How To Choose New Repertoire

Choosing new repertoire can be difficult. Sometimes we can find ourselves in a creative rut, or maybe we’ve just been focussed on the same repertoire for so long that we don’t know where to go from there.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not the biggest fan of finding new rep. Especially if I don’t quite know what I’m looking for. Unusually for a creative, I’m the kind of person who actually quite likes having several parameters. Maybe it’s the rebellious streak in me that likes looking for something that almost fits the rules, but doesn’t quite.

If I don’t know what I’m looking for, I often feel like I just end up wasting my time listening to song after song, aria after aria, without really getting anywhere which, as someone who really needs to feel productive and forward moving, means I often walk away from repertoire searches empty handed. A very frustrating turn of events, let me tell you.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

In today’s technological society, it shocks me how few people truly use technology to their advantage. Turn what would otherwise be wasted time into productive time. 30-minute train commute to University/ Work? Find an artist you admire (any voice type!) and hit shuffle on Spotify. Working on an essay or series of translations in the library? Leave autoplay on when listening on Youtube. I have discovered a great many wonderful pieces this way.

As a side note: I’ve aluded to it before but, please, don’t just listen to your voice type. You’re missing out on so many great artists and such great repertoire if you do. For my final recital this year I performed a selection of three wonderful Massenet songs, two of which were only available as recordings by men (one only by a baritone). 

If I only listened to sopranos all day every day I would never have found these beautiful mélodie, which would have been a real shame.

Ask for Advice

How many of you reading this have a singing teacher you respect and admire? Quite a few, I’d imagine. Why waste this bountiful resource right at your fingertips. In most cases, your teacher has been there, done that, and has been through exactly what you’re going through. On top of that, there’s a high chance they’ve probably heard music you haven’t even come across yet, and may be able to make suitable suggestions.

Having spoken to a few of my colleagues at University, I am aware that some teachers are adamant that students find their own repertoire to bring to lessons. This may well be the case, but I’ll bet you all the money in my purse (it’s not much, mind you) that a quality teacher would never allow you to realistically pursue repertoire that didn’t suit you or that you weren’t quite ready to study just yet.

As I’ve said, your teacher will almost always be far more experienced than you, so for the love of music don’t throw a diva strop just because your teacher told you singing a massive Strauss lieder or Puccini aria at 15 years old is a bit much, especially if you are likely to develop into a performer capable of the role. They know what they’re talking about.

Constantly being told ‘not yet’ or ‘maybe in a few years’ when you find repertoire you absolutely love is soul-crushing, I know, but believe me, you’d be surprised how quickly those few years fly by.

Attend Recitals

You’re studying to be a musician. Chances are, this means you love music and going to concerts. I’ve some good news; you can use these concerts and recitals to make you a better singer. Bonus!

A top tip if you’re using a recital to find new repertoire; get a program. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a recital, found the perfect song, and then been completely unable to remember the song’s name (or worse, never having even been told the song’s name) and therefore not being able to ever find the bloody thing.

Just Gie It a Go

Found a song or aria? Not sure you like it? Try it anyway. Some of my favourite pieces have been songs I’ve absolutely detested when I’ve started learning them.

If all else fails and these tips just haven’t thrown up that perfect piece, head into your university library, pick up a vocal anthology and open it on a random page. It might be a win. It might be a bust. It’ll definitely be something that may come in useful in your development as a singer.

Driving; Scotland vs England

Two countries. The same body governing its road systems. The same(ish) laws. Two completely different styles of driving.

I knew the English were…odd. Our cultures, although linked, are so completely and utterly different from each other it’s hard to believe that there is no border between the two.

I knew all this, and yet I was in no way prepared for the difference in how people drive down south. It really is extraordinary.

Speed Limits

Primarily with regards to those on the motorways. In both countries the legal speed limit on motorways is 70mph. In Scotland, there is a very lax take on this limit, with people frequently driving in excess of 90mph at times. Variable speed limits are a joke; people rarely obey them, and in fact, tend to get annoyed by those who do. There’s also no rush to slow yourself at roadworks. You’ll come down to 50mph at some point (probably when you get stuck behind a lorry or the like).

This somewhat indifferent attitude to the speed limit is very much not the case south of the border. My little car struggles to achieve anything over 70mph, and I was still frequently one of the fastest people on the road. The English love their speed limits. Variable speed limits are obeyed to the letter, and at roadworks, traffic is generally at 49 by the time you’ve hit the 50 sign.

To be fair, there are far more speed cameras in use south of the border, so I do understand the reasons for the good behaviour down south. I just wasn’t aware that it was so dramatically different.

9-Foot Hedges

Seriously, what is it with the 9-foot hedges along every country road? They are terrifying!

In Scotland, the highest the natural barrier you’ll find is (most of the time) a five post rail with maybe some bushes around it. That’s it. You can see plenty of the road ahead, and as a result, plenty of the traffic ahead as well.

Not in England. Granted, I’ve only done a lot of driving in the South of the country, but I’m gathering that this isn’t too different further North. The hedges are ridiculous. They turn a simple, relatively straight road into an absolute death trap. You can’t see the end, you can’t see what’s coming, and there really isn’t enough room to get out of the way when you meet oncoming traffic. Who told you guys this was a good idea? It’s crazy. I’m a pretty confident driver, as is my Dad, and I can confirm that we were both terrified of putting our feet on the accelerator for fear of oncoming traffic.

Guys, sort out the hedges!

Passing Places

Speaking of no room, where the passing places guys? Do you know that such a thing exists, or have you decided you just don’t need them? Passing places, for those who don’t drive/ don’t know, are locations where the road has been widened slightly to allow two cars to pass each other as they travel in opposite directions. On (most) touristy single track roads in Scotland there are passing places every few hundred yards. With the lack of 9-foot hedges (see above), you can see the road ahead, and wait in one such passing place if you spot oncoming traffic. This makes country driving just a touch less terrifying than in England.

When we were in Cornwall, we were staying in what was actually quite a big, fairly busy wee village. In Scotland, the access road to this village would be two lanes, or, at the very least, it would have passing places every few hundred yards. Instead, the access road to this village was an unmarked, unsigned country road that gave the impression of leading nowhere important, until suddenly you arrived in the village and the road became somewhat normal and drivable. Can someone please explain to the Wildling over here why this is the case? Is it a thing, a thing I’m missing in my Celtic ignorance?

I realise this post has turned into a wee bit of a bash on England’s roads, which is a shame, because I did really enjoy my holiday down south, despite your strange motoring ways. So, in the interest of fairness (and also because I’m curious), people of England-land, what is it about Scotland’s roads that confuse you? What shocked you most about driving “north of The Wall”? N.B: if you don’t get that reference, I’m not sure we can be friends.

How I’m Managing My Anxiety and Depression

Disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional. The advice I offer here is simply based on my personal experiences.

Mental health matters. This is something I truly, utterly believe. I also believe that opening up the discussion and just talking about mental health can have a massive effect on a person and their struggles. At least, I know it really did for me.

At it’s worst, depression turned me into a complete zombie. I struggled to get out of bed, and I’d spend periods just sat staring into space, unable to bring myself to move or do anything. I am a major Type A personality and perfectionist (although I’m also a lazy shite, but more on this later) and I think this may have been the only reason I got up every day and lived some semblance of a life. Being seen as subpar or less than was something that I just couldn’t stomach.

But there was no soul in anything I did. No emotions. I got up, went about my day, and spent most of my waking moments wishing I was in bed. I turned down almost every social invite I was given because I just could not face people and existing. When I was sat in groups or out with friends, I’d just be sat in the corner on my phone because making conversation was just too much effort.

My depression has improved, but I still have some bad episodes, and to be honest, at times the episodes are far worse than the extended period I suffered from in my second year of university.

With regards to my anxiety, I’ve always been an anxious person. Even as a child people always commented on how well behaved I was, when in truth I was just so scared of what people thought that I was terrified into inaction.

Sometimes, I find the anxiety is the harder to fight. I’ve lived with it for so long that I didn’t realise it was an issue until recently, whereas when I first began to suffer from depression I immediately sought out help to figure out what was wrong with me. My anxiety also tends to keep itself pretty lowkey – most of the time. It creeps along unnoticeable for quite some time before jumping out and knocking me flat on my backside.

Having realised, though, that these things are not an intrinsic part of my personality, and are in fact little angry voices living within my head, I’ve found them easier to live with. Instead of thinking that I’m broken and never going to be able to do the things I want, now it’s just a case of remembering to be kind to these little monsters sitting on my shoulders, and they, in turn, make living my life just that little bit easier.

An Established Sleep Pattern

I love sleep. So much. So much so that the idea of getting out of bed before 10 makes me cry.

Or it did.

My phone has a health app automatically installed, and when I told it I wanted to feel more rested it set me sleep goals. These goals simply involved me going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. I was dubious (waking up at half 7 on a weekend?! No thanks!) But I have actually seen a massive difference in my moods, and getting up early just sets up my day right. I actually get shit done.

Getting Organised

Organisation is a big one. Being organised gives you the upper hand over anxiety in particular. Instead of panicking about upcoming deadlines you’re vaguely aware of, being organised, writing them down and then actually doing something about them is so much better for you. That way, even if something does go wrong, you’re prepared, and you stand a better chance of succeeding without a meltdown.

Yoga

Or just exercise in general. Get out there, shake what ya mamma gave you. I know for some people in the depths of a depressive episode the idea of getting up and exercising is the last thing you think possible, but believe me when I say that the clarity and energy you can glean from exercise is priceless.

Yoga is so gentle and easy on the body you can sometimes feel like you aren’t exercising at all. That’s why I believe it’s perhaps the best form of exercise for those suffering from anxiety or depression.

Time Off

And not just days where I pretend to do nothing and just sit there like a vegetable. I mean taking days off to do something purely for pleasure, purely for myself. Not for the blog. No university work. Just me.

I think, especially in today’s culture, days off are seen as a negative or something to be enjoyed once in a blue moon. Taking a day for yourself is actually really beneficial.

Pushing through to burnout is not the most productive way to get things done. Take a day. A bet you’ll be far more productive when you get back to work after your siesta.

These are my little tips and tricks for making friends with pain in the bum and nagging voice sat on my shoulders. They’re not perfect. They don’t work every time, and I’m not perfect when it comes to executing them. I’m improving though, and that’s the main thing.

If you’ve any tips and tricks that you’ve found really help you then leave them down below as a comment. Let’s open the discussion and help each other out. This can only improve our chances in the fight for better mental health.

Rannoch Moor from the West Highland Way

My Road Trip Car Essentials

As many of you know, I love me a good road trip. I just find jumping into the car and heading off on an adventure the perfect mix of exciting and relaxing. Exploring the world around me really is one of life’s great pleasures.

Having been on as many road trips as I have, I’ve learnt a thing or two about the essentials you need to have in your car before setting off on an adventure.

Wine Bay Beach, Isle of Cumbrae

Snacks

I love my snacks. All of the snacks. Having snacks in the car allows you to be a little more flexible with the time you spend at destinations, particularly those that are more rural and out of the way, without having your life being ruled by your stomach. Snacks let you settle the little rumbles long enough to get you to some proper grub.

Now an essential point to bringing snacks; buy them before you set off. You never know when you’re going to get peckish, and picking up a packet of crisps or a granola bar in Tesco is always going to be cheaper than grabbing something from the cafe or gift shop of whichever tourist attraction you’ve stopped at.

My favourite road trip snacks are a packet of mint imperials to freshen up stale breath and a box of granola or snack bars, such as these by Deliciously Ella.

 

Daisy Glen, Pollock Country Park, Glasgow

Sunglasses

More than one pair. Always. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten back into the car after being out wandering, got five minutes down the road, the sun’s come out and my sunglasses are in the boot in my backpack. It’s a pain in the backside. I always have at least one pair of shades, probably a £1 set from Primark, in my glovebox for emergencies, and then my trusty aviators ready and waiting in my centre console.

Ardrossan Harbour, Scotland

 

Hand Sanitiser/ Baby Wipes

Sticky hands are the worse, whether you’re passenger or driver. Having a pack of Baby Wipes tucked away helps to just make it all better, and are a lifesaver if something inevitably gets spilt or the sun cream nozzle was pointed the wrong way.

Hand Sanitiser speaks for itself; hands get grubby and dirty, and we never know how many other people have been touching the things you’ve been touching, and what they’ve been touching before. Hand Sanitiser just offers you peace of mind, especially when eating on the go. I have a tiny travel size bottle I picked up for £0.99 within easy reach in my centre console at all times.

 

Bell Bay, Isle of Cumbrae

Water Bottle

Need I say more?

These are just my essentials for a road trip. I have some other bits and bobs that are interchangeable depending on where I’m going and how far I’m going. There are also other essentials I have in my car, but they are my full-time essentials and are always in my car. I may do a post on them later if you guys are interested.

Afternoon Tea at the Blythswood

Last week my gal Rosie celebrated her 21st birthday, and with me being such a great friend (otherwise known as I forgot to physically buy her a present) I treated her to a wee spot of Afternoon Tea at the Salon in Blythswood Square Hotel.

Guys, this hotel is soooo posh! It was absolutely amazing. The décor inside is so luxe; it’s so elegant and chic. The chairs are all made of Harris Tweed, and the bathrooms are so swanky. I’m very much a person who judges a place by its bathroom, and the Blythswood did not disappoint.

The food was all so lovely, and the cakes were all delicate and very unusual in flavour; my favourite was the Lemon and Elderflower Sponge. Funny story; Rosie and I had asked them to box some of the leftover cakes as we were stuffed full. Well, did we not get up and forget our goodie box when we left. We rushed back as soon as we realised, but they’d unfortunately already cleared the table. However, because we’d gone back, they made us a whole new set of fresh cakes!

It was this kind of first class service that really made our afternoon. From the word go the staff were so lovely, and just the right level of attentive. We had everything we needed, but we didn’t feel rushed or harassed. We were allowed to sit there for 3 hours, chatting away, with not a care in the world.

When I placed the booking I had requested a window seat as we were celebrating Rosie’s birthday. When we arrived and were escorted to the table, I was overjoyed to find that they had also left a small slate on the table with a Happy Birthday message and some adorable little chocolates.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Afternoon Tea at the Blythswood to anyone, especially for a special occasion. It’s just such a spectacular location, and the staff are second to none.

 

As a bonus, the Hotel are currently running an offer – Afternoon Tea for Two for £35. This is not an offer to be missed!

Why Asking for Help Doesn’t Make You Weak

“Can you help me?”

It’s a simple 4-word question, but for some people, this make or break question can be the hardest four words they can ever say. I was one of these people.

I like to think of myself as a strong independent woman. I can handle just about anything life throws at me, and, when life in all her graces decides to throw me the shitter of all curveballs, I’m usually pretty good at sourcing and implementing a solution all by my lonesome. I am, all in all, fairly self-sufficient. I’ve had to be. When you’re as stubborn and difficult as I am, asking for help really grates against the grain.

Over the past few years, however, along my journey of self-discovery and looking internally, I have realised something; asking for someone’s help or advice does not make you weak or stupid or insignificant. It actually makes you stronger.

Asking for someone's help or advice does not make you weak or stupid or insignificant. It actually makes you stronger. Click To Tweet

There’s that old saying:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Yes, this quote applies to teachers, but also to learners. Halfass a job yourself and you’ll never really, truly figure out how you did it and be able to effectively and efficiently reproduce the result. Or even worse, you won’t even be able to finish the task you’re attempting, and have to give up in a broken frustrated heap. Been there, done that, not a nice feeling. Have the sense to ask for the advice and help of someone in the know, and you’ll produce a higher quality result every time.

Asking for advice and help does not show that you are weak and unable to cope, or that you are somehow inadequate or unworthy. It instead shows your intelligence, integrity and self-awareness; you know and can see your strengths and weaknesses. You know when soldiering on blindly just isn’t going to cut it and stop, put your hands up, and say “I need some help”.

The biggest barrier stopping many independent (read: stubborn) people, not just women, from asking for help is that to admit you need help is to admit vulnerability. I struggled with this so much. I put in so much effort into having my shit together and into being a strong, capable young woman. How could I possibly admit that I had no idea what I was doing? That I was incapable of doing it all? Wouldn’t that make me look weak and incompetent? Or worse – stupid?

The truth is people don’t want to see some invincible character that never slips or falters. Everyone knows this is a facade worn by those who in truth tend to be deeply insecure and are perhaps most in need of the help they cannot ask for. People want you to ask for help; it shows them you’re human.

Asking for help causes you to be vulnerable in the most painful way. In order to ask for help, you have to drop your shield and guards and admit that you are not superhuman. You don’t know what you’re doing. The workload you’ve taken on or been given is too much. Admitting that you’re not indestructible and can’t do it all is a level of vulnerability that many people, myself included, really struggle with. It’s anxiety inducing, and terrifying, and just plain uncomfortable.

But you know what’s even more uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing?

Suffering from stress and burnout because you just couldn’t admit that you couldn’t do it all. Not getting that promotion or raise or audition just because you couldn’t bring yourself to ask for a little advice and mentoring.

Asking for help is hard, but the results of not doing so are even worse. Click To Tweet

Asking for help is hard, but the results of not doing so are even worse. Take my advice; ask. You’ll feel like crap – the first few times. Eventually, common sense and the wonderful lack of stress and panic cause you to realise just how beneficial that help can be.

It’s hard. I get it. I’ve been there.

Just go for it.

My Favourite Perfumes

I’ve mentioned before that perfume, and smelling nice, is one of the things I have in my toolkit when I’m in need of feeling feminine. A woman’s perfume can make her. Our olfactory sense is linked to our memory, meaning a specific smell can spark a specific memory. Having a signature scent can be a sexy and often seductively mysterious way of getting yourself remembered.

That being said, what woman doesn’t like to mix up her scents when she’s feeling adventurous or flirty or seductive.

*This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through and purchase using any of the links in this post I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Wandering Scotland.

Boss Nuit pour Femme

Top Notes: White Peach, Wet Aldehydes

Heart Notes: White Violet, Jasmine

Base Notes: Crystal Moss, White Warm Woods, Creamy Sandalwoods

It would be a little strange for me to do a round-up of my favourite perfumes without mentioning my signature scent, wouldn’t it? My dad bought this perfume for me as a duty-free gift, and it’s been one of my favourites ever since. I sometimes wear the daytime equivalent when I’m in need of something a little lighter, but this scent has for me just the right notes of subtle sex appeal. Sandalwood is one of my favourite scents; it speaks to me of mystery and sensuality, which are parts of my personality I just love to show and enhance.

Coco by Chanel

Top Notes: Sicilian Mandarin

Heart Notes: Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Tunisian Orange Blossom

Base Notes: Patchouli, Tonka Beans, Benzoin

Is there are more iconic fragrance? Truly? This fragrance inspires a desire for elegance, class and luxury. I just love this perfume. It’s my mum’s signature fancy fragrance. When she’s going out she adds a wee spritz to just upgrade the whole effect.

Yves Saint Laurent Belle D’Opium

Top Notes: Mandarin, Casablanca Lily, Gardenia, Jasmine

Heart Notes: Incense, Peach, White Pepper, Tobacco, Hookah Accord

Base Notes: Amber, Sandalwood, Patchouli

Now, this is an unusual scent. It is an unmistakably feminine perfume, and yet, a large proportion of the scent notes are scents you would expect to find in men’s aftershaves – incense, sandalwood, tobacco. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much. It’s perhaps my second choice for a signature fragrance, but it is a little dominant for daily use. Boss Nuit is a little lighter and more palatable, so Belle D’Opium remains my going out scent.

 

What are your favourite perfumes? Do you go for sexy, masculine fragrances like me, or do you prefer lighter, more floral feminine scents?

 

Film Review: Their Finest

Wonderously talented leads with a stellar supporting cast. A predictable love story with a shocking twist. Their Finest is a charming evening’s entertainment.

Netflix Bio

With public morale in war-time Britain at an all-time low, an ex-secretary is hired to write feminine flair into a propaganda film.

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy.

Director: Lone Scherfig

Review

This is a lovely little feel-good film with a shocking twist and a bittersweet ending.

The storyline trundles along fairly predictably, with Gemma Arterton twinkling as lovely welsh lass Catrine Cole, an ex-secretary who is brought in by a war-time film production company to write the ‘slop’, the ‘inane’ chat between women in films. The production company takes up the story of two girls who stole their father’s boat to aid in the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the story follows the production of this propaganda film from the scriptwriters’ point of view.

If you’re looking for a strong female role model in the next film you watch, but don’t like the kick-ass, loud role models that many promote, the Catrine Cole is your feminist icon. Quietly fiery, Gemma Arterton’s Catrine stands her ground against Sam Claflin’s Tom Buckley, and guns for a more prominent role for the female characters in their film. Catrine is the primary wage earner in her home, pays the rent on her flat, and even rather bravely negotiates her salary, something female employees DID NOT DO! Catrine had previously accepted a wage of £2 a week, a wage she is blatantly told is less than her male counterparts.

Sam Claflin is a wonderful actor. I love him. And he’s wonderful in this part…all apart from the fact that Sam Claflin does not pull off bookish particularly well. He’s too good looking and carries himself too well. But it doesn’t really matter. It makes no difference to how much you end up loving this character.

As for the film and production itself, it is beautifully well done. The costumes are exquisite. Throughout the film, Richard E. Grant and his production company tell us that war-time Britain wants authenticity in their films. Well, Their Finest delivers on its own kind of authenticity. The film carries a 12 rating, which I believe is due to the authentic details of a Blitzed Britain. This isn’t Game of Thrones; there’s no excessive blood, guts and gore for the sake of exciting a childish, easily excited audience. However, this film is set in London during the Blitz, and the Director Lone Scherfig (not a director I’d heard of, but one I will be keeping an eye out for) does not let us forget it.

Catrine at one point gets caught in an air-raid. The bomb she survives destroys a local shop, throwing mannequins all around the street. In the smoke and shock, Catrine believes the mannequins to be other victims. Upon realising her mistake, Catrine is sent into a hysteric laughing fit until she rounds a corner and finds the young woman leaving the tube station before her lying in the rubble, dead. The body is shown fully on camera, with authentic injuries, but is done in a way that does not take away from the storyline. We are simply seeing the horror that Catrine sees, nothing more.

A similar situation occurs when Bill Nighy’s character Ambrose Hilliard is asked to identify the body of his agent, Sammy Smith, as Sammy’s sister is unable to identify the body. Sammy’s body (shown on camera) is badly burned. Again, this is clearly not done for effect; it is just the horror of the Blitz. Hilliard at first believes that the body cannot be Sammy as his agent was missing two fingers on his left hand, and the body before him has all five fingers. The nurse then apologises, but they “try to make a whole body…for the relatives.” This is the horror and the truth of the Blitz and is tastefully nuanced in the film. Not done for effect, just for ‘authenticity’.

The ending, oh, the ending. It’s so bittersweet and lovely and heartbreaking and… I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll just need to watch it and see.

Where to watch it: Netflix