This Friday marked the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, a celebration of the peace in Europe that followed the end of World War 2 and brought an end to the tragic loss of life and the suffering that was endured by so many.
Despite the restrictions on public celebrations, it was lovely to see people engage virtually with this historic moment in different ways. From acknowledging the 2 minutes silence at 11am, to organising a “safe-distanced” street parties with bunting and sweet treats to share.
George and I wanted to remember loved ones whose lives were changed immeasurably by the events of World War 2. To celebrate the freedom, we are so lucky to have and the lasting peace we so gratefully enjoy, all thanks to the courage of many by singing three songs that we felt caught the atmosphere of the day.
We’ll gather Lilacs, Danny Boy and We’ll Meet Again.
We combined these three songs with one of our favourite English Songs, Love’s Philosophy. Fun Fact – this poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley will feature as part of our delayed wedding favours.
We decided to finish with a flourish of Operetta, Art is Calling for Me and we hope that you enjoy our programme.
Preparing for rain, Felt safe under the brolly. Did not predict wind! C. Hoather & G. Todica
As April was ending and Summer approaches, I find that under the current lock-down one day starts to merge with the next. For us, having our Friday Balcony Concerts for our friends and neighbours has helped to give George and me a definite end to each week and something to work towards, which has been so important for us both to remain focused.
Last Friday just before our concert, at around 17:20 we began our set-up. We sellotaped our back-up camera to the plant pot frame because the live stream failed in week four and placed a stand ready to hold my iPhone to live-stream the 6th Balcony Concert, when the weather took an unexpected turn. I was in the kitchen at the time, cleaning dishes calmly, when George shouted from the other room “OH NO, RAIN!” We dashed out without a moment to spare, to protect the camera and keyboard at all costs! Within minutes we started to prepare for the worst and we dug out all of the brollies in our home. We experimented with different contraptions built from what we had in our flat, settling for the unlikely marriage of clothes hanger stands, graduation scroll holder (thanks RCS) and umbrellas (oh, the things you can create last minute when you apply a little improvisation and plenty of duct tape).
As the clocks struck 18:00, all seemed well. So, we began and managed to keep performing despite the weather’s mood swings. If you haven’t time to watch the full concert and you’d like a giggle, jump to my Mary Poppins wannabe moment around 13 minutes in!
Repertoire this week:
Let it Go (Disney – Frozen) a personal favourite of George’s young nephew Marcu
Nella Fantasia (Ennio Morricone)
Muttertändelei (R. Strauss)
Schlagende Herzen (R. Strauss)
Mein Herr Marquis – (J. Strauss – Die Fledermaus)
This was the first time I’d ever sung ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Mein Herr Marquis’ which I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks, so I hope that you enjoy them.
Just before the lock-down George’s friend helped us out by building a couple of IKEA flat-pack cupboards to help store all of our music books, sheet music and scores in. However, the third cupboard which was due to be delivered just as we found ourselves entering lock-down, was put on hold. This week it finally arrived and so we decided to try and put it up ourselves. I discovered how to use a drill and the importance of following instructions (or not LOL). Finally, the last cupboard is now up and attached safely to the wall even though I did have to unwind the screw and put in a raw plug – who even knew such a thing existed, thanks Dad, I even put in an automatic light and push to open thingymabobs and I am feeling very proud of my achievement (with a little help from George of course)!
This week marks the 5th week since the lockdown in the UK on the 20th March and you can catch our 5th Balcony Concert at the bottom of this post. It has been great to see how my friends and inspirational sources have taken on these turbulent times and turn to creativity to stay positive and stay afloat financially. This week I have interviewed my friend and colleague Michael V. Jones, who has taken up inks instead of arpeggios to release his imagination and try to build a business.
I have worked with Michael on two different projects, ‘The Fire of Olympus’ with Radius Opera and ‘Christmas Elf’ with Northern Opera. He is a delight on and off stage and this week I received a special gift from him in the post! An intricate ink painting of one of my favourite streets in Greenwich! I love this street as it leads to the Historic Greenwich Market – a pleasant place to visit at the weekend – something to look forward to in a post-Covid19 World. I have immediately ordered a frame and I cannot wait to hang this ‘one of a kind’ piece in my music studio.
It was such a delight to connect with Michael virtually and I really enjoyed learning and discussing his process and I thought I would share it with you on my blog.
When did you first start creating these fantastic drawings?
Well I took GCSE and A Level Art in School, and before going to Music college to pursue Opera I had every intention to pursue an Art career, however music and singing won in the end and I haven’t painted seriously for about 10 years. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown I’ve had all my singing and teaching work postponed and so have had much more time on my hands. I started painting again a couple of weeks ago and have been pleasantly surprised at the response to my work.
What medium do you use to create these one of a kind pieces?
I mainly use Black Indian Ink and paint it on watercolour paper, using water to vary the tone.
How long do they take you to make?
It completely varies, but on average about 6 hours for an A4 piece and 10 hours for A3.
Do you listen to music whilst you are drawing?
I actually listen to audiobooks, usually something I’ve already read so I can ‘zone-out’ and get into the artwork. For your piece I was listening to Circe by Madeline Miller.
What is your personal experience of the Lockdown?
At first it was a massive adjustment as I’m used to working 6 days of the week with various teaching and singing jobs, so trying to find things to do with that massive amount of time was hard at first. Finding and using Art as a creative outlet has been a godsend, I actually feel calmer than I usually do!
Have you got any coping mechanisms to share?
Finding little tasks and completing them, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, really helps me. The feeling of having finished a job really makes me feel better. Baking has also helped.
Is this something you have always been interested in, or is this a newly acquired skill?
I’ve always been quite good at drawing and painting, however experimenting and using solely ink to create the effect is new and is definitely something I want to continue to pursue.
Have you found a platform, where people can see and purchase your art to help to get you through the Lockdown?
I’ve actually sold most of my work through social media. On Facebook I have an MVJones – Art page detailing prices and works that I’ve already sold, and on Instagram I also have an MVJones – Art page. I’m in the process of setting up a website for my art separate from my singing one, so watch this space! My email is m email@example.com for all art related queries.
As I mentioned before I’m also an opera singer, so please feel free to visit my website www.michaelvincentjones.com to see what else I can do
I wish Michael the best of luck with this new venture! I miss singing and performing with him and all my other colleagues. But in the meantime, here is our 5th Balcony Concert where we performed a musical cocktail featuring a little bit of Musical Theatre with a sprinkle of Rachmaninov and Dvorak.
Here’s our program:
Dream Valley (Roger Quilter)
I Dreamed A Dream (Claude-Michel Schönberg, Les Miserables)
Home (Maury Yeston, Phantom)
они отвечали,They Answered (Rachmaninov)
Pisen Rusalky O Mesiku,Song to the Moon (Dvořák, Rusalka)
This Friday marked our fourth balcony concert, and it has been a real joy to sing to my neighbours and friends online alongside George. Despite being limited to our own home for a few weeks now, it has been a breath of fresh air to feel close to the lovely people who live near me. I feel connected to a bigger community, a neighbourly relationship that reminded me of my childhood as we grew up with lovely neighbours and were in and out of each others homes, George also grew up in a really close community where all the neighbours knew each other
As a musician, who practises at home, I was nervous about upsetting my neighbours during the lockdown. I limited my singing hours to be conscious of those around me and I made adaptations to my home such as hanging homemade sound panels (created by George!) above our electric piano. After our first concert, we were overjoyed to feel the support and encouragement from our neighbours and the request for more music. We even received some chocolates, flowers and even beautiful drawings from our little neighbour upstairs.
On one of her art pieces, she told us that her favourite song was ‘Baby Shark’. So as our encore to four American Songs by Aaron Copland and Glitter and Be Gay by Bernstein George and I sang, (with all the actions) ‘Baby Shark’ for our little friend above us.
Unfortunately, our live stream dropped out during the concert cutting the recording short but one of our new friends filmed the encore on their phone. I hope you enjoy the clip.
Happy Easter and Joyous Passover one and all. I hope that in spite of the quarantine situation you all managed to find creative ways to enjoy this long weekend and the beautiful weather that came with it.
At the moment, I am so thankful for technology and for being able to video call my loved ones. On Good Friday, George and I performed another Balcony Concert, which now is slowly turning into a series! It is nice to experiment with live streaming as it means my friends from all over the world can become part of our small community whilst we perform, and our neighbours in our block who don’t face into the same courtyard can still enjoy the show safely. Thank you for supporting us and we hope you enjoy watching our next performance on Friday 17th April which will be Balcony Concert #4
After the performance, I was able to FaceTime with my close family despite the huge distances between us and a enjoy a Disney themed karaoke and compete against each other in a friendly pub style quiz.
On Saturday I dedicated the day to arts and crafts. I spent time calling my good friend Emily, and whilst we spoke we enjoyed drawing exotic animals such as frogs and geckos, (who doesn’t love a challenge).
Then after lunch, I painted empty eggshells with my close friend Rebecca, who is a fantastic artist. I’ve not done this for a few years and it was good to revisit childhood memories and see if I could remember how to blow out an egg. In the evening, over zoom, I played a board game with my brother Matt, his husband Alex, and George, where we had to complete a stained glass window. All in all a great time was had.
What have you been doing recently? Any fun indoor activities to share?
For those of you who may have missed our performance last Friday I have included the link below. George’s Mum suggested this week that we include a few songs for the children in our block, which seemed like a great idea at the time. It wasn’t until we walked out on to the balcony that it struck me how long it had been since I last sung any of them
Repertoire this week:
Do Re Mi – from the Sound of Music
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – from Mary Poppins
Following our short performance last week George and I performed our second balcony concert on Friday 3rd April for our neighbours as we all continue to come to terms with staying at home here in the U.K.
Our song selection this week included a mix of styles to try and please a wide audience of tastes. The pieces that George and I performed were:
I Feel Pretty, from West Side Story, by Bernstein
I Could Have Danced All Night, from My Fair Lady, by Loewe
A Piper, by Head
O Waly, Waly (folk song) – for my blog friend Hilary, who suggested it.
O Luce Di Quest’anima, from Linda Di Chamounix, by Donizetti – for a sprinkling of Opera
However, after feedback from last week, we decided to trial live streaming on YouTube. The idea was suggested as our neighbours in our development, who do not face into our courtyard, got in touch and asked if there was a chance, we could share it with them online. So we researched how we could do this and decided to experiment with YouTube Live as I already had an account with them which I use on my blog from time to time.
We set up my phone to capture our performance in the corner of our balcony using a stand with a phone adapter screwed into the top – a little bit of repurposing with pieces that we already had at home. For this our first attempt at live streaming we decided to film live using the unlisted feature, which means people can only watch with a link. We copied and pasted this into our Neighbourhood Facebook page and then let rip.
Moving forwards we hope to share our third balcony concert with you all publicly via my YouTube Chanel. It will take place between 18:00-18:30, weather permitting (UK time) on Friday 10th April. We would love for you to tune in and celebrate music and people coming together during this difficult time.
I took inspiration this week from the videos of people
sharing music on their balconies during the quarantine in Italy. I saw these
videos on my Facebook newsfeed and I found them so moving and thought that they
really celebrated community spirit.
On the Facebook group of our apartment block, there was a request to do something similar at our shared home. So, George and I said that we would be happy to get involved. One resident was worried that as everyone has different tastes in music that we should be careful not to disrupt the normally peaceful atmosphere. Our small community has families with young children, elderly residents and homeworkers so I thought this was a very thoughtful comment and so I suggested that we limit the live music time to after normal working hours and pick a date so that there is as little disruption to everyone as possible.
So last Friday, 27th March at 18:00 George and I
were gearing ourselves up to take our electric piano onto the balcony and sing
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Somewhere (West Side Story)
You’ll Never Walk Alone.
I must admit that I was a little nervous, I didn’t want to
upset anyone so I tried to pick songs that I thought most people could connect
with, whilst still sending a message of hope and togetherness. After all the
people I would be singing to are my neighbours. But we thought it was time to
be brave and try to do something nice for our community using the skills we
We set up and let rip. One by one, we saw windows open. People came out onto their balconies. One young woman in the courtyard who was on the phone began to share the experience with her loved one during their FaceTime call. There was a father dancing with his daughter. After we finished the first song, there was applause. It gave us the courage to continue and we started to perform our little hearts out. After the three songs, we were surprised to hear people ask for more and we said that we will try and perform again next Friday if the current situation doesn’t improve.
We were then surprised that our performance was filmed and shared by a few of our neighbours on our community Facebook group and this has allowed me to share this short video with you. Please continue to stay safe and healthy and know that you are each loved.
Keeping Calm and namaste greetings to you all from London, if you see me in person and wonder what the heck I’m doing I’ve adopted the new hands together bow of the head respectful gesture – it’s called Añjali Mudrā. I figured everyone has been told to cough and sneeze into their elbow if they don’t have a tissue rather than their hand so elbow bumping isn’t such a good idea. My profession is very huggy and we often kiss on both cheeks but I’d hate the thought I’d passed on this flu virus to someone with a weak immune system, I’ve been boosting mine as singers often do whether there is a pandemic or not hehe. If we get a bad cold with a sore throat we can’t work. It is fun to use this an opportunity to experiment with different greetings such as curtsying and saluting. Do you have any fun ways to say hello?
I’ve had two competitions canceled and a couple of bookings at risk so fingers crossed we get on top of this especially before our wedding in June! I’ve taken on some other work to pay the bills so for that I’m grateful! In my usual day today, I’m practicing and trying to maintain my coachings and lessons as usual.
I had a lovely weekend back up North staying with my family, whilst I performed in a concert in Skipton. I performed alongside Ben Crick as he conducted the Skipton Camerata. This orchestra was a great bunch, they knew how to create a relaxed atmosphere yet maintain a high level of quality and artistry. The theme of the concert centered around ancient stories and myths, which was well received by a friendly audience. My Dad, who was on camera duty at the back of the church, was particularly thrilled when people approached him just to say how much they’d enjoyed our performance, he was preening like a proud peacock all the way home.
Here are a few excerpts from the performance to give you a flavour of the concert.
I’m also celebrating this week as it’s my 7th WordPress blog anniversary. Thanks to WordPress for the reminder and to my blogger friends that have stayed the course with me over the years and to new joiners, welcome!
Have you learned any new tricks this past year on your blog or widgets that you think could be useful to me?
To close tonight I want to send you all my fondest wishes and hope that you all stay well, with coronavirus now running rampant all over the world remember don’t be scared be prepared and if you have to stay in keep in touch online