Preparations are underway for the Fricsay Conducting Competition in Szeged, Hungary. First round: my absolute favorite work by Brahms. Symphony #1, last movement. His love for Clara just oozes out of the notes. The alpine birthday song filled with joy, love, and longing.
Last weekend the Leiden English Choir under my musical direction collaborated with the City of Oxford Choir and the Thames Children's Choir under the direction of Duncan Aspden with organist Timothy Wakerell and cellist Annelies Scott.
My piece To See a World had its second performance at the stunning Town Hall. So much has to be said about this experience but words fail me at the moment. Suffice it to say that the town is beautiful, the collaboration was heartfelt, and the children of the choir brought us to tears with their beautiful voices.
This might become a post that is relatable to many people and estranging to some. I'm going to talk about something that has little to do with music but can have a significant effect on performance of music or otherwise.
I'm going to talk about the effects of stress coming from a poisonous atmosphere deriving from a bad relationship. I'll take you through my own experience and perhaps it resounds somewhere. I have two children with my ex-partner, and we have been separated since the children were 6 and 4. They are now 10 and almost 12. In other words, it's been a while.
It was a terrible separation that caused a lot of emotional harm, exhaustion, worry, and stress. The negotiations took more than a year, during which my ex was sleeping in the work room in the attic. It was a very awkward year, in which I was still dealing with being the only functioning parent for reasons which I will not expose on the internet, and having to live with the very person that was causing so much upheaval and emotional harm. Eventually, as the dust settled, and everybody had their own living situation arranged, things started to work in a new pattern. It took much getting used to, and it necessitated me to have a student living in the house to take care of the kids when I was working, because I always worked in the evenings rehearsing orchestras and choirs in different cities. I must say, it's a miracle that I continued to function at any level at all, considering the exhaustion, emotional and physical, that I was exposed to. We gave up a lot of privacy having various students living in the house, but at least we were all able to function in a reasonable way again.
Then came corona, the next level of extreme stress for those working in the cultural sector. To this very day I still cannot fathom why society became borderline in such a fashion. The extreme frustration of that time still baffles me, and like giving birth, my brain has decided to eliminate all memories to prevent mental breakdown. In any case, the result of corona was that I did not need a student in house any more, and we were happy to have our home to ourselves, finally. We also hoped that it was to stay. However, it was not to be.
After society opened again, I had more trust in my ex, and whereas before I was hesitant, now I could ask him in a trustworthy fashion to help with extra days when I was working, which in the past would have been taken up by the student room'er. It suddenly became a lot, as the workload increased simply exponentially.
All of a sudden, there was a giant step on the brakes from my ex's side. The question is whether that came from himself or from his new girlfriend who was living with him, and examining the situation, I presume the latter. In any case, nothing was possible anymore. Any hint of flexibility was out of the question. In fact, it went to the opposite. My ex went out of his way to make my working life difficult. It became apparent to me that he was going out of his way to sabotage my career. If that came out of jealousy, out of still dormant anger, out of his girlfriends reign of terror in their house.. who knows. In any case, his aim succeeded. My working life was absolutely sabotaged. Stress caused me to malfunction. My ensembles saw me taking the kids to rehearsals, concerts, etc, because no babysitter could be found, the ex didn't want them, and I had no choice. Invitations stopped coming, and I was fired as director of a choir that I had stood in front of for almost 14 years. So Bravo to you, ex, for succeeding in ruining this year for me. This, people, is what stress does. And the sad thing is, he doesn't realise that taking care that the other parent is able to function is actually to his benefit as well, as that has a direct effect upon the children.
Things are changing rapidly now. I have another student coming to live in the house soon, and I'm changing my working career to something that is more local, speaks more directly to my talents, and has a future. But it is not easy.
Word to the wise. Imparting stress upon other people is a negative societal cycle that does not benefit anyone in the long run.