Things have been just a little odd around here recently. Until September, I thought I had solved the whole work-life balance thing – I had an undemanding and reasonably well paid part-time job, working from home, which gave me the freedom to occupy myself extensively with music, whilst still doing the school run. I had daily practice (just about), regular concert reviewing, choir practice, recorder lessons, some consort playing, publicity for several groups and of course this website. Then it suddenly dawned on my employers that I was over-paid and under-worked, redundancy threw me back into the harsh world of commuting to a full-time office job, and I’ve had to work out how to squeeze my musical life into far fewer hours.
One or two things had to go immediately, including my involvement in the exciting musical plans developing at Ushaw College, as I simply couldn’t commit to it any more, and I’ve had to be much more particular about which reviewing assignments I take on, with no mid-week concerts. I was thoroughly miserable for a few weeks, although fortunately there was rather a lot of Handel in my life – a couple of coronation anthem concerts, and English Touring Opera’s marvellous Ottone. The fourth movement of The King Shall Rejoice did a lot to lift my spirits, and a good dose of Handel during the commute to work helped get me energised through the early weeks. Once I’d stopped mourning what I’d lost though, I came up with a simple rule: each day has to include at least one out of practising at home, making music with other people or listening to a concert.
So far, it’s just about working, and I keep telling myself that I’m still lucky to be able to fit this much in. I’ve just got home from an evening playing the Telemann recorder suite with the Cobweb baroque orchestra; last night was choir practice; and on Sunday I spent the afternoon doing some serious work with my pianist friend on music for a new recital programme. The one-a-day rule keeps me motivated to practice when I’m tired after a day at work and reminds me that I do have the means to keep my soul nourished.
The past couple of years have been a breathing space that has given me time to get a lot of music into my life, much more intensively than at any time since I left school, and that’s sent me back into the real world with a solid foundation for living a happy, fulfilled life. I know that I’m still really lucky compared to many and there’s a strong feeling that I mustn’t waste the time that I do have.
Over the last few years, mainly from choir and reviewing, and from just being in a student city, I’ve met some amazingly talented young musicians, some on the brink of very exciting careers and I’ve been awed by their musicianship and their dedication. But I also take massive amounts of inspiration and encouragement from all my friends who already manage to fit their love of music into much more demanding professional lives than mine: Lizzy who has taken up piano as an adult and is already on grade 5; Richard who seems to spend most of his life in European hotels and airports and works on his Bach fugues at the weekends; Julian who runs Durham Singers with such passion around a demanding academic career; and basically everyone with whom I sing and play.
And with a Spotify account and hour of commuting every day, I now get to listen to a lot of Handel operas without any interruption.
I’m endeavouring to keep this website going, but more than ever I would welcome any guest reviews or articles – get in touch if you’d like to contribute something. firstname.lastname@example.org