Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kerry In Derry

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 3 - painting!
Watching / Reading: 'Return of the Jedi' on telly / 'The English Civil War' by Diane Purkiss to fill in the rather large gaps in Channel 4's 'The Devil's Whore'
Hair Day: Needs serious colour NOW

juice have returned from a week in Derry working hard as musicians-in-residence at Ulster University. It was something of an alternate universe where we lived together like 'Friends' in a self-catering apartment, if a little less glam New York than politically-steamy Bogside. And while a few years ago we might have been putting our hair in rag-curlers and painting each other's nails before hitting the bars, there was more of slumping, exhasuted after a day's work, in front of endless re-runs of 'Scrubs', scoffing homemade fish pie and being Molly's chief court jesters along with Uncle Tom, as Anna's baby and incredibly saintly sitter came along with us. When not getting fat, square-eyed and doing silly dances for 9-month-olds, we were in the department running improv workshops, helping in performance classes, trying out students' compositions, getting dancers to sing, performing for various schools and doing a couple of formal gigs. The latter pair were as different as they could have been: the first, a more trad lunchtime concert in the billowy acoustic of the Great Hall, was a big, fruity and enjoyable sing; the next night's was awarded the ignoble award of Juice's Worst Gig Ever, what with our multimedia sesh being beset with technical problems and it being so late we were still singing at midnight and were drooping with tiredness, but mostly due to the very bad behaviour of a crew of drunken wee 1st years, who heckled us a number of rather uncomfortable ways and made us want to sink into the ground and die a quick and quiet death. Music students at York are NEVER like that... tut tut. Still, we shall press on defiantly and next time we encounter such insolence, we will attack them with high kicks in our luminous tights and killer heels, before blinding them with Barry M glitter powder and shrieking our most stratospheric notes into their ears until their heads explode. Ha.

Have been enjoying a spot of painting this last day, what with having a whole free weekend with nothing at all to do, blissfully (apart from a trip to Broadway Market where I was very excited to star-spot one of my new favourite actors, cheeky-chopped Rafe Spall, grrr). Am covered in oil flecks, have bought more canvases and spray glue and a new brush and am loving every blithely amateur second of it...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Level of conviction in own genius: 9
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Watching/Listening: The England vs Germany friendly / to everything on random play now I have inherited Andy's old mp3 player and don't have to use my CD walkman anymore
Hair Day: unadventurous reddish tint from wash-in-wash-out shampoo; have turned into big hair-wimp in my old age - should probably peroxide the lot or else find my slippers now.

Been a busy bunny, freewheelin' in the performing/workshopping/organising world as usual, but with a few new avenues too: have discovered a quite passionate taste for working with adults with learning difficulties. juice have been up in face-rippingly cold Huddersfield doing concerts and then workshops to a range of centres, and what an eye-opener it's been. We were swept dramatically up a steep learning curve with our first gig, where we singing to a small audience aged 20-70 who were left to sit rocking on the floor facing a wall, throw toys at us, or bang their head repeatedly against their fist. It was hard not to burst into tears, frankly. As the days went on, we got more and more used to seeing the full gamut of abilities and ways of communicating. But our workshops at Kirklees Tech College were the most utterly rewarding: we were supposed to be working with 10 adults but ended up with about 40 plus carers over three days - there's so little opportunity for adults with disabilities to have funded access to the arts that the college threw everyone at us! But we couldn't have been more happy to accomodate them: how could we refuse this brilliant set of people, from some with Down's who would shout excitedly, to those who could only communicate through a flicker of the eyes. There was a curious mix of those that are adults inside but are too physically impaired to express themselves, to those who seem more adult on the surface but love songs I'd normally teach to 5-year olds. One girl could hardly utter a word until you put on a CD of wartime songs, when an internal switch would magically turn her on, and she'd croon along whilst doing a high-kickin' dance routine. It was such fun: we spent most of the time pissing ourselves laughing with them and it was hard not to fall apart when one of the less expressive pulled out a slowly beatific grin. We fell in love with a couple: Zahid, who was born a fully-working boy but has a degenerative disease which means he was squashed back in his chair, could move very little, liked to make fast car noises and was one of those angelic grinners; and Seth, a sharp, funky dude who talked to us in his own version of British Sign Language and Macaton, showed off his high tech wheelchair and would occasionally shout with helpless laughter. We came away from the sessions exhausted but elated: beats pesky children any day and I would love to do more.

After Huddersfield it was down to Newbury on a mission to take experimental vocal music to the provinces with a Gobmsack Leaves London Gasp! night. We took fabulous looper Bunty, Lis from Curious Voice Duo and Mikhail, who probably frightened the life out of the poor Home Counties audience by making sounds like his guts were beging yanked out of his throat. I also did four songs with Andy from my new looping/folk/pop etc material. With a DOLLYman gig at Brixton's The Ritzy in between, I then donned my curating hat for the third London-based Gobsmack night, this time at the lovely Luminaire. Sadly, by being on a wet and freezing Monday in Kilburn, we didn't get the fit-to-burst audience we'd had on previous nights: still, the line-up was maybe the best yet: my buddy Paul J Abbott trying out some new Marc Almond meets Laurie Anderson meets some disco angels material; Kin, a raggedy-voiced punk girl; E:LAINE, the wonderful avant-soul/jazz improvising diva; and Roshi, ethereal-voiced Iranian/Welsh girl with electronic soundscapes and visuals.

Finally, I had a massive radio event this week: the whole of my very long late-night mass, 'dusksongs' was broadcast on Classic FM's The Full Works, through a Making Music competition. Was worth it alone for probably making my dad the proudest father of a female choral composer ever, plus hopefully getting me some big fat royalties. Bring it on!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1 hour
Watching: Obama's speech on the Guardo online
Hair Day: Greasy quiff

I know it's obvious to blog about this today rather than the usual Kerry's musical headlines, but HELL, Obama's amazing victory is such a joy. I gave up quite soon last night in exasperation over the complete lack of information on the late BBC news and Jeremy Vine's ludicrous 'The Day Today'-on-acid graphics, so instead watched bits of Obama's victory speech this morning whilst, I'm slightly embarrassed to say, sobbing slightly into my bran flakes: well dammit, his resonant rhetoric is so convincing! And of course the whole thing over the water is far more glamorous than our pithy little elections, where parties button their boxy suits and swap places overnight, knuckling down to all our teeny tiny little policies: he'll get to basically rule the world by (erm, well, hopefully) sorting out their US economy, making the right environmental decisions and getting the fuck out of Iraq. Hhm, perhaps I've got a little carried away, but at last there'll be a man with a brain in his head in the White House in January.

Probably less people will be currently celebrating Wycombe Wanderers' startling position of being the only club in the professional league, thanks to Spurs getting two past Liverpool, to still be unbeaten. Am rather addicted to the footy at the mo, and not just Torres' most beguiling freckles: I can think of nothing better than MOTD2 on Sunday nights under the duvet in the living room. My beloved WW are rather less exposed in League Two so I have to restrict myself to jumping up and down in front of Final Score. Is it worrying that I'll probably be MORE jubilant if we get promoted this year than last night's transatlantic result?