I have spent most of the day sorting out images for the new video for the choir. They’ve all been sending in fragments of singing and photos and it’s my job to turn them into a coherent whole. I hope to have it ready by the end of tomorrow, but everything always takes so much longer than you think it’s going to, so who knows! We leapt in the kitchen while we waited for our fruit crumble to heat up.
I’ve been busy with a new arrangement for The Bridge Singers for most of the day, and also made two crumbles out of all the blackberries, raspberries and apple we found in the freezer during Saturday’s rationalisation thereof. Also, we leapt, and managed to achieve three double leaps in our set of ten pictures! The music here is related to tomorrow’s task as you will see and hear on another day!
Clocks forward, which seems to mean very little these days. I woke up too early again, got up, did stuff, then spent the morning too sleepy, then cracked on, then wilted again. Strange sleeping patterns. It was back to being cold outside today. Indeed there was hail on and off all day, so I stayed in with the tidying. We’d found an ice cream container of something unknown in the freezer last night and were unable to recognise it in its frozen state (although it was plain to see that it was not ice cream!) It turned out to be a rather tasty concoction of vegetables in tomato-y sauce, so I tarted it up with some lamb and wine and spices and served half of it with roast potatoes. Delicious. In the evening we went out for a leap in the river bed.
Jamie and I had reason today to go to Morpeth in the car. While we were there we did a small amount of shopping in Morrisons and Iceland and then came home. It was the first time we’d been out of the front door for nearly a week and the first time we’d been out in the car for exactly a week. It was a strange sensation for starters, just getting in the car and leaving. All the physical and practical changes were stark enough with empty roads, easy Saturday afternoon Morpeth parking, people staying safely apart, gentle queueing to enter the hallowed aisles. What I found most striking was the rapidly expanding feeling of unease I had, and of really being exceedingly happy to return to our little bubble at home and not head out again!
We also watched the movie Witness on the BBCiplayer. I haven’t watched that film since viewing it at the cinema in the 1980s. I remembered the barn-building scene as one of the most up-lifting things I had ever seen in my life, and bought the soundtrack so that I could listen over and over to the accompanying music by Maurice Jarre which I thought was exhilarating at the time and so very cleverly composed. (Have a look and listen if you want to know what I’m going on about! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL_X7GelX5Q ) Even now, when I can clearly see and hear exactly how it’s composed, it still has an inspiring affect on me. That boy’s (Lukas Haas’) amazingly staring eyes was another aspect of the film that I remembered warmly and also the distinct feeling of menace when those three armed policemen come over the horizon to kill our heroes. Anyway, I enjoyed it again and recommend it you all!
I leapt first thing and recorded a few minutes of the dawn chorus during which I was very delighted to hear a tawny owl, and also during which I stood very still and watched a great tit singing its heart out, and then I lugged a few things out of the greenhouse, but mostly today I made a video of Gary’s brilliant song, Northumberland!
Inspired by a video Gary posted on Thursday of him singing Northumberland rather splendidly with his guitar, I ferreted about through my computer files to see if there was a decent recording of The Bridge Singers singing it and did indeed find one from last year’s Brinkburn concert. We also sang it in the Autumn, but there were issues with both of those recordings although not with the performances which were excellent. So Brinkburn it is. Gary and I gathered together some photos of our beloved county to illustrate it, and Bob’s Your Uncle, a new video for your weekend delectation!
I was out before sunrise at my early morning pruning. I filled up my trug with clippings and was just about to head up to the compost heaps when immediately before my eyes on an isolated twig about 5 metres away sat a bullfinch. A female bullfinch. I watched her for a few minutes, in suspended trug-holding animation, as her glance darted up and down the garden. Gleaming all over my face with the joy of it, I gently put down my clippings and headed into the nearby greenhouse where my camera lay awaiting. I figured that once I started moving she would head off into the trees, but no. She waited for me.
Once I was installed in the doorway of the greenhouse, she proceeded to fossick in the weeds and moss on the stepping stones of our vegetable patch, posing helpfully from time to time. She came closer and closer to me and when she was within three metres (and the camera’s memory card became full up, alas) her mate appeared, they had a chat and off they flew. No photos of him today, but this is not the first time I’ve seen them so I feel they may be settling in somewhere nearby, and his turn in the limelight will come. As I stood so very still in that greenhouse doorway, I pondered that the habit real birdwatchers have of staying still and concealed for long periods of time really does work as that bullfinch became more and more confident that I was not going to harm her, her shoulders relaxed and she came closer and closer.
They are inordinately portly…bullfinches. I guess she may have eggs in her which would make anybody a little bit portly, I suppose.
The first time I ever did see a bullfinch was only recently really – certainly since we came back from Australia and were living in Northumberland. We’d gone to visit Jamie’s Auntie in County Wexford in Ireland. They are a family of farmers and while we were there some farmer neighbours were moving a little herd of medium-sized bulls from one field to another. These fields were several miles apart so these bulls had to run along a few public roads chased at great speed by one of the farmers. All the neighbours were roped in to help, mostly by standing menacingly in people’s driveways so that the bulls didn’t stray from the designated path. For some reason they thought I’d be able to manage this so there I was standing in a remote entrance to a driveway hearing the thunder of these bullfeet getting closer and closer and wondering how on earth I was supposed to stop them if they took it into their heads to go in my direction after all.
Anyway, as I stood there, a bullfinch appeared in the hedge of the garden I was supposedly protecting. I was beside myself with delight as I watched it for a while – my first ever bullfinch while awaiting the bulls! They duly appeared thundering along at great speed. My attention was diverted from the bullfinch momentarily, but only momentarily because they were gone in a roaring flash on their way to Jamie’s rather more difficult position – on a corner stopping them from going straight ahead. Oh well it all went smoothly you’ll be disappointed to hear. These Irish farmers knew what they were about. But the story is about the bullfinch, not the bulls, so no comedy ending!!!
So it really was a bullfinch morning today.
I pointed my camera out through the window at sunrise and saw a wren leaping up the steps as it fossicked amongst the moss for creatures it fancied. You might call it assisted leaping, I guess. Anyway, this is my leaping shot and my sunrise shot for the day!
Earlier, I had made this video with some sunnier, more distant sunrises using a recording I found on my computer of The Bridge Singers at St. Paul’s Church in Alnwick in 2018. It’s She’s Fair And Fause – one of my Robert Burns arrangements!
Pruning. Sorting out choir recordings. Making rather tasty fishcakes. I didn’t go outside at sunrise. I saw a blackbird warbling on a TV aerial through the window. I leapt during the pruning. You see the secateurs and one glove in my hands!
I was looking for a recording of the choir singing I Am A Rock from 2018, but no luck. Such a thing doesn’t seem to exist, which is a shame seeing as the lyrics are exceedingly relevant at the moment, and that is a good arrangement indeed. I’ll keep searching, but am not optimistic 🙁
I went up to the gate this morning for sunrise. I was rather sad because I feel that this might the last time for a while that I go anywhere for sunrise. Anyway, I made the most of it and leapt a lot. This is the best of ’em! I always do like to capture a bird in full song too!
Later I did some gardening and some music – starting to arrange a folksong called “Australia”, which has a fab tune and mentions Queen Victoria!
Beach leaping, then sorting out this video for Mum. Frances and Michael sent photos during the day of what they and Colin and Fran were doing and Jamie and I recorded the song. This is on account of it being Mothering Sunday and only one of us could be there. She taught me this song from her schooldays – not when I was a little girl, but in 2015. My, how we chortled…Dad too who was trying to watch the news while we sang in the background! All the photos and recording were made today!
Sunrise at home today and there were goldfinches about. I didn’t get a very good picture of the colours of the one singing in the gloom, but you get the idea and can imagine the reality of it, I’m sure. We did some singing in a beautiful place today which raised our spirits enormously. We went to Morpeth for a spot of shopping, We were one of the cheery recipients of biscuits from Alison, who is vegan and had them in huge supplies to take to her many musical workshops which are now cancelled. I wore my brilliant new birthday boots received last week from my splendid brother and sister. Jamie and I had a leap or two by the river when we got home!
Earlier in the day, I posted this on The Bridge Singers’ Facebook and Twitter pages. It proved very popular. Do sing along!
We’re all very sad indeed that we cannot sing together at the moment. But luckily we do have some videos of past performances up our sleeves to keep our spirits up and keep us (and you!) going until we can all get together again. Here we are on one of our Robert Burns songs – it’s a very simple round – do sing along with us!
The lyrics are:
The Robin cam to the wren’s nest
And keekit in and keekit in,
O weel’s me on your auld pow,
Wad ye be in, wad ye be in.
Ye’se ne’er get leave to lie without,
And I within, and I within,
Sae lang’s I hae an auld clout
To row ye in, to row ye in.
The beautiful picture is by soprano Yvonne.”
I was determined to get to the beach for sunrise today as the sky was clear here in our dark little valley and I was convinced that the horizon would be too. I was almost right, and indeed the strip of bobbly cloud just on the horizon provided an even more glorious ambience than if it hadn’t been there. I did an inordinate amount of leaping as the sun actually rose so as to maximise the chances of a two-feet-off the-ground effort with the sun actually rising – quite out of breath, I was, after running back and forth to the camera to re-set the self-timer and leaping in between. Anyway, here are a few of the results.
It was a little bit frosty too. I find there’s something very magical about frost on the beach. They don’t seem to go together at all in my mind and so I always find it makes me smile.
I decided to make pumpkin soup for lunch with a butternut squash that’s been sitting in the kitchen for a while. I usually make it up as I go along and throw in things I happen to find, but we have a newish cook book someone bought us as a gift called “Soup” so I looked up “Pumpkin Soup” in the index – page 146. I went to page 146….”Red Pepper Soup”. I then leafed through every page to see what page error they’d made, pencil in hand so I could change the number in the index, but no. Pumpkin Soup does not exist! Imagine such a thing! ….In a book called “Soup”. So I made it up after all and it tasted fine.
Also today has been St. Cuthbert’s Day so I feel I must share this, which in my opinion is lovely music, but I’m sure in everyone’s opinion, comes with splendid pictures!
Up early to send emails and up the garden for sunrise. Out on the coast it would have been glorious judging by the clear skies here, but I was off later to sport with my friends on the beach near Bamburgh, so forwent the beach at sunrise. This is blossom on the plum-tree-that-never-produces-plums tree as seen from the vicinity of the compost heap. I have an inkling that it may not produce any plums this year either because I’ve seen bullfinches on it several times already this year, and as King Henry VIII declared, they have criminal tendencies when it comes to fruit trees! He put a bounty on their heads, you know!
I went up north as I said and after a rather extravagant breakfast, Shirley, Julie, Morar and I head up to Bamburgh where we met up with Jenny and Ellie and then walked in glorious sunshine to Budle Bay. Very easily to keep clear of other folk on these sparsely populated beaches, and lots of leaping to keep us laughing!
A grey morning. A day of starting to implement my idea for the choir. A day of more railings on the bridge – they’re nearly at our house with them now. The car is parked up the hill for the time being so it doesn’t get dribbled on with molten lead, or clattered upon with chips of concrete or falling railings.
The new song for the choir is The Black Velvet Band. There are Irish and Australian versions of this – we’re doing a hybrid of the two which I finished the arrangement of today. Jamie has been recording the tenor and bass parts for verse 3, and I the soprano and alto. Here is the result and I shall send it out tomorrow!
Four and a half leaps this morning – getting ever more leapy! There are work men on the bridge. Yesterday they set up traffic lights and there was drilling in the concrete. Today the railings turned up on the back of a lorry – they’ve been restored to their former glory and are being reinstated in amongst all the temporary railings. One day soon all of that part of our lives will hopefully be back to normal.
I’ve had quite a bit of contact with choir members today – such kindness. They were going to give me flowers at the AGM on Monday. Tim brought them round last night and now they’re in my front window for everyone to see…and today a picture of a bullfinch and two hot cross buns through the letter box!
A very gorgeously sunny orange sunrise was followed by a day of arrangements and cheering news…until the evening that is. A choir in Chile is going to be singing my Motu Puketutu at a concert later in the year. The concert is to commemorate an earthquake in 1969 centred around Valdivia. A large tsunami caused devastation in many other Pacific countries, so the choir will be singing music from them as well as local songs. My song is representing New Zealand 🙂
This evening choir was suspended for the foreseeable future on account of the Corona virus and Boris Johnson’s pronouncements. I knew this decision would be coming, but it did make me cry. Jamie said, when I wondered why I was so upset, “It’s one of the main things in your life. Of course you’re upset. You put everything into it.” He’s clever. He knows what he’s talking about.
Another grey sunrise, and a high incoming tide, but I managed not to get wet!
The day has been spent dealing with choir music for upcoming events, which may of course now not go ahead as planned, but I did hear from Saturday’s wedding couple and they are not cancelling yet, so we have work to do for them if nothing else! I’ve mostly been dealing with “Love Of My Life” the Queen song. Such a brilliant song. This is the arrangement we’ll be singing:
Grey beach. List of tasks. Day in Newcastle. Tasks completed. Then home for a mixture of food, hymns and telly. One of the “tasks” in Newcastle was to see Emma at the Tyneside Cinema – a very funny version and the music is fab.
I did not go out at sunrise today. I pointed my camera out of the window at the sight of long-tailed tits on the feeders at the appropriate moment. Later I ventured up to the compost heap and did my leap of the day. In between I pfaffed on with bits of music and bits of admin and lots of marketing.
Today has been my birthday and it has been an excellent day: leaping at sunrise, pains au chocolat for breakfast, car passed its MOT while I shopped for treats, Jamie and I off to Wallington with our National Trust cards, present and card opening, stroll around the walled garden admiring crocuses, stroll along the river walk admiring birds, tasty lunch in the café, home via a garden centre for a stake to prop up a wind-blown tree, Jamie back to work with phone conferences while I chat to family and reply to a huge and cheering amount of birthday messages, a stack of salted caramel profiteroles, ignoring the prime minister issuing depressing messages for now, back episodes of Death In Paradise. Here are a few highlights:
Australian folk songs.
Lionheart Harmony in the evening including No-Umbrella Blues!
Good morning from me and the sycamores!
And then I sorted out music for a wedding and in the evening there was a committee meeting. My report went out to the choir and there was some pleasing feedback!
Today I had the absolute treat of sunrise walking with Rebekah and Connie, and we had both the sun and the moon giving us a properly excellent show. At lunchtime, The Bridge Singers sang at a cheerful memorial event for our laughing, tuneful, reliable Kate who died last week. We sang two of her favourite Robert Burns songs (Birks Of Aberfeldie and Westlin Winds) and another two as everyone left (Bogoroditse Devo by Rachmaninov and also 59th Street Bridge Song). The choir was joined by a few members of Bailiffgate Singers (Kate was in that choir too) and in spite of us being rather upset at times, we did a very good job indeed. We then had our usual practice in the evening and have nailed True Colours – even all the tricky syncopation seems to be in our systems now. Our first wedding of 2020 is in less than a fortnight and True Colours will be in there!
Jamie came with me for the sunrise today. It was a grey morning, however. The moon was fab though!
This afternoon was our Rock Festival Choir Lotti and Vivaldi Spring Concert. My solo went well, and I particularly enjoyed standing between Jamie and Connor in the first two movements – what wonderful voices they both have. After post-concert chat we headed home hungry, so made chips from our home-grown potatoes from scratch and settled down for an old episode of Death in Paradise with Humphrey and the first appearance of Florence, before early sleeping!
I had a long walk today – all the way to Alnmouth or at least to the Aln from my usual parking spot – over two hours and barely another person to be seen. This would be partly on account of it being rather grey and also partly because sunrise is getting earlier and earlier. Once I was eventually home, I continued with the videos for RFC’s concert on Sunday and started planning some more Australian folksong arrangements.
I started the day in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and accompanied Jamie to Central Station for his train to London. The sun was sporting colourfully with the landmarks of Newcastle and I managed a leap in front of one of them!
I then caught the first possible bus back home and spent the morning organising music for a short memorial concert on Monday for our lovely Kate. The rest of the day was spent in preparation for our final Rock Festival Choir rehearsal before Sunday’s concert, including a bit of singing and a bit of marketing.
Sunrise up at the sycamores this morning because after last night’s beach leaping and an afternoon planned walking along Druridge Bay with Julie, Shirley, Ann and Rebekah and three dogs today, I felt that a third beach trip in 24 hours might be too much. We did go on the walk to Amble and back and there was much laughter and happy chat after I spent the morning doing choir arrangements.
In the evening I caught a train to Newcastle and met Jamie and we went to see The Turn Of The Screw by Benjamin Britten at the Theatre Royal. It was Opera North. The music was great. The set was great, most of the singing was great, although it was hard to know what some of them were singing and the story itself is a bit elusive, so I need to spend some time reading the programme. Britten’s very good at emotion and evoking a load of different emotions in the music. We’ve noticed it before and did so again. A lovely evening, especially seeing Jamie again after two days away! We stayed in Newcastle overnight as he had to go back to London, so saw some of the city night life as we strolled twixt theatre and hotel.
Dealing with things and people. I took Jamie to the train early doors so sunrise was through the car window as we sped to Morpeth. Because I was busy with endless small tasks during the remainder of the day, I took myself off to the beach for sunset. there were an alarming number of people there – not at all like the calm of sunrise, so I had to furtively leap, and do it quickly too!
Not enough sleep but the promise of a sunny sunrise took me up to the gate today – an old haunt. I was right about the sun! The day brought news that Kate from choir has died after a short illness. Such sadness, and yet she really was one of the happy ones, so lots of happy memories to dwell upon. The rest of the day has been a whirlwind of learning tracks, emails and trying not to doze off!
Sunny, sunny, frosty sunrise, with frost on the sand, which I always find thrilling. Then report-finishing. Then choir. In amongst that I appeared on a list from Radio New Zealand: Composing Women of Aotearoa, the members of which they described as “brilliant composing women”. I feel honoured to be in such company!
Mum’s birthday, so armed with my chocolate and cherry birthday cake, Jamie and I headed south to celebrate with her and Michael. Cake, gifts, flowers, roast dinner, chat, laughter were all excellent. Michael and I went into the garden in our slippers to do a spot of leaping and laughed mightily. Jamie drove both ways because he is an excellent fellow.
I have also been writing my MDs report for The Bridge Singers – I’ve been fretting about it and not sleeping, which is mainly why Jamie drove! I also received this piece of wonderful (if rather sad) feedback on my Song Story blog about Lullaby Of Silences. “Oh my goodness this is utterly beautiful . I have a tiny baby niece who was born asleep. The silence of her is still in my heart. She would be 18 this March. This would be such a healing song of hearts. I am crying silently with my clock gently ticking away my time here. X” You can read the blog here: Song Stories: Lullaby Of Silences.