February 2020 – Bullfinch Morning

February 29th

Happy Leap Day from a grey and slightly windy Northumberland! I managed a few leaps as the sun rose elusively behind a fine array of clouds. I then spent most of the day in the kitchen and yummy things were made including bacon cakes – just think fishcakes, but you find you have no fish, but you do have bacon! Delicious!

February 28th

Sun hiding at sunrise but its influence is there.

I was back at the beach this morning and glad I was as it’s properly exhilarating and sky really was at its best today. Tonight we had a Rock Festival Choir rehearsal in St. Paul’s with Peter back from Japan. It sounded good, and still another rehearsal next Friday before the concert on 8th March!

The sea came and grabbed Jamie’s feet during this sequence.

February 27th

I tinkered with yesterday’s photos. None are as good as the moon-leap, except that Jamie’s on them!

February 26th

Leaping as high as the moon!

Spent most of the day listening to Queen songs for choir. Also someone asked me to to compose a song for them based on them hearing Bullfinch Morning last week – very cheering! Jamie and I went to the beach this evening for a walk and a jump. We did a lot of jumping. It was very funny, The moon was hanging in the western sky and I saw the opportunity for a jumping shot in the dunes, seeing as Jamie was there to take the picture!

A happy leap on a windy day. The sea behind was behaving rather spectacularly, although you wouldn’t think it from this picture!

February 25th

A photo of an old leap came into my possession today. This is January 27th at Amble after I’d had a very happy lunch with Richard and Morag Michael before the Burns Concert. I’d forgotten . Richard took this photo along with a few others during the day, and today I spent the morning collating our recordings and photos for this video looking back at that rather splendid occasion.

Highlights of our 2020 Burns Night Celebration with Richard Michael

February 24th

There are three male bullfinches in this picture!
One of the females – rubbish pictures really – I was so far away, the camera was on full zoom here, and hand-held, so not very steady!

A snowy morning, so I was not driving to the beach. I took photos of birds through the window in the snow. As I walked back up the stairs later in the day, I glimpsed what I thought what was a bullfinch in the garden, so I ran for my camera so I could zoom in and see for sure. Yes. A bullfinch. In fact closer scrutiny revealed five bullfinches – three males and one female. They were probably causing great distress to the tree they were perching and cavorting in, but still…a proper treat, especially in the circumstances of this month’s musical efforts. They all flew off together. It was choir in the evening and we started the Purcell – it’s going to be splendid.

It was hard to line up the two edges of the picture, so I’m missing from two of the six on this one. At least we each did manage a leap, but not at the same time!

February 23rd

And half an hour later….again at least we each managed a leap and I’m getting better at lining up the edges!

We had a day off at home today. What that entails is both of us going to the beach for sunrise and leaping, both of us practising music for one choir or other, both of us going to Morpeth to gather supplies, both of us watching the television, both of us eating yesterday’s banana cakes, both of us laughing at stuff, both of us folding Purcell scores while catching up on other TV. I love days like this.

….and in the middle of it all we did get one picture of us both leaping at the same time!

February 22nd

Purcell printing. Blackbird through the kitchen window. Australian folk songs. Chili con Carne with roast potatoes. Banana cakes.

February 21st

After I typed this yesterday, I had to go back to the station to pick up Jamie. His train was delayed by 2 hours and 35 minutes, which meant that we returned home finally at about midnight. Needless to say, I did not get up for sunrise this morning, nor did I do any leaping whatsoever. However, I have a spare from Alnmouth from yesterday, so that is what I will share. Meanwhile, I’ve finished off the Purcell ready for printing and have started on some Australian folksongs. I found one called “I’m One Of the Has-Beans” about an old shearer. It uses the tune from Cushie Butterfield, which is in turn “Pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green” who, as it happens is “proud as a queen!”

In the evening I took another rehearsal of Rock Festival Choir, and confirmed that Lotti and Vivaldi are fab.

Frolicking the concrete blocks.

February 20th

Jamie went to Peterborough today on a train from Alnmouth, so after I had dropped him off I went to Alnmouth beach for sunrise. It was a bit too busy for my liking, but I did manage to leap unseen amongst the WW2 concrete blocks! Later I spent a lot of time sorting out Purcell for The Bridge Singers. I also received this feedback from last night’s performance, “the only person I knew in the audience said he very much liked your Bullfinch Morning.  ‘It had something extra, was what he said.” I like that!

Before the crowds arrived!

February 19th

Again I went to the beach for sunrise and the sun was behaving very serenely, rising with great elegance from the ocean. The slim, curved crook of a moon was also in attendance and the hundreds of seabirds that were gathering on the beach, wheeled on the breeze every now and then. It was a crowded beach! I also saw six humans and six dogs, but while I was attempting this picture none of them had yet appeared. As I drove home, I saw two bullfinches near Acklington – a rare sight, but an appropriate one for today’s world premiere!

Me and the band!
Andy and the band with the choir watching on.

Tonight was the Coquet Concert Band’s first public concert, and The Bridge Singers were their guests. We sang four of our own items and three with the band. One of these was Bullfinch Morning. It went well. There were lots of favourable comments from members of the audience and most pleasingly the band. The choir also seem to like it. There was enthusiasm from Andy (the MD of the band) for more performances, and several members of the choir have expressed similar hopes. So much energy and time and inspiration is poured into a thing like this piece and because of the short rehearsal time and one-off concert it seems to be over in a flash. I am so proud of the piece, though. There was man videoing the concert, and another taking photos, so hopefully there’ll be more about this song to share in the next few days! In the meantime this photo emerged from Shirley today of me conducting the band at last Wednesday’s rehearsal! I also met Sven Hellinghausen this evening, another composer and conductor from Germany and he took several photos during the concert. In this one you can see most of choir awaiting their turn to sing!

In case you didn’t spot it last week!

February 18th

I went to the beach for sunrise. It was glorious. I saw a hare on the beach, then went to the supermarket. I spent the rest of the day being very sleepy as is customary for a Tuesday. However, I did make a big effort with the Australian folksongs for our Queen-ish summer concerts and have selected some choice ones! I sent my sunrise leap picture to Facebook this morning with the following rather lengthy caption! It proved to be a popular caption!

“Good morning from Northumberland fellow early morning road users, and take note that if you are big and are in a big car with big headlights and drive right up to the back of me on curly Northumbrian backroads in the pre-sunrise half-light and stay there impatiently, I will slow right down. This is partly because I cannot see where I’m going with the fortissimo blare of your lights in all my mirrors, but even when I have adjusted them to block you from my sight, I know you you are still there with your reckless hotheadedness, and because I am contrary, I will deliberately cause you to ease back in your irksome haste.”

February 17th

Snowdrops are a proper treat at this time of year – just about the only flowers in the garden, although I did notice a wallflower lurking and there will soon be a daffodil or two. It was our last choir rehearsal tonight before Wednesday’s concert. We tried out the new seating arrangements, and getting from one place to another, we sang through Bullfinch Morning several times and Tim declared that it is sounding good. Also today, my YouTube channel slipped past another 1000 views – up to 48,000 now.

Do have a listen – lots there for your choir or class to sing, or maybe you’re looking for a marimba concerto!!

Click here for the seapieparcel YouTube Channel

Next door’s bean poles and the fast-racing clouds.

February 16th

Leaping up the stairs.

Purcell, Australian folksongs, marketing, gardening in the wind, leaping up and down the stairs, soda bread pizza.

Also, here’s a bit of feedback I got on Twitter from someone I do not know, “Hey Wow! Are you the ‘ladyfinger’ Cheryl Camm? If so, I’m honoured to be on a thread with you. Good morning and instant follow! …. It’s just a beautiful piece of work. You should be proud of that one.” Puts one in a cheery mood, eh?! Also, I sorted out one of my spliced leaping sequences that had been giving me jyp the other day!

Cloudy leaping

February 15th

I went out to the phone box to leap at sunrise this morning and Jamie took pictures of me through the window. I’m a bit blurry therefore on account of the distance and the cloud and it being dark and the glass.

K6 Sunrise leap.

We then went to Newcastle with a list of purchases to be made, and movie tickets on the phone. We did all our shopping successfully for once, and then headed for the Tyneside Cinema for Parasite and 1917, which followed on immediately from each other on two different floors. We usually like to stay for the credits, but we had no time today. As it was, we arrived for the second as the adverts were playing, causing an entire row to stand up to let us through.

We loved both of these films – very dramatic, very tense, and also Parasite had lots of humour too. I cannot stop thinking about the man in the basement, nor the girl with the baby, for that matter. I shan’t say any more so as not to spoil things. Both films were sell-outs and when we finally did leave, the place was heaving. We stepped out of the cinema into Storm Dennis raining and blowing its hardest. Some of the rain and standing water on the way home was too much even for the high speed on the wipers, but worse is elsewhere so mustn’t grumble.

The sun rose in the middle of the picture!

February 14th

An exhilarating day: up and out to the beach for sunrise, which was spectacular. I chatted to a proper photographer who had set up his tripod next to the waves to capture a red sunrise on Valentines Day. He’d drawn a heart in the sand to be in the foreground. He showed me the results of his efforts as he was leaving the beach, and it was impressive and rather beautiful. His camera and his ability to set the camera on the right path in terms of light and colour etc were impressive, and his photo really did capture the remarkable colours and cloud formations. Anyway, you have to make do with my little efforts – and while he had his heart in the sand, I had my leaping!

Leap, heart! It’s a dayspring morning!

Later, I spent the day listening to Queen songs as I can now finally move beyond the “interesting notion” stage for our summer concerts.

In the evening, I took the rehearsal of Rock Festival Choir in Peter’s absence. We did lots of nutty drilling down into the bits we were unsure of, and time sped by. I loved it. I have directed three different groups this week – all of them were deemed enjoyable and competent efforts by those on the receiving end. I remember once saying to my high school music teacher, Philip Holmes, that I didn’t really want to play my clarinet any more and that I would rather be a composer and maybe a conductor. I expected him to steer me away from this folly, but instead he merely said, “Well then that’s what you must work very hard to achieve. There’s no reason why you should not do this!” he declared. I did not have the self-confidence in those days, nor in many of the years since then to do this, but finally, I might be getting there. Thanks, Mr. Holmes for your positivity and inspiration.

February 13th

Meetings, grocery shopping, indecision, Lionheart Harmony, cheese straws. Nice feedback, though: ” I have to say your Bullfinch Morning is just fabulous…..the chords shown on the back page have been a huge help in trying to get to grips with the subtle harmonies of this piece.” Also (reported to me by a 3rd party, “that lady is so inspiring with her music, so passionate, and I love her pieces.” Also, “I love Bullfinch Morning. Your two pieces are my favourites.” Also, “How fantastic Cheryl! So sweet of you to include Alex in your song, we love it – and a great message, we should all focus on the positives in life more often!”

The sun peeps through Barbara Hepworth’s Ascending Form in Alnwick Gardens.

February 12th

Glowing sun on the horizon and a tangle of trees – both UK and NZ!

Another morning not conducive to driving beachwards, although the sun did come up beaming brightly.

In the evening the choir had a rehearsal with the band for next week’s concert. It was all very positive. I get to conduct Bullfinch Morning. Wheeeeh! It sounds really good and most people seem to be enjoying it. The only problem was the choir behind the band and their sound getting lost, but we have a meeting today to try and sort that out!

The Bridge Singers and The Coquet Concert Band in Swarland Village Hall for a rehearsal

February 11th

Horrible weather again. I’m not heading out to the beach when it’s icy or snowy, and it was both today in abundance. Quite a bit of snow, although it didn’t settle for long. I was enjoying watching the birds in the back yard as I waited for the oven to do its thing, as you see. The bird that first prompted me to fetch my camera was a marsh tit or willow tit (I cannot tell the difference, alas) but it flew off before I was ready to snap and did not return – such a rare thing, although I’ve seen it (or a friend) a few times in recent weeks. Anyway, lots of other bird action: two robins, coal tits, dunnock, blue tits and great tits. There was also a huge pigeon at various times, but I didn’t take its photo!

Kitchen leap while I watch the snowy birds and wait for the oven, which is not on fire, by the way!

Most of the day, I’ve been working on this learning video for the choir!

My best song of 2020 thus far!
Dune jump

February 10th

Windy day. Sunny day. Wavy day. Finish-the-last-few-pages-of-your-book-y day. Duck-with-orange-saucy day. Choiry day.

Also, someone’s listening to Pierced Hemisphere, which I hope means someone’s going to perform it. Someone asked me today if I have a stormy song…this on account of the stormy weather we’re having. Guess what? I do. This one composed for Yew Tree Youth Theatre a few years ago and perfect for 7-12 year olds, if you happen to have a group of them needing a wolfy, stormy, howly, chasey song!

February 9th

Sunrise snowdrops. Drippy, blown-about snowdrops

Stormy day with Ciara coming in from the west. I went up the garden for sunrise and found some snowdrops bravely putting on a show.

In the afternoon, I went to the Coquet Concert Band practice and heard them rehearse Felton Lonnen and Bullfinch morning. It’s all coming together well. After the rehearsal ended, I decided to go back to the beach and see if I could see the full moon rising out of the sea, having failed yesterday. Once again it was a crowded high tide beach, but as the light faded, the people left and not only did the moon oblige after overcoming some soft cloud on the very horizon, but it was empty enough for me to attempt some leaps – not light enough for the camera to cope, mind you, but you get the idea from these. The moon was indeed orange, by the way, so the white moon pictures are the least accurate, and the two upper left hand ones, the most accurate indication of the light conditions. Poor wee camera!

The end of Bullfinch Morning at a rehearsal with The Coquet Concert Band, the rising orangey full moon and me attempting a leap or six.

February 8th

Moonrise in the river bed. Huge they were..the moon and the river bed. I was under the bridge at the time, like a troll looking for goats, I guess.
Striking a jaunty pose mid-leap!

Up early, but no sunrise jaunt because these late winter sunrise times are just inconvenient when you have things to do. This morning it was practising for Rock Festival Choir before a rehearsal this morning. This afternoon, though, we went to the beach for the moonrise and strolled along a thin strip of high-tide beach and scanned the horizon for its arrival, but no – there was cloud, so I did a few leaps, and we went off to Alnwick for a spot of shopping. On our way back down the A1, the huge moon appeared above the clouds and I took a couple of pics in a layby, but you don’t get the scale of it. When we got home I realised that the moon was just rising here along the river, so I headed into the river bed to see what I could snap.

Musically, today has been all about Lotti’s Kyrie and Gloria for RFC. I love it very much, and I think our concert on March 6th will be a delightful one!

February 7th

Four out of ten – for the other six pictures in the burst I did not feature!
The actual colour of the sun as it emerged from the cloud. I could only get my camera to see it properly when I zoomed right in!

Happy Friday! What a wonderful day already today (I write this at 10.30am) When I peered out through the curtains this morning, fog and frost promised a magical sunrise – foggy sunrises are the most magical when there’s an otherwise clear sky – the sun rises very redly and stays thus for quite a while. I took lots of pictures and did lots of leaping and the only real problem with this series of spliced-together pictures is that the sun is white when in real life it was reddy orange. I was very happy though and exclaimed in delight to the empty beach. Anyway, on the way back to the car there were the rare treats of an egret in the estuary and a tree-creeper on a very close (you’ve guessed it) tree, and when I went to the new Alnwick M&S to get my favourite juice, there was Simon on a hot-cross-bun-hunt. Three rare sightings! We had a laugh and a chat, then I came home to Jamie and an encouraging email from another pal.

Later there was a meeting about the upcoming concert and my piece is in. Hurrah! Then recorders and laughter. Top day!

My usual Thursday sunrise friend

February 6th

One, two, three, jump!…unless you’re a dog and then you look on with a perplexed expression!
A road sign and a spiky bush at the junction of the A1 and the Cheswick road.

After a cloudy sunrise when I went out to gaze down at the river to see what I might spy and the dipper fluttered into the scene to perch on his rock again, I went off to Cheswick with Rebekah where we teamed up with Julie and Shirley for a 51/2 mile walk to Goswick Sands and back. The tide was in but not high, so yet still there was much in the way of sand at Goswick where we did combined leaping. It’s quite an unusual terrain there with a distant strip of sea splashing about, huge expanses of sand which is obviously sometimes underwater at high tide, and some tiny dunelets which we named “phenomenon B”. There was lots of chat and laughter along the way, then we were back at their cottage for soup and cheese. As Rebekah drove us back to Felton, I had chance to gaze at the sunset for a change, and due to a long stream of traffic on the A1 for which we had to wait I was able to take a sunset picture through the windscreen. I was also able to gaze at the moon which was big and heading towards full out to the east. We had a reduced Lionheart Harmony in the evening, with cake from The Running Fox, lots of chat and laughter, then sleep!

February 5th

The tree behind the neighbour’s roof at a colourful time of day.

I did not leap today, and I did not go to the beach for the sunrise. However, I gather from all my friends’ photos that it was a good one out there. Here we had a pink glow. Although I did not leap, I busied myself with my new song which contains leaping! It is finished and this evening I took the score and parts to Andy and the Coquet Concert Band. They played through it and it sounded very good indeed. They may not perform it at their concert in a couple of weeks, but I’m ever the optimist.

Odd legs

February 4th

  • Composing.
  • Sunrise-ing.
  • Leaping.
  • Shopping.
  • Composing.
  • Meeting.
  • Composing.
  • Quiche-ing.
  • Composing.
  • TV-ing.
  • Composing

February 3rd

Pre-dawn glow, one leap and lots of landings and pre-take-offs!
The cover for my newest song!

Attempted ten shots on the self-timer and was relieved to find that one of them was an actual leap. The rest of the day was spent preparing the choir score for Bullfinch Morning, then at choir we started to learn it – all the choruses. It sounds great to me – I’m particularly happy with the jazzy harmonies. They asked me to explain the meanings behind the lyrics, which I did with a few “hear hears” from the bass section. It was a struggle, of course, (especially some of the rhythms, as usual!) as with everything we have a go at for the first time, but a few said they liked it and a few others pulled discouraging faces. This is how it is. I’m not disheartened yet! Band on Wednesday….

The thrilling thing about this picture is that in the middle distance behind me (between the two Amble harbour lights) is a parcel of sea pie. I half hoped that my running about might entice them to take off so they too could be said to be leaping, but I was too far away and too slow to give them cause for alarm.

February 2nd

Early out into the cloudy sunrise, then back for a full day of arranging my new song for choir and wind band. I still like it, so all’s well. It’s quite laconic and a bit jazzy and I’m trying very hard to make it easy enough for us all to learn in three rehearsals, and yet it’s in 5/4 and uses quite thick harmony. We’ll see!

Once I had completed my activity I did get a nice shot of a few of ’em!

This evening it was Rock Festival Choir singing at Candelmas evensong in Longhoughton followed by a feast at Mick and Lyn’s with chat and laughter.

Good morning and happy February from almost-high-tide, almost sunrise, cloud-on-the-horizon, sand-in-your-face, blowing-a-grey-gale Northumberland!

February 1st

Top day with the leaping as you see, and a particularly springy leap at that, then Jamie and I went off to Newcastle for two movies at the Tyneside: A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood and The Personal History Of David Copperfield – both excellent, I might add. The first was quirky and a bit clever and rather American (Jamie thought it “a bit soppy” in the way things ended up, but the getting there was good!). The second was also quirky and very clever and the cinema was full of laughter, and very English and two hours went by without us noticing. Lots of top actors doing top acting in both films. Then we came home with a bagful of M&S deli snacks for tea, and we’ve only eaten half of them so we can have the same again tomorrow, and someone I have never met has purchased copies of Robinson Crusoe from my website! 😀

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