January 2021. New Start.

Jamie’s been digging a trench!

28th-31st January

I’m not sure what I did on these days – I’m writing this on 7th February as I forgot to enter anything. All I can do is insert photos and recordings I made on those days. I do know I went for lots of walks around the Swarland Loop and stopped to sing in the underpass. I also continued to work on my re-write of bits of Tam O’Shanter, but nothing was finished, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Jamie and I had a go at The Black Velvet Band on Jan 28th!

27th January

It started unpromisingly with an early wake-up at 2.30 and a subsequent inability to get back to sleep, so up I got and fiddled around with music and pictures and files and the like. One thing I discovered was that in the 48 hours prior to that my videos on my seapieparcel Youtube had been watched over 430 times. This is an unprecedented number the entire history of seapieparcel-ness. The figure usually hovers around 70-100 in any 48 hour period. It’s remained over 400 all day today. Quite remarkable. Makes me happy. If you want to add to the numbers, have a look! There are about 230 videos to choose from! seapieparcel – YouTube

432 views in 48 hours!!!

I then headed off before it got light to walk the Swarland Loop and catch the sunrise if there was any (there wasn’t – but I did see the big old moon before the clouds rolled in!). Joy of joys in Swarland was an encounter with Richard on his way to deal with the community polytunnel and a merry chat was had. On my way back down the hill (I was going clockwise, which I know upsets some people, but I like to vary things, and what I do love is to stand on the overbridge of the A1 on the road to Old Swarland and watch the ridiculousness of the cars as they try to get ahead before or after the 1-lane stretch – this pastime is more spectacular when it’s dark with all the pretty tail-and-head-lights, so some days I do like to get up there while it’s still fairly dark), I stopped off in the underpass to sing myself a resonant song. I headed onwards, post-sing-and-leap and was stopped in my tracks by a glimpse of bullfinch in a bush – there were three in fact, and two of them obligingly stayed put while I snapped their snacking. My heart (already bursting with many birds already heard and seen, and my jolly chat, and the moon) sang and leapt, as the song says. Full of the joys of that, on I went and again I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of a chaffinch overhead. They have a very distinctive rhythm to their call, like a fast bowler coming into his delivery stride. Again, he stayed put while I took my fill. Before I’d even made it to the sycamores, three flittering, piping long-tailed tits joined me and indeed accompanied me along the hedgerow almost down to the recycling area. Eee, I tell you. I was very happy with my walk this morning.

When I got home I ate a slice of haggis sausage roll left over from Monday, had a chat with Jamie who was up a ladder in the garden filling in a hole – yes the hole was up, not down – a teensy landslide from the recent rains, and then set to preparing for my mentoring session with a musician from Newcastle who wants to do more composing and had contacted me as someone recommended to him as a “successful composer in the North-East”. I thought I’d better try and not disappoint him, so delved back into my archives to find examples of the things he wanted to know about – it turns out I am a successful composer, and it did my spirits the world of good to look back on some excellent projects and commissions. I’d just forgotten momentarily. I Zoomed into his banjo-bedecked music room and we had a jolly chat!

After leaving him, I returned to messages and the like and discovered that three different schools around the country today had been singing my Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story, someone else was using my Musical Digestive System Music and Science Mini-Unit and someone else had listened to our Ae Fond Kiss at lunchtime and it had moved her to tears. I then popped out to chat with Anne who was spotted through my friend-spotting window. A good day.

A golden sunrise in Swarland

26th January

I went for a walk round the Swarland Loop first thing, then I spent all day making little videos of snippets from our Zoom singalong last night. You can see all of that here: The Bridge Singers Burns Night Singalong 2021

Scroggam in the underpass, a pre-sunrise panorama, a nearly-full moon and sheep on a heap
All attendees! 35 people and 29 screens!

25th January

Burns Night, and The Bridge Singers have been planning a singalong of our twelve favourite Burns songs including three poems, a clog dance and a guest visit from last years very popular guest Richard Mchael. The evening was a great success with 35 participants including Richard and his wife Morag. A few husbands and wives made appearances too to witness particular poems and songs. It was all on Zoom, of course, and Jamie and I spent most of the day ironing out a few issues people were having with their technology, and I also made a blog for those unable to attend. I will update that tomorrow with snippets from the event.

I was taking a picture of the creatures, and didn’t notice until I got home that there’s Coquet Island in the background!

24th January

Well after a day of merriment tramping through frost, gazing adoringly at bullfinches, singing in underpasses, making a brand new recipe for lunch (only half the ingredients therein were present in the house so improvisation had to be employed, but the result was delicious), watching Lucy Worsley be very amusing about Queen Victoria’s musical legacy, watching some amazing bowls in the world championship on telly, comparing versions of some of The Bridge Singers’ Burns song recordings and extracting and editing the chosen ones for tomorrow night’s singalong, Jamie and I had a high old time for a couple of hours starting up Zoom meetings, recording them in various ways, experimenting with volume settings, sharing music, videos and images (Jamie had three different devices joining my meeting at one point so we could see all the different scenarios!) Anyway, the upshot of it all is that I was able to send a few suggestions for those having problems with their sound!

In between all that, I edited this together from our morning sing-in-the-underpass.

23rd January

Twigs and moon, moon and twigs, A Rosebud By My Early Walk, two leaps.

Another day, another video, another walk to the underpass, another sing.

A different rose, but still by Burns!
Sunset beams

22nd January

Lots of composing and editing today. The first was Tam O’Shanter, the 2nd was Ca’ The Yowes. It’s all Robert-Burns-related. Jamie and I did go for a stride out in the afternoon, and enjoyed the half moon and the sunset for a change!

A jewel of ice on the skeleton of a plant up the snowy hill. No snow down here though!

21st January

Lots of walking, but the wind was roaring through the underpass and just about everywhere else this morning so not really worth recording anything out there. I’m continuing with my Tam O’Shanter efforts and will hopefully have something to share soonish.

20th January

More walking and singing. This time Jamie came along too!

19th January.

Lovely long walk for a couple of hours today including a bullfinch lurking in a bush. Then I’ve been perusing my setting of Tam O’Shanter – I did the whole thing for my DMus, and have long thought that a set of five songs from the whole arranged for choir only (the original had oboes, bassoon, strings, percussion and piccolo) would be a good idea, so I’m cracking on with it. While I was walking I stopped in the underpass to do a bit of Westlin Winds.

Later in the day I received this feedback from a school who had found my Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story video – you can see it the class whiteboard!

Westlin Winds and a bullfinch

18th January

No walking today, but zooming tonight!

I (via Greg) also received lots of feedback on When I Was A Pilot 🙂

  • It’s not everyday you get a song written especially for you, thank you Cheryl for this amazing piece and especially to the 4 talented singers 😀 It’s an Air Shanty.
  • That’s ace 👏
  • Wow, Greg, what an honour, but so well deserved. I’ve just read the background and listened to the song, absolutely beautiful, both the words and the music.
  • I loved it! Everything about it is beautiful ❤️ A very talented lady & a great way to celebrate your career. Excellent filming too 👍
  • Thank you for such a special piece of music. I love everything about it xxx 🚁 xxx
  • Great – A lovely ‘shanty’ Well done all involved.
  • That is awesome. Very talented composer and singers.
  • What an amazing tribute Greg, and well earned. I chuckled at so many shared memories too. Great piece of work Cheryl. In fact well done the whole team. 
  • Loved the Pilot song. It was very atmospheric, but included his sense of fun. 
  • I thought Pilot was a wonderful retirement present , but may need a bit of practice!
  • …thought your Pilot song and visuals were truly amazing.
  • Wow! How wonderful! What subterfuge! Greg must have been thrilled.
  • Love the end shot with the teensy microlite just over Connor’s name! Great bouncy turbulent tune. Congratulations!
  • I think the Pilot song for Greg is great, he must be so chuffed, loved reading the song story behind it too. 
  • Happy is an understatement.  You are are a musical magician making something so special from a bunch of memories.
  • Top effort and well deserved. Great tune.

17th January

Yes. I went up to the underpass again. I sang again. Robert Burns again. It was a clear morning and the sycamores were looking very fine against the eastern skies, before and after sunrise.

Bus Stop sunrise

January 16th

I’ll share some of yesterday’s frosty pictures instead of sharing anything from a rather boring today: nettle frost; gate frost; spidery plant frost!

The same tree as the last two days

January 15th

Another sunny morning so I went up to Davison’s Obelisk, so I could get another picture of the same tree at the same time! I also sang some more Burns in the underpass – this time O My Luve Is Like A Red Red Rose. When I emerged from the underpass for a 2nd time, the sun was up and all the frost was glistening beautifully.

O My Luve Is Like A Red Red Rose with a stray white line that appeared from I don’t know where!
Umbrella leap

January 14th

It was sleeting when I got up, and had snowed overnight, so I donned my umbrella and my torch and set off clockwise round the Swarland Loop. My umbrella remained up throughout my walk. Only one driver decided to drive right through a huge puddle of slush soaking me through rather than drive on the huge swathe of road that was clear of slush and snow. Lucky me, I guess. It could have been worse.  I did learn that the lines of snow left in the road after wheels have gone through are called snow-bones, or at least they were in the 19th century.

Same tree as yesterday. Same time too. Cloudy sky – full of sleet.
The pre-sunrise sky was rather spectacular.

January 13th

I went for another walk and sang some more of The Birks Of Aberfeldie, and videoed and photographed lots of birds. It was a plentiful day for the birds singing heartily in the sunshine, including three bullfinches and a barn owl. I put it all together in this video (not the barn owl, alas – there wasn’t enough light for it to show up in my photos – but my actual eyes saw it well enough!)

January 12th

Continuing with a bit more singing of The Birks Of Aberfeldie during a walk in the sunshine up to the underpass today!

January 11th

Zoom choir night and you can see that my setup is growing. Today Jamie brought in one of his unused screens to connect so that I can hopefully share scores on my screen and also see the choir at the same time. You can see last week’s new microphone as well. Earlier in the morning I went up to the underpass for a spot of Robert Burns!

The Birks Of Aberfeldie Chorus in the A1 underpass – ’twas exceedingly windy so I put the camera in a glove, which cut out the traffic noise and a lot of the wind, but also the singing too!
The sycamores an hour before sunrise.

January 10th

Up early to finish off my new recording and video, sent it off to the relevant people for approval or not, went for a walk at sunrise, then wrote a my blog about the song and shared it. It’s been a long process, this song, so I’m feeling very pleased now it’s done and sounds so good and Ann and Greg are pleased!

When I Was A Pilot, composed 2020 for Greg Lings

Here’s the blog, if you’d like to read more: Song Stories: When I Was A Pilot

Rebekah, Connie, Cheryl, Jamie (who just landed!) and Connor looking on with amusement.

January 9th

I spent all of today editing together the parts for When I Was A Pilot. This is a song I’ve written during 2020 for Greg Lings at the request of his wife Ann to mark Greg’s retirement from the RAF in 2020. Jamie and I cobbled together a recording over Christmas so that Ann could give Greg her gift, but we’ve been joined by Connor and Rebekah to do a much better effort. Of course we cannot meet up to record it properly, so it is another lockdown project. I haven’t quite finished by the end of the day, but earlier when the sun was shining, we went up to the edge of the village to take a snap of us for the video part of the project. Here’s one of the out-takes!

January 7th and 8th

Jamie and I spent Thursday recording parts for I Can See Clearly Now and When I Was A Pilot. I Can See Clearly Now is going to be a great song for the choir to sing, but tricky-ish. On Friday I spent most of the day editing it together to send to the choir to help them learn it. There was some nice feedback too, which is unusual after all these daily emails (We’re up to 298 now since the first lockdown started!) AT the end of Friday we walked up to the recycling point as the sky was heading into night (it was not yet 4 o’clock, but such is the northern midwinter!

The camera couldn’t see us as well as the song might imply!

January 6th

We walked up to the underpass for sunrise. It wasn’t very sunrisey, but we sang a song. It really is very good singing in there – so resonant. We were going to walk further but the road was very slippery and that had been gritted because it’s a bus route – all the following roads would have been ungritted, so we came home and did other stuff. During the course of the day my Log On The Beach video was watched over 100 times, which is remarkable for a day when I wasn’t really sharing it with anyone specifically. Hopefully someone’s going to perform it somewhere!

The chorus of “The Story Of The Rose” in the underpass.

January 5th

A quiet day. The view from my window was stripey. I made learning tracks for I Can See Clearly now and sent them to the choir. I made pizza using a selection of things from the fridge that needed using up. It was very tasty, and I used them all up, and there’s enough for tomorrow as well!

January 4th.

Zoom night with the choir. I have a new microphone for our zooming. We bought it on Saturday from a nearby large retailer (order at home, smile at a retail operative through a crack in the door, wave your phone at him, and goods purchased are proffered at many-an-arm’s-length through the previously mentioned crack). It came in a box of moderate proportions, with minimal instructions. Yesterday I extracted it from its box of moderate proportions and it turns out that once it’s unfolded and extended to its usable shape, it is a microphone of outlandishly hefty proportions. I had to tidy my desk to accommodate it…. I know!!!!  Next, it needs plugging into the computer using the enclosed USB cable. “Nice touch to include that in the box,” I thought with a whimsical flourish of optimism and gratitude. Simple. I plugged it in, the expected red light came on, I spoke into it and it knew I was there, but…all other sound stopped. This will not do for Zoom rehearsals where musical enticements need to be played through the shared thingamywotsit. I read the booklet for a third time. I twiddled with the full range of knobs on offer. I opened a Zoom meeting with myself and surveyed the range of audio options and sampled them like a tasting menu – so many enticing options, so many sliders to sweep back and forth, so many squares to cross and uncross, but this game did not solve the issue. I typed in succinct and pithy questions to Google to see if others had surmounted this issue. Undeterred by the unhelpfulness of everything I found, I typed in more rambling questions. I was still not finding what I needed. I read the booklet a fourth time. I went to get a chocolate biscuit from the Christmas supplies. I did not ask Jamie for help, for I know that he would have done all the same things as me. I do also know, that sometimes, irritatingly, he does all the same things as I do and somehow one of them works for him where it did not for me, but I was determined to solve this one myself if at all possible, and besides he was out on a merry trip to what he calls “The Dump” in his kooky Aussie way. The chocolate biscuit did the trick. As I munched carefully, savouring every morsel, I idly picked up the box of moderate proportions and found a map of my new microphone emblazoning one of its outer surfaces, with arrows pointing at all its different bits, with minimal information about each bit, and yet, my eye was captured by a teensy arrow pointing at a teensy hole on the underbelly of the microphone, with a teensy caption declaring the hole to be for headphones. No headphones were included with this purchase (“Not so generous now, eh?!!! you pinchpenny plops!” I may have muttered – or words to that effect,) but upon plugging in my own headphones to said teensy hole, I was accosted through the earpiece by the glorious sound of us singing We Three Kings (for I had left the player playing our Advent Calendar Playlist so that I would know instantly if any of my previous fiddling had done the trick.) So, I surmised that it wasn’t that the new microphone was over-riding all the sound-related parts of my computer, but that it had pretensions of being a speaker as well, but without the necessary equipment to provide that service. I had to wait for Jamie to return before I could test whether my new discovery was all it cracked up to be, because I had to see whether someone Zooming in from another computer could also hear We Three Kings while the microphone was open. But all was well, so I had another biscuit and finally moved on.

Jamie did the highest leap. He’s such a good leaper.

January 3rd

We strolled in some mud, and did leaping, and I completed an arrangement of Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now for choir. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s happening with this blog which seems to randomly appear and disappear. Not figured it out yet.

Update, a bit later…. I’ve sorted it by doing some deleting and reposting. And here’s a double rainbow to celebrate!

January 2nd

We sang in the subway at the top of the street this morning. It’s a very resonant space. The disadvantage of it is that it is a subway under the A1, so early on a Saturday morning, even in Tier 4 of a pandemic lockdown, there’s plenty of traffic overhead!

In The Bleak Midwinter in the subway under the A1

January 1st

I’m not sure what my focus will be this year. No composing tasks outstanding, no choir to run apart from what I choose to do, no beach to visit, lots of mud in the garden and surrounding walks. In the meantime, I’ve been making a new video of an old song using some of last year’s best leaping photos.

It’s a short, rousing fanfare for SATB choir, first performed in 2006 by Alnwick and District Choral Society, and indeed commissioned by them, it was inspired by the local beach at Warkworth in Northumberland, where there was a log trapped by the WW2 concrete defence blocks. The middle section of the fanfare ponders upon the prospect of the log escaping over the top of the blocks during a high tide. Later that year, it did indeed escape. New logs come and go though! During 2020, I did lots of leaping in various places (often at Warkworth Beach, and at sunrise) and this song is accompanied on this video by 60 or so of these leaps.

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