As a musician/singer, I am always practising, even pieces I have played/sung many times before. Learning an instrument is only the beginning of what it means to be a musician, amateur or professional.
I think some of my non-musical friends are surprised to hear how long it can take to work on a really challenging song – it isn’t just a question of learning the notes; technique, muscle memory and breathing all have to be worked on, and that is before you get together with an accompanist to rehearse.
I have been reminded of this fact whilst preparing for a 30 min afternoon entertainment at a local care home with my friend Julia. We were not choosing very challenging pieces to play or sing but the preparation for this, as far as rehearsing the items goes, did not differ from the preparation for a more formal concert.
Preparing the programme – 1 hour
Choosing a programme is a crucial part of the planning. It is important to stick to the time allowed, especially for an event like this where the 30 minute slot is chosen by the staff at the care home as a good period of time for the residents. Generally, you can allow 3 mins per piece so we knew we needed around 10 pieces.
Rehearsing – 2.5 hours
We had decided to do a variety of items, some playing, some singing and some reading. Duets, of course need to be practised, and we were doing both piano and recorder duets. I haven’t included the time we spent practising separately, just the time we spent together, rehearsing and preparing. I also sang some solos with Julia accompanying me on the piano, so these had to be worked on as well. All very enjoyable, we love working together, but keeping track of the time for GoT really made me appreciate the work involved.
We arrived at around 2.10pm for a 2.30 start and were greeted at the door by Sharon, the lady responsible for organising the activities at the home.
We set up in an upstairs room which had a piano. As we were getting everything unpacked and ready, we realised that, although there was a piano stool, we needed another chair for the duets and this needed to be – a chair without arms.
This is always tricky at care homes as they simply do not have the need for them and have to go hunting. The staff are always so accommodating and it wasn’t long before they found not one, but two – very useful for stacking in order to bring you up to piano stool level.
Although our audience varied greatly in the attention they were able to give us, it is always gratifying to see people beginning to engage as they hear the music. Our opening number ‘This little light of mine’ had several of them mouthing the words or tapping hands or feet.
The recorder duets went down well as did the vocal solos and the readings Julia had chosen – The Owl and the Pussycat and the Kings Breakfast were really well received, not least because she is so good at doing the characters – not my forte at all.
By the time we got to the final item, How great thou art, the residents were more than ready to sing all four verses with us and it was a rewarding ending to our half hour.
I thought you may be interested to know what the tally is so far for GoT, so have included a ‘Number of hours’ page on the site.