Grace Notes: How music helped me to settle in

I have been living in Sweden for just over two months and I’m now feeling pretty settled and normal, almost like I belong here. Even the language is becoming less of a mystery, and I’m starting to pick up bits and bobs of conversations in Swedish, although I have little to no chance of being able to form a reply yet…

However, I found the first few weeks here hard. Some days would be fine, but others I’d feel very far away from everything and a little lost. This was often because I’d seen a post on Facebook or Instagram from a friend back home doing something that had I not moved, I would be doing too.

Lodging in a flat means that I spend a fair amount of time on my own, and while most of the time I find it refreshing (and it’s nice to be able to put on pjs at 6pm and not be judged), sometimes I wasn’t able to shut off my brain completely and I’d get myself worrying over nothing and then stress out and not be able to get anything done.

The one thing that I found really made it easier though was listening to music. Every day I have a half an hour walk into faculty and I listen to my iPod the whole way. I don’t listen to things I am studying or pieces we are about to play in a concert, but tunes that I know really well and associate happy memories with. It also gave me a chance to really appreciate the beautiful scenery around me and watch the seasons change, without my mind being clouded with things I need to do, or was missing out on.


Walking home in the summer evening


Watching the colours change into autumn


One of the first frosts (it got down to -4, but I’m told it’ll get much colder….)

For me these included tracks like ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by David Bowie, ‘Can You Forgive Her’ by the Pet Shop Boys, ‘Ballad of the Great Eastern’ by Sting, or ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd. These songs change on a daily basis, but if I was to choose a few things to listen to now, it would be the above tracks.

By giving myself that half an hour or so to and from college to shut off, let my mind wander and just get lost in the music, really helped to keep me from going crazy.

Even though I now feel pretty much at home here, I still have my walk and my music every morning and most evenings, and I really enjoy just being able to escape and let my mind wander wherever it chooses.


Grace Notes: An update

So far this year has been a very exciting one. My brother I put together our own concert, I performed my final recital, I got my degree, moved out of my flat I was in for 3 years and I’ve recently moved to Sweden!

Although I didn’t blog about it, I was really proud of what I did with my recital and whileI was immensely glad when it was over, I did manage to enjoy performing which, for me, is a big achievement.


My family after my recital

Moving back to Cardiff was strange. It was weird not being in London 24/7 and not being close to work and college. It was also odd to leave the flat that myself and two of my best friends had made into a home for three years. It was a bittersweet moment because although we were going on to do really exciting things with our lives, it also meant that we wouldn’t be seeing each other every day to share our mundane news and watch Disney in our pyjamas. However thanks to the wonders of the internet (and Facebook chat) we still share all our news with each other, which will just about do until we’re next all together.


On the day of moving out…

Over the summer, I went away on a walking holiday in Scotland with my dad for two weeks which was incredible. All the discomfort, slightly odd food, horrendous sunburn (yes, even in Scotland) and almost constant wet feet was totally worth the incredible calm and beauty the highlands have to offer. I’m hoping to go back next summer! When I got back to Cardiff I had a very exciting letter saying I’d been given by undergraduate degree from Trinity Laban. I was really happy as this marked the beginning of my next adventure.


Crossing a river on the way up Cranstackie

Now I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but last March I took a very quick trip to Gothenburg in Sweden to do an audition for a Masters in Symphonic Orchestral Performance at their university. In April I found out I’d got a place and last week I packed up my things, hopped on a plane and moved to Gothenburg.

It’s a really weird feeling arriving in a country, knowing nobody and not speaking the language (although almost everyone here speaks near perfect English!). I’m sure I’ll settle in, but in the meantime I guess I’d better start learning Swedish!!

Grace Notes: Looking back to February…

In February, I performed with my brother in a concert at St Peter’s College Oxford. Two months on, I wanted to look back and reflect on a few points.

I really enjoyed the concert and by the time I had played my first couple of pieces, I had managed to get control of my nerves and actually enjoy performing. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take this feeling onwards and use it to help through future performances, including my final recital in May.

I’ve also learnt some important things about marketing from looking at my audience surveys. The majority of people who came to the concert were friends and family, but about a third of the audience heard about the event through Facebook, and most of them were students. Therefore, if I were ever to market an event again, I’d push the Facebook campaign, but also push flyers and posters in non-student communities, hopefully drawing in a wider range of ages to the concert.

I also discovered that although the venue was lovely and I’m hoping I can play there again, the only thing that was an issue was due to the fact I live in London, having to travel to Oxford for every rehearsal was a little tricky as it took out a whole day. However, in the future there isn’t much I’ll be able to do about this so I think I will have to just plan my days better, ensuring I get as much done as I can in the time I have.

Here are some clips from the concert. I am particularly pleased with the Bach, but here are some bits of all of the pieces.

Overall I am really proud of what I achieved, both in a performance and organisational way. And thank you again to everyone who came to watch and supported Sam and me.

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Finale

The last night of CoLab was a big event. There were multiple projects going on in Blackheath Halls in three different locations at once, between 7 and 11pm. We weren’t performing until 9.15, so it was really nice to get a chance to see what everyone else had been working on for the past week or two.

The night was running slightly late (due to the multiple stage changes), but once we got on we had a fair amount of audience. I was really pleased with our performance. I thought that we really gelled and worked with the acoustics that the room gave us.

Here is a video clip of part of the performance.

I was particularly pleased with the string improvisation section and thought we worked well together and managed to create some really interesting sounds and shapes. It was also interesting performing with our sound amplified. I couldn’t hear a difference from where I was sitting, but after talking to the audience and listening to recordings I can hear that it made a big difference to the performance and we were far more prominent in the mix.

Overall I thought we grew as a group and managed to put our own stamp on ‘Lifecycles’. It was really great being able to work with the composer Phil as it really put the music into context and gave us a much deeper understanding of the piece. I’ve really enjoyed this project and hope that I’ll get the chance to do something similar in the future!

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day five

We didn’t rehearse at all in Trinity Laban today. Instead, we had an afternoon rehearsal in the Recital Room where we could get used to the new space and also get used to the amplification. When we arrived all of the string players had small microphones that we place next to our bridges. We had a monitor in front of us so that we could hear ourselves too.

As we started rehearsing we discovered that we couldn’t have the monitor on loud at all because otherwise the mics on our instruments would start to feed back. This resulted on the audience being able to hear us, but we still couldn’t really hear ourselves. Luckily we had got used to playing like this during the week so I don’t think it hindered us too much.

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Rehearsing for the final performance.

I was pleased with how the rehearsal went and both Phil and Nic said that we sounded good from the audience, so I’m excited for the performance tonight!

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day 2

Today was the second day of our CoLab project. We arrived and began rehearsals at 10 and used our time looking at the rest of the pieces that involved the whole band (as some of them are smaller group improvisations).


Here is a video of us rehearsing a movement called ‘Rememberance’. It starts off with some really eerie string glissandi with an improvised piano solo over the top, before the flute and clarinet join in with the strings.

One of my favourite movements that we played today is called ‘Intoxicated Delirium’. It’s all about how you think and feel when you are intoxicated. It begins with a cool Cuban style beat and then has a folky tune over the top. The folk tune is first in 18/8 and comes back later in the piece in 4/4. I love this movement because it’s very rhythmic and exciting. Some of the rhythms are pretty complicated though and took some time to get right. I think it’s almost there though!

In the afternoon we broke off into sectional rehearsals. We had a string sectional, led by Nic Pendelbury and went over the exposed and tricky bits. We started off by playing one of the sections where we were providing the harmony and worked on our tuning as a section. We then moved onto some of the more complicated rhythmic sections. With Nic keeping time we played the interlocking cross rhythms, slowly at first, gradually speeding them up until we could play them completely in time. We also clapped and sung our parts (when we were playing across each other) to ensure we 100% know where we were supposed to play.

I’m looking forward to putting all of the sectional work together tomorrow and beginning to get a sense of what the completed work will sound like.

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016

Welcome to Colab 2016! This is my fourth year of Colab, and I’m excited to start my new project tomorrow. Once again, I’m doing something completely different! I’m taking part in a project where we are playing, developing and performing the work ‘Lifecycles’ by Phil Meadows. After listening to the recording of the piece on Spotify I was hooked and I’m so glad I get to take part in this project.

Last year I was part of a Ceilidh band, and got to play in the performance night at the end of the first week. I love this sort of music and it was great to devote a whole week to this. I wrote a post about it here.


Our Ceilidh band!

In my second year I took part in a string quartet and jazz ensemble crossover. This was an interesting project as we were given music to start with (that was created in a collaboration from a previous year) and we had to learn it by the performance date, but still put our own stamp on it. I enjoyed this project a lot and it was great to be able to work closely with jazz musicians, as I don’t get to do that often. I wrote a full account of this on my old tumbler blog here.


A string quartet rehearsal separate from the jazz musicians

In my first year I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard a bit about it, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the way everything in Trinity Laban stops for Colab. My project was called ‘Lost in Translation’ and it involved telling stories and conveying emotions through the medium of music. I enjoyed this project as I got to meet a lot of new people and experience a new way of using music. I wrote more about it here.


The final performance of my first year project


I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with my latest project, and I’ll be keeping a daily record of what we get up on this blog.