June 2017 Music Notes

As is the wont of any woman careering at warp speed towards middle age, my nights are often wakeful….with a churning mind as my constant bedfellow. Yet happily, although my dreams are frequently nonsensical, they are often full to the brim with creative ideas. Waking amidst the chaos, I know there might just be my best inspiration ever amongst the furore…..and that by sunrise these fragile butterfly wing-like ideas will be lost in the ether. So, however groggy I feel, I scrabble about for pen and paper to record my imaginings during these unworldly moments…… perhaps it makes no sense at closer inspection the next morning, but just occasionally I shriek with delight at the inspirational scrawl – happy days.

I’ve recently returned from Bram Stoker’s Whitby on the wild North Yorkshire coast…a beautiful and bustling town that I love to visit, and where I always encounter live music ringing out from surprising nooks and crannies. On the first morning of my stay I was buffeted along towards the harbour by a biting northeast wind. Before long I found myself amongst a large crowd at the quayside listening to an accomplished folk fiddler busking enthusiastically, dressed in dramatically black gothic apparel. A few minutes later I paused at the lifeboat shed to soak up the strains of an elderly fishermen’s choir rehearsing with fervour (but not wearing as much victorian steampunk attire as the fiddler). Diverse musical communication is clearly practiced and welcomed here amongst the community. Perhaps that is the reason I feel very free and fluid on these northern shores.

So returning to the dream theme……arriving back in Thorpe I felt freshly inspired in both my waking and sleeping states – with my dreams being bizarre and completely exhausting. Although I wasn’t encountering frenzied buskers and bellowing fishermen’s choirs in our peaceful village, I still heard the echoing strands of their music making as I slumbered…melding together their playing and incongruous yet fantastical harmony, with me conducting at the helm (and strangely holding a conductor’s baton with lobster-like pincers for hands. Dreams eh?!). I recounted this vision to our Nottingham twinned Fiona Baines yesterday morning during a creative skype call, hoping she’d find an angle somehow. “Hmm” – she said, pausing for thought…”I think it’s all about bringing people from all walks of life together to tell a story – and music is the common language between us that make this possible Catherine……it’s a theme that your unconscious is instinctively throwing to you. As for the lobster pincers…maybe you indulged in one too many fish suppers dearest, and you’re turning into a giant crustacean!” My turn to pause now as I pondered that perhaps Mystic Fi was on to something, on all counts!

Thoughts percolated up and around my head throughout the following day, and slowly I realised that the reason my dream made me feel so joyful was that I was experiencing what I’m going to term the Whitby “feel-good” effect, here in Essex – which is a freedom to encourage creative expression in as many ways as possible under one piece of sky. As I welcomed my violin student for her improvisation session (I know – I don’t play violin – but it’s incredibly freeing to work creatively with an instrument that is outside my own playing experience), I surmised that my work these days is all about embracing flexibility and drawing on a life’s harvesting of skills and styles. The students that I’ve gathered are testimony to this, as are the professional playing jobs I’m choosing to take on this year. Thank you to Fiona and Whitby for sorting out my life purpose!

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