Last weekend I was lucky enough to do a concert with a real audience! Yes – all COVID-safe, and all that. But there were real people watching. In the same large space. It was totally fabulous. I played continuo with the Choir of St James, who sang SO incredibly well. It was an extraordinary concert. If you want to watch it, you can, for the remainder of March – here is more information.

They sang remarkably well – in fact, I don’t think I’ve heard them that good EVER. And I was talking to their conductor, who surprised me with a few things he said. He thought that COVID, and all that came with it, had dome some good things for the choir. No-one could travel, so there were no swapping of voices – everyone was around. The choir had to be really creative with their programming and how they rehearsed. It made a lot of people be really open in their thinking. And now they are reaping the benefits.

It was great to hear this from him – and it got me thinking too. About how I’ve had to change during this time, and how that’s created some good things. I wouldn’t have been able to live-stream concerts – hadn’t even thought about it. And then I wouldn’t have been able to live-stream a really special school concert at one of the school’s I’m in, which has meant so much to those little people. All the concerts I’ve done has really improved my playing. I’ve had to write new teaching material, which has been great. My teaching has probably gotten better too, as I’ve had to be really engaging.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been some awful things too. But also good stuff. Silver linings, eh? I

I’m lucky as a performer in many ways. Probably the biggest way is that I get to perform with who I choose – that’s the great thing about running your own series. You can ask musicians who you like. Players who inspire you. People who you think will challenge you.

I’ve just had the most wonderful time working with someone new – a flute player called Rosie. The concert was great fun – really exciting, and very ‘in the moment’. But what was probably the most exciting were some times in rehearsals. Let me try and explain….

Many pieces I find myself performing I have played before. This isn’t boring in any way – but there’s a feeling of safety about it. I know how this goes. I remember the other part. I know what I want to do. And then, sometimes, something new gets suggested. Totally new. And when it works, it’s incredibly exciting. I’m back on a tightrope again, knowing I could fall at any moment.

This often happens with someone I’ve played with many times. You trust each other, and can jump off the springboard together. But to do this with someone new? It doesn’t happen much. And when it does, it’s totally wonderful.

And that happened.

Imagine riding a skateboard down a hill. A big hill. Knowing you could fall off. And the sun is shining. And you have your favourite shoes on. The wind is in your hair.

That’s it. That’s the feeling.

Hello! So I haven’t been blogging for a while. It’s a combination of many things – my website back-end hadn’t been updated for a while, so was deemed to be ‘unsafe’ to visit. (Thank you to husband a techguru Ben who has now fixed it!).

I was playing a large number of concerts, which meant many hours of practise. Sadly, I can’t just sit down and play whatever I have chosen – it takes me a number of hours by myself getting things ready to rehearse – and then there’s the rehearsals on top of that.

And then there was the teaching during 2020. Wowsers. What a year. I was very thankful for all the years of experience under my belt. That fact I could change things on the fly if I needed to. The years of testing things and knowing what works and what doesn’t. It really brought home the need to kids to play music. To create. To have something that makes them smile and laugh in their day.

And now, facing 2021, I know it’ll be much the same. I walk into this year of teaching knowing a bit more what to expect. I won’t be playing quite as many concerts.

But I’ll be back blogging! Hope you can join me on my weekly (or so) rants and reflections….

So I’m going to come out and say it – our current National anthem makes me uncomfortable. So if this makes you angry, and you don’t want to know why, stop reading. Go and make a cup of tea and look at Buzzfeed, or something like that.

I am not Indigenous, but I work with a lot of children who are. And many of them have been told by their families not to sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’. For a number of reasons. The ‘young’ part. The ‘free’ part. The ‘wealth for toil’ part. Senator Briggs says things very well here… It’s hard to talk to a child about this who is obviously conflicted – their school is wanting them to sing it, and their family is saying it’s wrong. So what do they do? (And why should they be put in that position anyway?) I am also uncomfortable with the line in the second verse about ‘We’ve boundless plains to share’. If we have, why is our refugee policy the way it currently is?

I’ve tried to change things as much as I can in the schools I’m in, introducing a first verse in Sydney Eora language, and creating a backing track that is good to sing with. But the song is awkward to sing as well – lots of jumps, and a big range. It’s not my favourite musical thing to sing either.

Why am I reflecting on this at the moment?

You see, I am going to teach a version of ‘We are Australian’ to a large group of children I see regularly. We’re going to sing the chorus first in an Indigenous language (one from Broome. Kids love singing in languages, and it’s a fabulous, fabulous learning tool.), and then in English. It’s a great song – really singable. The verses are really well written – they cover so many things carefully and respectfully. And what a great sentiment. I am. You are. We are Australian. All of us. We’re all here, and living together.

So why are we sticking with a song that makes people uncomfortable and angry? A song that was only decided on in 1984? A song that’s difficult to sing? I shake my head, you know. And I continue to sit and wonder.

I teach in schools three days a week. And I am KNACKERED. I don’t know how teachers are doing it five days a week. Here’s what it’s like….

Kids are TIRED. They are exhausted. And that means no-one has any patience for their class mates. There’s more kids in tears, more kids angry, more weird behaviour going on.

Kids are anxious. And that throws up all sorts of strange behaviour – and conversations that need to be had, but navigated so carefully. Their teachers are doing this, you know.

Any kids that are ‘active’ are bouncing off the walls right now. This makes teaching hard.

Many kids have really withdrawn into themselves after weeks of staring at a computer screen. Imagine also needing to teach this – along the really active kids.

No little people has a very strong sense of community right now. So kids aren’t helping others very much, or looking out for one another. This makes things even harder.

Playgrounds are ROUGH. Tears. Lots of.

And through this the teachers are teaching. They are smiling. They are doing their absolute best. They are putting up with all sorts of stuff – and they are doing their jobs. Wonderfully.

And the point of this? If you are reading this, and know a teacher, appreciate them. Buy them flowers. Or a coffee. Give them a thumbs-up. They are even more extraordinary than they were before.