News, Singing

Heatwave

One of my enduring memories of performing in ‘Oliver!’ last summer was the heat. When I think about my costume for ‘Consider Yourself’ (two layers of 100% pure wool, cheers JC) I think about how the heat from the stage lights made my entire body feel like it was on fire. I remember having to cut eight inches off my poor, fried hair after spending three weeks coating it in flammable hairspray, pinning it to my head and putting a wig and hat on top. By the final performance it was the texture of straw.

I have played a great many orchestral concerts in hot weather, including in Germany and New York at the height of summer. Rosin tends to get too sticky to use and you have to re-tune your instrument far more frequently than usual because everything expands and the strings slip. Since retiring from orchestral performance, my instrument is of course myself, and I’ve been thinking about how to look after it in the summer months.

Drinking plenty of water is obviously the most vital thing to protect your voice from drying out in hot weather. I suffer from seasonal allergies (aka year-round drippy nose fun) which mean that from April to September I take a daily antihistamine, which is a drug notorious for drying our your inner nasal and vocal folds. This means I also get to use Sterimar and a thing called NeilMed saline douche (?!) which was first given to me by a very lovely nurse in New York, because I couldn’t breathe through my nose in my first few weeks at camp.

Today is the hottest day of 2017 so far. Stepping outside into the garden at around 4pm felt like walking into a pizza oven. It’s now 10pm and still 26c/78f. TOO HOT.

Personal, Updates

Dating, honestly

I love feedback. Feedback is useful for knowing where you are with someone, checking in with them to make sure you aren’t falsely picking up on non-verbal cues that are giving you the wrong impression about a situation. I like to have regular meetings at work to discuss how I’m doing, what I do well, how I can improve and so on. I’ll probably never be offended by anything you say, as long as it’s constructive and delivered with a veneer of positivity. Maybe it comes from my teaching years, the whole ‘two stars and wish’ rule of feedback. You’re really funny, I like your little hat; it would be great if you could talk about something other than the plight of bees… Two positives, and a wish for future progress.

It was a strange – but not entirely unbearable – experience taking part in the Guardian Blind Date column in the weekend magazine a few weeks ago. It was a quick process, myself being apparently one of very few heterosexual female applicants to the column in a long time (probably should’ve read more into that, I’ll know for next time). As a singer, I’m used to standing on a floodlit stage or platform and letting myself be taken over by another character, another person. But this – this was me, on a real-life, ‘warts and all’ (ew) dinner date with a stranger. This person didn’t know me, and was rating me based on a couple of hours of my company. I had nowhere to hide.

I’m not going to go into the details of the evening. You can read all about it here, if you are so inclined.

Dating is horrible, and I’m never going to enjoy the process. It’s expensive, it takes up a lot of your leisure time, and thus far it has been a romantic dead end. I have close friends and family members who have met their partners on dating apps, and good luck to them. It just isn’t for me. Part of the reason I don’t think apps are a good idea is that they make finding a partner so easy. You look at a catalogue of willing participants, presumably after the same thing as you (‘DTF’ or ‘no hookups’ are the two options), and you swipe right on the people you like the look of. You go on your date, you have an okay time, and maybe you keep seeing them. One day you find them sitting on the toilet with the door open in your rented bedsit in Enfield and you wonder whether you should’ve given Mark from accounts another chance. No controversy. No long-distance. No tension. No romance.

Adding to the long list of things the media blames my generation for, perhaps we are sanitising relationships to the point where marriages can be arranged through an algorithm on a phone. I wasn’t expecting to meet the love of my life on that blind date, but I did consider it a more traditional option than Tinder. I was the one who got ghosted, despite not being remotely interested in seeing the guy again. Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong, I’m too aloof. Like Chandler when he’s trying not to get back with Janice.

Problem is, I might seem nonchalant but the lack of intimacy is starting to get to me, gnawing away like woodworm. Eventually I will become hollow and my external structure will collapse, leaving behind putrid dust. I’m about to turn 27 and, other than my magazine “date”, the last time I was involved with anyone, the country was still very much in the EU. Back then, there wasn’t even the slightest suggestion of the fetid hell-scape that the last 12 months has become. When I turned 26, the future looked bright, at least for a week or two post-birthday.

I’m flying back to London in an hour or two, having spent a very pleasant three days back home on the Isle of Man. The pressure to be in a relationship here is unreal, mainly because there is nothing else to do, and being a single woman is tantamount to being one of the old-school witches they used to roll down Slieau Whallian for lols. It’s time for me to make a swift exit back to lovely, cosmopolitan London. Maybe I’ll keep Bumble on my phone just in case.

News, Singing, Travel, Updates

Happy New Year!

Christmas Dinner!
Christmas Dinner

The weather may have been terrible but overall it has been a very relaxing and enjoyable Christmas holiday. It has been great to spend time with friends old and new and I’m sad to be saying goodbye to those who have made the leap across the Irish Sea (they’ll come back one day… everyone does).

2015 was undeniably one of the most challenging years I have ever experienced, but the payoff for those challenges was enormous.

I began 2015 as an NQT at Castle Rushen High School, working as a music teacher in a two-person department. The rigorous training I received at Bristol University the year before proved to have been worth the blood and sweat, as I was able to ‘hit the ground running’ and remember most of my students’ names within the first half term (tip: this is the most effective behaviour management technique any teacher can utilise). It was a lot of fun and I wish my former pupils all the best; if you’re reading this, I’m sure I’ll see you at orchestra soon.

My experience working at French Woods Performing Arts camp in New York state over the summer was quite unlike anything I could’ve ever imagined. I hoped I’d make some new friends, meet a cute guy or two, travel a little and learn some new skills. I am forever indebted to my brilliant, eccentric, talented, magnificent and overall bonkers co-staff throughout the summer, who laughed and cried with me for thirteen weeks without so much as a sour word. It was one of the toughest challenges I have ever attempted – including my fairly brutal teacher training – but it has made me a much stronger person. For that I will always be grateful.

My post-camp travels took me on a journey, both literal and (dare I say it without sounding pathetic) spiritual. I started where I began, in New York city. I travelled to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., then on to Los Angeles where I spent an unforgettable week living the ‘Hollywood Dream’ and spending more money than I care to admit. I then met two of my co-counsellors in Chicago, a city in which I felt unusually at home and didn’t want to leave. I enjoyed the view of Boston from the plane as I flew over the Cape, despite leaving the city a day early for the sake of seeing my friends in NYC again before I flew back to the UK.

I have recently made the decision to stay resident on the Isle of Man for the foreseeable future, which is good news for those who were expecting to see me performing in the Guild and other concerts in the next twelve months. After six years of moving back and forth between the UK, US and the island, I am finally settling down to a full-time career and the opportunity to do as much singing as possible. 2015, for its virtues, was fairly unstable, and I am breathing a sigh of relief knowing that I can now refocus my mind on the things that make me most happy.

Long term, I am fully committed to building up a portfolio of songs and repertoire and working closely with other Manx musicians in order to develop broader performing skills.

I am keen to be involved in concerts for charity or otherwise, both as a soloist and as part of choral groups. As always, my email address is elizabeth.florence@me.com.

Blein Vie Noa! Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2016.