Tag Archives: singing

The House Is Alive With The Sound of Music…

The house is alive with the sound of “Do-Re-Mi”, “so long farewell auf wiedersehen” and even the voice of the lonely goatherd: “lay-ee o-dl layee o-dl-o”!

If you’ve read my last post, then you’ll know that on Monday, our daughter will be auditioning for the role of Marta in Andrew Lloyd Webbers’s Sydney production of The Sound of Music. Marta is the second youngest of the Von Trapp children and our daughter actually looks very similar to the original movie version.

You can read it here:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/climb-every-mountain-singing-towards-her-dream/

 

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

Miss closely resembles Marta, aside from the fringe.

Miss closely resembles Marta, aside from the fringe.

While looking the part and being the right height is all well and good, that’s just the beginning. The first stage of the audition process is singing. If she makes it through, then she’ll be back on Wednesday for the dance and drama auditions.

So, she needs to be able to sing and sing well. Even if she doesn’t get the part, we still want her to give a respectable performance, which reinforces her love of singing and doesn’t see her running for the hills. After all, we are all quite philosophical about her chances of getting the role.

However, when I mentioned that the audition was a competition and she said she was just doing it “for fun”, while this was good in a way, I also reminded her that getting to the audition was going to be an effort and she needed to take it seriously.

This was when the fun began.

Rewinding to Sunday, I decided that practicing on the keyboard would help etch in the notes without wearing out her voice. She has had trouble with vocal nodules and so we’re handling her voice with kid gloves. Naturally, we don’t want her to burn out beforehand.

Also, I have only recently come to appreciate that learning to sing is as much about training your ears and, of course, your breathing, as it is to use your voice and I was sure playing the songs on the keyboard would really help develop her ear.

However, just because I’d made these realisations, that doesn’t mean my daughter was on board.

Indeed, she wasn’t even at the bus stop.

I also wanted to see if she could learn to read music in time. We’ve had multiple half-baked attempts in the past but the audition swung me into action. You see my mother accompanies a singer and once he learnt to read music, it really improved his voice. It was definitely worth a shot.

So, armed with this awareness and the same sort of determination which encouraged my daughter to apply for the role in the first place, I transformed myself into a mean and nasty tiger parent and prepared for battle.

However, despite my best intentions, things back fire big time around here and our place is a veritable Faulty Towers. Somehow, things just don’t seem to run like clockwork and quickly blow-up in my face.

You could say this makes me a hero. After all, heroes need a quest, come up against obstacles and have the inevitable car chase before it all comes good at the end.

However, I don’t feel like the all-conquering hero. I’m much more of a Paddington Bear and should either have a sign saying: “Please Take Care of This Bear” or “Warning! Bear about to self-destruct!”

Miss playing my mother's grand piano, aged 1.

Miss playing my mother’s grand piano, aged 1.

In the case of preparing for the audition, the drama all centred on the piano. Our current piano is old and out of tune. I’ve actually given it away but they can’t seem to pick it up and time’s dragged on so we still haven’t moved up my mother’s Yamaha upright, which would be absolutely perfect right now. As far as I’m concerned, you need a piano to sing well. You need to know and feel those notes. I might be a bit rigid but I come from a family of seriously gifted pianists, myself excluded.

As usual, as much as we tried to have all our ducks lined up, someone must’ve thrown a rock at them because all our good intentions scatter to the four winds and have a very long, circuitous journey home. That’s if they ever come back!

Yet, we persevered.

My daughter has a pretty good keyboard and I thought that would do the job.

At least, it would if we could find the power cable.

Unfortunately, that was buried underneath layers and layers of “filing” in the office. I had been somewhat on top of this never-ending tide of clutter but things came up and I found it all too easy to ignore it until it gave birth. Now, the mess is constantly breeding like over-fertile rabbits and will soon start flying out through the chimney!

So, when it came to the piano front, you could say we were well and truly “stonkered” (that’s a great word plucked from my Dad’s vernacular).

Take 2 or is this Take 3?

So, without a power cable, I had to resort to a roll-up keyboard mat thingy, which I’d bought at a fete. I’d thought it was quite clever at the time and used it to teach the kids some basic keyboard skills but it was hardly the tool for this job. It seemed to play every note twice and was quite annoying.

I started to think about all those kids with the perfect lives yet again and were already accomplished on the piano and felt so inadequate. Yet, at least, I was trying.

Next, I had to get Miss to actually sit down at the keyboard. This process was like trying to catch and restrain a wild brumby. She couldn’t see what singing had to do with playing the keyboard. I tried explaining that singers are usually accompanied on the piano but that didn’t register…even when I reminded her that Grandma accompanies a singer on the piano. I asked her if she was the only singer who didn’t need piano accompaniment. When that didn’t work, I even resorted to the:

“How old are you? “

“Nine. “

“I am 46. Do you think I might know something you don’t know?”

A younger Miss with attitude.

A younger Miss with attitude.

Humph. She was in a thunderous mood with mighty bolts of lightning flying between furrowed eyebrows. I didn’t need to be Einstein to see all these arguments were going nowhere and yet I didn’t give up. Boldly marching where angels fear to tread, I persevered:

Perceptions of Knowledge

Perceptions of Knowledge

“There’s what you know. What you know you don’t know but over here there’s what you don’t know you don’t know and this is what you have to watch out for. Just because you don’t know what you don’t know, that doesn’t mean other people don’t know what you don’t know. “

I know it made sense to me but to her young ears, it must have been gibberish. I’d finally crossed that line into madness.

Persevering with the keyboard while on the nebuliser. I only need it a few times a day so not a big deal.

Mummy & Miss

I was stumbling for words. Remember that I have a severe lung infection and all of these words are being forced out in between violent coughing spasms. I could see some things which would really improve her chances but she just couldn’t see the same picture. She was only 9 and I couldn’t expect her to have walked in my shoes but why couldn’t she recognise hard won pearls of wisdom when she heard them? Why wouldn’t she open up? The keyboard remained a square peg. It just didn’t fit into her understanding of singing, dancing and drama and she wanted to evict it completely.

However, for every Drama Princess, there is also a Drama Queen!

Or, perhaps all that ranting and raving finally made a bit of sense. At last, I sensed some microscopic progress. That maybe, just maybe, I was starting to get a nibble, even if I didn’t have a bite.

The funny thing was that as frustrating as she was, I saw a mirror image of myself as a young child when my mother was trying to teach me the piano. I remember sitting at that baby grand swinging my legs from the stool and hating it. I wanted to destroy it. Indeed, I think I might even have scratched writing onto the ivories. ..just maybe. I’d fought my own mother with the same fierce intensity but I wasn’t going to capitulate. This process was all too much like childbirth. You don’t want to go through the pain but at the end, there’s your beautiful, little bundle of joy. Indeed, I continued to learn the piano with my own teacher until I was around grade 6 so I wasn’t a lost cause after all.

I went on and ordered the sheet music online and started writing it out for her so she could practice it and we were slowly, ever so slowly making progress.

Converting the musical score into

Converting the musical score into “Miss-Speak”.

Then, we found the power cable for the keyboard and we were in business. I started practicing the songs, scraping the rust off years of piano neglect.

Yet again, I marvelled at how the dreams and visions of my children have swept me right out of my comfort zone, learning new skills or dusting off old ones. They have stretched and pulled me in so many different directions that I’ve almost become flexible. Quite an achievement really as it’s all too easy to get set in your ways and limit yourself to what you love and know best.

After all, I could easily just write all day every day.

And then just when I thought this whole drama was never going to reach Act IV, the battle is over and she’s been at the keyboard playing the songs one handed from my notes. She is even playing C Major scale two octaves one-handed and learning to move “Sneaky Tom” (her thumb) underneath without detection. I also taught her that her hand was a fairy table and she had to hold her hand properly or their tea set would go flying. My much-loved piano teacher taught me that and now I passed it onto Miss and smiled. She was only just young enough to still appreciate it.

So our preparations continue.

Saturday night, Geoff and the kids are off camping in the Scout Hall overnight for Father’s Day and on Sunday they’ll be teaching him how to catch a fish.

Miss on a Cub Scout Camp.

Miss on a Cub Scout Camp.

This will be a good break from her musical practice and I kind of like the idea that she’ll be spending her weekend in between her musical theatre class and being out on the water fishing, kayaking, roasting marshmallows round a campfire, camping and simply being a knock-about kid.

After all, she’s not only auditioning for a children’s part. She’s still a child.

xx Rowena

Climb Every Mountain…Singing Towards Her Dream!

When you think of intrepid explorers and their conquests, rugged mountaineers immediately come to mind. Those brave or mad enough to not only scale the peak of Everest but even scratch the Seven Summits off their list.

However, I am incredibly proud of my intrepid Mighty Miss, who refused to let anything stand in her way and boldly insisted that Mummy filled out that application form to audition for the Sound of Music .

Miss as Gretal/Marta at her Musical Theatre performance in August.

Miss as Gretal/Marta at her Musical Theatre performance in August.

This audition wasn’t just for some local production, either. It is for THE Sound of Music to be held at Sydney’s prestigious Capital Theatre, starring alongside Cameron Daddo, Marina Prior and Lorraine Bailey…names which might not mean a lot of overseas but are huge mega stars in Australia.

This is the Australian Big Time.

Miss closely resembles Marta, aside from the fringe.

Miss closely resembles Marta, aside from the fringe.

Miss is auditioning for the role of Marta, the second youngest of the Von Trapp children.

Of course, this is all incredibly exciting and such an amazing experience…just to even get an audition.

However, the unsung story here is that against the odds, Miss has put herself out there against the very best. This is the same shy child who used to hide behind my skirts and didn’t speak.

Miss in Hospital

Miss in Hospital

Not only that, Miss has severe vocal nodules and has been seeing a voice therapist once a week for the past month and had been prescribed “voice naps”. She has been told to practice her breathing and have frequent sips of water just to speak, let alone sing and these were pretty strong words! After all, we couldn’t mess around.

These vocal nodules have developed not only from what is known as “vocal abuse” (ie shouting at big brother, Mummy etc) but also though reflux from a condition which affects her digestion….Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying. Due to this condition, she has been markedly underweight and was struggling to get through the day before we finally found a diagnosis and she received medical treatment. She has since gained a bit of weight and perhaps grown up a little too. She is still petite but that’s a good thing too…just as long as she eats.

Under these circumstances, obviously attending such a big audition is not what the speech therapist prescribed and not wanting Miss to experience humiliating defeat, I naturally advised her “next time”.

However, her big blue eyes welled up and her body stiffened and that iron will I know only too well, rallied its troops: “But Mummy, you don’t understand. I’m the right height. I’m the right height now and I’ll never be the right height again.”

Humph…

Of course, you can just see my weaker will withdraw its forces altogether and concede defeat.

There was no point even going into battle. I filled out the forms.

What would be, would be and who was I to stand in the way of a little girl’s heartfelt dream? To knock her down before she even got started? After all, haven’t I been the one encouraging her to have a go and putting my foot down when that same iron will was shooting itself in the foot?

Miss on Stage Performing with her Musical Theatre Class.

Miss on Stage Performing with her Musical Theatre Class.

Ironically, the same small size which often infuriates her, will actually help her for this audition.

Marta is petite and Miss actually looks quite a lot like her, which I guess is also why she scored the audition.

Thank goodness, her vocal nodules have also improved a lot and she can sing clearly again.

So, we emailed off the application and I don’t know whether I expected her to get an audition or not because by the time the news arrived that she’d been successful, I’d caught a severe lung infection and my chest was rattling like an old jalopy. Given my auto-immune disease and the fibrosis in my lungs, this was looking like hospital and possibly worse.

Two years ago, I’d caught pneumonia and actually stopped breathing briefly one night, which as you could imagine, was absolutely terrifying and I could see I was heading back there again and needed to pull out all the stops. My GP switched me to some industrial strength antibiotics and I had 24 hours to respond or it was hospital. I was pretty sure they’d work as this had done the trick last time but the stress and also the question of knowing when and if I should go to hospital plagued us. We were weighing up the benefits of intensive treatment versus catching something even worse and it’s the latter that sees us aim to stay home.

I was also on the nebuliser every two hours.

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It's the first time I've been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition almost comic. It’s the first time I’ve been on the neb at home for 20 years and I’m only on it for a few minutes at a time. The photo just gives it a resonance, which is a bit over the top.

So, it was into this toxic germ soup of household that the news arrived of my daughter’s audition and that we needed to have her at the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park in Sydney at 9.45 Monday 7th September.

At this point, I was barely able to stagger out of bed to the toilet a metre away and yet I really wanted and needed to be the one to take her. Do this audition thing with my little girl. Yes, to be the proud stage Mum and flaunt her unashamedly like a trophy but more to share the experience with her. Be an active, integral part of her life and be her Mum. Even if I needed to be in a wheelchair rugged up and attached to the nebuliser, I wanted to be there. After living with this wretched auto-immune disease, my own personal antagonist for so long, it’s not uncommon for me to take it on head-on and tell it in no uncertain terms, that it’s not going to stand in my way. “You are not going to come between my family or what I / we want to achieve. You’re not going to get us”.

Most of the time, we surprisingly win!

I really don’t know how and it actually astonishes me.

“Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.”
Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

“…educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom examined the lives of some of America’s most accomplished artists, athletes, and scientists. He discovered that drive and determination, not great natural talent, led to their success in their respective fields”- Howard C Cutler.

So, with only days to go, I am improving. Still a bit rattly but by Monday, I will be there with the Mighty Miss cheering her on. Not just because she can sing but because she has such incredible determination and willpower to overcome hurdles and setbacks and have a go.

Of course, in my mind, this is already a victory!

xx Rowena

Dancing Away the Rain.

The last week has been pretty intense for our daughter.

Last week, I finally managed to get her to see a vocal speech therapist about the vocal nodules which were picked up a few months ago when her gastro-intestinal issues were diagnosed. These nodules are like calloused blisters on your vocal chords and by the time we finally reached the specialist all that yelling at brother and mother not to mention stomach acid, had created quite a hurdle. Sure, we knew her voice could be quiet but there was also the shouting and we’d I guess just become accustomed to her squeaky little girl voice which my friends considered “cute”. My daughter loves singing and so having trouble with her voice, indeed, being diagnosed with severe vocal nodules and talking about how her voice is already struggling to produce full words was alarming, catastrophic. In essence, I was told that her voice was badly broken and needed the vocal equivalent of a wheelchair. At the moment, that is temporary and there are exercises and quite a lot of restrictions. Failure to cooperate will have serious consequences and I don’t think she’s just talking about “down the track” or “in the long run”. We’re talking NOW!

Of course, after all of that bad news and feeling like I’d been zapped with a stun gun, we succumbed to retail therapy. I can’t even remember what I bought her but I bought myself an adult colouring-in book with motivational quotes inside as I felt myself being sucked down a very long drain pipe.

As a kid, I could never understand why my mother became so distraught when something happened to me but now I finally get it.

Our little dancing star!

Our little dancing star!

When something happens to your kids, you actually feel 1000 times worse because you wish it had happened to you and you KNOW that you are somehow part of the problem and there’s that incredible, crippling stomach-churning guilt. Either you should have stopped it. Acted sooner. Jumped in your private ambulance and pushed the accelerator flat to the floor and driven like a bat out of hell.

That’s what my grandmother did after my uncle sustained third degree burns to his hand while she was changing his brother’s nappy and I think her pressure cooker also exploded that morning leaving beans glued to the ceiling.

Miss as Gretel from the Sound of Music.

Miss as Gretel from the Sound of Music.

Anyway, Miss isn’t supposed to sing at all at the moment and I can’t quite remember the speech therapist’s exact words. However, essentially her voice needs to pack its bags for a bit and sit on a beach and read through that stack of books which is falling down beside my bed. Being a kid, there will be so cocktails but I’ll allow her a lemonade with a slice of lemon and one of those cool and groovy little umbrellas on the side.

However, let’s get back to the real world.

My little girl is growing up but for a precious moment, time stood still!

My little girl is growing up but for a precious moment, time stood still!

Last Sunday, Miss had her mid-year dance concert and she also does Musical Theatre. Not even a week after being told not to sing at all, there she was, crime of crimes, up on stage singing…singing a solo even. It was only one line but just like you pinch the last chocolate and hope you don’t get sprung, I knew this was a stolen moment. That one line was no doubt doing damage but when I saw her up on that stage in the baby-pink satin dress being Gretal from The Sound of Music, even if it was only an excerpt and they were only in the school hall, I was so incredibly proud!! It also made me tear up a bit as they sang: “So long, Farewell”. With my bad health over the years, these dance concerts are emotionally confronting but this time when I saw her dressed up as a little girl and knowing she is growing up so fast, I couldn’t help but feel I was waving goodbye to her. After all, next year she turns 10!

My gorgeous girl!

My gorgeous girl!

We returned to the speech therapist this week and had good news. She had noticed an improvement just in that first week. She has been given more exercises and appointments are shifting from weekly to fortnightly. I know I can be a master of denial but I was very relieved. After seeing my grandmother lose her voice after a series of debilitating mini-strokes and what that meant to her, knowing that my daughter had already lost much of her voice was devastating. Therefore, ever the faintest glimmer of hope and improvement is such a relief! We are actually turning the tide.

Just to elaborate on this “we” business a little, my voice is also struggling at the moment and I am doing my daughter’s exercises as well not just to support her but to also let my own voice out of jail. It’s very hoarse as well.

So what with dance concerts, musical theatre and good or at least, improved news from the speech therapist, those dark, heavy rain clouds lifted and a rainbow appeared!

How do you feel when your children experience similar setbacks?

xx Rowena