Tag: Journeys

Confessions of a vocal coach

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I am lucky enough to work wearing several different hats. When I wear my vocal coach hat, I work with wonderful voices and help to develop those voices. It never ceases to amaze me what the human vocal instrument is capable of, and I love seeing my students’ voices develop.

As a vocal coach, guiding voices, especially young voices, involve not only teaching the correct techniques for optimum vocal expression, but picking the right repertoire. This is important to build the voice’s strength and flexibility, and requires great sensitivity to the voice you’re working with.

A number of my students started studying with me when they were ten years old. Then, they were cute little kids with squeaky voices to match their little bodies. At that time, they were often shy with soft, tiny voices. Most had never had a singing lesson before, and often it was their mothers who felt that singing would bring them out of themselves and imbue them with confidence. Their mothers were not wrong. Singing is great for building confidence and good posture.

Today, aged fifteen, these same students are gorgeous young men and women with beautiful voices, and confident singers and performers.  Their great communication skills that will stand them in good stead as they traverse their working lives and beyond. At the moment, they all seem to be especially stressed by too much work and preparations for their GCSE mock exams in January, to be followed soon after by the real thing. So, for now, we’re focusing on breathing lower and deeper in their bodies which will help them to relax.

What they eventually want to do with their voice training, will dictate the length and intensity of their studies. Obviously, if the goal is to become a professional singer, the training will be very different from someone who is studying to pass exams in order to improve their CV for a new school or University, or someone who is studying voice for improved confidence, or as a hobby. But hopefully, every student who ever studied with me will feel that they received the very best voice education I could give them. And I’m lucky, since it seems my students really do feel that way, judging by the lovely cards, letters and presents I have received from them over the years.

I’ve kept all their cards and letters in a big brown envelope, and on those days when life seems harder than others, or when life throws me a curve ball, I take out their writings and re-read them. It never fails to make my heart sing!

The last day of November. What does it mean to you?

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November is an interesting month. It is the eleventh and penultimate month of the year and the fourth and last month containing 30 days. It is also the month when many of my friends and family members have their birthdays.

A number of festivals and holidays also happen during November. I love for example that the pagan Owl Month starts on 23 November until 21 December, signifying change and the Long Nights Time. It sounds kind of romantic, and I love owls.

The month has always been quite an exciting one for me personally, because I love autumn, the crispness of the colder days, and the colours, sights and smells of nature during this time. Long walks in the late autumn sunshine is a particularly lovely thing to do.

But November is also the month known to writers as NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It started in 1999 in America but now writers from all around the world join to write at least 50,000 words of a new novel during the month of November. If you join NaNoWriMo’s official website and reach your word count on 30 November, you receive a certificate that you can print out. It leaves you with a great sense of achievement and satisfaction, and many more writer friends if you so choose. I haven’t joined officially, but wrote my new novel, Forever And Ever Love, alongside NaNoWriMo and as I’m doing rather well, I may join next year.

There are many benefits of writing, even if you never intend to publish what you write. It can help deal with tragic and difficult experiences and it helps with loneliness – paradoxically, as writing is very much a solo sport. But writing, and talking with your characters, will definitely take you on a journey – maybe even one where you discover things about yourself you never knew.

Some writers use NaNoWriMo to get their next book well on its way to being finished. Others write just for the fun of it. But whichever way you go about it, try it – it is intense and fun!

Journey to Hong Kong

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I’m a traveller. I LOVE visiting other countries, other cultures, other peoples, as in my recent journey to Hong Kong.

But travelling isn’t only the physical acts of booking a holiday, booking the flights, hotels, cars, etc., packing a bag, arriving at the airport and checking in on the right day at the right time. Nor is it the anticipation and the excitement that precedes the journey.

No, journeys are far more important. A journey is also an emotional and spiritual expansion. That, more than anything, is what fascinates me about travelling.

We change and grow and evolve from moment to moment, of course. Each interaction with another leaves us forever changed. But nothing speeds up our growth and expansion in the way that travelling to another part of the world does, at least for me.

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Years ago, I lived in Hong Kong for nearly eight wonderfully crazy years. That was more than eighteen years ago, now. But I had an opportunity to spend Christmas 2015 there, and became enthralled again by its unexpected beauty among the many high rises, the glittering gems of its many lights at night, its otherworldliness, its uncommon smells, its fast paced materialism, and its perpetual spirituality. Hong Kong remains, for me, a contradiction, a mystery, a home.

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The day before I was to return to the UK, I had an opportunity to visit the big Buddha. Talk about journeys! I went with my husband and members of his family by cable car, and that journey alone was worth the effort of getting there. It felt as though we were leaving Hong Kong far behind as we travelled over a vast area of unspoilt trees and vegetation far below us. A small footpath snaked through the undergrowth where, every now and then, a brightly coloured speck was the only evidence of brave souls venturing towards the big Buddha on foot.

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For us, the cable car journey went on, and on, over several hills until finally, there stood the Buddha, enshrouded in a light mist, a guardian over Hong Kong, hands extended in blessing before him. It was a breathtaking and otherworldly vision, indeed, which intensified the nearer we went.

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En route, through the small shopping centre, where all sorts of Buddha paraphernalia could be bought as treasures to take home, a small theatre presented shows about Buddha’s life and philosophy.

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Then, after the long walk, where sacred cows approached the tourists for snacks, we encountered the many steps that lead up to the big Buddha’s statue, the steps, a symbol perhaps of the effort it takes to reach enlightenment. I was certainly winded and relieved to reach the top.
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The atmosphere around the statue was surprisingly serene despite the hordes of tourists visiting the place. By the time we left, I felt thoroughly imbued with a sense of calm, peace, and renewed strength for whatever the journey of 2016 might bring, and a serene kind of happiness that made me smile at strangers for no apparent reason.

Afterwards, on the way back down to the cable car, I had the opportunity to add my wishes and prayers to the prayer tree that 2016 will be a wonderful year for us all in the Year of the Fire Monkey.

But once home in London, I wanted the feeling of peace, contentment and happiness to continue, and came upon a book I felt might be able to help me to not only understand it, but to sustain it. The book is called “Happiness, a guide to developing life’s most important skill.” It was written by Matthieu Ricard.

A scientist turned Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard presents interesting points and words of wisdom on the state of happiness – well worth a read, and it does not matter whether or not you are a Buddhist – I am not – or even harbour spiritual beliefs.

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Basically, the book is a reminder of the fact that we get so entangled and bogged down in our journey towards whatever it is we think will make us happy, that we often can’t find it. But the irony is that happiness is an internal job – a state of mind – and not at all dependent on anything external. A great reminder, indeed.

Happiness, I find, is rather a good goal to have for 2016!

This is the first vlog in which I endeavour to answer readers’ questions about The Healing Touch. More to follow…

What is love?

What is love? That was the most searched for phrase on Google in 2012. It has dropped to third place in 2014. What is Ebola and ALS claimed first and second spots in 2014.

But it remains an interesting question, doesn’t it? What is love? It fills me with hope in our turbulent times that people are still searching for love. It confirms what I have always suspected; that no matter the person’s behaviour, at the bottom of everything is the fact that we all just want to be loved for who we really are. We want acceptance and the perfect feeling of ‘home’ that only love can give us.

It is also the reason for so many romance novels. Not that romance is the only form of love. But it is the one we seem to strive for the most.

In my debut novel, The Healing Touch, the heroine, Isabelle, loves three men deeply, but in very different ways. Based on real events in my life, writing The Healing Touch, was a deeply cathartic experience. And I’m delighted that readers have already been in contact to confirm that reading it has helped them, too. I could not ask for more than that.

At the beginning of The Healing Touch, we find Isabelle:

Isabelle switched off the tablet. The book was finished. She simply had to write this book.

She had no idea what category or genre it would come under, but she knew one hundred percent, that it would help others in a similar position. Even if it did not, it had helped her, healed her, made life make sense again.

After her colleague, dear friend, and much loved soul-brother had died unexpectedly, aged only thirty-three, her life had changed forever. She had felt so low, and life was utterly without point, that she had seriously contemplated checking out, not necessarily to be with him, but what was the point of it all?

Of course, the book could not exist without the people in her life who affected her day-to-day existence so profoundly.

James, who had transitioned where she could not follow, had, before he left, inspired her to strive for new horizons in friendship and in her career. Together, they had worked on two very important performance pieces, both of which she wanted to finish. She believed they were great and important works of art, and through their existence, he would continue to live in this world for as long as she did.

Victoria, her long-time friend and confidante, had become her trusted colleague as she created the music for these two projects. Victoria shared the secrets and sadness that James’s leaving had left behind, with dignity and reverence.

Simon was her husband of twenty-two years. They shared a strangely close bond, even though they had not shared intimacy or any kind of relationship for many years. He felt like an old shoe, comfortable, worn smooth where it otherwise might have chafed, but without the excitement of anything more stylish, more alive, more life affirming or expanding. Their non-existent physical relationship had instead become the thing that chafed, and the chafing had become unbearable.

Angelo was her delicious Greek lover, who had appeared in her life at exactly the right time. Throughout her marriage, Isabelle had never even looked at another man. But the lack of physical intimacy eventually became too much for a sensual woman like Isabelle. When she had to have her car repaired and Angelo, with his dangerous good looks and magnetic personality, turned out to be the mechanic who “healed” her car, she wondered if he could heal her, too. With the encouragement of several of her friends, she boldly approached him, surprised when he confirmed that he would be delighted to be her special friend. But now, a year later, their relationship had turned into the red-hot passionate love affair she had only ever read about.

Angelo had encouraged her to write the book, primarily so they could raise money to buy their own place. It was their little joke, of course. But writing the book had brought so many unexpected insights, not only into the people who shared her life, but it also gave her a rare opportunity to glimpse inside her own soul.

James was right when he told her once “…we don’t meet people by accident. They are really meant to cross our path for a reason.”

 

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