Monday, August 24, 2009

S'n'M Summer School (w-psshh!)

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1
Hair Day: Bit manic

Phew. Am recovering from bonkers week at the S'n'M - I'm sorry, Sound and Music - Summer School (how did they not think this through? Though I rather like the thought of taking a tutor group through their paces on the Japanese rope bondage course, arf), where I was the Key Tutor on one of five courses. Mine naturally being Composing For Voices as it's the only thing I can actually do these days (I broke out in a sweat when I heard that one of my students played tenor horn). We were ensconced in the Purcell School, where I revisited my Alcuin College/York days by sleeping in a small cell complete with blue-tac stained walls in the 6th Form block. What was most amusing was the (of course always necessary) levels of discipline aimed at the 75 teenagers on the course, and their then impeccable behaviour rather outdoing the debauched partying of the staff every night, leaving the common room and outskirts of the block littered with ciggie butts and beer cans, whilst the hardcore amongst us continued into the hours of the morning with the odd outdoor rave in the football field or had clumsy snogs with fellow staff members. Classy!

The great thing about these summer schools is of course meeting brilliant musicians with whom to teach, play and drink and plan future world takeovers with. I was lucky enough to have a totally disarming and happy-go-lucky bunch of teammates (on oboe, voice, piano and trumpet) who I basically fell in love with over the week, and who made me end up being paid for a week of laughing my head off and talking nonsense. Slightly mad with tiredness most of the time though 12-hour days and very little sleep, we called ourselves the A-Team and gave ourselves silly Captain codenames which we then insisted on being called by our kids, who probably thought we were totally crackers.

The actual teaching was exhausting but always brilliant fun, helped by a super-sweet and adorable bunch of students (the best ones actually absorbing the things we threw at them rather than writing pithy pop songs or moany choral epics which were a study in Bm7). My favourite pieces, written, recorded and performed in 4 days, were: a fantastically quirky 5-part layered riff vocal piece, a perky jazz vocal number about the wonders of the universe; a ludicrously dramatic music-theatre piece in which Sarah, Stef and I unleashed our inner demon goddesses, shouting about Medusa whilst James thrashed the insides of a grand piano; a Britten-esque chamber song with such juicy and well-considered harmonies that I blubbed throughout its rehearsal; and the best power pop piano-led ballad with added cor anglais. YES!

Was brought down to earth rather with a stupid throwaway You Are Wolf gig in a pub in Kentish Town last night. It was a poorly-organised night with four slots too late in the evening for a Sunday, and three of them being crap blues acts. With me opening. Have been lucky enough so far to perform to audiences who actually listened, so was a little demoralising to sing to a bunch of braying fools who were only there to drink frothy lager and shout at each other about the cricket. Sob. Ah well, I have learnt my lesson and shall have a clause in my contract next time insisting I only play if the audience is polite enough to listen. Or are gagged with pistols held to their heads whilst I whisper my delicate looped folk epics at them. Grrrr.

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