Category Archives: Thoughts

News: Feb – March 2020

Hey friends,
It’s time, once again, to jot down all of my bits of news in another one of these updates. It’s really been an interesting year so far and I am enjoying some very fulfilling new experiences. Freelancer life isn’t easy, but I do love that each week brings something different; new music, new colleagues, new places to play and new ideas to play with. As always, I am trying hard to put my whole heart and self into everything that I do, which is, of course, difficult at times – it’s something that I’m constantly grappling with, maybe will do forever – but I find it can make some meaningful sense of everything in the end, so I suppose this is the ‘good’ type of self-challenge!
Anyway, here’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.

Concerts/Projects
I can’t wait to play with the wonderful True Concord Voices and Orchestra again. This is a group of musicians who put real music making right at its core. During each concert, I always have the feeling that what is happening in any moment on stage is the most important thing for each and every musician – the music really matters! For this cycle, we are playing Beethoven’s Mass in C major and Choral Fantasie, and Brahms Rhapsodie with Solo Alto. Really recommend catching one of these concerts if you can, all info found here.

It was so exciting to join the Arizona Opera Orchestra in the last few weeks, and I am thrilled to be playing with them again for a run of an interesting new opera, commissioned for the Arizona Opera Company, called ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’. With music by Craig Bohmler and libretto by Steven Mark Kohn, this opera is an adaptation of a novel by Zane Grey, set in Arizona. I’m looking forward to getting back in the pit, where the musicians create a world of their own and every note, sound, entrance and small rustle matters! All ticket info here.

Although I’ve heard a lot of elitist complaints about the fuss going on surrounding this 250th birthday year of Beethoven, I am personally using it as an excuse (not that you need one) to play as much of him as I possibly can. It must be said, therefore, that the year would be totally incomplete for me without a performance of the formidable Kreutzer Sonata fit in there somewhere. It feels like a looooong time ago, in the sense of time and distance, that I last played this music for my final Masters’ recital in Salzburg, but it is somehow still there in my fingers. I’m so excited to perform this in Tucson with a new colleague and for a new audience. Concert is free but all details listed here.

Currently Reading/Watching
Sometimes, the books on your TBR list are ones that you have heard a lot about, been recommended, or are ones that you have been meaning to read forever. Sometimes, they are none of these things and are simply books that you picked up on a whim. The book I am currently reading is one such book, called ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’, by Michael Chabon. It came out in 2000 and won the Pulitzer in 2001, so it’s nothing new, but so far I am really enjoying it. It is about two comic book artists who form a partnership in New York, one of them having just fled Nazi-occupied Prague, and their journey to creating their own story and it’s art. I find the writing style really effortless and the storytelling is believable and compelling – there is a real mix of fun and light-heartedness woven through a serious story that is filled with atmosphere and interesting characters.

I also wanted to mention ‘The Namesake’, perhaps the most well-known novel by Jhumpa Lahiri that I also just recently finished. Her collection of short stories called ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, was one of the best things I read last year, if not ever. This novel, obviously different as it was a full novel and not a novella, was a great story about cross-cultural challenges, family and relationships, living and finding a home within a society that is unfamiliar in every way. I would say that it was definitely a page-turner and very enjoyable – you really do become invested in her characters – but it just didn’t have the sparkle and genius that I thought her short stories had. Interestingly, I read that The Namesake was originally written as a short story that was published in the New Yorker a few years ago, and I am wondering if perhaps it worked better in that style…

There is an interesting wave of multi-genre creative media going on at the moment; I see more and more that established publications and organisations like The New York Times or the National Gallery are turning to outlets such as Instagram or YouTube in an effort to share micro-stories or engage perhaps a younger audience, and I find this movement to be refreshing and generally a positive thing. I wanted to mention one such account that I am really enjoying at the moment. I recently stumbled across a YouTube series created by New York Magazine called ‘How I Get It Done‘. Each video is a short snapshot into the life of a particular woman, each from a different field of work/different background/different financial practice etc. The featured woman takes you through her day, how she structures her routine and daily tasks while incorporating her main life values and goals. If you are nosy, like me, or just find the lives of successful women intriguing, you will love this series. My particular favourite was the one spotlighting Liana Finck, an illustrator for The New Yorker.

Art
With time to kill in Phoenix recently, I thought I would have a look in the city’s Museum of Art, and actually found their collection to be really interesting. The museum has a nice variety of 20th century European and ancient Asian art, and actually quite a large selection of works by female artists, which is always nice to see – I got to see a dramatic Kahlo painting (which ones aren’t dramatic though…) and also some by Georgia O’Keeffe, amongst others. But what I loved most, perhaps because of where in the world I currently live, was the number of paintings of the American Southwest by various American artists. I discovered one new artist in particular, called Thomas Moran, who’s work I completely fell in love with. He was commissioned to create paintings of the Grand Canyon, where he first visited in 1873, and it was these works that allowed the people who lived on the country’s east coast to see for the first time what this epic place looked like. It is so interesting to me that, in this way, art and artists influenced how people could see and recognise the beauty in their own country! Moran was especially inspired by John Turner – he actually went to England so that he could meet Turner and study his work – so his paintings of the Grand Canyon feature a very ethereal Turner-esque beauty… I haven’t seen the Grand Canyon (and other Southwestern landscapes which Moran also painted) portrayed like this before – usually, they inspire paintings that are bold in colour and almost harsh, reflecting the natural character of the Arizona desert, so I find Moran’s work to be incredibly special and unique.

Hikes
The season for hiking in Arizona is just now in it’s most optimal – not yet too warm for the more physically challenging hikes, but still very mild and sunny, so we are trying to get out on a new trail at least once per month. This weekend we summited Blackett’s Ridge, which is a trail in Sabino Canyon Park. I loved the trail, which does get steep, particularly near the top, but has plenty of nice lookout spots to catch your breath and drink some water. Unlike Picacho Peak, which really gives a sense of accomplishment at reaching the top, I found Blackett’s Ridge to be more all-about-the-trail, although the views from the top are also stunning. It was a perfect Saturday morning hike, coming in at just over 3 hours, and working up your appetite for a good lunch.

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Reflections on 2019…

This year, my whole life flipped upside down. I tripped and stumbled my way through so many ‘Big’ life events; a move across the world, a wedding, a Greencard application, many new jobs and hustles… However, having somehow arrived at the end of the year feeling joyful and excited, I know now that it is not any of these things that truly shaped my 2019, or left me with any real lasting impression (other than relief). Rather, it is the myriad of little things, the people I met and places I saw, the books I read and first-time experiences I encountered, which made a real difference to me personally and which I thought important, perhaps more so than any other year, to look back on as we lead into the new decade.

Books, Shows, Films & Media

I can’t deny that, in the throes of my long visa application process, I felt like there was NOTHING productive that I could do with my waiting time. But, every cloud has a silver lining, and for me, it was the time and mental space to read and consume as many books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, anything, as I could! And I really discovered some gems. (Having acknowledged this, my heart goes out to anyone still counting down the timer on their application – my advice: steer clear of the internet forums…)

Books:
#1. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
Consisting of nine short stories, this little masterpiece was, without a doubt, the best book that I read this year.
#2. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I found this novel to be extremely well-written, an important read, kept me interested until the last word.

Films:
#1. Parasite by Bong Joon-ho
One of the most well-crafted and superbly told stories I have ever seen in film.
#2. Amalie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Obviously, this film is nothing new. It took me almost 20 years to finally watch it – I was lucky enough to see it at my local independent cinema – but I’m SO glad I finally did. What a beautiful movie.

TV Shows:
#1. Chernoybl
#2. Euphoria
#3. The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel
2019 saw so much good TV, with wonderful writing and acting. Frankly, the TV that I watched was mostly a LOT better than the vast majority of movies that I saw…

New Places and Discoveries
#1. Zion National Park
Visiting this place was unreal – perhaps because of the mixture of breathlessness at the sight of such incredible beauty and the physical challenges of the most grueling hike that Logan and I completed together.

#2. ‘Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken’ Restaurant
We stopped here on a whim during a road trip, and I knew when I saw the line out the door and down the street that this was going to be something special. The most insane hot chicken sandwich EVER.

Music and Art
#1. Performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, with True Concord
Such an inspiring and liberating musical experience that I won’t forget. I am so happy to be able to work with this group of fine musicians.

#2. Robert Mapplethorpe Exhibition at the Guggenheim
‘Im looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before.’ – Robert Mapplethorpe
#3. Father of the Bride, by Vampire Weekend
This band was a new discovery to me this year and I have loved listening through this album, released last March.
#4. Sylva, by Benoît Pioulard
Of course, I am biased because I am privileged to have been able to collaborate for a song on this album (No. 8, ‘Meristem’), but the entire album and it’s art is gorgeous and must be listened to straight away!

Personal Highlights
#1. Liam
My first pet, my first cat-love, he is wonderful and the power of a pet is extraordinary.

#2. Learning to drive and buying my first car
I’m really quite proud of this one.
#3. The baby shower of a beloved friend in NYC
It is surreal to know that you are seeing one of your closest friends for the last time as a sole individual. It was a real personal pleasure and so special that I got to visit her in New York and to be at her first baby shower.
#4. My writing class at The Writers’ Studio
I had a really wonderful experience taking part in an eight-week writers’ workshop at The Writers’ Studio, Tucson. I explored putting my experiences into words in the form of poems and short pieces of fiction, and I am hoping to develop a performance based on these pieces of writing interspersed with music…

Moments for Pause
#1. Goodbye to my Grampa
No amount of preparation can really brace you for the loss of someone who was so important and present in some part of your life. All of my childhood memories surround my Grampa and my time at his house and I miss him very much.
#2. Politics
Although I feel very far away from my home country (where is home, really, anyway) I felt I must at least nod to the disaster that was the recent British general election, and everything that came before it and is still to come in the new year. My life has never been so directly impacted by my feelings towards politics as it is now, and my experiences living in America, especially in a place like Tucson which presents so many political issues at its city core, makes our actions and feelings seem ever more critical.

Looking Forward
#1. Concerts
Right from the get-go, on January 1st 2020, I am playing some really exciting projects and concerts, and I just can’t wait to get started. Hopefully, I will even be happy with my playing for some of them… More info on Calendar page.
#2. Visits
2019 was all about trying to put some shape on my new life and set myself up here in America. But I miss my friends and family dearly and have been painfully aware of how far away I am from them. Next year, I am really looking forward to heading back to Europe to see everyone and to having my Mom visit me in Tucson (and even having her in the audience of some of my concerts!).
#3. New Ideas!
For so long, I have been focused on the goals of graduating, leaving Germany, moving to the US and finding work here, that it feels strange that these are now somewhat taken care of. Now there is room to actually put my mind to the next goals, thinking up some new ideas and this is perhaps the best thing of all.

Please consider subscribing to ‘Freya’s Nook’ to stay updated on my comings and goings and whatever 2020 will bring!

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A S**t Week

Time to be totally honest.

This week has been hard to get through, it’s been a real downer, it’s been shit.  And yet, here we are again, we’ve reached another Sunday and I am facing the (self-set) weekly challenge of writing a nice post to put up here.  Truth is, I can’t really do it today.  I don’t feel very positive or inspired, and I don’t want to write about wonderful things when I don’t feel at all wonderful myself.  So, instead of faking my way through it and not doing anyone any justice, I thought I would just talk through what’s going on, and why I am feeling so down.  Maybe, hopefully, this will be some kind of therapeutic exercise for me, or it will be relatable for anyone out there who feels the same way.  So for now, I thank you for your patience in this, and look forward to writing something a little more uplifting next week!

We all have bad days, of course, it’s totally normal.  Perhaps, then, this week has just been a series of bad days for me, and they just all happened to come in a bunch together.  But, somehow, I am not content to just leave it at that.  My feelings aren’t those of being helpless and hopeless, I don’t feel like I just can’t do anything and have to wait for this tough period to pass.  Maybe that’s why this week has felt especially difficult – I still feel absolutely motivated!  I feel the need and energy to do things and get stuff done, I’m chasing up loose ends, getting out there and fighting the world.  But mixed in with this motivation, has been an ongoing suffering in my mind, and it’s having a horrible effect on me, so I want to figure out what is causing it and why.

I think I can identify my main negative emotion as stress.  It is very much in my nature to worry and over-stress about absolutely anything, so this is clear and not anything unusual for me.  However, I am normally able to keep my stress levels somewhat under control in a way that I haven’t managed in the past week.  Why?

Not to get too psychoanalytical here (although, why not..?), answering this question is difficult; it involves asking yourself really tough questions, even asking other people with more of a perspective those questions about yourself, and it also requires being really open-minded and allowing yourself the freedom to feel things you might not particularly want to feel!  After going through all of this, I have found that I can sort my stress into three different groups, each with their own sub-groups and secret side notes, and this has made understanding my feelings much easier for me and even improved my mood.

  1. Politics.  Along with a lot of people, I have felt deeply affected with this week’s proceedings in the Kavanaugh-Ford case.  I was humbled, moved and inspired by Ford’s testimony, but felt so shocked and betrayed by the way that she has been treated by the Republicans and people who hold ‘power’ over her.  This case has highlighted just where we are at in the treatment of women in our patriarchal society, and it makes me scared to integrate myself into that society, led by a man who thinks it is OK to sexually mistreat women.  Senator Kamala Harris articulates these sentiments more eloquently and powerfully than I could possibly write down here, so I very much encourage you to watch her speech if you haven’t already seen it.
  2. The Move.  It’s not surprising that my move, which is bearing down quickly upon me, is becoming such a huge source of stress for me.  The move itself is just the umbrella title; it encompasses the packing, getting rid of and selling all of our possessions, the business with our lawyer and my paperwork, the money, the daunting thought of living in a place I don’t know, finding a new house to live in, saying goodbye to Europe, adjusting to something that is as yet unknown, and all the many surprises that are to come.  I bet reading that list even stresses you out!
  3. General life worries.  These are all of the regular worries that never really go away.  Worries about my work, my finances, my relationship, my family, the future, what to do about dinner.  These are the worries that I think I have got good (or reasonable) at tackling on a daily basis, but paired with the other stress sources mentioned above, they have all, in turn, become exaggerated and augmented in my mind.  I feel like I am on the edge of a total overwhelming freak out at all times and anything could set me off!

Going into next week, I have planned to try out some new ‘self-caring’ strategies to help myself cope better and hopefully improve my mood.  I am going to read the news less – this week I have been glued to it and that probably hasn’t helped me – and read my book more.  I am going to get back into my normal gym routine – this week I couldn’t go as normal for various reasons, so hopefully getting back to my regular work-out schedule will help take my mind off bad things and make me feel better in myself.  I have also decided to try to live more slowly and intentionally.  I normally do everything I can, as fast as possible, and I think this makes me a stressful person!  I want to take a step back, and take more time over things like making decisions, working, walking and doing.  Maybe I will write a blog post on these thoughts.  Lastly, I am going to put a lot of my time next week into doing the kind of work that I love most, and I know I am privileged to be able to do that, so I feel very grateful that I can.  I still have a lot of work to do on my album which is work that I find hugely rewarding and fulfilling.  I also have new creative projects just beginning to take shape which I am SO excited about, and I am going to dedicate my time and effort to them, instead of stupid work and people.

So that was my week.  I would love to hear from you if you have also been feeling down about current events, and would be very interested to know what your coping mechanisms are for times like these – please let me know!

 

 

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10 Things That Make Me Feel Really British

  1. TEA
    At all hours, day and night.
    Must be just the right shade of light brown.

  2. Calling “Cheers Mate” to the bus driver as you alight from the bus
    You met them once, they delivered you home, they are definitely your mate.  Also, yes, we say “alight”.

  3. Rainy Walks
    The British countryside offers some absolutely gorgeous walks.  Unfortunately, a walk that doesn’t involve some amount of rain is very rare.  It’s just part of the whole experience.

  4. A pint at the local pub
    My favourite pub in England is Dad’s local; ‘The Eddie’.  It is beautifully old-fashioned, with delicious beer on tap and good old board games on offer.

     

  5. A Sunday roast
    For some reason, Sunday’s are always incomplete without a tender piece of roast meat, little roast potatoes, veggies and, of course, a Yorkshire Pud.

  6. Hearing a wonderful melting pot of accents
    Wherever you go in the UK, you will hear a vast array of different accents and dialects of the English language, from the Geordies to the Scouse, the Welsh and Scottish, the West Country and the Cockney… And when a few of them come together in one conversation, it sounds like a marvellous, albeit slightly comical, musical symphony of language.
  7. MARMITE
    I love it.  You probably hate it.
  8. The feeling of pursing one’s lips, holding in your feelings, all to avoid an argument and keep the peace
    The British are experts at bottling up their emotions to avoid any embarrassing conflicts or public displays of emotions.  The neighbours are always watching, and what will they think?!

  9. “I’m desperate for the loo”
    Some of our shortened words and phrases are just brilliant, especially those used in connection to the bathroom: loo, bog, privy, spend a penny…

  10. Monster Munch
    My personal favourite.  These pickled onion flavoured crisps are mouth-wateringly good.

     

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Going Blonde

Something that I love about my blog, is that I have the freedom to write about absolutely anything I want.  Whether I’ve been inspired by an art exhibition or a performance that I have recently seen, have stories to tell about a place that I have visited, or if I just feel strongly about a particular topic – anything goes here in my little nook.  Just now, my life is definitely on the stressful side; I have a huge impending move, bringing with it many difficult challenges, I haven’t been home for more than a couple of weeks in a long time and, well, I am a poor musician!  (Enough said!)  So, I thought that for today’s blog post I would take a step back, write about something fun and just keep it real.  The subject of today’s post is how I dyed my hair blonde.

Going blonde was quite an experience.  It took longer and a lot more work than I ever anticipated and I am still learning how to handle it.  So I thought I would document the process here – this will be a post that I would have wished to read myself before I began this blonde journey of mine.  And please, if you have any personal experience in this matter, any tips to add, I would love to read them, so do leave them in a comment below!

I guess I should start by clarifying that my natural hair colour is a kind of darkish red – in winter it looks a little more brick-brown and in summer it tends to go a shade of strawberry blonde. I have experimented with dying my hair darker in the past; I first tried a tone just a little darker than my natural colour when I was about 16, and have since also gone a more chocolatey brown.  But I have always been curious to see what a true golden blonde would look like on me.  And the thing about hair is, it grows!  Nothing you do to it will ever require more than a short-term commitment!  To me, this just calls for creative experimentation.

So where did I begin?  Well, I decided first, being the cheap-skate that I am, that I would try to do it myself at home.  I first bought a semi-permanent box dye of a shade that was more of a dark blonde.  I would say, at this point, I was still unsure of the exact kind of blonde I wanted to be, and this is something I would suggest you really think about first if you are considering going blonde – it’s definitely a good idea to know the colour you really want to be before you start.  I also chose the 8-week wash-out dye, only because this is what I had done for going darker in the past and it had always worked really well.  Basically, this dye did nothing.  Maybe in some light it looked ever so slightly lighter… but you couldn’t really see any difference.  So I wrote this off as a fail.

Next, I decided to change two things; I would now try a permanent box dye, instead of the wash-out one, and I would pick one that looked super light blonde on the box (lighter than I had intended to go).  By the way, we have a pretty limited choice of box dyes in the shops here in Germany – I have since seen the selection of dyes in stores in North America, which is highly extensive in comparison – so both box dyes that I bought were L’Oreal, as this was pretty much the best option I had available to me.  After dying my hair with this second one, I found that it came out lighter than the first one, but it still wasn’t blonde!  My hair was now just a lighter version of red.

At this point, I realised that I was never going to get to a real blonde colour by myself at home.  So, with the help of my kind aunt, I arranged an appointment at a salon in Stratford, Ontario (where I was headed in a couple of weeks).  Before my appointment, I finally decided to choose a shade of blonde that I really wanted and the kind of look that I was going for.  I did some research online and found a picture of a style that I really liked, and I took that picture with me to the salon.

My Aunt and I, with newly blonde hair

The result: I LOVE my new blonde hair!  I have to say, my hairdresser was fabulous, she pretty much achieved exactly the look of the picture I showed her, and I can highly recommend Dudes and Dames Hairdressing Salon in Stratford! The appointment took about 4 hours in total, and most of that time was spent applying the dye individually to very small sections of hair (I have a lot of hair).  So if you are going to go through it, bring some reading material! I actually found my hairdresser’s technique for applying the dye pretty interesting; she would apply it in a V shape to some sections of hair, to achieve a kind of ombre look, before wrapping it, and then applied it directly from the roots in other sections, which she then folded and wrapped in foil.  She even left a few strands of hair all over my head out, so they stayed red, and the overall look creates so much texture and dimension.

Now, by this point, I had achieved the blonde that I wanted, and I was so happy.  However, I still had (and have) a lot to learn, because what I have discovered is that getting to the blonde you want is only part of the journey.  Maintaining the blonde is where the real challenge lies.  I have found that since going blonde, my hair has been very dry and brittle, and extremely difficult to brush.  I have been using L’Oreal Ever Pure Colour Care System shampoo and conditioner, followed by some coconut-oil-based serum and a frizz control product from Lush.  I brush my hair out with a wide tooth comb after I shower, as this has always been my strategy for dealing with my curls.  Again, if you have any suggestions for good products to use, I am all ears!

The other thing is that, of course, I knew my hair would grow quickly, and with this my roots would also grow out.  And it is happening very, very quickly!  I still absolutely love my blonde hair, but it is changing in tone every day as it grows, so I am always learning how to style it to make it look good and fresh, and constantly trying new things with it.

As of right now, I am not sure what my next plan will be; whether I will re-dye it, just touch up my roots at some point, let it all grow out altogether, or dye it a whole new colour!  I guess I will see how it goes and what happens over the next few weeks and months.  I will say that, for right now, I am really enjoying my new look and the feelings it gives me; it’s kind of like having a new character to play when I am out and about!  It feels warm and summery, friendly and bright, and I know that my red hair is lurking there, not far away, so I really don’t miss it!

So, if you are considering changing your hair colour, to blonde or anything else, I say do it!  It will satisfy that small curious voice in your head, and even if you hate it, it’s always good to try new things!

 

To Recap

What I learned:

  • Know exactly what colour and shade you want to dye your hair
  • Blonde hair needs a professional
  • Be prepared for lots of after-care!

 

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Why I Love Live Theatre

As I write this, I’ve just spent the last week or so attending shows and events at Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.  I have to say, everything I have seen has been marvellous; from a beautiful production of Julius Caesar (cast as a woman!) to a modernised Coriolanus on a jaw-dropping set, and a Rocky Horror Picture Show that was every bit as raunchy and scandalous as it should be!

Spending so much time at the theatre this week has really got me thinking about why I love it so much, why reading the stories, watching movies or listening to music recordings at home just isn’t enough and why live theatre is SO important.   I know that we may all feel differently about it; some of the reasons that I’ve put together here may strike a chord with some and not with others, and may be just completely meaningless to those who do not enjoy live theatre at all.  Nevertheless, I hope you will enjoy reading a few of the reasons why I find live theatre so captivating and that it may motivate you to seek out some live events near you!

(These are in no particular order – each one is just as important as the last!)

 

A piece of art comes to life! 

When we see a play performed live, or musicians playing music right before our eyes, these wonderful pieces of art become real and understandable!  They are no longer words or notes on a piece of paper; they are real characters, plots and stories being put out into the world at that very moment, as they were intended by their creators, and you are a witness to it in the audience!  At home, there is always be some kind of barrier between us and the art – a book that we have to read to get to the story or a device through which we could hear the music.  But at the theatre, the art is being given to us directly, with no obstacle separating us from it, and we can therefore totally engage with it and be immersed in it.  And not just the piece of art itself, as in the play or the string quartet (for example!), but the actual art form too.  Watching talented and professional actors and musicians doing their jobs make those very art forms a real thing and this is something to behold in itself.

 

Different interpretations

I always find it so interesting to watch different interpretations of any piece of art – I feel like the more interpretations of something that I see, the more I explore the art and the better I get to know it,  finding its own meanings for myself.  Whether these are different interpretations as presented by the performers, directors, choreographers, writers, or even those as experienced by other audience members during one performance – seeing a new understanding or meaning to a piece of art that I hadn’t thought of before is really exciting!  This week I was lucky enough to catch two Shakespeare plays, and they couldn’t have been more different.  Coriolanus was set to a modern backdrop, with all modern clothing and even references to modern culture, with things like mobile phones and Facebook messenger.  Julius Caesar was totally old school – the set was minimal, no frills or trills, costumes were old-fashioned and the performance really centred only around the actors and their speech.  For some, the modernisation made that play more entertaining and relatable, while for me personally, I felt much more involved with the old style one, where I really locked into the plot and the language.  At home, we are very limited in what we have available to us – just the book, or a particular recording or two.  One really has to see art live to get these different interpretations and fully understand them.

 

Each one on their own journey

Every time I watch a live performance, I like to be aware of what’s going on around me, to observe the reactions of my fellow audience members.  There is always so much happening in the audience!  Everybody is feeling something different in connection with the art that they are experiencing, each person is on their own journey with it.  In the Shakespeare plays (and in Rocky too, actually!) I found it interesting to see where some people laughed, when people were shocked (even though we all know Brutus kills Caesar, this point still got a few gasps), if some people felt bored, if others looked uncomfortable… And the artists themselves are on a journey too.  We can’t know the details of what led them to this specific performance, about the work that went into it and the mental space they had to get to in order to produce something that they had envisioned or heard in their own heads.  We don’t even know what might be going on in their personal lives which could be affecting their performance, or their relationships with each other on stage, or how they approach the art of performing.  Art makes us feel real emotions, and we all feel them differently.  Being part of that, while experiencing your own personal journey at the same time, is special.

 

Human connection

Similar to the last point but not quite the same, is the importance of watching art unfold together with other people.  At home, we read alone, listen to music in the background while doing other things, watch movies in silence.  But at the theatre, there is a sense of human connection, of experiencing our own personal emotions and journeys with the art WITH other people, audience and performers together.  In that moment, those precious hours while the performance is in progress, we are all as one group doing the same thing.  There is nobody on their phones, answering emails, working or chatting with friends.  We, as one big organism, are going through the same experiences together, and all of our attention is in one place.  In a world that often feels very lonely and hectic, this is so so so important and valuable.

 

There’s only one shot

This is something that is just as meaningful for both performer and audience!  Although it can riddle any artist with performance anxiety, the fact that they only have one chance to deliver, here and now in this exact moment, adds an electricity to the theatre.  They know this, and the audience knows it too.  Whatever happens, happens – there ain’t no do-overs.  As an audience member, knowing that the art that I am experiencing only exists now, once, in this moment, has caused me to sit up and try not to miss a single thing.  As a performer, this feeling is what has encouraged me to take risks, to just ‘go for it’, and also to feel incredibly nervous.  It is what makes every second of a performance really matter and be something that I care so truly and honestly about.  And isn’t it wonderful to sit in the audience and watch a performer who really cares, to watch them take risks and to see the sparks that fly because of it?!

 

Mistakes!

And following on from the ‘one-shot’ philosophy, are the inevitable mistakes.  I love mistakes.  I think they are brilliant.  Because you can’t get more in-the-moment than a mistake.  When an artist makes a mistake, it means they are really experiencing something real; maybe they took a risk and it didn’t work, maybe they care SO much about what they are doing that they got carried away, or maybe they are just real human beings and not computers!  To me, mistakes are life and they are wonderful.

 

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Taking A Feminist Stance

I’ll be completely honest – this wasn’t the blog post I had planned for today.  I had a post all ready to go that is well formulated and structured, looks nice and has good content!  But last night, I watched a movie and I feel that I just HAVE to comment on it.

The movie I am talking about is a silly one, it likely won’t have much of a far-reaching impact, and it probably doesn’t even deserve to be spoken about, especially in its own blog post… but maybe it does!  Maybe it is EXACTLY media like this that SHOULD be talked about and thought about!

So, last night, after a long day, my mom and I decided to check what Netflix had to offer us in the way of some light-hearted entertainment.  We ended up choosing the first thing we saw, a film called ‘Like Father’.  We watched the little preview that Netflix gives you if you hover too long at the top of the page, and it seemed perfect for us; a fun, light comedy.

Here is the premise of the movie: we meet Rachel, a ‘workaholic’ for a big corporate advertising company, on her wedding day.  Up until the moment she walks down the aisle, she is sending emails and making work calls, and ultimately, it is for this reason that her fiance decides to leave her jilted at the altar, not being able to see a future with a woman who is this dedicated to her job.  Now for the sub-plot: Rachel’s long-lost father, who left his family to follow his own career path when Rachel was only 5 years old, has turned up to the wedding.  After things go pear-shaped at the ceremony, Rachel and her father end up reconnecting, get very drunk, and find themselves on the cruise ship honeymoon that was intended for the newlyweds.  Together with the help of a team of quirky characters on board the ship, including a gay therapist, an elderly couple, and of course, a comedic supporting African-American couple (I mean, could they have tried any harder to tick all their token boxes for this movie?!) Rachel must face the fact that it is because of her priorities, and her work-life balance, that things haven’t worked out for her, i.e. that she hasn’t been able to get married.  The question remains: can she really change all this and learn to put her phone away so that she can find happiness ( which means finding a man who will finally marry her)?

I just couldn’t really believe the movie I was watching – it felt like it belonged in the 90s, not in 2018!  Here we are presented with this character, Rachel, who is pretty much a  total bad-ass!  She works incredibly hard and has earned herself a great job (in a corporate company – never an easy task for a woman which shows tremendous strength of character on her part).  She’s ambitious, she has goals and dreams and she puts them above any man!  She is committed, she somehow manages to find the time to always look amazing and she also invested in a romantic relationship – I mean, wasn’t the fiance the idiot for not realising until his wedding day that her number one priority was her work and that he would never get her top spot?! It seemed to me that she was always clear about that!

However, this movie sought to portray her as a complete failure!  It was always deemed to be terrible when Rachel attended to work calls and emails on her phone.  The fact that her fiance left her at the altar was HER fault, because of her shortcomings.  And they made it pretty clear that if she didn’t change and realign her priorities, she would end up like her father and live a miserable and failed life.  Because marriage = success, happiness and fulfilment.  I just can’t find the sense in this.

What is perhaps even more shocking, is that the co-writer and director of the movie was a woman!!  We have to look at the movie in the context of what is happening in our world today. Women, and especially women in Hollywood, are finding their voices!  Time’s up! Do we really want to use our voices to preach this old-fashioned, out-dated message about women only finding happiness in men and not in their own personal work? I so believe in the ‘women empowering other women’ movement, and I think it is really important, even more so in 2018 and with someone like Trump in the Oval Office.  How could the woman who directed this movie be OK with putting her own heroine, Rachel, down like that?!

Maybe I’m being too hard on the movie, maybe one could say that is was just meant to be a shallow, light and funny movie and not dissected in any feminist way.  But isn’t this the whole problem?  That this is the kind of comment that our society can make about a woman and that it can just be allowed to fly because it’s not ‘serious’ or ‘real’.

Maybe I am the one to be criticised because I chose to watch it.  Alright, I accept that.  I didn’t need to engage, and I have worked really hard at disengaging from things I find toxic or that I don’t like online or within my own connections, so why would I choose to watch this movie, and watch until the very end?  Well, maybe it was some kind of outraged and morbid curiosity.  Maybe I am still a product of our society and, whether I like it or not, I simply can’t escape from being taken in by these ridiculous, glamorous, white Hollywood stories.  But it has certainly provoked me to think more about this, what I engage in, and to be more aware of what progress really is, or isn’t, being made.

 

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Update: The End of an Era and Looking Forward

Phew!! What a moment this is in my life!

This week marks the end of my life as a student and, even more significantly, the end of my ‘Salzburg Era’.  On Tuesday evening, 26th of June, I played my last and final Masters Recital, thus completing my Masters Degree.  That night, I said goodbye to being a student, to the city of Salzburg that has created itself such a special place in my heart, and to my brilliant and wonderful teacher, Klara Flieder.

I moved to Salzburg when I was 20 years old.  At that time I didn’t speak a word of German, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or with music, and I didn’t even know much about my new teacher whom I was going to study with.  I only knew that I wanted (and needed) to get away from the boring politics and depressing life that I was living in London.  When I first arrived in Salzburg, I was completely overwhelmed by trying to figure out how everything worked and seemed to ‘fail’ at every step.  I don’t think I realised how difficult a move like that would be or what it would entail, and creating a new kind of life for myself has definitely been a slow and gradual journey.  But now I can honestly say that Salzburg, and being a student there, has enriched my life in so many ways and I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had never moved there! (I probably wouldn’t still be playing the violin, that’s how unhappy I was in London…)

 

A sneaky snap of my Beethoven ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ performance during my Masters Recital

 

I owe pretty much everything – my love of violin and music, my education, my outlook, my ideas – to my teacher.  I was so lucky to get to study with a professor who so understood me and cared about me, who inspired me and made me excited for each lesson, who made me feel the importance of our work so profoundly.  Klara deserves her own blog post so I won’t say too much more about her here, only to mention that saying goodbye to her the other night was incredibly sad.  When I finished my Bachelor degree with her and left Salzburg for the first time in 2014, it definitely didn’t feel like the end – somehow the metaphorical (and literal) door remained very much open for me to come back to do my Masters.  But this time, even though I know we will always be in contact and she will continue to be a big part of my life, it really does feel like the chapter is closed.

 

Celebrating with my wonderful teacher and pianist, after my Masters Recital

 

Right now I feel quite an intense mix of emotions! I must confess, I have been looking forward to this moment for a while and NOT having to deal with the obligations of being a student any more.  I am excited to get out there and start working on my own creative ideas, to not be held back by responsibilities of things like trying to get enough orchestra credits… I do feel nervous, though, because real life is daunting and being a musician was never going to be a big money-maker, especially doing the kind of creative work which I find so fulfiling.

But more than anything, I am SO excited! My head is bursting with ideas and I am ready to dive straight in.  Firstly, I always knew I wanted to get this blog back on track.  I have lots of posts ready to go, and ideas for many more, and I have decided that my upload day will be every Sunday, so make sure to check back in each week to stay updated!  I have my whole Eckhardt-Gramatté project on the back burner, so get excited for the imminent release of my album as well as more news surrounding the project! I can’t wait to get my recordings out there and hope that you love them as much as I do!  By the way, you may have seen that I created a whole section on this website dedicated to my work on this project, including videos, photos, quotes and even my Masters Thesis, so definitely check it out if you are interested! There is also the small matter of my upcoming move to North America.  I will be documenting that whole process, as I think it will be bigger and more complicated than I can even get my head around at this point, so there are indeed many exciting times ahead.

So, for right now, I want to say Adieu to my old life, hello to the new one, and a big welcome back to my blog! I am so happy to be back here and writing again and looking forward to a new chapter of life!

 

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Shedding Light on Female Artists | Banff Diaries 2

In this video I talk about the questions that have been on my mind since being at the Banff Centre; about staying motivated to make music and art in a world full of monsters like Trump and, particularly, about all of the women artists that have been forgotten or were never known, simply because they were women. I am hoping, with my project, to shed some light on this issue, and to give at least one of these women a voice.

Check out my last video, where I arrived at the beautiful Banff Centre and began my artist residency here!

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Why The ‘You’re Too Young To Understand’ Argument Just Doesn’t Stand Up

I have recently encountered, in various different areas of my life, an argument being thrown around by the older generation towards my own age group, that says we are ‘too young’ to be getting  involved in serious political or social issues.  Perhaps it has been one of those things where, once you notice it happening once or twice, you start to see it all over the place.  Regardless, I find so much at fault with this mentality, so many important messages to be taken from it, that it sparked a blog post within me, so here we go!

To give some context, I thought I would talk about a couple of examples of when I have directly faced an argument like this.  The first happened a couple of weeks ago.  I have been planning a concert in London for a while now, with my newly formed, diverse and ‘cutting edge’ ensemble, Hauptstimmen.  The goal of this group of classical chamber musicians is to bring our music to a wider audience, to break down boundaries that we have experienced in our world of classical music and make it an all-inclusive art form, something that everyone can share in and take something away from.  We have organised a concert ourselves in London next week (see all the details here, please come!!), and the theme of our programme is ‘war, time and death’.  I know it sounds a little dark and depressing, but actually it is really fascinating; we are going to be performing unique music that is very rarely heard, including Gideon Klein’s string trio, which was the last piece he ever wrote, just two weeks before being deported to Auschwitz.  It isn’t just going to be a concert – it is going to be a real experience, with cool lighting, sound effects and stage design, where the audience will be encouraged to feel completely at ease with drinks and snacks and also totally engaged with our performance.  In short, this is an event that we have put a lot of thought and work into and one which we think will really create huge impact.

Now, in organising this concert, finding the right venue has obviously been extremely important – the space is paramount to the whole experience, and so it was something we knew we had to get right.  We were overjoyed to find The Red Hedgehog, a cool and intimate venue with easy access in London.  When our group leader met with the venue director, she seemed totally on board and supportive of all of our ideas, so everything looked bright for us.  Two weeks ago, we received an email from this same director and let’s just say that it completely contradicted everything that had been agreed on previously and everything we are striving to achieve.  Her overarching message to us was that we were far too young to be presenting a concert that placed war as its central theme.

My initial response to the email was anger, of course, followed by a real sense of sadness.  I felt so sad because, here is a group of young musicians who are trying to do something different and creative and combine their art with important world issues, only to be shot down by someone older and with more ‘power’.  Today, after having dwelled on it for a while, I feel so strongly the error in her way of thinking!  The fact is that war and death are very much part of our world, and unfortunately this is something that is becoming  more of a scary reality everyday.  To think that only people of a certain age should be talking about it is naive; I am in my twenties and part of a generation that will have to deal with the remnants of what is left post-Trump, or with whatever the future holds for North Korea, Syria, ISIS etc.  We are exactly the ones who need to be talking about it and understanding what is happening and why – we are the ones who can help the future.  As musicians, we have such a special way of sharing these ideas.  Through music, we can reach out to people and bring people together, we can talk about fears of war and death through our playing and use music to make it relevant to everyone, no matter their age.

The second example I wanted to mention was something that I saw on a social platform a few days ago.  A friend of mine had posted an article about veganism – a topic sure to fire anyone up, I know, and of course it did.  But the most offensive response to the article, in my opinion, was from someone from a slightly older generation who advised my friend that she was too young and shouldn’t be concerned with issues like veganism, rather she should just live her life and spend her time ‘dreaming’.  I am just so confused how anyone could suggest that talking about veganism is only for people of a certain age!  What is this age, exactly? Because I am definitely not looking forward to turning this mysterious age when suddenly the weight of the world will be on my shoulders.  And, as my friend pointed out in her reply, isn’t bringing up issues such as veganism on social media exactly what ‘dreaming’ is? Dreaming of a better world, dreaming of what the future could be.  I am not purporting to be an advocate of veganism or not – that is not the point here – only that I certainly think that anyone who wants to talk about veganism, or war, or death or any other huge political or social issue absolutely can and even that we, as young people, should!

And this ‘young’ thing… I mean, I’m 26! I am not exactly a spring chicken.  I have been old enough to vote for a long time, and I have definitely held strong political views for pretty much my whole life.  I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can freely express my views, so who is to tell me, or anyone else in my generation, that I shouldn’t because I am too young?!  In fact, in recent elections, basically all the ones where shit really started to go down, it has been shown that young people really do have a voice and really do know what they are voting for and the consequences of what they are voting for – it’s the older generations that have really screwed things up for us all.

Basically, I want to make it clear that, yes, I am young and yes, that absolutely means I will continue to use my voice and my art to share ideas and fears and issues that I believe in or that I believe are important.  I hope that if young people like me are also facing this ridiculous argument from our elders – that we are too young to be concerned with these important topics – that we can feel inspired to rise above and speak even more loudly.  Age doesn’t equal power, and with our youth comes a responsibility for the future, so let’s engage with each other NOW and make the world a better place.

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