NEWS PAGE & BLOG


Hello one and all and welcome to my news page. Here you can see me as my two alter egos the ever efficient secretary Prudie Jones, Evette the Spivette and plain old little me as you catch up with all that is current in my world. Regrettably unlike Prudie my spelling is quite frightful at the best of times due to my dyslexia so I shall apologise now for anything which might be shamefully mis-spelt. In the mean time I hope you find this page fun, entertaining and informative and become a regular visitor to my site.

Chat soon & keep reading
Fiona Harrison
A Voice in a Million


Christmas Concerts, Mastering Zoom and Going Virtual!

Dressing for the Christmas Concert Season!

This week the title really does say it all. I’ve been working from home mastering the art of going virtual by presenting my shows via zoom. It’s true I’m not very good with technology but I’m pleased to announce this week I had a breakthrough and now I’m up and running and raring to go.

Fortunately I have had a good teacher and I’ve been working closely with Stephan Medhurst from RKHD Lighting and Sound. https://rkhdlighting.co.uk/

I was introduced to Stephan through the

Getting Set Up to Zoom!

Limelight Theatre in Aylesbury as I wanted someone who would understand Zoom from the perspective of performing a show. When it comes to zoom concerts there is a little more to it than just speaking to someone on a business call.  The sound quality has to be right and you can’t rely on the microphones and web-cams in mobile phones and lap tops alone. It takes some skill and a certain amount of investment in getting the right equipment which will work in harmony with the singing voice.

The magic piece of equipment which every singer needs is a Roland  go-mixer which plugs into the phone and then, with two jack leads straight into the amp. Also it’s important the master sound level on the amp needs to be up to 12 o’clock in the room which ordinarily is too loud for the surroundings. A simple way around this problem is to follow the old gramophone saying of  to “Put a sock in it”. By putting a blanket over the speaker or in my case a couple of coats, this has the same effect and doesn’t deafen the rest of the household.

The Magic Go-Mixer!

 

Earlier this week I had a sound glitch where the mixer wouldn’t let me hear people on the other end even though they could hear me. To sort this problem it’s necessary to click the speaker icon in the left hand side of the screen. I was having a problem. My phone wouldn’t give me a speaker option and locked itself solely into Go Mixer. We discovered the way to stop this problem from happening is to click the mixer into the phone only after the screen has been opened, which was a huge breakthrough.

I have been busy practicing this week and I have

Christmas is Coming!

my first profesional zoom concert on the 1st December. I’ve paid my subscription so I’m permitted to zoom for over an hour. Zoom will only let you stream for free up to 40 minutes so it’s important everything is in place before I start zooming and performing professionally.

My eyes feel square after spending so much time this week looking at various computer screens. I’m looking forward to performing again even though it will be virtual but a few of my customers have venues which are Covid safe so I can’t wait to get back out on the road.

I’ve also been busy selling Driveway concerts, although it is all dependent on the weather. In theory I’ve sold all of Christmas week but anything can happen between now and then so I’m praying for dry weather. On the 10th December I’ve been asked to take part in a virtual Christmas Concert at St Barnabas Church in Leighton Buzzard with fellow singer Richard Stark.  Richard is a baritone and we are planning to sing a selection of Christmas Carols and seasonal favorites which we will be streaming live but more on that in my next blog.

Keep Following, Toodle Pip and Bye for Now!


Leighton Linslade Helpers Prepare for Christmas & Barty Makes The Observer!

On Set to Film with The Leighton Buzzard Helpers!

It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas at The Depot!

You could say it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as we all look for positive ways to get through this second lock-down. Perhaps it’s not that surprising that more and more people are choosing to put up their Christmas decorations early in an attempt to lift spirits. I too have been rehearsing my Christmas repertoire and last Saturday I was invited by the Leighton Linslade Helpers to film some songs at their depot to tie in with the turning on of the Leighton Buzzard Christmas lights, which this year is going virtual.

The idea is to get local people to send in footage of themselves turning on their Christmas lights from home which will be going out on social media on the 5th December. My job was to record a couple of my Christmas numbers live to camera which will be edited and spliced together with the switching on of the Christmas lights from home footage.

One thing I can do is entertain people so when Sarah Cursons approached me on Facebook to sing from the Leighton Linslade Helpers depot I was delighted to help. When I arrived on Saturday all the helpers had worked extremely hard to decorated the depot and I recorded a selection of songs. These included, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, Santa Baby, Mistletoe and Wine,

Charlotte’s Shot of Barty and I!

A Winter Wonderland, Silent Night, A Christmas Carol Sing-along Medley, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, White Christmas and of course not forgetting It’s Beginning to look alot like Christmas which I also streamed live on Facebook.

I’d like to say a big thank-you to every-one who came along on Saturday to help with the filming and especially to Sarah and all the Leighton Linslade Helpers for their wonderful hospitality. The time went so quickly and I can’t wait to see the results once all the footage has been edited. The Leighton Linslade Helpers do so much for local people helping families to cope with their everyday needs during these difficult Covid times from picking up prescriptions to food parcels. If you would like to find out more about the Leighton Linslade Helpers then please do visit their web-site by clicking the link below.

https://www.leightonlinsladehelpers.org.uk/

Getting The Barty Shot!

This week I was also thrilled that our local paper decided to write an article about Barty the Singing Lamppost. If you caught my previous blog you may remember me mentioning this charming unassuming Mentmore park gas lamppost which inspired a 1940s musical called “We’ll Meet Again”. I co-wrote the show and toured with it back in the early noughties with my manager Paul Spence. The Leighton Buzzard Observer went on line with the story on Monday night and it came out in print this Tuesday.

You can read the story by clicking the link. https://www.leightonbuzzardonline.co.uk/news/people/leighton-buzzard-singer-relieved-it-not-end-barty-singing-lamppost-3037164 

Ladder at the Ready for the Perfect Barty Shot!

With everything else going on in the world at the moment it’s lovely to think that’s this charming old gas lamp is going to be restored and returned to the park. I first became aware that Barty was being removed from the park on Thursday when I was out jogging. The men from the council were having trouble trying to remove him from his footing which only helps to strengthen Barty’s personality and character.

He’s now gone away to be restored but just before he did Charlotte Worrall very kindly took my photo with Barty which the paper used in their article. Thank-you so much Charlotte for your photos.

This week I’ve been cracking on with trying to learn how to do Zoom. It’s not easy especially when it comes to streaming music shows as you need a special mixer which goes from the phone to the amp using a double lead jack. This helps to give the sound continuity rather than relying on the phones mic which can often have breaks in connection. I had a meeting today but I’m still very much at sea with it all and I need to get some practice in before my first  Zoom show on the 1st December.

While I’ve had my equipment set up I’ve been rehearsing and streaming a few of my songs live to Facebook. It’s been good to have some time to practice and I’ve also been going through my press cuttings. I’m pleased I’ve got them filed and up to date. It’s a work in progress and something I hope which will continue to grow. Although much of my press is now on line it’s still good to have paper copies, something I can look back on when I’m an old lady!

Thank-you for Following and Toodle Pip! 😉

 

 

 


Remembrance, We’ll Meet Again & Save Barty the Singing Lamppost!

The Show Must Go On!

The show must go on whatever the restisions and this week I have been working with activities coordinators to see that their shows can still go ahead in this current Covid environment. No-one wants to be the person responsible for canceling Christmas but nevertheless times are difficult and it’s hard to forward plan. I’m now reselling a lot of my Christmas dates as Driveway Concerts and the response from new customers has been very encouraging.

This Saturday I’ve been invited by Sarah Cursons of the Leighton -Linslade Helpers to film some of my Christmas songs to coincide with the turning on of the Christmas lights in Leighton Buzzard. This year the town is asking people to send in footage of families turning

on their own Christmas lights from home. I’m still not quite sure how they are going to eddit it all together but I expect I

We’ll Meet Again in the Car Park!

shall be the sound track for the feature so I’m busy brushing up on my Christmas repertoire in preparation for Saturday.

This week I have been out in uniform performing my ATS “We’ll Meet Again” show for remembrance. It’s still very hit and miss and in many cases I don’t know until the very last minute if we are good to go or not. For Remembrance Sunday I had the pleasure of performing at Caddington Grove in Dunstable. Although the home has a visitors suit they are still unable to mix floors, so we took the decision for me to play my show in the car-park. This ment all the

The Inspiration Behind Barty The Singing Lamp post!

residence could watch me from their gallery windows, as I made the show larger and worked the space.

I always make sure I have more music than I need when I perform and certainly when you work a big area it’s important you move and make the show larger to suit the space (you can see by my mic leads in the photos). All my musical arrangements are custom made and designed for large stages so they can withstand being played at a louder volume. It’s very much a case of assessing the situation quickly and getting on with it and adapting the show to suit the environment. When I’m in a situation like this I always keep the tempo high using as many medley arrangements as possible so the show moves quickly and keeps attention span.

Fortunately it was very mild on Sunday and the show couldn’t have gone better. Come the 11th November it was colder for my Bedford show  but on this occasion I was working in a Covid safe environment and I had a screen between me and the residence

Barty Not Wishing to Leave Mentmore Park!

so all was well. When it comes to entertaining the sixty plus age group it’s really too cold for them to be watching shows with doors open and although I don’t mind being outside it’s important everyone is warm and comfortable.

Like the rest of the world I was thrilled to hear that a vaccine is now in sight and hopefully by next summer things will be returning to some sort of normality. The entertainments industry has been badly hit and I hope it won’t be too long before live venues can re-open again. For me I’m constantly adjusting and re visiting my shows to make them suitable for all types of audiences whatever the brief.

Today I was reminded of the “We’ll Meet Again” theatre show I toured in, way back in the early noughties. In this show my co star was a singing lamp post by the name of Barty. Today while I was jogging around Mentmore Park the Edwardian lamp post which inspired Barty’s character was being removed from the park. The man from the council said Barty was going away to be refurbished and the plan is to return him to the park on the other side of the path. I truly hope that this will be the case as Barty didn’t want to leave today and he broke the strap the men were using to try and pull him out of the ground which they had attached to their van.

Later that day I rang the Leighton Linslade council and I spoke to Ian Haynes. He told me it’s got to be cost effective to have Barty restored and possibly re instated, so it’s not a full gone conclusion he will return. I truly hope they do as this little unassuming lamp post inspired a whole 1940s musical which in turn launched my theatrical career.

Fingers crossed Barty will return to Mentmore Park. That’s all my news for now. Keep Following and Toodle Pip! 😉


Halloween, Remembrance, Aladdin & Planning Ahead for Christmas!

Witchcraft for Halloween in Phoenix Drive

Fly Me to the Moon!

What a difference a year makes and who would have thought we would all be at home on Remembrance weekend, it’s so surreal. I’m usually really busy this time of year but instead I’m working in the office rescheduling my shows, adapting to fit in with the new Covid Lock down rules. I still have dates in the diary but I’m constantly trying to find innovative ways to keep working. This time last year I was singing in Birmingham at New Street Station, raising money for the Poppy Appeal. This year everything has been put on hold and we are all keeping our fingers crossed for better times ahead.

None of us know what the future will hold but I do hope 2021 will pick up and a vaccine is found for Covid before too long, so we can all get on with our lives. As for the here and now, no sooner do I find I an alternative booking and then the goal posts change. Fortunately I was able to reschedule my Guy Fawkes show to the 4th November and I have a couple of shows in the diary for Remembrance Sunday and the 11th.

Last week I continued with Enchantment shows which rolled over nicely from Halloween and now

Getting Dressed for Remembrance!

it’s time to polish my buttons and shoes and step out in my ATS uniform for remembrance. Normally I would be working flat out this time of year but I have done better than most and I am mindful for the future, predicting what audiences might want for 2021.

Realistically I think it unlikely shows and entertainment venues will open before Easter and I’m so grateful I have been able to keep working performing Driveway concerts. I’ve been able to do this by stripping everything back to the bare minimum and relying solely on my voice, sound system and musical arrangements. My musical arrangements are worth their weight in gold and today I had a Facetime meeting with my musical arranger Richard Whennell.

Although times are challenging it’s important to stay creative and to think ahead. It’s quite possible that if venues don’t open up next year I will need to continue with my Driveway Concerts, I have built up a wonderful net work around my home town and local

Researching the Music Aladdin!

villages. If that is the case it’s essential I have more family friendly songs in my repertoire and based on what I’ve learned this year you can’t go wrong with Disney and Abba.

Today I was able to put into production an Aladdin medley which will also sit well in my Christmas and Enchantment Shows along with my Wizard of Oz medley. I’ve been thinking about the music of Aladdin for quite a while now. I was first introduced to the music a few years ago when I was engaged as a guest soprano for a local choir. I’ve been doing my research and I only saw

The Aladdin Vocal Score!

the Disney films fairly recently. I already perform “A Whole New World” which always goes down well and it’s important to have arrangements which tick all the right boxes. Enchantment is a show I’m also developing for Hanukkah and although many of the musical events I was originally booked at this year weren’t able to go ahead I’m looking forward to coming back next year even stronger than ever.

For now I’m continuing to sell Christmas dates as Driveway concerts and I’ve already sold all my weekend slots. Selling the week day slots will be harder but if all music events and venues remain closed I may do quite well providing the weather stays dry.

For Halloween I was invited to perform in Phoenix Close my “Fly me to the Moon”show as a Driveway Concert. Thank-you to Anita and family for inviting me to sing and to every-one who came to support the show. I shall leave you with a few pictures from this weeks Halloween and Enchantment performances.

Keep Following and Toodle Pip! 😉


Going Spooky, Trying Something New & Getting Through!

Going Spooky for Halloween!

After Show Halloween Cup Cakes!

I’m now in full swing with my Enchantment and Halloween shows doing my best to keep singing. This weekend I have a couple of shows booked in Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury which I’m looking forward to performing very much although in this current Covid world it’s not easy trying to maintain my living.

Sometimes it’s good to try something new and this week I started working as a delivery driver for Hermes. In reality I think it’s unlikely the hospitality sector will open up properly before Easter and that’s only if a vaccine can be found. What-ever happens it’s important to keep working and as I’m a woman with a van I thought working as a delivery driver might be the perfect fit to tie me over to better times.

It’s hard brutal work and although I don’t mind the sorting, lifting, carrying and driving it’s actually the I.T. side of the job I find the most challenging. All parcels have to be scanned using my mobile phone and then scanned out once the parcel has been delivered. It’s also important to take a photo of the person receiving their parcel too and once that is done you can then move onto delivering the next parcel. Thursday was my third

In my 1960s Boots & Mini Skirt Dress!

The Mad Men Look!

day but it didn’t go well.  My I.T. went down and it wouldn’t let me deliver any further parcels.

On the previous day I was delivering around Pitstone using my Sat Nav. Pitstone has a new housing estate and sometimes Google maps don’t tally with what is actually there. I’ve also noticed road designs can change on new housing estates with roads blocked off in reality with-out openings. Determined to deliver all my packages I went back home and had a look on my computer. It helped fill in the blanks but even so I was out all day and probably spent more on fuel than I would have earnt.

I’m not very good with technology and I thought this job might be away for me to face my demons and learn something new. However after Thursday I’m probably better to stick to what I know best which is entertaining people. I hate to be defeated, but at least I gave it ago and I really ought to be concentrating on my business. There is always plenty to organise and my next big

Off to the Party!

Going Psychedelic!

challenge is to learn how to do zoom. A couple of my clients have asked if I can perform my shows this way so I just need to find someone who can teach me.

Tomorrow I’m performing my Halloween show as a Driveway concert in Phoenix Close, Leighton Buzzard. The weather looks like it might be OK at 4pm which is when I’m booked to sing. Today I went out and bought myself a couple of flood lights as the light will fade quickly and it’s important the end of the show doesn’t get lost in darkness.

This week my photos arrived from my 1960s photo shot with Angela Adams. I shall leave you with a few of my favourites.

Keep Following, Toodle Pip and Bye for Now! 😉


Forging Ahead with Enchantment Shows & Halloween!

Dressed for an Out-Door Concert!

It’s business as usual as I’ve been adapting my shows to suit the on going Covid restrictions. This week I’ve performed in all sorts of scenarios including a marque between half open french windows and also in a hair dressing salon. The hair dressing salon was an interesting one as I had a perspex screen across the door -way between me and my audience with my speakers outside in the corridor.

Fortunately I know every nano-second and every beat of my music, but hearing it can be difficult when my speakers are on the other side of perspex. I don’t usually need to use fold back. I was trained as a classical singer so I work off my mic which gives me better periphery sound although when you sing up close and personal or start hitting higher notes it can be harder to pitch as you hear less of the sound around you.

It’s still a bit hit and miss with bookings at the

Getting Ready for Halloween!

moment as one is never too sure until the very last minute if they are going ahead or not. I have a private 1940s “We’ll Meet Again” show to do today for an audience of four and then next week I start on my Halloween shows which naturally roll over into my Fairy Tale “Enchantment”shows. In theory I’m fully booked but as more restrictions come in being it makes working extremely difficult. Most clients are choosing to reschedule to another time which can leave the here and now a little empty.

It’s Witchcraft!

Next weekend I shall be performing my Halloween show on the 31st October as a Driveway Concert which I’m looking forward to very much. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that my Guy Faulks “Blazeaway Show” will be going ahead too. For the last few weeks I’ve been rehearsing my songs and I’m looking forward to singing my new “Wizard of Oz” medley which I commissioned especially for my Halloween “Fly me to the Moon” show.

It had been my intention to produce a virtual DVD of my Christmas show, but after doing some research into the care home market many have lost their activities budgets and in some cases are now down to a skeletal staff. One company I know has laid off all their activities people so this is not a positive market place to be investing money into at the moment. Saying that I’m always looking at new music and if

I’m Off to See the Wizard!

this lock down continues into 2021 I plan to continue with by Driveway Concerts which have been extremely popular.

I’ve performed 65 to date and I’m now getting bookings for Driveway Christmas Concerts which is going to make the 2020 Christmas season a very interesting one.

That’s all my news for now. Keep Following and Toodle Pip! 😉


Photos From Going 60s with Photographer Angela Adams!

These Boots are Made for Driving!

I know not all of you are able to follow me on Facebook so I thought especially for those of you who prefer to keep up with me through my blog pages I would put up a few of my photos from my 1960s photo shoot I did with Angela Adams in September. I’m still waiting for the USB stick to arrive which will house my whole collection. In the mean time here are a few teases to put you in the mood as I take you back to the Swinging 60s.

I hope you enjoy looking and Thank-you for Following! 😉

The Mad Men Look!

 

60s Chick!

Going Psychedelic!

That Little Yellow Dress!

Pretty in Pink!

Baby Love!


Making the Most of the Driveway Concert Weather!

Getting Set Up for my Show in Lavendon!

Goldfield Road, Tring!

I’m much later than normal this week with my blog as I’ve been busy trying to find a way forward in the current climate. The Autumn and Christmas season is looking bleak as more of my schedule shows fall away. It’s important to keep working and really the only way that can be done is to go into performing virtual shows. Sadly not every-one knows how to zoom and when it comes to the care home market most don’t have the equipment to make virtual zoom shows workable. When you add alzheimer’s and dementia into the mix many residence can find the whole experience too confusing.

I’ve given this a great deal of thought and the one technology every-one can use is a DVD player. All care homes have one, however to produce a DVD product of good enough quality to sell  would require proper investment. The DVD would need to be filmed using a minimum of two or three cameras and ideally I would need to employ a sound recordist too. To make a virtual show interactive the spoken word between songs is key and it’s important that it’s recorded clearly with-out distortion which can often occur if you rely solely on the camera’s microphone alone.

Singing and In Full Swing in Tring!

Speaking to friends who have been trying to do their shows by zoom, it’s often the sound quality which lets them down. This has given me much to think on and I only hope it might be something I can develope. The average persons attention span is nine seconds so for a film dedicated to the care home market to work it would require a considerable amount of editing and possibly subtitles.

Last weekend was the last of my Summer Driveway Concert season and now I’m starting to get requests for Halloween and Christmas. Last weekend was also my birthday and we were so

Dressed for the Autumn Weather!

lucky with the weather as I performed my Saturday show in the village of Lavendon which is just out-side of Olney and Sundays show in Tring. We had a good turn-out for both and oddly enough it was the first time I had had the pleasure of playing in both locations. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will hold for this week. I have a couple of out-door shows to do still but after that it’s looking a bit hit and miss and I expect many wont go ahead.

That’s all my news for now. Keep Following and Toodle Pip! 😉

 


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