BM to BM – my week of music

As an 18 year old bassoonist all those years ago – I set off to start a music degree with the idea I would become a music teacher. I loved music and I wanted to share that passion and teaching seemed the best way to do it.

Until halfway through my degree my bassoon teacher Philip Brookes pointed out that all the festivals and events I was running as a volunteer student could be a career option. What?! I could be paid for what I do for fun?

Well yes. And the other thing I couldn’t have imagined is the variety of places that option has taken me to. This week is a case in point and I wanted to share it.

So this week I am embarking on three very different musical projects. All of whom make me very excited and proud to be involved! But they couldn’t be more different.

So number one: BCMGBenedict Mason (BM) performance in Aldeburgh. We premiered this piece in Birmingham last month. It is provocative and challenging (for audiences and stage managers alike) and it’s a total privilege that BCMG have asked me to help (in a very small way) to make such a complex piece happen. I love the idea of working with people like Benedict and being part of the team that make his ideas come to life!Benedict Mason

Number two: Young Voices Germany. This is our second year running a Young Voices Concert at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg. It requires me to dust off my very basic GCSE German when speaking to the security staff backstage and involves 6000 German children singing their hearts out to pop medleys both in English and German with an array of great guest acts including We Are Scientists. And their very excited parents in the audience. I love this job because their is no energy like the energy in an arena when a Young Voices gig is on. And I call the shows in Germany. It’s a buzz and a half.

Foto: Lichtw3rke

Foto: Lichtw3r

Number three: Well it’s time to admit it. My beloved choir Notorious has been asked to be the backing choir for Barry Manilow (BM) at the Genting Arena in Birmingham next Saturday. We come on for the 3 finale songs complete with choir robes and cheesy moves. And. Well. We are all more excited than we like to admit… barry-manilow-2015_960x360-2

So I’m looking forward to a week of music. All of which I will enjoy and if you had told me I could do this I would have become a producer on the spot… Oh wait…

So…Benedict Mason to Barry Manilow in one week… Here goes!


I’m running from/for Sound It Out

As some of you might know I have been very proud to be the Chair of Sound It Out for the past few years and I take any opportunity to talk about the amazing, transformational work that they do.

Well for personal reasons I’m stepping down as Chair in September and have decided to leave a parting gift (and a bit of entertainment) in the form of running the Birmingham Half Marathon and raising money for Sound It Out.

The Marathon is on 24th October and I’m currently training about 3 times per week, running about 10k as often as I can but sometimes just managing 6k.

Over the next few weeks I need a big push to get closer to the 20k mark and work on my speed if I’m going to make it. It scares me if I’m honest – but all the best things do!

I want to also use the opportunity to shout about Sound It Out and it’s work in the region transforming lives through music making. The term community music strikes fear in the heart of many – often considered a bit hippy and tree hugging and maybe not all that good.

However all the projects (and I mean all the projects) that Sound It Out initiates are of such a high professional quality, from the musicians employed through to the meticulous planning done by our fab team.

As someone who started as a volunteer for Sound It Out in 1994 and then becoming their part time Administrator in 1996 I have seen the effect of their projects first hand.

Over the years I have seen young people progress from situations where school and post-school prospects were bleak to having the self esteem and associated skills through music to become massively successful individuals in their own right. I’ve got to know adults who for a number of reasons have been housebound for years and after music making in their homes with Sound It Out have ventured out to group music making events because of the sense of purpose and wellbeing they have felt through music.

So I want to raise as much money as I can for this brilliant organisation!

So sponsor me here please!

I’m Fasting for Ramadan

Ok, so most of you will have picked up from my endless twittering that I’m fasting for Ramadan as an experiment for BBC West Midlands. They have asked me to try fasting for the first week of Ramadan (22nd – 29th August) to see how a non-Muslim gets on and I have to blog each day about my experience. They have had Muslims blogging in past years and this year they wanted to try a new perspective!

I’ve explained on the BBC Blog page why I’m doing this so you can check it out there – they are also putting up my radio interviews on the site so you can listen to those and see how I get on. I’m expecting it to get more interesting as the week goes on the hunger pangs kick in!

Also – I’m going to twitter constantly (what’s new I hear you cry!) and I’m going to go to some of the late night meals with local Muslim families. I’m really lucky to have a really global network of Muslim friends and colleagues who will be egging me on. For example Marwa Soudi from Egypt was the person who suggested to me in June that I should consider fasting for the mental challenges and Halim Karam from Morroco has been recording some simple prayers for me to recite around the opening and closing of the fast.

I know most of my Birmingham friends think I’m mad and I expect to be taunted by Mars Bars – but I’m going to do my best to be strong! Wish me luck and follow me on the BBC website.

Happy Ramadan!

Seven things you’d never need to know about me

It seems that I overlooked a challenge set by Jaki Booth in February to write ‘Seven things you’d never need to know about me’. But now I’ve seen it I feel the need to rise to the challenge – and it is quite hard  – not sure how much of this will be news to you but:

1) I love cooking and entertaining – in fact last year I won our choir’s in house version of ‘Come Dine with Notorious’.

2) I married my childhood sweetheart – meeting Richard when I was 17 on the Birmingham School’s Symphony Orchestra trip to Paris in 1991.

3) I am scared of spiders and most creepy crawlies – in fact it’s not a joke I have nightmares and everything!

4) I love gardening – but I don’t really research it – it is more of a hit and miss approach of planting things and see what happens. We also have Koi pond and I get over excited by the frog spawn every year.

5) I can’t do small talk – nothing strikes fear into my heart like being put on a table of people I don’t know at a wedding!

6) I have my grade 8 clarinet and bassoon – but they are both dusty and in a cupboard at present (maybe when I retire eh?)

7) I have moved back to the part of Birmingham where I grew up and my daughters both attend my old Primary School


I need to pass on the 7 things to 7 people! So:

– John Mostyn

– Claire Burgess

– Adrian Burrows

– Bobbie Gardner

– Frankie Ward

– Rich Batsford

– Gurdan Thomas

The Youtube Symphony Orchestra – Audition now!

I’m trying to get my husband to audition for this (my bassoon skills need more than a week to be up to scratch!) but in the meantime have gander at this: The Youtube Symphony Orchestra. You can download the sheet music for your instrument – have a bit of practice and then send in your audition tape for a chance to play at Carnegie Hall. Sounds like fun to me. I’m even tempted to get my bassoon out!

They describe it as: 

Interested in joining the first-ever collaborative online orchestra? Professionals and amateur musicians of all ages, locations and instruments are welcome to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra by submitting a video performance of a new piece written for the occasion by the renowned Chinese composer Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). We have tools to help you learn the music, rehearse with the conductor, and upload your part for the collaborative video.

And how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice and upload. Send us your talent video performance from a list of recommended pieces. Finalists will be chosen by a judging panel and YouTube users to travel to New York in April 2009, to participate in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra summit, and play at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

The deadline for all video submissions is January 28, 2009.

Go people of the West Midlands!

Blogging solidarity

I’ve watched with interest how the blogging community in Birmingham and beyond have got behind Created in Birmingham’s nomination as the Best UK Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards.

The last few days all the key blogs in the area have got behind it and it is a great example of how the good work of Created in Birmingham has gained them respect from all sorts of quarters.

Vote today – as it is your last chance!