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.

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