As well as being a guitarist, I love to compose and write many works for myself and others to play. Recently, I’ve been asked to create a simple song for Beavers to sing (the cub-scouts rather than river-dwelling mammals) for Fathers’ Day which I was delighted to do.
This also meant writing the lyrics which, in my recent capacity as an author 🙂 I enjoyed just as much. When giving the task a little thought though, I realised that in today’s world, such a job is more complex than it may have been yesteryear. We must be very sensitive to the fact that many children may have little, or no contact with their fathers. To remind these children of how great it is to have a Dad could be, at best, deeply insensitive.
The solution I’ve come up with is to create lyrics which involve the appreciation of traditionally-masculine roles but without actually saying who it is who carries these out. A child is free to interpret this as Dad, Mum, Stepdad, Grandma, Grandpa, Carer or whoever. Some of the Beavers supplied ideas for these.
My professional development this year as a tutor at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has really taught me about intervals and melodies which musically-inexperienced children can sing, hopefully with ease. I’ve tried to incorporate this knowledge into my song and, In particular, I’ve avoided the leading note and the fourth in certain contexts. Finally, I’m working and living in Scotland. The melodic patterns and figures respect many of those I’ve seen in Scottish Traditional Music. Although I’m not a Scot myself (I’m a kind of Welshman/Honorary Frenchman/New Scotsman/European born in Essex due to my Dad’s job!) I believe it to be correct to respect the culture of one’s environment as I did when working in France.
The result is Song for Those Who Care for Me. I am attaching a simple score and please feel absolutely free to download it and enjoy it with your group of youngsters. DO let me know how you get on.
Today, I played at a care home in our village. Since moving to Scotland, this has become an important source of employment for me – not necessarily financially speaking, but in terms of giving me a moment to reflect on what I do and why I do it.
Playing in care homes can be challenging. Some residents are in much physical discomfort and others are suffering the cruel effects of dementia and its associated illnesses. I have come to recognise how challenging it must be to work in a care home. Employees have to balance compassion and understanding with their own vulnerability as human beings.
As a result of the working environment, the performance conditions can be very challenging. Staff must continue their everyday work, relatives come to visit – perhaps failing to recognise the nature of a performance environment and residents may sing along with the musician. I’ve also noted that the temperature tends to be very, very warm – obviously limbs in later life get colder more easily. I’ve had to deal with sweaty fingers and strings going very out-of-tune. These are all alien concepts to those with a classical training but I have come to believe that working in such an environment can be humbling and reminds us of how fortunate we are to be doing the work which we do.
I am lucky enough to work in The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where the students are simply a joy. Such institutions set up wonderful performance opportunities for their students (as they did for me many moons ago) but I must say, I wonder if we should be encouraging them to serve their community and to take opportunities which remind them of how blessed they are. Being a musician can, and should be, hard work. Giving those in their formative years incredible and positive experiences can be a real inspiration to students, but maybe a few challenges of an unexpected nature thrown in could be beneficial in the long-term.
Today, I went with a portfolio of about thirty pieces and selected half of these as I went along. It is great training to try to evaluate the mood of an audience and respond accordingly.
Finally, playing in care homes means that we give something of real worth to those who truly appreciate it. It won’t necessarily gain you credibility with the ‘in-crowd’, but if you do a good job, you will leave with the satisfaction of knowing that your efforts are valued and appreciated.
Dear Friends! A brief post today to welcome one-and-all to my new website. Over the next few months I will be offering a wealth of advice, lessons, thoughts, recordings and many other snippets which I hope will be both helpful and inspiring to all musicians. I will also be posting details of my forthcoming concerts in France for the summer period. I’m enormously excited to say that I have a packed diary, playing solo recitals, sharing concerts with L’Ensemble Arisan, providing bespoke music for the wedding days of several couples in the beautiful chateaux of The Dordogne and both performing and teaching at The Cardiff Guitar Festival. It promises to be a fascinating and exciting few months.
I have also enjoyed a new and highly fulfilling project over the last nine months. As many readers will know, my family and I moved to Scotland in the summer of 2017. We had lived in South West France for seven years where we developed a fantastic lifestyle performing, teaching, keeping animals, growing vegetables and integrating into a new culture. As a means of recording these memorable years and also to satisfy my passion for creative writing, I have written a book (as yet untitled) which leads readers through the trials, victories, moments of joy and wonderful incidents of surrealism which can only be encountered when living in such an environment. I will keep you posted in my plans for publication!
In the meantime, keep an eye on the site – sign up for my blog and newsletter and enjoy a quick browse. Best wishes, Dan