So, my Get a Life gap year is over. May was spent trying to work out whether to go back to my job as a primary music specialist in the beautiful Scottish Borders. This proved to be rather an agonising decision. Music is such an important element of the curriculum, giving kids opportunities to explore styles and cultures from around the world, and to express themselves creatively. It is the area that most primary teachers feel least able to teach successfully. After a good day at school I felt as if I'd opened hearts and minds to the wonders of the musical world, laying foundations for a lifetime of participation and enjoyment.
In the end, though, it was obvious what I had to do. This year I have had the opportunity to plan and do things properly, to enjoy working hard but also have time to breathe, and even to get enough sleep sometimes! This has meant that ideas have begun to flow. I’ve been able to explore new avenues of work and have learned a huge amount. Opportunities are opening up, but only because I’ve got time to invest in talking to people. Resigning was hard, but now it’s done I can put all my energy into the future.
Going fully freelance was a good enough excuse to have some new photos taken. What do you think? (With thanks to John Need for his patience and good humour.)
Planning one major project dominated June. After a gestation of nearly 5 years, the piece commissioned by Jean Middlemiss from Sally Beamish for the centenary celebrations of Dalcroze UK will finally be premièred in Glasgow on 27th October. Ring Time is a ten-minute piece for three instruments consisting of several short movements, to be used for Plastique Animée (PA). PA can be defined as a physical realisation of music. Red Note Ensemble will work with three professional dancers to create the first performance of the piece. However, this is just the beginning. The process will be filmed, and the resulting documentary will be part of a Ring Time pack which will be available to Dalcroze practitioners as the basis for projects in Dalcroze or other contexts. Here's the logo, designed by Helen Wyllie.
Dancer and Dalcroze colleague Helen Gould came to Glasgow to run the dancer auditions with me on 14 June. We selected around 20 of the 37 applicants for the workshop audition during which we introduced some Dalcrozian concepts and exercises, then set a task for them to work on in small groups. There was a wonderful energy in the room and we had lots of positive feedback, so much so that we are planning to offer some more workshops for dancers together. It is curious that so few dancers have even heard of Dalcroze. One comment was particularly revealing. “It was very interesting to take the music as the starting point for a choreography.” This sounds ridiculous to musicians, but dance training works in a totally different way to the one we might expect.
The three dancers we appointed are all fabulous, so it’s going to be very exciting. If you’re in Scotland, look out also for Ring Time workshops in Dumfries, Edinburgh and Banchory in November. And tell your friends to come too!
Working with Sally (above) has been a huge bonus and privilege this year.
Other things in the pipeline include a weekend with Mull Mini Music Makers, presenting at the SAME conference, a potential project based on memory and dementia with one of Scotland’s National Arts Companies, and Barefoot Strings – Dalcroze morphing into string playing for youngsters.
Once again, I would like to thank Alison McGillivray and the Trustees for giving me some invaluable time to think. This year has been a turning point. As I write, I am a delegate at the ISME (International Society for Music Education) conference in Glasgow. Today’s plenary by Evelyn Glennie was truly inspirational. Her music and her silences fill the space because she is entirely connected to the here and now. We can all benefit from this kind of focus. Building on what I’ve learned this year, I hope to be able to maintain a pace and attitude that will enable me to experience life to the full, and to create spaces for communication, creativity and mutual learning in my work.
As a thank you for reading this far, here’s a bonus photo of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. (And why not? You can improvise it if you like!)