Archive for the ‘ Ramblings ’ Category

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.

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Time to train


Sometimes people ask me why I’ve never tried to take up performing arts as a career.  There are many reasons for this: I already have a career as a librarian; I’m scared; I don’t know that I’m good enough; even if I am good enough, I know that being good enough doesn’t guarantee success…  I could go on.  Generally the reason that I give is that I know very well that I need training, and I can’t afford it.   It is still true that I simply cannot afford full-time training, but I have finally managed to make myself take a first step and join a part-time training course.

So tomorrow morning, I will start a course at the London School of Musical Theatre (a.k.a. LSMT).  One term’s worth of Saturdays which will involve acting, singing and the ever-scary dancing.  I am both very excited and rather scared (but then, I am scared of pretty much everything, so that’s hardly news).  I want to do this course, because I want to get better at performing, particularly the dance aspect of musical theatre.  Whether it leads to more or different opportunities is essentially irrelevant – I want to improve.  My involvement in musical theatre is much more than a hobby, and I take doing well on stage as seriously as I take doing well at work – that is, very seriously indeed.  But regular readers already know this.

This course is important to me.  I will have to get an earlier train every Saturday than I do during the week to get to work, and a day on the course is the same length as a work day (and probably more tiring).  But those things don’t put me off.  I’ve re-arranged much of the rest of life to make the space and time to do this.  It’s too good an opportunity to squander – training at a highly respected institution, a chance to improve my skills and my confidence, to meet new people (also scary) and to get better at something I love.  I have no illusions – this is going to be hard work.  If it’s to have any value, I will have to push and challenge myself (or be pushed and challenged), and I will probably experience more than  a few moments of frustration when I struggle to pick things up.  I am probably going to have to unlearn bad habits I’ve picked up along the way.  My dictaphone may well wear itself out from overuse.  But I know it will be more than worth it.

Tomorrow morning at 9.30, my stomach will be tied in knots.  But while it’s true that I’m scared, I’m very excited.  This term is going to be exhausting, but it’s going to be absolutely fantastic!

Belonging


A short while ago, I had a dream with a surprisingly complex plot, a dream which surprised me, when I reflected upon it, with what it revealed about me.  I am now a few months into my new job, and this was the second work-related dream I can remember during this period.  The first thing that transpired in the dream in question was that there was to be a protest – in the current climate of cuts to higher education, rising tuition fees and changes to pensions, this is not exactly unusual on university campuses, but this one would involve both staff and students.

In my dream, I said I couldn’t join the protest because I’m not a union member, so would be continuing to work in the library (which the protest was right outside) for the benefit of those students not protesting.  However, things soon escalated and the protest grew volatile.  I had to ensure that some students on the roof didn’t cause damage to the building, and I had to quell some violence in the car park, where some cars were being attacked.  My dream self confronted rioting students and persuaded them not to vandalise the staff cars there, as they may well belong to their fellow protesters.  Things continued in this stressful and frightening vein for quite some time, until the protest was finally over.

For slightly unclear reasons, I felt terrible about what had happened, and when the other staff members were returning to the library, I went and hid.  However, when I came out of hiding, a group of them (including more senior members of staff) were waiting for me to say that it didn’t matter.  I was presented with some sort of membership card which proved I was now truly a part of the team there – they had even brailled it, so that I could show it to both of my housemates.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that my subconscious mind was/is clearly wrestling with the question of belonging, and whether I fit in at the new library – it appears that my mind is telling me that yes, I do belong there. However, it has struck me since that the dream has wider application than the obvious one, as I have a tendency to worry and wonder whether I belong in other environments. In some of my performing contexts, my awareness of my lack of training makes me doubt whether I fit with the others in the cast. In some social situations, I feel on the sidelines and wonder whether that’s OK or not. Recently, I’ve been in this position more frequently than usual, so it is no surprise that the issue of belonging has been bubbling away in my subconscious. Perhaps I need to take my lead from the dream’s conclusion and start telling myself that I am not an outsider. I belong.

Standards and abilities


Today one of my friends retweeted something tweeted by singer-songwriter Aimee Mann – “My standards are higher than my abilities.” I know what she means. Or at least, her tweet strikes a chord with me.  It’s part of the reason why I needed to write the posts named Changing my mind and I can do this last year.  It’s the reason why I probably ought to read them every day.  It’s the reason why I’m very rarely pleased with the work I’ve done on stage or in a workshop in the library.  I have high standards for myself, standards which I’m extraordinarily unlikely to achieve.  Mistakes that the audience would never notice are a reason for self-criticism.  Workshops where anything goes wrong are obviously my fault.  I feel the need to meet and exceed any and all expectations which might have been placed upon me, and then there are my own expectations on top of that.  And add all of those together, and you have a target I cannot reach, for I am not the actor, educator, singer or person I want me to be.  My abilities are not enough to meet my standards.

So should I lower my standards?  I think not.  If I stop wanting to get better, then I’ll simply stop getting better, and possibly stop caring.  Perhaps I need to recognise more that my standards are high, and go easier on myself for not meeting them.  And who knows, maybe one day my abilities will grow enough to meet my standards.  And that will be a most wonderful day.  And knowing me, I’ll raise my standards the very next morning!

Voting ‘yes’


On Thursday, the UK goes to the polls for a variety of matters.  There will be elections to the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland and to the Welsh National Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.  There will be many local council elections, a smattering of mayoral elections and a by-election.  And across the nation (or is that nations?) there is the referendum on our electoral system.  And in that referendum, the Singing Librarian will be voting ‘yes’, because he would like our system to be changed from “First Past the Post” to “Alternative Vote” (AV).  Actually, that’s not true.  There are many better options than AV, but these options are not being presented to us, and AV is the better of the two on the table.

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New chapters


I start my new job tomorrow.

“I start my new job tomorrow.”

Six words, none of them complex.  The sentence as a whole probably isn’t all that earth-shattering, either, even if you put it in quotation marks.  But it is a momentous thing for me to write, and it brings distinctly mixed feelings.

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A Quiet Thing


In Kander and Ebb’s first musical, Flora the Red Menace, something wonderful happens to the main character – she gets offered a job, and she is delighted.  However, she doesn’t shout and scream.  She doesn’t do cartwheels or haul out the confetti cannon.  She realises that her happiness is actually “a quiet thing”.  And I know exactly what she means, as I was in the same situation yesterday.  Here’s a video of Liza Minnelli (who introduced the song on Broadway back in 1965) performing the song with Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show.  It’s one of Kander and Ebb’s most understated, beautiful songs and it’s so very true.

NaBloPoMo Scorecard


Well, I did it. I really did it.  I didn’t think I’d manage it, to be honest, but I have succeeded in posting once every day for the past month.  I have received some kind comments from folks who have been following the November marathon, some of them commenting on the blog, and some mentioning it in that strange thing known as the real world.  But since blogging is such an intensely self-centred activity, what do I think about it?  I’m rather pleased, actually.  Pleased that I managed to remember to post each day, but also pleased that most of the posts had something to say, rather than blogging for the sake of it.  I did have a few posts that obeyed the letter rather than the spirit of the thing, but for the most part I managed to write something which I’d like to think is worth reading.

The post I am most pleased with is about why I think Footloose is a good show, but I still feel there is more that could be said on the subject.  My review of Kiss of the Spider Woman attracted the most hits, largely due to someone involved posting a link on Facebook – naturally, people want to know what strangers wrote about them!  And the most discussion was generated by my musings on getting Christmas cake in a packet.  In retrospect, I think I may have been a little harsh on that one.  My most-used category was ‘Ramblings’, with ‘Theatre’ coming a close second – this probably says a lot about the ways in which being required to post every day caused me to deviate a little from the intended focus of the blog.  A better showing from ‘Library’ would have been nice…

Before I started on this glorious blogging adventure, I listed some topics I intended to cover over the 30 days, so let’s look back at that list and see how things turned out :

 

So there are still a few possible blog entries floating around my mental space.  These ideas have been joined by thoughts on ‘Carefully Taught’, Pal Joey and songs where people claim not to be in love with somebody.  It will (or maybe won’t) be interesting to see which of these materialise, and in what order!

I won’t be continuing to blog daily (not least because I will be away from the internet for at least a few days over Christmas, which is a scary thought), but I’m glad I did.  I’d like to think I’ll blog, or write in some form, more often in the future as well.  I’ve rather enjoyed NaBloPoMo 2010 and I hope my readers have as well.

[Obligatory British P.S. – it is snowing, and that makes me very happy.]

Advent


Today is Advent Sunday in the church calendar, the day when preparations for Christmas officially begin.  Of course, in the retail world, preparations for Christmas began as soon as the Hallowe’en stock was removed, or in some cases even earlier.  And other aspects of festive activity have also begun in earnest – baking of cakes, rehearsals for nativity plays and pantomimes, switching on of lights and selection of presents.  But in the church, Advent Sunday is the day when we are supposed to begin spiritual preparation, looking forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth, or rather of his incarnation.

As well as the opportunity (sadly missed this year) to get cracking with singing ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, the start of advent means something very specific.  In my house, it means decorations!  The boxes of sparkly, shiny objects, the Christmas trees, the sack of cuddly toys with a vague Christmas theme and the bag of tinsel will not make an appearance until this day of days.  And then, the level of activity is high.  Furniture must be moved (unearthing long-forgotten dog toys in the process), lights must be strung on the plants in the front window, nativity sets must be compared and re-arranged, and tinsel must adorn every possible location.  The cellophane will be removed from this year’s edition of Carols For a Cure, and the tracks will be listened to and variously enjoyed, discussed and laughed at.  A lengthy conversation about the optimum date for viewing the Muppets Christmas Carol will ensue.  There is little that is overtly spiritual in all of this, but it is an important time for the household, a few hours to share and enjoy, a ritual which has become an essential part of the rhythm of our lives.

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Dream error


I had a dream.  In my dream, I arrived at a community centre I had never seen before.  It was a grey, shabby sort of place but had plenty of car parking.  I knew why I was there – it was this was the next venue for the small-scale touring production of Guys and Dolls I was performing in.  Obviously.  In the twinkling of an eye, I was inside, changing into costume in an impractically small dressing room alongside other cast members, some of them people I have worked with before, others without names, yet still familiar.  In my costume, which included a brightly coloured shirt and a gangster-style hat, I then sat in the small hall, watching my castmates run through part of the show which needed some attention.  They sang the number ‘Too Darn Hot’ and some tweaks were made to the choreography to make it fit the space available.

It wasn’t until I woke up that I thought to question any of this, and there was one burning issue in my mind.  Not “why would you put on a pocket-sized production of Guys and Dolls when you need at least a dozen men?”  Not “what on Earth was my role in the production?” – there is no obvious part for the Singing Librarian in this show.  No, the question I asked as I awoke was “what on Earth was ‘Too Darn Hot’ doing in Guys and Dolls?  Which is a very good question, as it’s normally found in Kiss Me, Kate.  My subconscious mind really should have known that!

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