May 2020 – Skydancing

May 31st

A whole day of video tweaking. That’s all. Nice daisies from the garden were reflected in the kitchen window!

Good evening from sunny Northumberland!

May 30th

I set to with the changes to the Skydancer videos. Tiny changes, but each one quite a big task as it turns out. I could be at it all weekend. We went up to look at the garden in the evening. Too hot for actual gardening today!

The Felton side of the river still has water, but flowing very gently!

May 29th

A little bit more gardening, and word came back from the Hen Harrier committee of a few tiny changes they’d like to the video. I’m determined to finish this project before the end of May, so I’d best get onto them. In the afternoon I met Julie and Shirley in the shade of the bridges. I cannot believe how low the river is – hardly any water flowing on our side of the island at the moment.

Alium and buttercups

May 28th

I tried gardening this morning. It was lovely being out there with my hands in the soil and the birds chirruping away until the sun came up over the rooftops and then it was too hot. I fear it may be too hot for the next few days as well, so that might be that. While I was out there I took a photo or two from my spot in the undergrowth!

Bean pole and potentillas
On our walk we stopped to listen to a chaffinch, so here’s a picture of singing one from a week or so ago. I heard someone on the radio today talking about the call of a chaffinch, that it’s like a bowler running up to the wicket, the delivery stride and then the release of the ball – we listened for this image in the call, and it’s true. I’ll take out my machine next time I go that way

May 27th

Well I awoke at 6.45, which didn’t seem like long enough really and the rest of the day was spent napping and sorting, so nothing to report here. We did go for a walk in the evening, up to the gate, but the memory card was not in my camera, so we did not take any pictures either! I had lots of views of this song today though, and I haven’t shared it for a while so why not now instead of a photo!

A happy memory of a day spent working in the quire at Wakefield Cathedral.
Jamie The Peg, successfully taking my mind off the video for a few minutes and clearing my head to resume!

May 26th

A very long day of creating the learning video for yesterday’s song – 24 hours from 2.30am to 2.30am with one hour of nap at 3pm and a wander up the garden in the evening to clear my head. I find it very interesting that I was so determined to finish that learning video before I went to bed when the deadline is so far off. No pressure has been put upon me by anyone but myself to get it done, and I can tell you that it’s quite out of character as I really have been a leaver-until-the-last-minute all my life. Ah well, maybe I’ve turned a new leaf!!! Again, I cannot share this video until it’s been approved by Hen Harrier Action, so I’ll share one little clip which took me the longest, ad which caused me to require ten minutes in the garden to clear the frustration from my brain.

This is Elliot the 18 month-old grandson of one of our choir members. I still haven’t lined him up accurately enough so will have another go before it’s finally released! I’ve already been asked to make another couple of changes, but at least the entire 15 minute video is sort of done, and is with the Hen Harrier people for approval or otherwise!
Bird with yellow: I’m not sure what this bird is, but it obligingly sang as I passed by!

May 25th

Today I finished the video for my new song Skydancer: Ghost Of The Moors. I was asked to compose it by Hen Harrier Action to be used somehow on Hen Harrier Day in August. The Bridge Singers have been recording their parts and I have spent this last week editing it all together along with some art works that they have created. The Hen Harrier group want to release the song on Hen Harrier Day itself, so at the moment, I cannot share it on here, but here is a little snippet of it as a taster!

Just 30 seconds for now, and including art by my pals Dawn and Alison – she’s playing the recorder too!
Good evening from Northumberland, most specifically from the daisies, Jamie and me!

May 24th

I’m still working on the Skydancer video, but lots of progress has been made today. In the evening, Jamie and I went out into the garden to see what’s been growing. The daisies are thriving and are rather pretty! I have written a list for tomorrow and hopefully if I reach the end of it, the video will be done!

May 23rd

I did think I might have the new recordings and video ready for today, but a spanner has been thrown in the works, and I’ve had to change tack a little, so even though I may indeed finish the whole thing tomorrow, I may not be able to share any of it with you until later. There isn’t much other news. This thing is all-consuming. However, I did read this: “My current favourite piece on the album is Cheryl Camm’s Cantate Domino, a shining example of exuberant rhythmic writing in a landscape where a lot of Christmas music can rely so heavily on sentimentality and ‘mush’,” which is pleasing. The album in question is The Silver Stars At Play by Kantos, and you can read the rest of the article here: Winter-Themed Music And this is the recording she mentions:

May 22nd

Rain on the umbrella, rain in the puddle, frolicking in the rain.

I am still making the video, but today has seen considerable progress. It’s a trickier one this time. Most people have submitted at least two recordings, so more editing and because this one’s for a third party, it’s got to be more on point and is not just a celebration for the choir. I went out in the rain this morning which was gloriously exhilarating. However, it did not last long and by the end of breakfast the sun was shining again, and then it became windy. During a break in my task, I spotted that views on my seapieparcel YouTube channel had raced past 53,000 and this gave me a thrill as these milestones usually do! Click here and have a listen to one of the 201 videos that await your delectation!

Evening weed inspection outing.

May 21st

I am still making my video. Today the machines were unhelpful, and most of the work I did ended up being for nothing as something happened to all the choir’s recordings that made them sound like they were created in a beehive. Anyway, I solved the problem and the day ended happily enough as you see. Tomorrow I do the same task again!

19th May. The clicky wheel support on the bridge.

May 18th, 19th, 20th

Quiet days. I’m working away on my new video. Here are a few photos of things from these quiet days!

The repeating patterns from the Skydancer learning video.
20th May sunset creatures – all those dots over the river are insects. This is another reason why I prefer walking in the mornings!

On Tuesday, a workman in a Northumberland County Council high-viz gilet appeared on the old bridge with an electronic device into which he entered measurements (I’m guessing) and one of those clicky wheel measuring gadgets. I gazed with a little envy at this clicky wheel, which he flaunted up and down and left to right, measuring for all he was worth. When I attended primary school, I remember crossing from the main school to the prefab for some lesson or other and seeing bigger children trailing up and down the playground with these clicky wheels. I didn’t know what they were, and someone explained them to me adding that we would also get to use them when we were in Class 7. I dreamt eagerly of that day, but I never made it to class 7 on account of Nottinghamshire going into a middle school system as I approached the end of Class 6, so off I went to another place of learning. I continued through my entire school career, never having the thrill of using a clicky wheel, and this has been forever a source of great sorrow to me. And now I see that there are indeed jobs that consist entirely of walking up and down with clicky wheels. This in itself caught my interest yesterday, but then to my delight I noticed that this fellow’s clicky wheel had a snap-down support thangamy so that the operative could do his wheely measuring and then snap the support down and it would stand there waiting for him while he entered his new data into his other device. He was quite adept at lowering the support with his toe, and without looking. I took a picture so you can see what I mean.

Drizzly jumping. We’re pulling the wrong faces – I love the rain and Jamie’s not so happy about it!

May 17th

Achy legs today so not much walking or leaping or gardening. Overnight my Three Billy Goats Gruff song was listened to 60 times. No idea where they are, these listeners, but that is a lot of views for a weekend!

A very popular song – 1500 views in 7 months!
Look where I walked to!

May 16th

Earlier I leaped near the water tower. It still seems a long way away on this picture, but I was closer to it than ever before!

I’ve been building up to this for a while, but this morning I went to the beach. I walked there. Three hours, it took. It’s a very clear set of footpaths – part of St. Oswald’s Way – through fields and along actual bridleways, with only the occasional moment or two on roads. Many have spoken of it to me, but I’ve never gone along the whole way before. It really was splendid. I took quite a few photos and they’re mostly in this video. I made it when I got back using one of my Brisbane songs, composed at the request of a teacher who wanted something cheerful “to help with self-esteem.”

I set off at 4.15am and got to the beach at about 7.15. I then walked back into Warworth and Jamie (as pre-arranged) was summoned to pick me up. I will do this again, and now I don’t need to carry a map, I will take snacks and walk back as well. I didn’t see a single person all the way there, but then as soon as I got to Warkworth, it was teeming (relatively speaking).

If you’re not interested in following the lyrics to the song there are “walk” captions in the bottom right of each slide!

One thing that’s not represented in the video because I could not get a decent photo, was a load of blackcaps in the trees on the farm track just beyond the Guyzance Road. It really is a treat seeing a new bird. I also saw lots of lapwings in a field near Warkworth, but they were not calling – I was very lucky the other morning to hear them.

Evening leaping with my favourite leap friend.

May 15th

I made hummous today. Very delicious, and enough left for many more eatings. Jamie and I went for a walk in the evening – up to West Thirston proper, then down through the fields and along the river for a while. There were lots of swallows. I never see swallows in the morning. Quite a different set of creatures in the evening – more humans too! There were generally more humans all day anyway. Two of my choir pals who don’t live in the village came here to get their favourite bread from The Running Fox. I had a chat with them on the bridge. That was lovely too, although I find the seemingly ad hoc lifting of restrictions and wifflywaffly instructions just as unnerving as the initial lockdown was – at least that was clear. People are so silly. Why do the “leaders” not realise this? I also had a splendid chat with my brother on the phone. We properly made each other laugh. He really is the best brother.

May 14th

I went down along the river for the sunrise and leaping, and watched and listened as three lapwings sported in a field across the water. Luckily, I had my machine with me so while I stood and watched, I pressed “record” and you can hear their very distinctive “electronica” call amongst all the other unseen chirruping, a faint gurgling of the river, and the distant hum of combined wind in trees and A1 traffic. I also climbed up the garden to see what was out and so the images you see are of the first flowerings of a few plants up there and a budding damson on the tree the choir gave me – it is the only one, but that’s one more than last year, so I’m very happy. There’s also my best leap of the morning.

Flowers, lapwings, leap.
Leaping in the sleet shower at sunrise.

May 13th

I was sleeted on today as I was up at the sycamores leaping at sunrise. Then I made some more learning tracks for the Skydancer song and I dug a bit of garden – so many weed roots in this bit!

Yellow field leap

May 11th and 12th

Me and the sycamores – they are now in full leaf and I am in full leap, although not in the right place exactly!

A strange two days of doing some music and getting in a fret about it all. However, we did shopping on Monday night, so we have multiple treats in the house now, and today I sent out learning tracks to the choir for an upcoming video of my hen harrier song. I got feedback on that yesterday which included phrases like “It’s a beautiful song” and “it’s wonderfully atmospheric”, so all’s cheery again. Here are some stored-up leaps seeing as I didn’t go out leaping either day.

Good morning from drizzly Felton Lonnen.

May 10th

I have not enjoyed today much even though it started out well enough with glorious rain to wander out in and a cool leap sequence, and at various points in the day, lots of people commented very favourably on my music and my work with the choir, and I made a nice lunch and reasonable cakes (strange texture, but tasty nonetheless). I blame Boris Johnson and his ridiculous pfaffing style of imparting what we’re supposed to do and the media who fire everyone up to behave in ridiculous ways, for contributing to my discomforted feeling. Pah! I played this to myself before I went to sleep.

One of my best, but rather sad – suited the mood well!
Good afternoon from the gap between the greenhouse and the climbing rose.

May 9th

I’m working on a learning video for the new hen harrier song – more on that when it’s done. I also did some gardening out there in the sun. I was hoping for cloud and there was plenty during the day, but not while I was out there – too hot for me! I did have time for a wee bit of a leap though. I also put this video together using one of The Bridge Singers’ recordings from 2018 and some bird pictures I’ve taken round here in the last couple of months.

One of our favourites!
I took my banana umbrella out at sunrise – purely for decorative purposes….lots of messing about this morning which is always good fun!

May 8th

I went out a-leaping with my banana umbrella this morning and had such a lot of fun that I ended up with many photos, so I was fossicking about for  a suitable song to use to make them all into a video and came across a recording from 2018 of Lionheart Harmony singing my No Umbrella Blues. They sang this at the first of The Bridge Singers’ Burns Night Celebrations in 2018 on account of it mentioning Robert Burns’ statue in Dunedin. No Umbrella Blues was composed for a school choir in Dunedin and has been performed many times, particularly in New Zealand.

No-Umbrella Blues and some leaping umbrella photos – I see I’ve put the wrong date on the next to last slide, but you get the idea!
Sunrise leaping in the field with the cracked path

May 7th

Tractor Moon

I walked along the river this morning, setting off quite early as I wanted to see the moon set and we’re so low down here that it disappears way before other places. I made it up to the farm at which point the large moon was setting as the sun rose. I had my map with me, so carried on further than previously through woodland, across railway bridges and through further fields.

Yellowhammer in the shadows

I was out for nearly three hours and did not see another person that needed avoiding. I did see a couple of cars being driven – one towards Guyzance, and one away from West Thirston, but that was it. I did however see lots of goldfinches, a pair of linnets which I watched for quite a while cavorting in a tree, a bird which I later identified as a whitethroat, and quite a few yellowhammers posing helpfully for photos.

When I got home I was looking for the date of Craighead Chorale’s performance of my song The Moon, as moon stuff was in my head when I cam across the actual performance itself on the NZ Choral Federation’s website. I was actually in the audience in Dunedin for this – very thrilling.

You can click this link to see what it rather a vibrant and energized performance: Craighead Diocesan School – Craighead Chorale – The Moon – Cheryl Camm

After I finished musicking, I nipped up the garden for a leap – managed four pictures of leaping out of the six leaps I managed in the ten timer photos. It’s hard to leap on a slope – it’s the recovering from the landing rather than the leap itself which provides the issues. This is the best of the four.

May 6th

I finished tweaking my new skydancing song today about hen harriers. Jamie and I recorded it roughly so that people could get an idea. I sent it off to a few people for comment and so far one has said it sounds complicated and one says it sounds straightforward…so a fairly typical response to one of my songs!

What they asked for:

  • A song about hen harriers to be sung by participants in Hen Harrier Day activities – now online as the actual events have been cancelled this year.
  • Easy bits that anyone with an inclination to sing along should be able to manage (the repeating patterns)
  • Trickier bits for people who have more musical confidence. (the melody)
  • Accompanying instrumental patterns for those who want to join in but don’t want to sing (percussion, chords, bass and improvised melody for the middle bit)
  • It should describe hen harriers in a positive way (I’ve focused on their glorious flying prowess – there’s an RSPB video you could watch if you want to get an idea of the amazingness of it!).
  • To list some of those hen harriers who have been illegally trapped, shot or who have “disappeared”. (The RSPB tag lots of the chicks these days so they can be tracked. They also give them names at the time of the tagging).
  • To speak of this time of isolation, which has caused the events to be cancelled, and to mention some of the unexpected positive things that have come from it, such as the increased awareness by everyone of nature in general, and bird song in particular, and how nature has increasingly entered our quiet towns and cities as well as our consciousness
  • To mention some of their hopes for afterwards, that we will continue to take note of nature and cooperate with it.
Blue Hawk: Skydancer

And here are the words:

 Blue Hawk: Skydancer
Blue Hawk's swimming flight, gliding somersaulting!
Skydancer, hen harrier!
Ghost of the moors! Silver phantom!
Ringtails pirouetting, join in the roller-coaster!
In these days of isolation,
staying within,
our spirits soar,
discerning the songs of birds
in the new, thoughtful tranquility.
Amidst the chirrups,
my ear is beguiled by the chuck-a-checking of the ghosts of the moors.
Heulwen, Heather, Elwood,  Blue, disappeared.
Margot, Tarras, Hilma, Mick, disappeared.
Aalin, Brian, Octavia, Fin, disappeared.
Stelmaria, Bonny, Saorsa, Marc, disappeared.
Rannoch, Lia, Athena, Thor, disappeared.
Thistle, Mary, Skylar, Rain, disappeared. 
Gliding and swooping,
grasp the whirling vole or pipit,
and then you glide.
My spirits soar,
treasured in my memory. 
I have a vision,
a dream for the time after isolation:
we listen still, with empathy.
Sunrise leap: Hand On Fire

May 5th

I went a-leaping at sunrise. The sky was gloriously sunny and cloudy at the same time. I did quite a high leap, which I’m rather proud of. Then most of the day I’ve been finishing off my hen harrier song. I just have to finish off the recording in the morning and I can send it to the people who asked for it and hope that they like it!

The rose plant the choir gave me on Burns Night has four flowers at varying stages of development as of today!

May 4th

A quiet day after posting the Parting Glass video first thing this morning. I went up to the church to watch Tim do some measuring for whenever the choir can meet up again with distance between us all. For the rest of the day, I pottered about.

1st May: Good evening from the back yard!

May 1st-3rd

I’ve started the month on a mammoth task of editing a new video for The Bridge Singers using over 90 recordings they’ve sent in to me of their parts of The Parting Glass, a song we first sang in 2017 at our Magical Glass concerts. It’s taken me three days to finish it off following the deadline I set them of midnight on 30th April.

3rd May: Good evening from Northumberland! Jumping full bifters to try and make it rain! Don’t laugh – it worked!

I did do a spot of leaping on Friday evening, and also on the evening of May 3rd, but otherwise, I’ve been indoors trying to get this task done, and now I have done it! This is our third lockdown video using this technique and I think the sound is the best yet – partly because more of them submitted recordings and also because most of them knew the song already so were more confident. Anyway, it looks and sounds good, I think!

Our third lockdown video using a favourite song of the choir, and also you can hear a little bit of our glass orchestra music from 2017 as well.

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