Along with our move from Australia to the US, I guess it’s not a surprise that my life is changing in some significant ways. We have come here partly for Emlyn’s job, partly for an adventure, and partly for me to have some space and time to consider what to do next and how to set about doing it. At any rate, I don’t have permission to work in the US yet. It takes about six months to process, so I am having an enforced retreat.
I have left teaching students and choirs behind. I miss this work, but my voice doesn’t seem to have the stamina it had before the surgery - last year my voice was worn out by teaching during the day, and my singing, initially feeling easy and exciting after the surgery, got harder and more miserable as the year went on. So leaving that work was a wise thing to do.
I’ve been teaching and conducting for many years now, it’s been a big part of who I am, so the space is big.
Not to mention when we moved, we left our children behind. Somehow they grew up and became adults and despite the impossibility of this, it has happened. So there’s that space too.
Because I’m not directing community choirs, I am not composing as a part of this. So this blog as it currently stands, where each week I share pieces I’ve written for the choirs I’m working with doesn’t relate to my life. I’m not whipping up arrangements and short pieces. I’ve run out of back log too, I’ve shared with you what I have to share! I’ve been wondering about whether to just gently close this blog down.
But then, this blog has been part of an important transition for me over the last few years. Where I slowly became aware of a huge pivot - where the writing I have always done as a sort of adjunct to teaching and conducting, often literally squeezed into the gaps between lessons, has become the main focus of work.
One of my challenges has been pondering how to do this - how to become a composer at large. I wondered if I should go back to uni. Partly to address gaps in my knowledge and skills. (I’ve no idea what they might be because if I had the knowledge to identify what they were, I wouldn’t have them.) And partly for opportunities, connections, and immersion in a musical community. Emlyn was quite disparaging of this idea. He said something along the lines of “I know your work, I listen to it every day. You’re going to have to trust me on this. You are a composer not a composition student.” There was a lot more but you get the jist. Then I read advice from Eric Whitacre on how to become a composer and he said find a choir that will sing your work and take notice of everything they like and don’t like, find hard, find easy etc. Well I’ve done that for twenty years. So I guess I can cross that off the list too.
Beyond this, I’m not sure. Yet.
What I have got is a room of my own to write it. A QUIET and rather lovely room. In two weeks it will have a piano in it. And I have a pile of projects. Works started and not finished for various reasons, from sketches to works that have been workshopped even performed, and need final tweaks, all waiting for “I’ll get to this when I have time”. I have a sense of purpose, an underlying drive with my writing. A life filled with singing and singers means I am saturated with song. The challenge isn’t scratching around desperately looking for musical ideas, it’s sorting through all of the jumbled options and teasing out single threads to work with. I also believe the canon of vocal works needs female librettists to round out the full human stories, and I have much work to do to develop as a librettist.
There is work. It will be different. Rather than close this blog down, I will keep sharing my work with you, but it will be a different style of sharing. I will share the process, checking in weekly on where I’m up to. Now that’s not what you initially came here for, so if you unsubscribe, well fair enough! And if you wish to stay and follow my adventures, next up my work begins on the Holy Family hiding from Herod in Egypt.