Hey everyone! As promised (apologies that it took longer than usual), here is the long post update about various things over the last couple months, beginning, of course, with my most recent release on Newgrounds and Soundcloud.
I present to you all, Lead, kindly light (Sandon) ~ Troisnyx ver. Quavering voice be damned; I am glad that this was released on the day that it was, and that it was arranged, recorded, mixed and mastered in under two weeks. I wrote it to celebrate the writer of the words, John Henry Newman, being canonised -- that is to say, being made a saint -- on 13 October.
The source image, which is already in the public domain, is a portrait of St John Henry Newman in his younger years by George Richmond (1844).
It's not everyday that I do covers these days. With the fetters tightening over creators regarding copyright, what songs can be covered or remixed and what songs can't, it's naturally become harder for me to just pick anything and everything. I know that many people can tell me tales of early this decade, or last decade even, where we could cover anything we so wished without people chasing after us to slap us with a hefty million-dollar fine or a copyright strike.
So these days, covers are a rarity from me. I try to carefully choose which ones I do, and which ones I would like to secure the licence to in future. Lead, kindly light is in the public domain, which makes it easy, but it is also my favourite hymn of all time. I'd long felt myself in a situation where I'd been beaten about by the proverbial waves without knowing where I am on the waters, and just like in the hymn, the only thing I can sigh right now is the phrase, lead Thou me on.
September was a real doozy; SO MUCH has happened during that month.
To begin, I posted a thread on Twitter that early last month, Seán and I paid a visit to my old stomping grounds of London, Hatfield and St Albans (the latter two are in Hertfordshire). Piccies attached. I said I'd make my full feelings known so I highly recommend going through the Twitter thread before reading these next couple paragraphs. Or skipping this section out entirely if you're in a TL;DR mood, because I'm not about to re-post all the photos here. There are just too many.
- Our first night was spent watching the Tower Bridge open and close, and it was just pin-drop silence on the Westminster side of the Thames at least; it sent shivers down my spine. It was surreal to think that a city that seemingly never sleeps or quietens down such as London would actually quieten down for a few moments outside of Armistice Day.
- The Transport Museum is always fun.
- St Albans Abbey is a special stop to me for a few reasons: 1) it is the shrine church of Britain's first Christian martyr, St Alban, and houses his remains, 2) I graduated 2:1 in my law degree in 2012 and the graduation ceremony was held there. I'm glad Seán and I managed to make that stop.
- Westminster Cathedral: I would never turn down a visit there. I always feel like I'm coming home after a long time away, every time I enter in.
- St James' Park and ravens: St James' Park is not too far off from the Houses of Parliament, the Cabinet War Rooms and the Tower of London. There is a superstition that "if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it".
- The Cabinet War Rooms make for chilling, but necessary visiting given what a state Britain is in right now.
- It appears no one has made any guesses as to what that building with scaffolding is. Guesses are still open!
- Hobgoblins is my favourite music shop of all time. I love folk and world music, and I especially love drumming, as those of you who know me well enough know by now. Seán got me the tunable 12-inch tambourine, which I really enjoy playing -- but make no mistake, I was tempted by many of the drums in that shop, many of which are beyond our means.
- St James' Spanish Place is a church I wanted to visit for a long time. I'm glad I did, but it's not a place I'll go back to. The Spanish Place was built on the site of two hidey-holes for Recusants during penal times, which makes me come to it to lament that in many places, history has repeated itself, just with different groups of people taking the place of the Recusants. The church itself was relatively dark and I could feel a snobby air, a sharp contrast from Westminster Cathedral.
- The Cutty Sark is a must-visit. It is a marvellous piece of work.
- St Paul's Cathedral, now, where do I begin? I mentioned in that Twitter thread that I'd make my feelings known, so I'll say this right now: do not visit it if you can help it. No, it's not that the place isn't beautiful. With a few exceptions, the staff were just cold and distant to visitors -- which is a damn shame considering tourists come in droves to see this place. Then there's of course, the unsettling hypocrisy that instead of images of the saints and angels, which were largely removed and replaced with empty plinths (apart from a few icons and images which were already part of the architecture), there were LOADS of monuments to people who'd lived in the past, for their intellect, military conquest or humanitarian work. Some of them are alright, but some had dubious ethics at best, more dubious than what we'd be used to in church iconography. And regardless of denomination, I have always been uneasy, there is a malaise about the practice of flying battle standards and banners in a church.
- Seán and I didn't get to see the Globe Theatre in full; we did briefly stop in it. Maybe next time.
- Greenwich, outside of the Cutty Sark, is a decent place but we didn't bother with photos because so much was going on in our heads at the time.
Next thing I want to talk about is the fact that the band I'm in, The Just Numbers, had four gigs over last month and this month. Three were in Preston; one was in Chorley. Of the Preston gigs, one took place in a pub that has since closed.
I've linked the Facebook page in the above paragraph so if you'd like, you can get updates about the band and its exploits. For now, here's a piccie of us during the first gig of this stretch of four, at the Vinyl Tap in Preston.
Every gig has its peculiarities; this one was the first (and so far, only) gig where I used a house kit, bringing only my snare drum, medieval snare and cymbals.
We don't have any reliable means of securing footage from any of our gigs yet; all we know at this point is that at one of them -- not the Vinyl Tap one by the way -- the pub's owner had actually filmed us with a decent camera, and the sound came out decent as well. We hope to get some of the footage from him so that we can share it with you all. Please watch this space, and the Facebook page as well.
Finally, I want to break the silence over an image I sketched some time ago, which is this one:
I'll need to update the image description to reflect this, but up till the time of writing this post I'd opened up guesses as to what the subject matter behind the image could be. Now, I'd only told this to a few people. Those who did have a go at guessing guessed wrong, as I imagined would happen. ^_^'
Gather round, everyone, because this is extraordinary and I keep wanting to cry.
Those of you who have been following my musical exploits will know that I've only played the drum kit for two years. I'd always had a fondness for percussion, and I began keeping the beat with the bodhrán in 2012 before slowly moving to other drums, in large part aided by my Seán. I'd always felt small because I'd been self-taught on percussion, and I was just a small fry who had been denied chances through my childhood and adolescence, mainly because of abusive parents who beat me within an inch of my life for wanting to play drums, among other things. There have been other abusive people at play too, but they don't deserve the time of day.
So I'd found it hard to believe -- even if I knew my friends and people in audiences were speaking the truth -- that they enjoyed my drumming and found it "amazing." I kept crying, thinking that this was somehow not true because I'd already been told to the face by my father that I'd never be a drummer worth a damn, to the tune of belt beatings. I thought I had to be faking it.
All this changed when, by a miracle wrought through my loved ones including Seán, I was given the opportunity to take formal training on drums in mid-September.
Within the second lesson I was informed that, notwithstanding stamina and four-way limb coordination, I am being prepared for Grade 8 -- the highest examinable level of any musical instrument under most exam boards.
I couldn't believe my ears, but this came from my tutor's lips and I just didn't know how to take it. I was so overjoyed. I cried. For the first time I finally believed in what I felt capable of. Every practice, every rehearsal was going to be fuelled with faith and self-belief, as much of it as I could inject on any given day.
Never, EVER tell yourself that it is too late. I was told this a gazillion times, in large part by people who sought to deprive me of chances to achieve things. I am 28 now. I truly started the drum kit at 26; any playing that I did prior was just once in a blue moon, an approximation of things from an unknowing fool. And to have been given this piece of news after just two years of playing makes me feel validated, and vindicated. We normally associate that kind of achievement with prodigious kids who'd been lucky enough to have funds injected into their passion. The fact that I, a person who is legally not allowed to work, a practical social pariah, was given this chance and given this earth-shattering piece of news -- now this is something that I will cherish forever. And fret not: your day will come too. I mean it with all the weight I can give to these words.
No one may choose to listen to you because of your age, but you have it in you to innovate, to scream and smash down the doors and prove your detractors wrong, to provide the musical testimony that nobody wants, the kind that everyone sorely needs. And it may happen in your twenties, or thirties, or forties, or later. It doesn't matter. Age belies circumstances, things that a person fought through, tooth and nail, to get that chance to be able to do the thing that represents their innermost heart. I have greater respect for someone who fought to do this, than for someone who started young and was lucky enough to do something. By that same vein, I don't deserve any recognition simply because I was lucky enough to have started the piano young. (And besides, many of us who started young can often let it go to our heads; I know I've been there.)
It's how sensitive we are to others' desires and sufferings, and how much we've come through that counts -- and I hope that when the time comes for me to do so, I can be sensitive to others' struggles and help them up and show them the worth that they truly have, as musicians and as persons.
These people are warriors. They will tell great musical stories with the things they do, the likes of which will be longed after for many years after their deaths. And that is why I drew a woman clad in armour, pounding a concert bass drum with the number 8 taking a significant space behind it.