Sunday, June 29, 2008

Signage fun at work

The first picture is a shot of the other office's sign. It was in response to one of ours that said "we miss you." Theirs says "We miss you more! xx"

The second picture is of our window. Our signs say "Yay! Another Sign!" And "How long do you think we can keep this up?" No response yet, but I suspect that is because our font is a bit too small...

MapMaking at St. Luke's

St. Luke's is a converted church that the London Symphony Orchestra has turned into a fabulous (and high tech) concert and rehearsal space. It is where our Equator project will eventually be performed in October. On Friday we had our first "run through." Quotation marks are important because nearly all of the graphics are still drafts and the music is only beginning to be composed and so is also still in a nebulous stage. It was kind of silly to have such an intense showing day at this stage, but oh well. It was good to see where everyone has got to. Probably "everyone" should also be in quotes since a few artists refused to show their work.

In any case- more photos!

As a side note- I have spent the last month feeling awkward about how bad I have been sounding on the baroque bass- the sound quality has been just crap and it has been very difficult to get anything like a clear sound out of the instrument. Last night it occurred to me that I had my bow rehaired over spring break and probably it could use some rosin. The effect of the rosin was immediate and huge. Now I am embarrassed about how long it took me to figure that out...sheesh.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I spent the last week in rehearsals for various groups from the storytelling class. Storytelling is one of the 1st year actors' improvisation classes, and on Friday we had our showing for the other students and faculty in the drama department. There are two separate classes, each of whom split in to two for a total of four groups performing. They had spent the last two months choosing myths and then working on them with each other and musicians. Because of confusing scheduling I, at one point, was playing with three different groups. But then, because of more confusing scheduling, only ended up playing with two-which was probably a good thing.

It was fascinating watching them work together to develop the script, figure out casting, staging, and trying out various tactics to deal with difficult events in the stories- like how do you show a decapitation? A monkey jumping over an ocean? A baby born from a fire? A temple being built?

Over the course of the rehearsals they encountered the exact same issues with collaboration that we have been learning to deal with in the leadership course. Sometimes making all decisions democratically isn't the right way to go. How do you make sure that every one's ideas are voiced and heard as well as making sure that problems are being solved and work is being done? Not surprising that they faced the same issues, but still interesting to watch. Also some groups were much better at the beginning of the process and then flagged with the finishing touches, whereas others were ridiculously slow moving during the beginning rehearsals and then managed to pull of a marvelous performance.

Because of scheduling, the musicians were inconsistently available which meant that the music changed drastically at every rehearsal I went to because the personnel kept changing (you wouldn't approach dramatic music the same way with a bass and a drum that you would with a string quartet). All of the other musicians were part of the classical improvisation class and their professor came along to watch the rehearsals and offer suggestions. This was especially helpful one day when I was playing by myself- I was doing mostly sound effects and word painting and he was hollering out "something Major!" and then "heroic!" which pushed me then to create actual melodies which was a bit of an epiphany.

Anyhow- I took some pictures at the beginning of the show while everyone was finding seats and setting up. The performances took place in the gym where there are bars on the back of the room, a basketball hoop (oddly), and 5 ropes hanging from the ceiling. The circus class takes place there too, and I'm hoping to get involved with that class as well next year.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Workshops, again

This run of primary school workshops will be over soon: the last session I have scheduled is on the 9th of July.

We started these school's three week run this week and I've got 3 new leaders to work with, which is lovely. The kids at the current crop of primary schools are all really well behaved and excited about the process, which is nice- but not what I want to tell you.

As I walked to the main office of Canon Barnette primary on Tuesday a little girl skipped over to me, hugged me tight, and skipped off again.

Totally made my day.

Little kids are random.

Globe trotting

I've been looking up airfares for this summer (well, later this summer and in to autumn, depending on how you look at it) and I think I've managed to find all three flights for less than $1,300 total- which, considering how late in the game it is- I am quite pleased with.

In any case, these are the dates that I'm looking at, just to give you a heads up for when I'll be in your area

London to New York: Thursday August 14
New York to Seattle: Saturday August 30
Seattle to London: September 12

So, not quite two full weeks in Seattle which is really too bad-but! I will be back for Christmas this year.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I hugged Jerry Springer!

Last week I walked through Hyde Park on my way to Wigmore Hall to see Peter play with the English Concert. On my way there I stopped by Speakers Corner, which I had read about, but never managed to actually go to before. Mostly it is a bunch of crazy, incredibly angry people yelling at tourists who mostly don't speak English. It's weird.

But! There are a couple of dedicated folks who come out every Sunday and stand with signs saying "Free Hugs" which pretty much makes my day. I got to talking to them and they invited me to join them this week- so I did. And it was fun- I'm now in many, many tourist's holiday photos. My favorites were when whole families would see us and then egg each other on to get hugs.

At one point there was a huge crush of people and as they left Nigel (Nigel and Stuart are the two who are there every week) realized one of them was Jerry Springer- who promptly got mobbed by other people who recognized him.

So the headline might be a lie- I know Nigel hugged Jerry Springer, but I *might* have- maybe. My first celebrity encounter in London...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Phrases that still don't make any sense to me, but that secretly I adore

I've been in the UK for nearly a year now (school year that is, close enough) and I have been keeping a list in my moleskin with precisely the label above. Here is what I've compiled:

"at the weekend"
None of this "on" or "during" the weekend, no- the weekend is apparently a place. Also, understand that it is pronounced wee-KEND in the UK, not WEEK-end like in the US.

"it's got --- in"
in IT people, it's got --- in IT. (My favorite is when they say "Ooo, it's got bits in!" which is remarkably both very descriptive and very not descriptive.) When describing trifle: "yay! It's got glace cherries in!"

means terribly/mildly disappointed (depending on the context). Works best in a British accent though, because then you get the really hard T sound in the middle. I love it when people say they were gutted. Not because they were deprived of something, I'm not laughing at their disappointment: I just really love the sound of that word.

a variety of meanings this one has- smelly, dirty, generally unhygienic, distasteful. See also "minger" and "ming"

rhymes with "hinge" means whine.

"good job I/you/we ---"
means, "it's a good thing that" for instance- good job I have this blog so that I can keep ya'll informed, huh? Good job I got onto this program so I get to live in London. Good job you read this blog, otherwise I would be writing to myself....

"more faith than sense"
I don't remember where I heard this phrase, but isn't it wonderful?

"silly old moo"
A co-worker described herself thus when explaining a fall she had taken at the weekend. I was so tickled I wrote it down on my list straight away.

British sayings I don't understand, but that secretly irritate me:
fortunately a shorter list!

"whilst" instead of while. Used all. the. time.
"bless" said before, during, or after putting someone down. "Ah, bless. He's a bit dim."

What I have been up to

*Flat hunting: we've looked at 3 flats now, talked about many others, and had more conversations and phone calls than you can shake a stick at. The London rental market moves really quickly, so most of the places we could look at for September won't even be listed until late August and I understand that it would be really nice to get this all sorted, but I think we should just sit tight until then.

*IPE: the dancers are busy, the actors are busy, and the musicians are being lovely and flexible. We'll see what day my final show happens and in what form- I may need to re-think it. A lot. I have, however, now seen Bishopsgate hall where the performance will be and it is a nice space, though with quite a boomy acoustic. Probably better for spoken word than say, a brass quintet playing Mozart.

*Reading: I'm getting a bit ridiculous with my book consumption. Novel wise I'm reading a lot of Robin Hobb. Interesting non-fiction wise I just finished The Empty Space and Out of Our Minds and I highly recommend the second one. It is about education policy, the modern workforce, and the nature of creativity. Fascinating read.

*Workshops, workshops everywhere: the only thing I actually have been writing about.

*Voice lessons: I've now taken two voice lessons from Nia, one of the first graduates of the MMus Leadership course. She is welsh and kooky and amazingly knowledgeable about everything surrounding singing. I feel very silly during lessons, but have already noticed some improvement. I'm done with lessons for this year, but will continue next autumn- which really isn't that far away...

I've probably been doing other things as well, but that is what I can think of for the moment.

Harry Gosling Primary School

I really want the first half of this primary school's name to be Hairy instead of Harry because then you'd get a hilariously shaggy baby goose. And that would be fun.

Today was our 3rd and final week at Harry Gosling. Last week was bit of a dud because the kids we were meant to be working with had testing, so we had a bunch of year ones instead. This week we were back to our original batch- and man, I liked them.

We decided at the last minute to go ahead and try for a performance even though we hadn't had the second week in order to create much more material. So in order to pull together a piece we spent about 30 min reviewing the rhythms from two weeks ago and then split into two groups: one instrumental and one vocal.

Glynn wrote a very simple melody and then I got half the kids together to make up words about whatever we felt like. I figured talking about school would be a good way to go so we wrote a song about what their favorite classes are and what they do after school and the like.

My favorite part of these workshops so far has been when I get a batch of 6-12 kids on my own and then I get to manage the group however I please. So in this case when someone made a joke, I allowed time for giggling instead of immediately hollering at them to be quiet because we're working here! And I never told them that they were being rude, because even if they were- they're eight years old- the whole point of being eight is to be squirrely. I called on the quiet ones, ignored the loud ones until they actually had something to say, mixed up the seating arrangements constantly to mix up the boys and girls and also keep the chatty people away from the other chatty people.

And then, because we were efficient and got the words written and learned quickly, we sang "Hey, My Name is Joe" which is one of those additive songs where you end up jumping around a lot and then collapsing into a little giggly heap. My favorite.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Our Ladys Primary School

Oddly- spelled correctly in the title, but not anywhere else the school has been mentioned.

Heather and I finished up our three week stint there on Monday and wow! That went much better than we expected! Last week the kids were extraordinarily difficult to manage/focus and I was more than a little concerned that we weren't going to be able to pull off having a performance with these kids. Arriving this week was an effort because various construction projects were jamming up the Northern line. A 15 minute journey took me nearly an hour. However, when I arrived at the school Heather was already warming them up and they were focused and engaged little angels.

We practiced the song and the hand motions, practiced the percussion bits, practiced various entrances and cutting off as a group. We asked them what order they thought the performance should be and then sent them off on their break.

After break we set up in their cafeteria/gym/hall and the rest of the school tromped in. The kids were glorious, they sat quietly until they were meant to play, when they sang it was with full voices and they were better at hitting the notes than I was, they all hit the final note together without any stragglers and the audience even danced a bit in their seats.

Our year 3 kids really loved the song "kalele" which is an African welcome song so we decided to add that song to the performance as well, even though obviously the kids didn't write it themselves... but whatever- we chose a couple of kids to sing the lead parts, a couple of kids to do part of the drumming with me, and then Heather got the whole audience to sing along. It was incredibly successful.

So I'm converted now. I believe that having a performance aspect really *is* an important part of these workshops. There is something about the experience of performing in front of an audience that brings out qualities that aren't necessarily there without the audience and I'm so pleased the these year 3 kids got to experience that.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lainey Time

We've been having a good time out here in London. However, we are still failing massively at the whole "taking pictures" thing. Sorry about that.

On Tuesday we took a walk from the Barbican through Spitalfields to Bricklane to Whitechapel and then on to Mile End. It was a really lovely walk-except that it was raining the entire time and we were more than a little soaked when we finally got to where Laine had lived way back in 2004. It was nice to see how everything connects though. "See" is maybe a strong word- I ended up taking off my glasses because they were so covered in water that they were useless to see through.

I had friends playing gigs on Wednesday and Thursday and so brought Laine along to those as well. Wednesday was 'Boutique' a band that includes my classmate Emma at a bar on Old Street. There were a couple of other bands playing that night that included various Leadership students. So that was nice. I was worried about time because I wasn't sure what time Emma was playing. It ended up being a silly worry because we were some of the first people there. That did mean we got the cushy couch to sit in though and also meant that we ended up being the anchor for Guildhall people coming into the club.

On Thursday my friend Jon had a gig in Whitechapel as part of a weekly acoustic set at The White Hart pub. The set ended up being entirely boys with guitars- but really nice at that. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and Laine and I ended up with the couch again, 'cause we're cool like that.

Laine is off to Poland tomorrow, but I'm not seeing her off because I'm volunteering all day at another CREATE workshop at Conway hall.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


So at work I spend a lot of time (understandably) in the file room. The file room is at the back of the office and has large windows looking out on to what is essentially a four way alleyway. A bunch of buildings all have their backs to this courtyardy area that is full of large fans for air conditioning and cleaning equipment and the like. Since the file room can be (understandably) boring at times, I have a tendency to look out the windows to another office across the way and see if I can get any of them to wave at me. This culminated last week in my deciding to write a sign that says "Hello" and tacking it to the window with an 08 sticker.

I was a bit disappointed that by the end of the day no one had written back...

BUT!!! I just got a facebook note from my man Tristian who says they made contact back!!!! Whee!!! I will keep you posted as the situation develops....

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Laine and Gawel are here!

I have a picture, but it isn't very flattering and I left the camera upstairs anyway. Sorry.