t.
What you need, you carry
And what you don’t has played its rôle.
Finished diaries can be closed
And stored, perhaps, for later eyes.
We need the Was, the Is and the Might Be
And all of them should feel like Now.
And that renewal and completion
Can happen every day - for anyone.
© Emma Winscom - 3rd. June, 2020
These words came to me when I was listening to one of Joni Mitchell's inspirational songs in the middle of the night, in a still, empty room.
Joni Mitchell, for me, connects the ethereal to the human through her exquisite voice and shatteringly beautiful songs.
Her voice is diamond, silver and gold, all at the same time.
I have added a link to her amazing song ‘I Had a King’.
‘I Had a King’
Your ‘king’ might be anything - I wonder what thousand different things that might mean for different people?
Listen and feel complete.
Then renew yourself.
- 5th. June, 2020 -
Songs Without Words
Now and again, a performance covers you with goosebumps. The joyful genius of Billy Thompson did just that when he was playing with Andy Mackenzie, Greg Robley and Ivor Aldred at The Bonded Warehouse in Stourbridge, on 14th. February. The brilliant jazz series is warmly hosted by the fabulous baritone Devon Harrison and is wonderfully diverse - it will be returning as soon as the current situation eases.
Here I have added a link to Billy's Gypsy Jazz version of ‘My Favourite Things’ - a much-loved song. It seems a timely moment to hear it without words, so that you might like to think about your own personal favourite things and people - past, present and future.
‘My Favourite Things’
There is also a link here to Billy’s moving, recent version of ‘Over The Rainbow’, with Andy and Greg.
‘Over The Rainbow’
- 2nd. June, 2020 -
Elgar's County, in Summer
Here is a link to a performance of what I think is one of Elgar's most beautiful choral compositions:
‘As Torrents In Summer’
- 29th. May, 2020 -
Oak Apple Day
Today is Oak Apple Day, when the wearing of sprigs of oak leaves throws a nod to the Battle of Worcester, in September, 1651 - and King Charles II's hiding in the oak of Boscobel House.
Some English towns and villages still mark the day.
(more info. in Wikipedia)
This year, nature celebrates on its own, with a profusion of nettles and oak leaves in the hottest spring on record.
You may also like to know that the English botanist, John Gerard, was very interested in the properties and uses of the oak apple; also that oak apple is thought to have been an ingredient of the ink used by William Shakespeare.
Here are some links to ‘Grimstock’, a popular dance tune of the time!
version 1 (played by The York Waits)
- 27th. May, 2020 -
A favourite singer, a favourite song
The link I have added here is for ‘Un bel di vedremo’, performed by Maria Callas.
I had intended to put links to many versions of the aria, as it has been recorded by so many worthy and talented singers.
Really, though, there is only personal preference for all of us - so I offer it back to you to search and research and find the versions you like best.
When you find one you really like, it’s interesting to think why - is it that particular singer you prefer, or that aria in itself, regardless of who is singing it? Or is there, for you, an ideal fit of singer and song?
Please enjoy this version by Maria Callas - and also the many other fantastic interpretations available that you might stumble across.
Maria Callas, singing ‘Un bel di vedremo’
Chaenomeles japonica ‘Madame Butterfly’
© Emma Winscom - 2nd. April, 2020
- 22nd. May, 2020 -
Simple Vocal Detox
(while you are stuck in an irregular routine)
Here are four really simple things to keep remembering - I know singers know these already but regimes are a little harder to maintain at the moment!
1) Sleeping - have as much as you can and ideally as much as you need
2) Eating - although it is tempting to eat more for comfort, try not to eat too close to bedtime
3) Hydration - drink water regularly and more in hotter temperatures
4) Practice - be sure to sing a cappella regularly to check in on your natural sound, without the added soundscape of accompaniments, backings, etc.
- 22nd. May, 2020 -
At times of challenge, hardship, forced solitude, inner reflection, deprivation or restriction, people will become more of what they are, fundamentally.
The empathetic, caring, and community-minded will be more of those things and the opportunist (good or bad), fixed or enclosed may well become more so too.
To be fair, people can flip in an opposite direction, too, when circumstances force or require it, and that very about-turn can be an essential life moment.
One thing is a given - creatives can’t be anything else. The universe blesses them with a unique filter on the world which they hope to shine like a torch, so that audiences, even if briefly, can feel and sense a glimmer of that heightened sight.
This will continue - receptive creatives will go on receiving, expanding and hoping to share insights in many expressive ways.
But audiences, I fear, may be heading into an age where the already challenged creatives have no elastic left and will quite probably need, in order to eat and thrive, to turn to the antithesis of how they have had to live, which for many of them is on toast and promises.
And that is very sad, as they will need to turn to lifestyles like those of their previous audience members and in doing so, in turn, affect the livelihoods of those people too.
Equally, vocation is vocation - and sometimes can be a livelihood too.
Vocation, inspiration and giving are simple and self-explanatory words.
A creative mind can’t stop but a society’s understanding of it can; and that turnabout can be applied in lots of other spheres, mindsets and workspaces too.
So we must trust that the universe ultimately has a greater plan.
And we must trust ourselves to go on creating through change, as honestly as we always have done.
And perhaps a better lesson is to understand your personal value and the value of your environment, however that unfolds for you.
I wrote ‘The Main Rule’ for any person and any situation.
‘The Main Rule’
It’s really simple
But so, so hard
To really spend just a whole
15 minutes of every day
Doing the following:
Think of someone you know
With any one thing which life has spared giving you
Or living in circumstances that you almost can’t picture
Imagine how having to cope, living with that thing,
Whatever it may be,
In the midst of your life and your experience -
Imagine how that would change the things
That you do without thought.
For 15 minutes.
And, if imagining that situation brings you
A moment of feeling restricted,
A brief moment of fear,
A drop of either shame or gratitude
For never before
Having to have considered living in such a way,
Then think of the happiest, humblest
person you know -
Or a few of them -
And know inside that every one of them
Has something which puts them in such a place.
It can be the ones who ask for the least
Who need it the most.
Walk their journey in your head
For 15 minutes.
Set a clock.
Your prize will be living all your days after that in understanding and listening;
More able to help.
And, from all of this, the most important thing -
Or you will be asking the universe to direct people to make assumptions about you too -
And then how might they help you if you needed it and if their assumptions were wrong?
Stand in both places
And, in both places,
Assumptions don’t work.
© Emma Winscom - 14th. April, 2020
- 17th. May, 2020 -
The Power of Positivity
In sorting through countless files of programmes, concert lists and photographs, I came across some reminders of this date in previous years.
The first two threw me back to thirty years ago. That 17th. May was a busy one and heralded the pace that was to increase over the ensuing years.
I was taking part in the Cheltenham Competitive Festival (now called the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts) and was to be adjudicated for some of my classes by Alison Mary Sutton.
Festivals are a fabulous vehicle for training singers, not so much for the competitive element, although it is lovely to achieve wins when you feel you have worked hard and presented well.
Performing is a stressful business at any level; added to which, competing and singing alongside others of wide-ranging experience and vocal qualities - and all levels of confidence and platform manner - is a complex, instructive but very helpful process.
Many festivals this year, like Cheltenham, have had to be cancelled.
Indeed yesterday would have been the final day at Cheltenham this year, with choirs and singers travelling from all over the UK to perform and compete.
However, plans are in formation for the 2021 Festival, as I write.
I loved the repertoire which I had taken - I was an alto with evolving mezzo register - and particularly enjoyed songs which offered lyricism and richness of vocal expression.
Then, as now, I loved Bach, show songs, jazz, Chansons, Lieder and folk arrangements as much as each other.
My continuing love of Fauré had started in my teens and I still perform that repertoire now.
At such a stage, the best you might hope for would be safe passage through a song and fair concealments of nerves! A reasonable mark and a helpful adjudication are bonuses and not at the top of a singer’s mind.
I was blessed with both - and the person who opened that platform experience for me was Alison.
She was so kind, informed, sensitive and positively constructive that, despite the nerves, it was an activity I was keen to repeat. She ‘got‘ me, she ‘got’ my sound quality and she also ‘got’ everyone in the class.
Positivity in such a situation and at such a stage of a singer’s life is powerful.
It is a rare skill to juggle assessment, suggestion and encouragement and, at the same time, give technical input without diminishing a singer’s confidence.
So when I found Alison’s comment sheets and my certificates from the Festival, it reminded me how helpful that experience had been and how I had hoped always to be that useful to my students, by informing and encouraging at the same time.
Later on, I was often able to send my own students off to festivals where they would be adjudicated by Alison and they all came back fired up and enthused, having had the same experience.
So I thank Alison from the bottom of my heart for that handshake early on in my journey. It was valuable beyond words.
That evening, I returned to prepare for a recital the next day in my benefice - accompanied by my dear friend and neighbour, Judith.
Again, this was another first and a lovely chance to showcase the lighter end of my repertoire, although Fauré did still feature - he often does!
The lovely hall in which I sang is the one where lines of my students have subsequently performed in workshops, to prepare them for their imminent performing careers.
17th. May, 2014 was another treat - a chance to sing the Bach Magnificat with my dear friend from university, David Ogden, on this occasion performing as alto soloist for his wonderful City of Bristol Choir, at the beautiful St. George's, Bristol.
Such a special work and it marked a special phase in my singing life.
So May offers up another fantastic day for good memories, good thoughts today and good plans for next year.
It is a month full of promises.
- 15th. May, 2020 -
Worth bearing in mind when times are challenging!
- 13th. May, 2020 -
2020 Vision for Singers
Two eyes - or two ‘I’s
It occurred to me that those people who do not have music as their profession will, understandably, not have a fair grasp of the vast changes which have occurred in this realm, for singers and musicians.
Apart from some facility for remote recordings and platforms to hear those recordings, all live interactions were asked to be stopped.
That means instantly: all group rehearsing, all teaching, all choir sessions, all conducting, all stage work, all backstage work, all shared tea breaks, all meetings, all practising, all commercial standard recording, all headshots, all styling for headshots, all workshops, all auditions, all costume fitting and music library services;
all work on posture, alignment and blending of voices;
all weekly waves to caretakers and door-holding for the group before you;
all shared cake for birthdays and 30-signature get-well cards.
For sole-living and often older singers who are frequent choir singers, that means, at the moment, the end of shared group emotional expression, the shared giggle, the sense of people that you get not just from touch but simply from knowing that they are sharing with you a room and an activity - and an activity which is the most fundamental to every creature on this planet at least.
You can make noise on your own but we are fired by the sounds around us - sound of every kind but usually initiated by human activity.
Peace is beautiful and healing.
But instant imposed isolation and the ensuing extended silence is not a healing state of mind. So, singers/people (the same) have had to heal their souls with a remote version of this soundscape.
Beyond this, for aspirational performers who want to give their world their expressive skills through singing and acting, the curtain instantly fell on their preparation, their planning and their very necessary means to start to voice their place in the world. And miraculous as technology has been in the light of these circumstances, it can never replace the shared energy of free-moving and free-thinking people.
But there will be probably more need than ever, afterwards, to express this experience in every possible creative and artistic way.
The value of that work will be immeasurable.
So there will be a potent rôle for those developing and gifted emerging performers to shine a light on the legacy of this experience.
They should feel excited about that.
I react to you if you are twenty yards away.
That glimpse of your cousin/friend/co-worker creates a waiting, a looking forward to speaking, a remembering when we spoke last, a physical sense of ‘now’ or ‘soon’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘never’.
And tele-vision can do something similar - but not the same.
So, for my students, who are fantastic and stoic and working with me in the best way they can at the moment, I offer a vision - as it turns out, a ‘2020’ vision - which applies to their lives so far and their lives from now on - go on being inspired and inspirational; be brave, take advice and be creative.
For 2020 vision you need two eyes or perhaps two ‘I’s - they are INSTINCT and INFORMATION:
~ Constantly re-visit both and your performing lives will be fulfilling and rewarding.
~ Don’t compare yourselves with others because you will sound your best and most interesting when you are being you.
~ And when eventually you share real space with real performers again, drink in the atmosphere and notice the feeling - your appreciation will be heightened.
~ You will notice things about your abilities that you may before have overlooked.
~ And your audience relationship will be tangible and fantastic - it will be great.
Instinct, information, but always instinct.
- written on 11th. May, 2020
- 11th. May, 2020 -
© Emma Winscom - 11th. May, 2020
On 11th. May, 2018, I gave a recital in Warkworth. It concluded a trip which saw some amazing weather and, as this year, gorgeous early blooms of all sorts.
A warm corner of the North East flew ahead of most of the rest of the country in sunshine, flowers and fruit blossom.
May beautifully heralds growth, natural richness, fragrance and exquisite shades of green.
It was an honour to be there at that time and it is always special to sing in May.
- 23rd. April, 2020 -
William Shakespeare's Birthday
I have added here some words spoken by Caliban in ‘The Tempest’. (Act III, Scene II)
It speaks of music, of fear and of dreams.
2020 is much about music, fear and dreams.
The play is thought to have been written around 1611.
“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds, methought, would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me: that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.”
- 22nd. April, 2020 -
This year, 2020, Earth Day has possibly more meaning than it ever has.
‘From A Distance’, the well-known and beautiful song written by Julie Gold, has particular resonance for me whenever I sing it or teach it but much more so today. The lyrics give me shivers.
I thank Julie Gold for creating it. I have attached links below for four versions.
The first one is sung by Julie Gold herself and I find beautifully truthful. The following three versions are all stunning and very different.
Performances of ‘From A Distance’, on YouTube:
- 16th. April, 2020 -
Happy World Voice Day!
- 15th. April, 2020 -
These leaflets have been issued by the British Voice Association to celebrate World Voice Day 2020.
The day is marked on 16th. April every year.
Please feel free to download them or direct others towards them.
Please also share with me how you celebrated World Voice Day this year.
- 15th. April, 2020 -
‘Reflection for Easter Sunday, 2020’
Today was the day
That I wept in sunshine -
To think that
Brave carers, hour by hour,
Repel the showers of assorted pains, a silent fight,
Working in fear at the front line of this invisible war.
In our heads, I feel we send every one of them thanks and love.
Faithless or not, the invitation is to send a thought,
Or a prayer if you call it that -
To the extraordinarily beautiful world that we occupy, to nature, to your
spiritual leader if you have one,
or just to the air.
Ask it to blow away into freedom
This virus from its chaotic course.
Hold, in the middle of you, the knowledge,
memory and truth of the essence of how you feel each day.
And do that in all the shades of emotion from fear to hope, through disbelief,
in solitude, chosen or otherwise.
We can and probably will all individually feel all those same things,
at some point.
That is being a person -
it is the same for everyone.
Maybe the universe will hear us all.
We are all losing so much in these times.
But my sense is that we will all gain, too - in many, many ways.
© Emma Winscom - 12th. April, 2020
- 8th. April, 2020 -
A letter came from HMRC two days ago.
So I grabbed a pen and wrote a poem, of course.
It isn’t about tax!
For my goddaughters, Sophie and Penny
and their sisters, Annabel and Isabelle -
‘A Mindful Spring’
April may march
April may spring
Spring wraps around us
A beautiful thing
July throws its head back
To roses in June
Summer leaps longwards
And leaves us too soon
And leaves us with leaves
As the autumn rolls in
And rolls us in gold
As the lanterns begin
Wrapping of shoulders
And children and gifts
As the next season shifts
And then in the waiting
The time in between
There’s much time for looking
And nought to be seen
Standing in earth
That looks grey and quite stopped
Imagine the seeds
That were already dropped
Rumbling beneath you
Already in growth
The promise of spring -
The annual oath
That nature will nurture
And roll on ahead
Long after the memories
Of bad times are dead
Imagine the roots
Which are under your feet
Of trees or of flowers
Or things you might eat
Now is just now
It still is a spring
Not quite how we’d like it
But reason to sing
It carries the promise
Of what follows on
It rambles and blossoms
Yet soon will be gone
Sit for an hour
Or maybe for two
And relish the joy
Of the green and the new.
© Emma Winscom - 6th. April, 2020
© Emma Winscom - 7th. April, 2020
- 4th. April, 2020 -
SINGING STRATEGIES TO HELP MENTAL HEALTH THROUGH A TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING AND BEYOND.
What we are all reacting to is lack of free choice.
When it is for a common good we understand the need to comply, even though it might make us stunned or weepy or sad or frustrated.
It helps, in such a situation, to think of the bigger picture.
A war against the invisible is hard but the evidence of the effect of our current viral enemy on some people is very visible so we must re-fit our lives currently in an effort to help minimise the effects.
When it all calms down and some kind of normality resumes, we will all, I imagine, be considering our human freedoms, our routines, our relationships and our inner personal reserves.
The recipe for a fulfilling society is a mindful balance of creating your own personal zone, as near ideal as possible for you and putting that zone amongst the zones which other people occupy.
How we can do that is re-shaped at the moment.
We can achieve good lives by addressing our individual requirements and also regularly imagining walking in the shoes of our friends and associates.
As always, seek reassurance or guidance if you are in low spirits but ALWAYS listen to your instinct - your inner voice. That will give you the best answer.
SINGING THROUGH THESE UNUSUAL TIMES
Obviously you are advised to take all the advice given about social distancing etc..
If you find yourselves stuck indoors in isolation then here are some ideas for ways that singing might work for you.
1) It’s really good to make any noise at all - especially if you are on your own and so you needn’t be embarrassed!
2) Humming along with the radio is good - or singing if you prefer.
3) If you have internet access then YouTube is a huge resource of music that you can listen to and sing along with.
4) There are also lots of similar platforms where you can download music of all sorts.
Maybe look for a new artist and try to learn their song - it will help you and them by boosting your listening skills and enlarging their community.
5) If you aren’t good at remembering words, then it can be great to do a search for relaxing or calm music.
There are vast amounts of instrumental pieces which have beautiful tunes which you can sing along with. Classical music is great for this and lots of radio channels specialise in this kind of music.
6) Singers and actors are very used to vocal warm ups - some of them feel a bit silly but do wonders to keep your voice in good shape - for example, lip trills, tongue twisters, rolled ‘r’s up and down the scale, sirens, arpeggios, the list is a long one.
Gurning (!) is a good alternative to rubbing your cheeks and is nice at the start of the day too, to alert the facial muscles that you are ready for action!!
7) If you are very frustrated and in the house alone then have a bit of a yell (or even swear if you need to).
8) It’s fun to think of lyrics to songs or read poems aloud too.
9) Call your friends regularly and maybe sing down the phone line as well as chat.
10) Maybe try and sing a long note and hold it longer than you have held it before .
There is also a great breathing exercise which is very calming which you can do without noise - in to the count of seven and out to the count of eleven. This is best done in your own space, being mindful of distancing.
11) You can try and harmonise along with singers on the tv or radio.
12) There are several services where musicians have been playing remotely simultaneously - the time lag makes this tricky for singers in real time but you can try to be part of a live group event this way.
13) There are lots of meditations online also with ‘om ‘ sounds which can be very helpful and
soothing. You may like to listen or join in.
14) Also if you have a recorder on your phone you can sing a message or song into it to send to friends or family.
15) As you exercise or dance you could count out loud.
16) Write a list of things to do that day, pin it up, say ‘right then’ and read it out loud.
Then say ‘so first I think I’ll .....’ And take number 1 from your list
Then when that job is done say ‘right what’s next?’ And so on through the list .
17) The main thing is to try and use your voice every day because the very act of vocalising is a crucial release, especially if you are feeling anxious.
Just as writing puts thoughts outside your body, singing does something similar.
18) Maybe write down your feelings, wishes, fears or prayers - then read them aloud.
It may briefly stir a tear but you are still releasing those thoughts in both writing and sound and that is very healthy.
And you can destroy the piece of paper after you have written and spoken or sung your concerns but you should feel lightened by doing it.
19) Even crying noisily is very healthy and positive - and indeed some people find that easier to do on their own.
20) And after trying any or all of those things, if you still feel low, ring friends again.
They will all be having pretty much the same feelings - whether they voice it or not - and you will be helping them too.
21) If you have a garden then maybe sit with a cup of tea and try to identify certain birdsongs.
You can also whistle them back to see if you get a response.
There is actually a lot of material online about birdsong and how to identify it, along with reference clips.
22) Remembering songs inside your head can be fun and stimulate the imagination.
23) Laughing is golden so look for jokes and funny clips to amuse you.
24) And, finally, please feel free to ignore all of the above and be silent.
Whatever helps you most -
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