Spring is springing? spronging?, sprunging? in Gibbston, despite Level 4 lockdown. Plants pay no attention to human lockdowns. In fact, spring is early this year – we have had such a mild winter that the trees started budding in July. The days are getting longer and the sun slants in at the angle that shows all the dust on the surfaces. Good thing we are locked down so we have time to vacuum and dust.
My latest new activity (which I might have taken up to avoid vacuuming and dusting which are on the bottom of my enjoyment list, along with dishwashing) is singing practice. If you are songwriting on the guitar, there is an obviously corollary that you ought to be able to sing your own songs. It started to become very obvious that, although I thought I could sing, I couldn’t really. I can hold a tune but there is a huge gulf between the sound I produce and the sound I would like to produce, or the sounds other people produce.
The obvious answer was to take singing lessons. I checked out a local singing tutor (Margaret O’Hanlon) by going to an open mic session at which her students performed. Her students sounded great so I signed up for a lesson. I started to learn an awful lot that I didn’t previously know about singing. Singing is not like talking with music. In fact, talking gets in the way of singing. All humans can sing the same way, passing air in a controlled fashion over their vocal chords with an open throat, and opening their mouth to let the sound out. However, humans talk very differently. New Zealanders, in particular, speak in a way that closes their mouth down and puts their tongue at the front, impeding sound coming from their vocal chords. Therefore my first week of singing exercises required me to put my fingers in my mouth to stop me automatically closing it, at the risk of putting tooth marks in my fingers.
My current set of exercises requires something that looks a bit like a Munsch scream, in order to sing vowel sounds with one’s mouth open. This is making my mouth very tired – it turns out there are a whole lot of muscles that I haven’t been using much. Apparently there are 43 muscle groups in the face and I am guessing that quite a few of them don’t generally see much action.
What I am liking best about singing is that it is a very meditative process. You have to breathe in deeply and control the breath going out. I don’t think it is quite so meditative for Chris; he generally leaves the house fast if I start my singing practice. On the positive side, he said my voice sounded hugely improved when I sang at the last open mic in Wanaka (the current spread of COVID-19 means it might be a while before there’s another open mic to participate in, as singing is a particularly effective way of spreading COVID). I will choose not to worry about what my voice sounded like before and will focus on ‘improved’.
‘Improved’ is probably not how one would describe the COVID situation today. Despite Jacinda’s assurances that we can beat COVID through a severe lockdown, because we have done it before, the spread from Auckland to Wellington feels uncomfortable. Those of us in the Queenstown Lakes are just waiting to hear that a sick Aucklander has rushed down to their holiday home in our vicinity. Today’s extension of Level 4 lockdown for the whole country to 1 week didn’t come as a surprise; to me it was pretty welcome as no-one can know where all of the thousands of people exposed to the 31 cases identified so far, have gone in the last 3 days of allowed travel. Now, we just need to take what comes step by step, there’s little else we can do, other than sing, sing a song… – how’s this clip for naff?