Looking back on 2011


Looking back, it turns out that 2011 was quite an eventful year in the world of the Singing Librarian.  At work, on stage, backstage and in miscellaneous other places, quite a bit happened.

One of the most significant events of the year came less than three weeks after it began, when I started my new job.  Very different to my previous job, it has presented numerous challenges over the past 50 weeks, but I absolutely love it.  I spend quite a bit of my time teaching, either in scheduled lectures and workshops or on a one-to-one basis with students who have come in to seek my help.  With responsibility for the library needs of a large number of health and social care students, I find myself dealing with book orders, attending planning meetings for courses, explaining the ways of Google (and the alternatives to it), opening students’ eyes to information sources and getting lecture halls full of freshers engaged in an interactive demonstration of the old librarian favourite – Boolean operators.  I find my work engaging and fulfilling.  It has its dull moments, its frustrations and even the occasional moment of heartbreak, but I am so glad I’m doing it.

As a consequence of my change of employment, I have also managed to read a lot more this year than previously.  I have about 90 minutes on the train every day and I often read during my lunch break as well.  I have nearly finished reading through all those sad, unread paperbacks on my bookshelves, have raced through Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic and have hopped from genre to genre – mysteries, classics and Booker Prize winners have mingled with sf and fantasy, featuring every literary period from the dawn of the novel to the present day.  I haven’t loved everything I’ve read, but I have loved that time when I have little option but to read.  The goal for this year is to finally finish The Count of Monte Cristo and have a crack at Don Quixote and some of the Dickens novels which I’ve never found time for.  With, no doubt, a sprinkling of aliens, elves, sleuths and hapless aristocrats thrown in for good measure.

On stage, I only performed in 2 musicals this year, and one of those only took up a week or so of my life.  In March, there was Into the Woods, my first Sondheim show.  I doubled up as Rapunzel’s Prince and the Wolf, surprising many people with my portrayal of the latter character – not least my new colleagues, who were a little alarmed to see that side of me after 2 months of seeing a much more refined librarian.  However, if ‘Hello, Little Girl’ (the Wolf’s song) was a surprise, people who saw me in my other stage outing were in for much more unexpectedness.  Doing I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, particularly getting to do it with Lights Up Productions in a manic week of rehearsals just before Easter, is an experience I will never forget.  Referred to in my house as ‘the dodgy show’, it certainly stretched me in unusual directions.  I don’t think I could even have contemplated singing the ‘Marriage Tango’ with any other group.  I certainly don’t ever expect to perform a song in vest and boxer shorts ever again.

However, true to my online identity, I did an awful lot of singing during the year.  I joined a gospel choir which my friend started early in the year, and this group has gone from strength to strength (we’re preparing for our second concert), though we could do with some more men.  Over the summer, I sang in four different concerts and performed an eclectic range of solos and duets – I think that the people who saw my unusual solo version of ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ from West Side Story probably had the strangest experience, while those who heard me mangle a line of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in quite spectacular fashion cannot possibly realise how sorry I am for that assault on their eardrums.  I also sang with my church choir at our carol service (the only time we ever have a choir) and duetted with one of my housemates on ‘O Holy Night’ at his church’s service.

I apparently forgot to go on holiday, but as I haven’t been away on holiday for several years now, that’s hardly surprising.  Maybe I’ll manage it this year.  I probably saw fewer shows than usual as well, finding it tricky to combine commuting with supporting local performing societies (though I did make it to a production of Jesus Christ Superstar by Herne Bay Musical Theatre Society which was well worth it).  However, I did enjoy some great shows in London – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Betty Blue Eyes and a number of productions starring talented friends of mine, including The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The House of Bernarda Alba and The Producers.  I only wish I could have managed to see more.

In our house, we finally managed to jump through the final legal hurdles following Stuart’s death in 2010.  We filled in the same form twice (though the mortgage company assured us they had not lost the first one, honest) and received many, many letters before matters were finally settled.   We now need to find another housemate, but we were able to play host to a friend while her bathroom was being refitted, so that was good.  Board games are an important part of the life of our household/community (as, I should point out, is prayer – also, food, music and randomness), with Settlers of Catan and Fleeced being the most frequently played.

A first for the year, which occupied much of my time during summer and the early autumn, was getting the chance to direct a show.  This was a frustrating, exhausting, rewarding, painful, exciting and interesting experience.  I discovered that I have some good ideas, but I can’t always express them.  I gnashed my teeth when communication issues arose (as they so often do).  I came close to tears at the dress rehearsal when I handed the show over to the cast and the backstage team, I admired everyone’s stamina as they kept going despite strong attacks from seemingly every conceivable illness and I watched each person’s performance change and evolve over the short run.  I prefer performing, but I will probably direct again.  If only to make sure that I don’t make the same mistakes second time around.

In the autumn, I trained at the London School of Musical Theatre part-time course – 12 Saturdays of intense, sometimes stressful work which was absolutely worth it.  Getting the chance to learn (at speed!) portions of dances from West End shows, to learn about my voice and how to get the best from it, to tackle songs I’d never have thought of singing, and generally to receive training in all areas of musical theatre performance was amazing.  I know I got a lot out of the course, and I am looking forward to putting the training into practice during the coming year.

Strangely, the combination of finding my feet in my new job and attending the part-time course has helped me to know that I am in the right place, doing what I’m meant to be doing.  Regardless of talent or lack thereof, I am not cut out for a career in the performing arts, at least not now.  But I get to do a job where I know I am valued and I know I make a difference.  And I get to perform as well.  I am passionate about performing, but in a quieter way, I am also passionate about my job.  It really is so right for me, and I have no plans to change direction any time soon.

The tail end of the year brought one final delight before Christmas.  My televisual highlight of the year : Frozen Planet.  This was a truly astonishing series, featuring breathtaking camerawork at the extremes of our planet and opening my eyes to an area of the natural world I’d not thought much about before.  I now know that killer whales are worthy of a great deal of respect, that a sealion chasing a penguin is one of the funniest sights you could ever hope to see and that there is a species of caterpillar in the Arctic which survives being frozen solid every winter for several years before it finally gets to take flight.  Amazing.

So a year of singing, teaching, acting, directing, reading, being trained, playing and learning.   A year of change and of the same old thing.  Above all, perhaps, a year of finding my feet and getting a sense of perspective.    Now to see what 2012 has in store…

  1. Good to hear from you SL, the commute is playing havoc with your blogging too. Wishing you good things for 2012 🙂

    • Trish
    • January 6th, 2012

    Yes, great to read one of your posts again. What a year 2011 has been for you! It sounds like the new job is suiting you very well, a very interesting mix of duties and you get paid for it too!

    Glad that the training worked out so well – I was wondering how you were getting on.

    Will have to check out Frozen Planet. I always intend to watch nature programmes but for some reason get slightly bored and end up watching things like Strictly Come Dancing and Downton Abbey instead. However I like icy landscapes so will probably enjoy that one 🙂

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