I'm emerging from what has been a very difficult two months on the personal level, not just for myself but for a close family member whose private life went pear-shaped in a very distressing way. I've been taking stock of what I do now compared with what I was doing twelve years ago (well, I was also twelve years younger!) and also observing what so many other people are managing to do.
I'm starting to feel like a has-been. Well, of course, the thing about being a has-been is that you HAVE BEEN. You're not a "never-was". And everyone becomes a has-been once they stop doing their thing in the present tense . But now I sit at home and teach people the piano when they come to my house, and enter them for exams. I don't even go out much.
Up till two and a half years ago I was teaching music in primary school and organising a lot of events which gave me a lot of satisfaction - I've always been motivated by achievement. That employment ended rather abruptly, in a manner which makes me very angry if I think about it, so I just don't think about it - I simply made the next day the first day of the rest of my life. I was already past retirement age, and had planned to leave at the end of that year anyway, as my once glorious singing voice had been getting systematically destroyed by my devotion to my job, and though it had been my first instrument and the subject of my teaching diploma, I can't and don't sing at all now, so I don't work with singers either.
Before I moved here, I was teaching privately, after having spent six years teaching secondary music, but I was also, I suppose, a community musician, and in particular I ran at various times a lot of different choirs and singing groups, was musician in residence at an adult day centre, had been musical director to a youth theatre group and a handful of different amateur operatic societies. I could turn my hand to anything vocal. And I also directed and produced fringe opera for several summers in a row, and this included updating and translating operas. I do have quite a lot of "old work" sitting around on my computer.
My decision to shake out of my lethargy came last Saturday afternoon when attending a splendid matinee of Iolanthe by a village operatic society which performs annually in a big barn. In the village where I live I'm sure there are a lot of very talented people, but absolutely nothing is going on. Oh, there are support groups for various ages and needs, and a local history society, but there's no performing arts at all. "Village" is a bit of a misnomer, some call it a suburb, as it's partly conurbated with the city, but it has a Village Centre and an old-fashioned village sign as you come down off the main road. I've mentioned this lack of activity in the past to one or two friends, in the hopes that they might take the very subtle hint and suggest getting together to start something, but they all said they'd be too busy to get involved. So last Saturday I decided I ought to think about Doing Somethng.
So far I haven't Done Anything apart from prepare a facebook group page about light opera in the village, but I haven't got round to contacting anyone to support me in this. What I fancy doing is not starting yet another Gilbert'n'Sullivan society, much as I love it - there's plenty of that going on in and around the city. I fancied something more like I used to do up in Chester and the Wirral. We mostly did "proper" opera but with the sort of slant which made it accessible to a wider group, not only in its appeal for an audience, but in many cases for performing as well.
My thought was that it may be better to start the group by having a production in mind, and my original thought was to do The Beggar's Opera. I made a complete edition of it back in the 1980s when my kids were small, and it's still on my computer. I uploaded about half of it to Score Exchange a few years ago, and indolence has stopped me preparing the rest of it for publication there. The only trouble with the Beggar's Opera is that it needs a big cast - which makes it an ideal project for community performance, I'd love it! - and it's long, takes a lot of work.
So then I thought of one of my other pieces, and that's what I'm working on at the moment. Mozart at the age of 12 produced a one-act Singspiel called Bastien und Bastienne all about two shepherds and a shepherdess. Girl has lost boy, girl gets boy back. Just three singers, not very long. I updated it, moved it into the reception area of a girls' magazine ("Nearly 18", mostly read by 15-year-olds), and called it The Agony Uncle. I grafted in three arias from La Finta Smplice which was composed at about the same time, added an extra character and a chorus of girl readers who sit at the side of the stage reading the magazine and quote from it at relevant moments. I got it done twice and it was enormous fun. Needs a PG certificate, mentions s e x. It's not all singing, in the Singspiel tradition they incorporated dialogue as well.
Now, in a way, it's hardly a "community" piece as it has four soloists who would probably need to be brought in, and the only other performers are probably school kids, who I could recruit from the local secondaries. But it could be a springboard for a group to put on the Beggar's Opera later. I need thinkers and talkers, people to help raise funds, provide scenery and costumes and publicity, who could see the future that could come from a performance which is in the first place mainly "me". I don't really want this group to be mainly me, though I'd like to take an active part in it, obviously.
I'm going to be notifying all the parents of my pupils, and stressing the fact that this is to be the start of something which will involve more people from the village as well as visitors, and notices in a couple of shop windows suggesting that if people are interested in starting a performing arts group (mainly music) to contact me, and then we will have a few heads to put together. If they have any strong ideas about what they want to perform, we can always decide to do that next.
I'd very much live to do The Agony Uncle again, but I still harbour s few doubts as to whether other people will feel it's the right way to start this venture off. I need to get enthusiastic and willing participants, and they may feel not enough involved with it if I do that piece. It got to the stage towards the end of the time we were doing fringe opera that I was handling almost every job there was.
On the other hand, I could just find the singers myself, recruit the girls from school and hope that their parents and families would muck in as organisers.
Any opinions, before I sink back into the lethargy again?