From urban music to playgroups…

I have held one-to-one training sessions over the last few weeks for a Leeds and Manchester based musician, Vidasonik, who is holding an event shortly. Continue reading “From urban music to playgroups…”

Libraries and jobs

I was touched at the warm response to my new articles published today on You say over-qualified, I say under-qualified… and to a greater extent, My Love Affair with Libraries. I wrote these pieces in a coffee shop on the spur of the moment – they were originally going to be only one piece, but it became clear as I was writing that the library article was taking on a life of its own, and wanted to have its own space. That spontaneity is probably what appeals. Thank you to those who commented.

Twitter successes

Social media consultancy is a growing part of my work and is going well. I launched a Twitter account for the Friends of Nidderdale AONB on the 18th September, and seven days later the account has 75 followers. The Brimham Rocks Twitter account is followed by 679 followers as of today. I became responsible for the account almost exactly three months ago, on the 25th June when there were just over 200 followers. The Twitter account for Making Music Yorkshire and North East had 40 followers on the 29th August when I was given responsibility for the account, and today has 145 and growing.

I’m obviously thrilled at the success of these and I’m finding Twitter great fun to use and a very positive experience. I’m also enjoying the interactions within the local community that come from running Yorkshire-based accounts across different areas of the arts and heritage sector. It suits the non-profit sector perfectly, because it’s a type of marketing based on friendly interaction and genuine positive feeling. There’s no place for hard-sell here and it is a medium which is ideally placed to support the values of non-profit organisations and promote their activities.

I’m currently working on social media training presentations for the non-profit sector and I’m very happy to hear from any organisations or groups who might want to know more about what I offer.

National Trust staff profiles

More articles have gone online for Brimham Rocks including two staff profiles, of the Community Ranger and the Countryside and Community Manager. There are more to follow now that the Our Work section of the Brimham website has gone live. These were fun to write! In fact, both pieces were originally much longer but are here in their concise versions. The image of Sophie walking the dog in her dressing gown around ‘her’ rocks on an evening is a lovely one.

Bringing Bliss back to Coventry Cathedral

Archive: Article for Making Music, live on the site during September 2012. 

Fifty years ago, the English composer and then Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Arthur Bliss, was commissioned to provide a choral work for the consecration ceremony of the new Cathedral Church of St. Michael in Coventry, famously built alongside the ruins of the old 14th century cathedral which had been bombed during the Second World War.

Sadly for the composer, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem took precedence on the day, with the Beatitudes, Bliss’s cantata written with the librettist Christopher Hassall, being relegated to a subsidiary concert at Coventry Theatre. With a much reduced space for the orchestra and chorus, and no cathedral organ, the work could not shine to its full effect and has rarely been performed since.

For the 2012 Golden Jubilee at Coventry Cathedral, Yorkshire Making Music members the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, alongside the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, will be setting things to rights by performing the Beatitudes in the setting for which it was originally composed, for the first time.

For the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, this concert represents an exciting opportunity. Chorus Chairman Julie Smethurst said: “We are absolutely delighted and honoured to have the privilege of participating in this fantastic project. It will be a very moving experience for us to perform it as he intended. It has been quite a challenge to get to grips with some complex music and musical effects but, along with our colleagues the BBC Philharmonic and under the most inspiring direction of Paul Daniel, hopefully we can deliver a performance that would have pleased Sir Arthur.”

Paul Daniel is conductor and former chorister in Coventry. “I knew a bit about The Beatitudes from my years at Coventry Cathedral but it was always spoken about in ‘hushed tones’. Now I know why and I’m delighted to be a part of paying homage to Sir Arthur Bliss in this wonderful event. Putting things right after all these years is long overdue and I’m really looking forward to conducting the real ‘premiere’ of this magnificent work.”

The Director of the Golden Jubilee Concerts in Coventry, Michael Foster, added:

“This is the culmination of a 21 year dream to right the incredible wrong done to an extraordinary musician, an impressive ‘gentle’ man and a remarkable piece of music.”

The performance takes place on the 22nd September 2012. For more information, you can follow the official blog of the concert at

Field work beckons…

I compiled this ‘Local Area’ page for Brimham Rocks last week. It involved writing the content, and finding local pubs with good online reputations, to make a listings section. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the chance to personally test these pub recommendations… I think developing this section through personal experience might have to be a long term project this year. Professionalism demands it!

Bouldering at Brimham Rocks
This is me trying out bouldering for the first time…

Incidentally, researching and writing the climbing article (which included a visit to Harrogate Climbing Centre), combined with a photo opportunity day where all staff gave ‘bouldering’ a try, made me keen to try climbing for real, too. Climbing followed by a Yorkshire pub lunch: now that’s a plan!

I will be at Brimham on Friday to complete work on the ‘Our Work’ section and to edit some staff profiles I wrote a few months ago into a suitable style and length for the site. Hopefully this section will increase visitor engagement with the site and might even help in recruiting outdoors volunteers to support the National Trust countryside team in their conservation work.

Archive: abcd convention comes to Leeds

Archived: appeared on the Making Music website in August 2012.

If you are involved in leading a choir, one of the most significant events of the year has to be the annual convention of the Association of British Choral Directors (abcd). abcd is already known and well respected for the workshop opportunities they provide, such as the Sing Jubilee event held in Durham this year.

This year’s convention runs from 24-26 August at Leeds Metropolitan University. The abcd’s General Secretary Rachel Greaves is enthusiastic about the programme. ‘Our Annual Convention is our biggest event of the year and we’re delighted to be holding it in Leeds for the first time. We have put together the best of Yorkshire as well as presenters from around the UK and as far away as the USA and Sweden, so there is something for leaders of all types of choirs, and plenty of opportunities for singing too.’

The conference itself starts on the Friday with workshops by Paul Mealor and Richard Frostick. A highlight of the opening day will certainly be the ‘Sheffield pub carols’ with real Yorkshire ale as the natural accompaniment.

Topics covered on Saturday include children’s singing, vocal health, community choirs, managing the young treble voice, a presentation by Rock Up & Sing’s Rhiannon Gayle, and a chance to discover new editions from the major music publishers.

The White Rosettes, currently UK and European ladies’ barbershop champions and a member of Making Music, will be performing over lunchtime. This is a great opportunity to discover what barbershop techniques can bring to your choir.

The Gala Concert on Saturday evening is open to the general public and includes a performance by Making Music members the Chapter House Choir, a 34-voice chamber choir from York. There is also a performance from the community choir formed at the morning workshop in the Town Hall. The workshop, led by gospel conductor Ken Burton starts at 10am and anyone enthusiastic about singing is welcome to participate.

The programme for the closing day is just as intense and includes a workshop on inner-city school choirs, dealing with choirs close to failure, and the story and principles behind Cambiata, the regional ‘changing voice choir’ for boys.

An extensive music trade exhibition runs throughout the weekend and includes a stall from Making Music.

For more information on this fascinating event, visit the ABCD website.

A few new pieces of writing

I’m now guest blogging for, a website and jobs listing for graduates, about the student and graduate experience. My first post, “Because it’s there…” has just been published. Although I’m only 32 and am determined to consider this young, I’ve come to terms with the fact that most of my posts are likely to be hashtagged ‘mature’.

Also, a second news article for Making Music has gone live, about the abcd Annual Convention for choral leaders. Even though I’m very much only a choir member, the whole weekend sounds fascinating, with lectures on voice techniques and choir management as well as fun musical interludes including barbershop and pub carols.

Archive: Singing for 800 years of freedom

Archived piece: Appeared on the Making Music website in July 2012.

A performance by the massed choirs called Ebor Vox, or the Voice of York, formed the climax of the celebrations of Charter Weekend exactly 800 years since King John signed the Charter of the city on the 9 July, 1212.

Just after six o’clock, the carillon of York Minster struck the first notes of the specially composed piece by Benjamin Till, This York, and the atmosphere was set as haunting voices began to join in from the square below with a driving beat from local drummers.

Nine choirs paraded through the city before massing together beside Clifford’s Tower for the final performance. Each choir had learnt a section of the piece, and as they joined the parade at points throughout the route, the music and harmonies could be heard to gradually build as the flow of people moved through the city.

Making Music members the Chanticleer Singers were positioned at St. Helen’s Square to join the parade. Sid Taylor, the choir’s Chairman, felt that the effect was impressive. ’Before the day, we weren’t sure how it would work. But as singers, I think you’re often just a cog in a machine; it’s the composer who has the overall vision; and that’s just what happened – on the day it sounded great, and it all came together.’

This York was set to words written by local residents, including children. The musical celebration continued throughout the evening with other local choirs, including the York Male Philharmonic Choir and Soon Amore, providing a selection of music from the last 800 years. Watch the YouTube video from the York Press capturing the festival’s atmosphere.

’It’s a unique event,’ said Sid Taylor of the Chanticleer Singers. ’It was great fun, and really enjoyable, and even though just a small group of us went along, we were very glad we did. As a small chamber group, it’s not often that we get the chance to sing with such a large number of people. We’re lucky that in 2012, we are also participating in the Verdi’s Requiem – it’s one of those years when things come together!’

Celebrations in York continue throughout the year as part of the York 800 festival.

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