|The things James does|
Mon, 28 May 2007
Finally, I'm back to having singing lessons with Mark Jowett again! Yay.
Going back to having lessons again is a really good thing as the stresses of work for the past 8 months have been enormous and I thought that taking lessons would not be terribly beneficial given the circumstances.
Well, anyhow, the lesson today was only 35 minutes long and was entirely vocal exercises but this was good. I discovered something that was causing me tension and am now on the way to fixing it. I want to try to get back to where I was last year and this will probably take a few weeks at least.
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Way back in November I had an audition for post-graduate study at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University but back then, I wasn't quite at the standard to gain entrance. I spoke to them after the news and was told that it would be inappropriate for me to go into any of the pre or under-graduate programs and to continue private study and re-audition for mid-year entry.
Well, I had that mid-year audition July 6th having worked quite hard over the past 6 months to improve my technique and it has been going quite well. I sang two pieces for the audition; the aria Every Valley from Händel's Messiah and Spirate, pur spirate, an italian art song by Stefano Donaudy.
The performance component of the audition lasted about 10 minutes and I felt I had given a really good performance, especially when compared to 6 months prior. After I was invited to sit for the usual interview component. The interview during my audition in November lasted about 15 minutes (from memory) and was quite in-depth about what I would like to do, my aspirations and desires as a performer and about my performance history. This time, let by Gregory Massingham, Head of Opera and also Head of the post-graduate programme, I was invited to sit and Greg smiled and congratulated me on my improvement since he had last heard me. I was asked which programme I would prefer to enter and if I had any questions --- That was it! --- then the formalities of thanks and good-bye.
I was amazed, stunned and very excited as I felt very confident after the audition. Well, that night I received an SMS from Margaret Schindler, my teacher congratulating me on a great audition and telling me I had been successful! I had been accepted into a Graduate Certificate of Music (Voice) for the next six months with a view to entering a Graduate Diploma of Voice in first semester next year so that I would be available for the Conservatorium Opera.
I have to say, I was extremely excited and have told virtually everybody I've spoken to since then. On Tuesday evening, I had a phone call from Margaret - I had thought to arrange a hearing of my voice for Joseph Ward who runs the Opera Class as it might have been a little difficult to start in the class mid-year - and it kind-of was. David Bishop, another tenor at the con had fallen ill (and I hope he gets better soon) and was not going to be able to continue in the Opera production of Albert Herring (,) by Benjamin Britten () and Margaret was asking if I was interested and could fit it into my schedule. It transpired that Greg had already recommended me to Joseph for the role (David was playing Mr Upfold, the Mayor in one of the 2 casts) and after picking up the music for the Mayor's main aria on Wednesday morning, I had to prepare it for a "hearing" on Friday. This piece, to describe, might be best likened to a technically difficult and rhythmically complex Gilbert and Sullivan patter song.
Luck must have been with me lately, as I sang for Joseph(, Margaret, Greg and Tania the stage manager) on Friday and Joseph instantly told me I had the role! Tania then whisked me off to the costume maker for a fitting and Greg took me down to the library to get a score. Excitement plus, though, it means that I now have an even more hectic schedule for the next six weeks while learning the role. The performances are September 4, 6, 8 and 10 at the conservatorium theatre. There are two separate casts, so I'm not yet sure when I'm going to be performing.
Wish me luck! It's my first principal role in an opera!
Margaret talks to Barbara about her teaching, the thing that Barbara believes she really does well. There was one comment that really made me smile and understand what I have known for so long but never really believed or understood.
Margaret had been asking Barbara about her teaching and how it was she was able to help people as well as she does. While explaining the differences between all the problems and technical difficulties people face, she identified one key aspect that when all else is said and done, without this, a singer is still very constrained.
She went on to say, "[about how she helps people] ...trying to make them feel happy about who they are.. that's the problem with singing, you see, everybody can sing - it's a matter of getting in touch with your own voice and having the confidence in it and loving yourself enough to know that what you have to say is important to other people"
I think that is something that I should try to remember with my own singing and practice.
I took my cat, Vilya, a pure-bred, flat-faced Persian to the vet on Wednesday as she messed on the bed on Tuesday night which is an extremely strange thing for her to do. I had thought she might have a clogged bowel system as long-hair cats often get, and she had been a little bloated lately so was wondering if there was something about that too and that she might need some treatment to unclog her bowels, but instead was told some very bad news.
It seems that she is a very sick kitty having cysts on one of her kidneys, something wrong with her liver and then discovering that she has an extremely low blood count. Now, even without the blood count, if the cysts on her kidneys turned out to be what the doctor expected, there would be little we could do for her. As it stands, her blood count is 7: a normal blood count in cats is 35-55 and if it is below 20 a vet would consider this very serious; if it's below 12, the vet, Karen, a locum vet, said that even with all the treatment we could provide, she still has a very little chance of survival. Oh, for those that don't know, a blood count is the percentage of red blood cells in the blood.
So.. we chose to not do any treatment given the expense and likelihood of success and so far, in the past 2 days, she's even started eating a little more - well, eating period.. she hadn't eaten much for a little while and has now started eating something.
I spoke to the vet this afternoon and told him about her eating a little and not visibly deteriorating and he suggested that I might want to use a syringe to give her liquid - Gatorade rather than water due to the electrolytes in it. It might not help her live but it might extend her life and definitely her quality.
Dear all, it's been 4 months since I last posted and I have done lots. Let's hope this post doesn't break PlanetPlanet or all my timestamps like it did last time I used Blapp back in February.
So, it seems that my resolution at the start of the year meant very little, given that I have seemingly had little time to post amongst the many other things I've done. The most urgent of all is that I'm going in for surgery tomorrow. I am undergoing a procedure known as LASIK, or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, which is the current best form of laser surgery for correcting vision. It'll happen at about lunchtime and is being done at the Laservision Centre day surgery clinic at Southport on the Gold Coast.
I had recently decided that if I'm *ever* going to have the surgery done, now was the time, especially given my age and that I needed new glasses and new contact lenses. So... The week before last, on Wednesday, I rang and arranged a consultation for the following Tuesday. I went in on the Tuesday in the afternoon and had a whole series of tests performed whereby they took lots of pictures (using computers) which translates into 3D measurements and assessed whether I was suitable for surgery and which type. Luckily for me, it seems that both my prescription (-4.50/-4.25) is just about the ideal candidate for LASIK and my corneal thickness (~560μm) is more than one standard deviation thicker than average. This is a very good thing. Ingrid's sister Kirsten wanted to have surgery and was told that her cornea was too thin for the available forms (within the last couple of years - don't know if LASEK was available then or not).
I've given much thought into having the surgery since I first started considering the option about 10 or so years ago. Back then, there was only Radial Keratotomy and talk of the Excimer laser (which was just being approved for use). With RK, the surgeon makes incisions into the eye with a diamond blade. I elected to not have surgery back then because my eyes were possibly still changing and the instruments and technology was rapidly improving, but now, this form of surgery, LASIK and its ilk, are common place with large numbers of people having it performed each week around the world.
I also have a friend (hi Jamie) who had LASIK performed a few years ago now in Canada before he emigrated, who told me quite a bit about it and was able to answer lots of my questions. I've been doing a bit of reading and feel confident that I'll have perfect vision in no time!. By this time tomorrow night, I should be starting to see ok again, and by the time I wake up on Wednesday morning, I'll be able to see without my spectacles. If I'm feeling brave, I may even play squash on Friday morning (with protective goggles though).
Wish me luck!
<geek_content/>There's also this cool site where Scott Hanselman talks about having LASIK performed last year. On his Weblog he goes into significant detail about his operation, the outcomes and risks and how after having a prescription of -9.25 prior to the operation he comes out with 20/10 vision - better than average (20/20). There's also some neat footage of the surgery too. Apparently the machine that performed the operation was running Windows98 too! Someone does desperately need to push WindowsXP into the embedded space if they are going to stay with that platform.</geek_content>
I took it. My results are here.
I'm not terribly surprised by the results of this 'test' - I am good mathematically/logically and also musically. My linguistic ability is not bad, but this test has some interesting questions that don't quite account for when you are torn between both ends of the spectrum they are trying to divide.
I'm still alive even if I'm not posting as regularly as I'd like. Honest, this is the new year, and I will post more regularly.
So this is blapp. I've never used blapp and Pat reckons's it's pretty good.
So here goes.. I'll see what I think and maybe I'll even get Ingrid to have a go with it too.
Thanks to Brad for this Geek test.
I was out doing some contracting today and haven't quite got the hang of quoting for jobs yet. The last one I did I quoted 15 hours total and I've probably spent 60 on it, albeit a lot of learning, and this one I quoted 6-8 hours and it's probably going to take me 3-4. I'll get the hang of it one day, I'm certain, but for now.. it's all learning.
(update: It ended up taking 5 hours today and will be another on Monday due to a hardware fault, so I guess I did get it more-or-less right this time)
I've decided to subscribe to the Weather Pixie and have added it to my blog template.
I decided that I am WeatherBoy7 who likes to wear the ``got root'' shirt and cargo pants - Ingrid thinks it's me too. Anyhow, there's also a bunch of cute cats who like to wander in and out of the Weather Pixie pictures, one of which is black - I hope I get a black cat in my pixie one day :)
Here is my pixie -
(It's David's fault! - pretty accurate for me too - I ride a BMW R1150R Rockster Edition 80)
Today I had my 1 month (5 week) follow-up appointment after my laser eye surgery.
I forgot to actually write about the surgery itself, but suffice to say, apart from nearly fainting after I walked out to the waiting room after surgery, it was a textbook operation (so the surgeon said).
At the 1 day (more like 28 hours) follow-up appointment, I was already driving comfortably and with 2 eyes could read the 6/6 line on the eye chart (20/20) and could read 6/5-1 (which means the 6/5 line on the chart with 1 mistake). I had a minor ripple in the flap on the left eye (I think) which means that I had a slight single eye double vision (overlapped text at distance). I was told that this would heal relatively quickly and probably be gone in a couple of months.
I went to my appointment this morning and was asked to read the chart with both eyes open. I read the bottom line easily and thought that this was the 20/20 bottom line chart, not the 6/4 chart. Then I was asked to read the chart with my right eye. Again, bottom line, slightly easier to read if anything, but it was a very quick read with little, if any difficulty. Then I was asked to do it with just my left eye. Nearly impossible. I could make out the 4th bottom line ok, and the 3rd bottom with difficulty. It was at this point the optometrist told me that I was reading the 6/4 chart and my left eye was reading 20/20.
After this I asked if we could measure the the prescription of my eyes with the magic computer that tells you the prescription with significantly more accuracy than the normal testing methods. It turns out that my left eye has a minor astigmatism and is slightly long sighted, however, it will still improve over the coming months. the right eye is nearly perfect and I'm seeing near at near maximum retinal resolution. In a few months, I shouldn't need to put eye drops in regularly and both eyes should be fully recovered.
Verdict, if you've ever considered laser surgery, I would very highly recommend it. Don't leave too much after you've turned 30, otherwise you may miss out on the maximal benefit of the operation due to the onset of presbyopia which occurs in your 40s (hardening of the lenses with a normal person eventually ending up with roughly +3.00 vision in both eyes).
This is yet another test. ! @ |
Well, I had to take Vilya to the vet's yesterday as she had not improved over the past few days, and in fact, had become a little worse. At approximately 13:30 yesterday afternoon the vet administered a lethal injection to Vilya.
Vilya was 4 years, 9 months and 5 days old.
Paraphrasing Ingrid's email from yesterday afternoon -
She had been deteriorating slowly and unevenly. We don't know how much longer she might have been able to hang on, but it was at the point where it seemed cruel to let her suffer. She didn't seem to be in much actual pain, but even minor exertion tired her out, she was clearly not comfortable, and often seemed really frustrated at her condition.
She had hemolytic anemia, and was basically running out of red blood cells. She may have been ill for quite a long time, we don't know. Unfortunately as is typical with cats, it wasn't clear there was something badly wrong until she was essentially terminal. She'd always been small and scrawny, always been fussy about eating.
It was also getting really stressful for us, swinging between optimism when she ate something or seemed like her old self, and despair when we felt how bony she was and how weak she often was, trying to interpret tiny movements - does she want to be somewhere else but doesn't have the strength to move, or is she just stretching?
Vilya was an intelligent, well-mannered, affectionate and sweet cat. We will miss her.