Friday, 5 August 2011

Ah, Sorry Guys!

So I was planning to give you another episode of 'Bird College On Tour', but unfortunately I'm going away sailing tomorrow (well, that's not unfortunate, but this is) and I don't have time tonight.

What's more, I'm going to be away for a whole week so you won't get any blog posts from me. Tragedy! However, if you tune into my other blog I'll have a post sometime mid-week (the joys of automatic posts, write it now, save it...). What's more, when I get back you'll get a full Ship's Log, provided my notebook doesn't fall overboard!

So enjoy your week, and I hope you don't miss me too much. If you do, then tough; there's not much I can do about that.

Oh, and if you email me you'll get an auto-reply (probably. If you're on my contact list you will). So apologies for that as well, just didn't want you to think I'm ignoring you!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Bird College On Tour: Part Two

Well, this is episode two of our tour exploits, and I can't remember where we got to... oh yes! Alarms. Ha ha. Right, Day Two of Tour didn't quite get off to a great start.

So, I should explain that I have a bit of a history of alarms not going off. I think the worst case was when my alarm set for three in the afternoon didn't go off (I was ill), and instead I woke up at 5:40. I was supposed to be playing for a show at 6:00pm.

Anyway, we decided that our room was going to rely on Jill's phone for an alarm. Unfortunately, it didn't go off. We woke up at 8:55am because Jacinta, the other member of our room, woke up and asked what time it was. After getting changed in three minutes flat, I then waited for her to get out the shower (people who shower in the mornings annoy me greatly).

Having managed to nab a couple of bread rolls from the restaurant, we discovered that we had to be in the foyer by 9:20. It was 9:18. Yay. So we hurried along, and on the way we deduced the reason behind our alarm fiasco.

Actually, there were several reasons why it had not gone off.
1) Jill's phone didn't like her. Well, it's not her phone, she borrowed it, but apparently the alarm is always temperamental.
2) The phone's clock was still set on English time so was an hour behind.
3) She set it for half past seven in the evening.

Anyway, the rest of the day could only get better, right? Well, having a rehearsal room in which we couldn't find the light switch for at least half an hour wasn't brilliant, but despite the delay we managed to get our rehearsals over in time to go and have a swim in the hotel pool, and watching the leaders play the handbells during one of our pieces is something I'll remember for a long time.

In the afternoon we got back onto our coach and headed off to the town. Unfortunately, we were dropped off in the wrong place, so we stopped at a cafe, had a drink and then walked back to the coach to be taken to the right town. Then we had a boat trip across Lake Garda, since our concert was on the other side. We were playing in the square of the town we'd visited, and it was a great concert. The audience was really responsive and we attracted quite a crowd with our Beatles medley, before finishing triumphantly with Pirates of the Caribbean.

We returned home, but this time we weren't asleep by half eleven. Oh no. Instead, my room mates and I went downstairs to investigate the jazz band that was playing - there were several other orchestras in our hotel. A lot of our folk were dancing, including the tuba player, Jacob, who was wearing a 'Scream' mask. Quite a surreal experience, I have to admit.

When we got tired of dancing, the three of us went to talk to Andy, the double bass player. After dislocating his knee cap very badly in football and damaging the cartilege, as he found out today, he's on crutches, so wasn't enjoying watching everybody dance. He's a lovely guy and bought us drinks, and we hung out for a while. We had a couple of sympathetic conversations about dislocation while the others stood round wincing ;)

When we eventually got to bed, I discovered something very important about the two people in my room. They can both fall asleep in about two minutes flat. Me? I have music in and I hang around for ages waiting to fall asleep. You know, I was reading them the first chapter of something I was writing and one of them dozed off in the middle. Well, thanks...

The alarms weren't quite so bad the next morning, but...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Bird College On Tour: Part One

Well, as you may have noticed I was unable to get to a computer while I was away, though there was WiFi in the hotel (I hadn't got my laptop with me), so I'm going to keep you updated a week late. Well, I'll cover the first couple of days in this post, the second couple in the next ... you know how it is, right?

Day One of Tour. According to the itinerary, a word I really can't say, this wasn't Day One. But for the purposes of this post it was.

After a bit of a lie-in and a trip to the library to equip myself with The Dirk Gently Omnibus for the journey, we loaded up the coach and trailer and were ready to leave by around 2:45pm. The trailer seemed to be a genuine TARDIS, since there was no way it was big enough to contain the three timps and two double basses that we managed to fit inside, not to mention the music stands and music folders.

However, after leaving a little late, we arrived at Dover too late to check in for our ferry, and so missed it. What's more, we then had to wait an hour and a half until we could board the next one. It wasn't too bad - we were able to go to the loo, walk around, hang out in a ridiculously overpriced WHSmith's (they're always like that at service stations etc) - but it would have been nicer to get there more quickly.

From there, the journey rather went downhill. We did get some sleep, but not much. I fell asleep around midnight and woke up feeling as though I'd been asleep for hours, until I discovered it was only half past one. Great; that was when everyone else started talking and it was hours before I dozed off again.

Instead of going through France, Switzerland and part of Italy to get to where we wanted to be, like the last time I went away, we went through France, Germany, Austria and then Italy. Apparently, there were tolls in Switzerland that they didn't want to have to pay.

Well, that was all very well, but you have to pay lots for German toilets (although it was in Switzerland that a crazy woman threatened to call the police, but more on that later) and the trip took far longer than it should have done. We didn't reach Italy until 5:30pm local time the following day (Day Two of Tour), and by the time we were unloaded we were all absolutely shattered.

Thankfully, the rooms weren't too bad. Trust me, I've been in worse. The showers didn't contain ants and I was sharing with two flautists that I actually knew (always a benefit). What's more, though I resented being made to take part in a quiz before I was allowed to sink into my surprisingly comfortable bed, I was pleasantly surprised when our team won.

(There was a moment of silence when they announced that we'd won, because none of us could believe it.)

The food was a little dodgy for me. We worked on the following system: the waiters would bring us a starter, usually pasta although later in the week we had pizza, and then we would help ourselves to a main course from a buffet containing lots of unrecognisable food. I didn't realise that by telling the waiters I was vegetarian I could have an entirely different starter, so I spent the first evening picking the bacon out of my pasta. I should add that I'm not a real veggie, I just don't like meat, especially when I'm abroad.

It was tiring enough, and none of us were pleased when we were told that we had a rehearsal at half past nine the next morning. It was even worse after what happened with our alarms ... but that's a story for another post ...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

On The Road

From half two this afternoon, I will be enduring a 24-hour coach journey to Lake Garda for my orchestra's summer tour. We're going by coach because musical instruments and planes don't get on very well, but that doesn't mean I like it.

When I went on tour two years ago, with a different group, I spent the whole journey home doubled over in pain. I had no money left, so couldn't buy any food on the journey - and I hadn't had any English money at all, so was stuck for dinner. The food in Italy hadn't agreed with me, not with the dodgy hotel food we got, and I was having what we came to call Apple Juice Withdrawal Symptoms. Add to that travel sickness and various other stomach pains ... I wasn't getting on very well.

In fact, the journey there wasn't brilliant either. I hadn't realised how cold it would be on our nowhere-near-luxury-coach when we were going through Switzerland at night, and I was wearing shorts. Sure, I had a jumper, but if I put that over my legs then my arms got cold. I managed to fall asleep eventually but it was pretty hard...

This year, I've learned from my mistakes. I no longer get travel sick, mostly, so I'll be fine reading on the coach and all that. I'm also taking mints for if I do get stomach trouble. I'm taking a blanket, to help me sleep, and though I don't have a pillow small enough I can fold up my spare jumper as a cushion instead. I'm taking some English money for the journey home, cereal bars in case the food is dodgy, and of course painkillers are high on my list of things still to pack!

I'm looking forward to this tour. Last time, I had to teach myself the piccolo in a week, since it arrived exactly seven days before we left and I'd discovered that the piccolo player wasn't going on tour. This time, I know how to play all my instruments, and so long as the first flautist remembers to return my flute stand I'll be fine!

I hope to keep you updated, but I don't know if there'll be any sort of computer in the hotel. I might even go as far as to find an internet cafe, just to get my fix. So stay tuned for updates, but don't be disappointed if they don't come - I'll be writing in my notebook, and I'll type them all up the day I get home (Friday).

Have a nice week!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A New Band Is Born

I'm starting a band. Hopefully. You know how these things are, you've just got it all organised and it falls through at the last minute, but this one should work.

I write geeky songs. I'm a total nerd, actually, especially about science fiction like Doctor Who. Influenced by Chameleon Circuit, I decided to write a song, not about Doctor Who but about Torchwood.

So. Would you like to hear it?

You can read the lyrics here.

Thanks for listening, and sorry that it's not the best of performances! (I was trying to read the lyrics which were resting on my bin, so I had to lean over quite a lot).

I look forward to sharing more when our band gets together.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

No Longer Singin' In The Rain

I mean to post this as a kind of diary - you know, a round up of the third night and then another of the last, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I slept for six hours on Friday and missed the chance to go on the computer. So, no posts.

However, I can now round up the last two nights, and hopefully you can cope with that, right?

So, third night. We had a few interesting lines, especially in "Make 'Em Laugh", which went quite spectacularly wrong at the beginning. Instead of the line "Big people have little humour, and little people have no humour at all", we had something along the lines of:

"Little people ... are secretly big people. Big people are like little people and ... {rushed} They have no humour at all!"

But aside from that, which was hilarious for us, since we all know the show very well by now, we didn't have too many dodgy moments. Except with the microphones. There were some really dodgy mics not being turned on.

The last night had more people forgetting their lines than before, I think, although most of them weren't too noticeable, but though I say so myself the music was better than before! ;)

However, my favourite moment was the following mess-up.

Instead of Don mocking Kathy and saying, "Just because you're a famous movie star, doesn't mean any girl in the world is gonna have lunch with you just like that. Will you have lunch with me just like that?", he said: "Just because you're a famous movie star, doesn't mean any man in the world is gonna have lunch with you just like that..."

The entire band was cracking up. Any man in the world? Is there something you're not telling us, Liam? And it was a very painful kind of laughter, because of course we didn't want the audience to realise that he'd messed it up and so were trying not to let them know!

That wasn't the only thing that we did. There was an occasion wehre they nicked one of the trumpet's mutes, and then taped them to the wall, the curtains, the conductor's chair... one of them fell from its place and almost hit me on the head! And there were speeches and flowers and chocolates, and all in all it was a very emotional night.

Then came the after party... I wasn't feeling up to going, which was just as well as I was informed during the show that I wasn't actually old enough, ha ha!

Anyway, it's over - for another year at least. I'm going to miss it, I really am. Although not the endless rehearsals. I won't be missing those.

Now it's time to rehearse for our tour to Lake Garda... ;)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Singin' In The Rain...

Well, what can I say? Musicals are exhausting!

We've got a four day run, from Tuesday to Friday of this week - not a huge number of shows, but not bad for a student production. I'm in the band, just to clarify - you won't see me getting up in ridiculous costumes!


So, Saturday was an all-day rehearsal. Well, I say all-day, because it was meant to be. I actually left over four hours early, in order to travel down to the coast for a concert on a bandstand by the sea. Which was lovely but windy, and I was very glad I'd brought some pegs to hold the music on the stand. Piccolo solos are stressful enough without losing my music too, thank you very much.

Then it was Sunday, and I was off to Danson Festival to help out on the stall of Jennifer Wilkins School of Dance, where I learn ballet. Unfortunately I ended up with heatstroke, and had to spend the rest of the day doing, well, not much.

Monday was more Singin' In The Rain, with a taster performance to a few eleven-year-olds. But Tuesday was when it got difficult.

Have you ever played violin in a musical? Or any instrument for that matter, but I find violin more tiring than flute. Well, it's exhausting. The music's high, it's fast, the rhythms are mental...

Two and a half shows. In one day. We finished the run in the morning (since our rehearsal from three until half five didn't get us even to the interval the day before), then had a full dress rehearsal in the afternoon for some primary school children, and in the evening we had opening night.

It wasn't bad, it really wasn't. A few little glitches of course, but apparently it's the best opening night we've had in a long time, and Fit As A Fiddle (my ridiculously stressful solo right at the beginning) went amazingly well.

But the next morning? Shattered. And then, in the evening, another show.

Today is Thursday, so we've just two more shows left. If I live through the after party, I've got orchestra rehearsals for our Lake Garda tour at half past nine on Saturday, which is going to be a joy...

Well, better go - it's Camp NaNoWriMo, and I've got writing to do before tonight's performance!