Happy 2017, all!
On the menu this month: Monty and Sarah Don's beetroot soup and Jamie Oliver's Epic Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.
This summer I noticed a marked change in peoples' attitude to me as a busker on the London Underground: I got the lovely reactions and good tips, still, but they were few and far between. Mostly I got literally kicked out of the way; quizzical looks; sarcastic comments - and felt I was wasting my time, my energy and talent. I'd come home feeling miserable, devalued, depressed and alone on this planet increasingly populated by disconnected automatons. I was beginning to hate being a musician but could see no way out because an artist is what I am. This, combined with the fact I was addressing trauma from my past in counselling, put me in a very dark place.
I finally published the handmade version of my debut collection of poetry, Vivarium. For more details, visit this website's online shop. It felt good to finally be able to hold in my hands something I'd invested a lot of time, effort and love in.
I began studying Creative Coding with FutureLearn and produced some interesting sketches using Processing: It felt good to be stretching myself artistically. You can see these sketches on this website under 'Gallery & Artwork'. I also enjoyed taking photos of my allotment which can be viewed on my Instagram profile under 'Social Media & Commended Links'.
Eczema ravaged my neck, shoulders and chest for the remainder of my stay in Paris, but I was fixed on doing what I'd planned despite being in so much discomfort.
To read what I got up to music-wise this month, please visit: www.buskingmystory.com
Firstly, I'd like to wish all of you a very happy and healthy 2016! Having closed the book that was 2015 in the knowledge that I survived and grew some, my wish for the coming year is for global and personal peace.
"Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change." - Dr Wayne Dyer
Lesson learnt: I should take the time to get a book completely the way I want it before submitting it to a publisher.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Harold - Jan and I's horned frog who died on 3rd July 2015.
"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy." - Guillaume Apollinaire
Wishing all of you out there a very happy and healthy 2015!!
Within a day of being back in Paris Bagneux for the second time this year, I realized / remembered that there is no point in giving any energy to my OCD fears in Paris because I can't avoid being bumped into all the time, and so soon stopped reaching for my notebook to scribble down reassurances to myself. It's strange, but even though Paris is a very intense city, I never feel stressed there and when I got back home I felt proud of myself that I'd 'done' Paris again in the face of this bullying pig of a disorder - and stronger for it.
This month I had to confront so many of my OCD fears in order to do the internship at Jazzwise, but I managed to face them, complete it and get a credit in the May 2014 issue: FEAR IS A LIAR! This blog is dedicated to my partner, Jan, and all of my friends who supported and encouraged me throughout.
This blog is dedicated to a childhood idol of mine - the actress Kate O'Mara, who died this month.
"Decide what job you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work." - Bev James
This blog is dedicated to Brighton's undisputed Queen of Jazz, Renee Ansell, who died this month at the age of ninety.
From La Boutiques des Anges in Montmartre, Paris, I bought a postcard which said on it, <<Ecoute! Dans la vie, on marche sur un pont très étroit, ce qui est le plus important, c'est de ne pas céder à la peur.>> - R. Nachman de Breslev
A supervisor at Knightsbridge Underground station, who I met before doing a 'folk' violin busking session there, told me that he used to play the double bass at school, but now in his 40's, he can't fit a double bass in his studio flat. He used to love his 'school' double bass, but it dried out and became unstuck around the edges. Years ago, near the public school near Lichfield cathedral (he's from Staffodshire,) he said that he once played with 101 other double basses behind a strolling elephant! I gave him my 'An Ode To My Double Bass' handmade postcard because it was nice to meet a fellow Brummie who loves the double bass. He then told me at a later date, that he had pinned this postcard next to his computer, which made me smile.
My drummer / freelance writer / author / pilot friend from Los Angeles, USA, David R. Aldridge: "... I want to thank you again, so very sincerely, for your encouragement over the last couple of years. I have been and remain very inspired by your dedication to playing, and it has in no small part fueled my confidence for this leap across the Pond. As we say on my side of the Atlantic, YOU ROCK!!!" This message meant such a lot, and it feels rewarding to know that I have inspired someone to this extent. It was fantastic to actually meet David in person, for the first time, in London, this month.
My friend, Stephen Batty, described Paris as being "a special oasis of the soul," and for me it is; especially since right now in England, music and musicians are being viewed more and more as 'add-ons' rather than an integral part of our culture.
My review of Josh Langley's 'Follow Your Heart - Everyday Wisdom for an Extraordinary Life' can be read by clicking on the link, 'FREELANCE WRITING' on this website, and on the www.frogandthewell.com website. Josh wrote of me: "I was very fortunate to have a review of 'Follow Your Heart' written by fellow writer and creative type, Gemma Boyd. She is... one of those inspirational people who is living proof you can live the artist's way and be happy."
A big thank you to all my friends and Jan, for all of the positive vibes you sent me regarding my recovery from Tendonitis, so that I could play my violin again. It worked! I began my job as a busker of my 'folk' violin set on London Underground, and have been earning good money (the most I've ever earned alone.) It feels as if this gig was meant to be; especially since I have joined the scheme on its 10th anniversary, and London Underground is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. Peter's death is how come I started playing folk violin. Through my music, he still lives...
This blog is dedicated to my friend and fellow poet, Alan Gilbert: R.I.P.
"If your success is defined as being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference, then we don't want successful leaders. We want great leaders - who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unbought, unbound, unafraid, and unintimidated to tell the truth." - Dr Cornel West
Via Jeffrey Tayler: "... art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." - Walter
In spite of the tendinitis pain in my fingers lurking, I managed to start earning money again, this month, with a solo piano accordion set of Irish folk music from my late violinist friend, Peter Conua's books, jazz standards and popular songs: My good friend, Stephen Batty's Johnny Cash quote fortified me throughout this period: "I found out there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way." My spirit and whole physical being seemed to lift as soon as I started to practice my music again, and Jan's unrelenting support has meant the world to me.
It is important to step back from time to time and let the fruit of your efforts just be, and hopefully some good will come back to you.
As I walked out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." - Nelson Mandela
"To make oneself unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try..." - Roger Ebert
"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am." - Sylvia Plath, 'The Bell Jar'
"A girl doesn't need anyone who doesn't need her." - Marilyn Monroe
Regarding my tendonitis, Muriel McClymont of FEU Training: "...Never is a long time. This may be an unwelcome blip, but think laterally, it may turn up some unexpected consolations. Hang in there..."
It was a confidence boost that I passed my audition to be licensed to busk on the London Underground; especially since I thought it was the worst audition that I'd ever done. My friends' belief in me helps me big time.
I started attending the Advanced Poetry Course at Morley College, London, that I so enjoyed when I did it twelve years ago for two years with Matthew Sweeney and Maurice Riordan. This time, the tutors are Simon Barraclough and Kathryn Maris, and I'm producing work coming from left field, and infused with dark humour. Imposing writing deadlines on myself is helping me to relinquish my perfectionism in order to actually get something written. I'm also sorting out poems to go in my first pamphlet which I'm hoping to get published.
My inspirational friend, David R. Aldridge's words always spur me on: "I was glad to see the post about you putting your poetry together. It's very honest and heartfelt writing... Every small step helps keep art alive, and your posts remind me of this constantly. Keep the tap flowing!... You light more fires than you may know..."
Glenda Jackson's (Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn) speech during 'Tribute To Baroness Thatcher': "Under Thatcher, everything I had been raised to believe was a vice, became a virtue." Scarily, I believe that the same could be said about David Cameron today: What we all need to get back to / remind ourselves of is our HUMANITY.
"... as long as we insist on maintaining artistic vitality, we are able to hope in man." - Leonard Bernstein
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray." – Rumi
Via Heidi Berry with regard to the Boston bombings: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. " - Leonard Bernstein
For the first time in twenty years, I met up with Clare Davis, at The Royal George in Soho. She was my best friend in sixth form at Barr Beacon, Walsall, and I remember sitting next to her in English with Mrs Knight, studying Chaucer's 'The Wife Of Bath.'
"Be not simply good; be good for something." - Henry David Thoreau
Via Stephen Batty: "If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come." - Chinese proverb
"Some people expect more of others than they expect of themselves." - Bev James
Via Ann Odell; written on a Facebook cartoon: "All it takes to get famous these days is a webcam, boredom, and an ugly cat."
I'm trying to use all of my creative talents (the subjects that I was good at when I was at school; French, Art, Music, English), to get as much interesting, paid creative work as possible, but I realised that I still haven't conquered a deep-rooted urge within myself to sabotage things for myself...
"You can't use up creativity: The more you use, the more you have." - Maya Angelou
Streetslive.org: "It's time for the tyranny of officialdom to end. Treat buskers with respect and we will work with you, but we will no longer be brushed aside."
It was great to meet up with my Parisian friends, Bernard and Anita Trillat in London.
On 28th April '13, I live reviewed the phenomenal concert, 'Charles Lloyd Quartet with special guest, Maria Farantouri' at the Barbican, London, for Serious. You can read my review under the 'Freelance Writing' link on this website, and on 'The Write Stuff' Facebook page.
"Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence, neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish it in an imponderably valuable gift." - Maya AngelouThis blog is dedicated to my friend and fellow poet, Alan Gilbert: R.I.P.
Positive change can sometimes feel like everything's breaking down, but you're actually breaking through...
Wishing you a very happy, healthy and successful 2013, everyone!
Following the heartbreak of Jan and I losing our beloved dog, Ruby, last month, I didn't think that I'd be able to pick up my musical instruments, but I resolved to go busking as much as possible this month in Ruby's memory, and managed it; playing at new places in Southend and Barkingside and making people smile (especially with my new piano accordion 'Christmas songs' set).
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORIES OF JAN & I'S BELOVED DOG, RUBY, AND OUR CAT, TIDS.
October kicked off with some good news: The 'Live Music Act' became law, meaning that smaller venues can now stage live shows without a license.
"Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing." - Sylvia Plath
Edwin Arthur Masters: "... Busking is a good way to practice / perform, 'cause no stage tricks, and direct manifestation of, 'is this good or not?' Also direct connect with peeps, and that always gives the heart warmth, flowing through all...."
By Gemma Boyd
“One of the most truest people to his art that I’ve ever met in my life,” was how American jazz drummer, Eddie Locke, paid tribute to internationally celebrated jazz pianist, teacher and exponent of bebop, Barry Harris, in the 1985 film, ‘Barry Harris: Passing On,’ by David Chan and Ken Freundlich: The Barry Harris Trio at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho (Barry Harris – piano, Dave Green – double bass and Steve Brown – drums), ultimately succeeded in taking a near-capacity audience of a mixture of ages, with them, full steam ahead on a pleasurable cruise through a variety of mainly ballads and more up-tempo 1930s and ‘40s jazz standards.
The sound balance between the instruments was perfect, but the presence of world-class, rather cocky double bassist, Dave Green’s lone music stand holding jazz charts, and his inability to synchronise with the piano during an opening number, ‘I’ll Keep Loving You’ by Bud Powell, slightly spoilt things. By contrast, Harris played this tune, written by one of his bebop influences, in a considered manner, from the heart.
Green relaxed and the band gelled during the next spine-tingling up-tempo standard, ‘I Want To Be Happy’: His walking bass lines effortlessly didn’t miss a beat, and Harris began the tender story of a couple with fifteen children, which he used to link the songs, and captivate the audience throughout.
Ever the passionate educator, Harris, involved us all in clapping, and singing a melody before the interval.
The humorous phrasing of the unison passages during the head of Charlie Parker’s ‘Barbados’ were underpinned by the non-intrusive, swinging drumming of Steve Brown, who utilized the endless range of his kit’s noises.
Overall, this gig confirmed that the wise, lady-loving, smooth Barry Harris, is best placed to keep aflame, and pass the jazz torch on, to future generations.
Mrs Brown's Boys: "We live in the era of Smart Phones and feckin stupid people."
Peretu Ebi: "... you have a beautiful heart, so keep making people smile with your music."
Me: "I'll make a deal with you, Elizabeth: You don't chuck your sax off a cliff, and I won't smash my double bass... They don't deserve it, and I'm a firm believer in, 'FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD.'"
I attended America jazz 'bebop' pianist and educator, Barry Harris's harmony, improvisation and vocal workshops (based on his 'scale of chords' theory), at St Andrew's United Reformed Church in Hampstead, London, and came away knowing that I'd found the mentor that I need at the moment. Here, Barry Harris came out with some great pearls of wisdom: "People nowadays, can't even remember their best friend's number."... "Mode, my butt. I never knew a mode."There is no end to math... there's no end to that bass fiddle... everything is endless... real pretty... [Re. jazz double bassist, Wilbur Ware]: "He could lead you around."... "Listen to the right people... they play simple stuff."... "Play something that gets you in trouble... then get yourself out of trouble."... "Everything we do is phrases."... "Feel the slow underneath."
openmicvoices.com is a website that I would highly recommend to any of you who write, or are fans of poetry.
Jan bought me a guitar bag with shoulder straps, for my violin, from East Coast Wind Musical Instruments shop in Hornchurch, Essex: Mr Wind (as I call him), kindly gave me his old violin case with one more catch on it than my violin case had, so that my violin would fit more snugly into this new guitar bag.
Angel Papo Rivera re. Sammy Davis, Jr: "My mum loved this man and she admired him so much. Mum would say, Sammy suffered so much and went through so much in his life. Specially as a young boy his mother abandoned him, to being mistreated in the military. Then he lost his eye in an auto accident. I believed all the anger he had inside made him become the best entertainer in the world. He wrote a book called 'Yes I Can.'" Me: "The anger I have inside me fuels my creativity, too."
I busked my 'violin' solo set of French Canadian reels, Shetland reels, and traditional Scots and Irish Hornpipe music on Shoreham footbridge, for the first time, and did surprisingly well: I felt I was able to carry this off, due to my years of experience as a performer, and I felt that my friend, violinist, Peter Conua, was living on through this music, as he used to play all of these types of reels. Learning lots of blues material on the piano is challenging, also, and informs my double bass playing.
"The world's most sensible person and the biggest idiot both stay within us. The worst part is, you can't even tell who is who." - Chetan Bhagat
Stephano D' Silva: "... What stands out looking at your pages is that you seem versatile and performance oriented, getting out there as much as possible. Nice one."
"My mind hums hither and thither with its veil of words." - Virginia Woolf, 'The Waves'
Modern-day 'bullshit' phrases, such as 'soft power', 'tactical communication' and 'quick fire' questions, fill me with horror and despair, which is why I immerse myself in the language of music and poetry.
I don't take my friend, violinist, Peter Conua's scarf with me every time I go busking, now, as I feel that he's always with me in my happy memories.
Heard whilst I was listening to fiddle music in the Internet: "The violin is like a voice."
"TO SUCCEED IN LIFE; YOU NEED THREE THINGS: A WISHBONE, A BACKBONE AND A FUNNY BONE."
"The healthiest response to life is joy." - Deepak Chopra
I started a new voluntary job: Woodland Management in Redbridge, which involved practical conservation work at Hurstleigh Gardens Open Space: I'm doing this in spite of my 'OCD' fears of contamination, and am therefore proud of myself.
Following my musical soul-mate, Peter's autopsy results, Clara Moreau wrote, "Oh Gemma, life is sometimes so hard. I wish you the best inspirations, and some good details that could remember you that it can also be marvelous. Je t' embrasse chaleureusement." Maroca Segatto: "I know the feeling too, Gemma... It will pass, believe me. Do what you do best: Be an artist now!"
"Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea." - Henry Fielding
This blog entry is dedicated to my musical soul-mate, Peter Conua.
I am pleased to say that following my persistent complaining to Bruce Matthews (Chief Inspector CM371 of Neighbourhood Policing, Brighton & Hove Division), about the uncaring, unempathic way Hove Police handled my case against David Webb (my neighbour who harassed, attacked and stalked me for as long as my nerves could take it), Inspector Jason Hazzard and a call taker have both had formal tellings-off for their incompetence; not enough compensation for the 'mental rape' I, and other victims of stalking and harassment experience, and meanwhile, my ex-neighbour has completely got away with it. I was staggered to read that my case wasn't deemed worthy of a Victim Support case worker... I also wrote to the Home Secretary, Theresa May about this and got a reply from the Direct Communications Unit, who told me to check out the below website (please click the invisible link) re. what the Government is doing to tackle the culture of victims not being believed and taken seriously re. stalking. I basically had to fight, in an extremely traumatized state, to get a harassment order taken out against my neighbour, and to be listened to... appalling... Not all women are as lucky as me to have a loving and supportive partner and great friends... what happens to those women / girls?
Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand, As epitaph: He chucked up everything And just cleared off, And always the voice will sound Certain you approve This audacious, purifying, Elemental move. And they are right, I think. We all hate home And having to be there: I detect my room, It's specially-chosen junk, The good books, the good bed, And my life, in perfect order: So to hear it said He walked out on the whole crowd Leaves me flushed and stirred, Like Then she undid her dress Or Take that you bastard; Surely I can, if he did? And that helps me to stay Sober and industrious. But I'd go today, Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads, Crouch in the fo'c'sle Stubbly with goodness, if It weren't so artificial, Such a deliberate step backwards To create an object: Books; china; a life Reprehensibly perfect.
Happy Easter to you all!
I dedicate this blog to my amazingly loving and supportive partner, Janet Rose Lee
My ‘angel card’ for February 2012, said, “… Let go of stress and anger.” This really was the name of the game for me this month…
In Hainault, Essex, we were graced by white sky and white snow at night (I wish that there could be a sprinkling of snow on the ground all year round in order to give the illusion of cleanliness everywhere).
As usual, I shall begin with some quotes which have inspired me recently:
Lily on Deal Or No Deal said that her late husband was of the belief that ‘Every day is a holiday if you’re happy.’
“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.” – Nolan Bushnell
Heidi Berry: “The songs of my own that I like best are the ones I wrote when I wasn’t meaning to write anything. If that makes sense?”
“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” – Mario Andretti
Due to the stress of moving house and then to France, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder came back with a vengeance: My understanding friend, David R. Aldridge advised, “Just let it run around the room like a puppy. It’ll slow down eventually and take a nap. Don’t chase it J”
Veteran war reporter, Marie Colvin, who was killed in shelling in Syria in February 2012: “Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice… We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?... Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price.”
I had some great recommendations off fellow musicians and writers re. my aim of finding more work as a freelance writer:
Louis Royer: “Gemma Boyd is definitely a true artist with a real passion for her work.”
Debbie Burke’s recommendation of me re. the review I did for her of her debut book, ‘The Poconos In B Flat: The Incredible Jazz Legacy Of The Pocono Mountains Of Pennsylvania’: “A very in depth and detailed review. Gemma obviously took the time to think about different aspects of the book and gave an honest, well-written and well thought out opinion.”
David R. Aldridge’s recommendation re. the proofreading of a section of his book on drumming patterns that I did for him: “I’d hire Gemma Boyd to do any future proofreading. Her attention to detail is EXACTLY what I needed and more. I worked in the freelance magazine world for a decade and Gemma Boyd has pro skills, no question.”
In order to feel as if I’d done all that I could to get some kind of justice on the matter, I wrote letters exposing and complaining about the incompetent and uncaring treatment of me by Hove police that I received in relation to my neighbour, David Webb’s harassment and stalking of me: I await replies from Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Martin Richards (Chief Constable of Sussex Police) again, Kirk Ward of The Argus, Brighton & Hove, and Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor of The Guardian: On Tuesday 7th February 2012, Alan Travis wrote an article in The Guardian entitled, ‘Law fails to protect victims of stalking, MP’s inquiry finds’; “Only complaints from rich and famous are acted on.” This has all come too little too late for me, but I’m going to support any new laws that are introduced to protect victims of stalking and harassment (One woman described her ordeal at the hands of her stalker, “mental rape”; a feeling that I can fully relate to). I had to fight to get access to Victim Support, only to be told by them, that they had no volunteer to assign to me!
Helene Riviere’s invite for me to rent her flat in Paris off her once again, came at creatively and financially perfect time: I resolved in November 2011 to be back in Paris by February 2012, and thanks to the leap year, I was!
I felt excited and nervous about my decision to leave Brighton & Hove after almost twelve years; I knew in my heart that I’d made the right decision, and as usual, the encouragement of my friends was invaluable: Mateo said, “Remember you can fly J”; my mum commented that Paris is very ‘me’; Janet Aldridge wrote, “May France continue to be the place where your music is special”; and finally, David R. Aldridge urged me to, “Keep pushing, small steps, and know that with every single one of them, you are leaving the word “artist” as your footprint.”Now that I’ve simply moved away / on from all of the major things that were making me ill and unhappy (after having done my best to deal with and comprehend them), I feel much more at peace…
I'll open this blog by sharing with you excerpts from conversations and quotes from friends, which have fortified and inspired me throughout the past couple of months:
I went back to Paris for the second time in 2011 in the autumn, where I gigged at Chez Adel with Mateo, Claudio Zaretti, jazz pianist Bernard Trillat and pop and French song singer, Chloe and band. Whilst busking my bowed solo double bass set at Place des Abbesses, I met tenor saxophonist, Laurent Carrier, who I played with for great pleasure and good money in Montmartre.
September 2011 has been one of the toughest months of my life: I've felt as if I've been on the verge of losing everything after having to take an 'harassment warning' out on my neighbour, following a completely unprovoked attack on myself and my partner, Jan. I've had to really fight to be listened to, and taken seriously by the police, my landlord, letting agents etc., at the same time as being deeply traumatized. In spite of this, though, Jan and I managed to go on holiday to Blackpool, to see some traditional jazz, and enjoy the Blackpool Illuminations. The best band that we saw by far, were Gentleman Jim McIntosh & The Jazzaholics. Good friends, Jan, and (as ever) my writing and music sustained me, and eventually I found the strength to return to my flat in Hove and not let my neighbour force me out of my own home... The musical highlights for me of this month were busking my bowed solo set on the high street in Ilford, Essex, and playing over a whole weekend at Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival on Hove Lawns with Bass & Bone (featuring myself and Daniel Rehahn on trombone). I gave a nerve-wracked performance of some of my new performance poetry based on the theme, 'Reality / Virtuality', which involved singing and playing the double bass, at 'Wells, Pugh & Hammond' at Walthamstow Central Library as part of the East London Libraries Festival; a big learning curve. Last week I rehearsed some blues numbers with Brighton-based pianist and guitarist, Ben Taylor and sensitive drummer, Al, which will hopefully lead to some interesting gigs in the future... Finally, (thanks to the help and kindness of my friend, Eirik Zahl), I will be going back to Paris, France with my double bass to do some more playing there from 13th October - 7th November 2011...
Today I turned 36... Just after I turned 35, I said that I wanted to do something "ground-breaking": I guess I ended up 'breaking ground' re. my 5 weeks playing in Paris, and in taking the risk of leaving The Priory Street Stardusters, who I earned good money and did some fab. gigs with - but a conflict of interests within the band became obvious, and I needed to move on and push myself on to a more positive, motivated, fresh, footing, which so far, with hard work, I'm achieving... Daniel Rehahn (trombone) and I, have done very well playing at Pavilion Gardens Cafe, Brighton, this summer as a duo, and at last, I'm managing to combine my poetry writing and music, in performing at such events as 'Poetry In The Park', organised by Paul McGrane of the Poetry Society, London. Next I should be planning what I want to do this coming year.... get a book of my poems published... put my own band together... do some more playing in Paris...just keep going and keep trusting in my instincts and worth as a musician and poet...
A sales assistant at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery on 7th July '11, prompted me to buy a enticingly (cleverly) entitled book called 'It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - The World's Best-Selling Book' by Paul Arden: I took this as a sign (thought that it might help me decide where and how to go from here career-wise). It has certainly given me some food for thought, and here are some of the quotes from the book that stood out has being worth noting:
I'm so happy and relieved that my beloved Poetry Library on London's South Bank seems to have escaped the criminal government cuts to the Arts, and is going from strength to strength: Please check out their website on my 'LINKS' page...
On Thursday 23rd June 2011, I played double bass with the University Of Sussex Symphony Orchestra for the first time, and something that exuberant conductor, Ian McCrae said, has stuck in my mind: You can't play Mahler if you're scared of the music... Last Tuesday, outstanding double bassist, Bill Coleman (one of Kenny Ball's Jazzmen), let me sit in on a gig with the tenor saxophonist, Art Themen, at the 27th Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival. I was very excited about this, and got a big cheer. Having a regular double bass student has prodded me into looking at my improvisation skills, which can't be a bad thing... I'm looking forward to playing in Paris again in September...
Myself and the rest of The Priory Street Stardusters had a great time playing for the first time at Ovingdean Village Hall Jazz Club last night: The eighty-plus audience were so appreciative, and we even managed to turn non jazz fans on to the furious rhythms of the swing jazz and blues of the 1930s and '40s. I hope they invite us back...
It was an exciting privilege to be in the presence of fabulous opera singers, Italian soprano, Irene Cerbonicini and mezzo soprano, Jill Pert, as I played in the orchestra for the 'Music Theatre 2000' concert performance (conducted by Simon Gray), of Verdi's opera, 'Il Trovatore' as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival 2011, on Saturday. Hopefully this concert raised lots of money for the Martlets Hospice based in Hove. It's great to be a part of these types of events which benefit the community as a whole...
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has messaged me with regard to the article about OCD I had published on CNN.com last week: I've had a massive response and all of your words of support, love, hope and encouragement have been much appreciated: I feel that I've achieved my goal of bringing OCD out of the shadows of shame, fear and ignorance a bit more, enabling the subject to be discussed openly. In time, I shall reply to you all...
Last Wednesday, my partner Jan and I attended the National Jazz Archive's exhibition, 'A Century Of British Jazz' at the Barbican Music Library, London. I work as a volunteer at the archive, and it was a privilege to see Kenny Ball receive a 'recognition of his services to jazz' award. The exhibition itself is very interesting, and runs up until 30th June 2011. Admission is free. For more details, please visit: http://www.nationaljazzarchive.org.uk
If you run a business and would like to network and socialise with other local business owners, I can recommend attending the Brighton Business Curry Club which takes place once a month at the Lansdowne Place Hotel, Hove. The atmosphere is informal and friendly and the curry is delicious! For more details, please visit: brightonbusinesscurryclub.co.uk
A very proud day: Elizabeth Landau of CNN.com interviewed me about my poem, 'Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder' and my struggle to live with, overcome and give voice to this illness. I hope that in reading this article, which was published online today, people will be able to gain a deeper understanding of what OCD is all about. Please check out the interview at the link below:
Happy Easter, everyone! It's now over a week since my return from my months trip to Paris with my double bass, which you can read about here under 'DOUBLE BASS': It was an exhausting and emotional experience, but it gave me the musical boost I'd been searching for... I'll hopefully be returning to Paris in the late summer, for the hotel residency Peter, Eirik and I got at Les Etangs de Corot. For now, though, it's back to the lovely green open spaces of England (which I missed in tourist-infested Paris), and hopefully some well-paid gigs with the musicians I play with here, who it's a privilege to work with.
Here we are, already in March 2011! Only just under two weeks until I go back to Paris, France, for my next adventure with double bass: I'm excited at getting my first gig in Paris with my singer-songwriter friend, Richard Lewis and In Extenso (En Groupe) in the Bastille area of Paris. Also, I've just had my poem, 'Obsessive Compulsive Disorder', published on The Machine Man Forum at: www.machinemanthemovie.com Please check out this excellent website, which highlights and explores the issues and challenges faced by those suffering from O.C.D.. Thankfully, I've almost financially survived another winter as a musician, and have hopefully got lots more exciting projects on the horizon...
This month I have been typing my poems into my computer, so that if my flat burns down or I leave my poems on a train etc., I will have back-up copies, and years of work won't be annihilated. Simultaneously, I have been publishing and copyrighting a selection of my poems on Facebook (I'd rather have them being read, instead of them simply festering away in their file). I'd like to thank everyone; in particular, Rehan Qayoom, Rosanna Robinson, Alan Gilbert, Sharon Downey, Shirleyann Swift, Mark Redmond, Peggy James Vidrine and Steve Biddle, who have left insightful and encouraging comments: I keep thinking of a saying that my dad would always trot out: "Fine words butter no parsnips".... Ok, my words don't butter no parsnips, but at least some of them move people and give them something to ponder on... I'm enjoying getting back into poetry writing, as it's making me feel more 'connected' to others, in a society that is becoming increasingly bland and dehumanized - especially with the demise of lots of public libraries...
Happy 2011 everyone! I just thought I'd share a quote with you: My friend, Peter Maguire and I, feel that the following is very relevant to what jazz - at its very best, should be about: "A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song." - Chinese Proverb
Well, I've gone and done it now... I've booked myself and my double bass into a studio flat in Montmartre, Paris (Abbesses - where everything 'happened' for me back in September) for a month from 17th March 2011: I'm hoping that this time will give me ample opportunity to find out if Paris is really somewhere I'd like to reside more permanently, and whether there are any openings for me musically...Even though I risk the weather being rotten, for many reasons, March 2011 feels like the right time to be going?!...
We're mid-November and we're getting to that time of year when I worry that I won't be able to sustain enough income throughout the winter to continue working as a musician. My guitarist friend, Diego, told me the other day to "trust in life", which is what I will try to do: For so long as I can remember, I've firmly believed that if I work hard things will happen for me...Last month was about establishing a new work and practice schedule revolving primarily around doing something 'different' ie/ songwriting, composing, and getting back into my poetry writing again. I've managed to make a productive start on all of these things and now that the weather is mostly too rough for busking, I will continue concentrating on my own work with a view to developing it when I go over to Paris in March next year (hopefully this will be a good way of getting together a new crop of musicians to work with)...
I really enjoyed busking my bowed double bass solo set on George Street, Hove, yesterday morning, which was where it all started for me in terms of getting my career in music off the ground: People were so kind and genuinely interested, and I saw Joy (who I used to see around these parts). I didn't spot the the brown pigeon who used to be there practically every time Mike and I busked outside 'Jag', though... The fact that I made money doing this was very encouraging: I decided today that I want to move to Paris for at least a year by 1st March 2011, where I will be relying heavily on my solo set to pay for essentials until hopefully I will meet some more musicians...
At the first rehearsal for 'Titanic' with conducter Simon Gray for Southwick Opera, my double bass case finally gave up the ghost. I suppose I must be grateful that this didn't happen while I was on the Eurostar to Paris the other week, but it's an expense I can ill afford, and I must have one in two days time...Aside from this, I'm enjoying getting back into poetry writing, songwriting and composing, although at the moment it feels a bit like pulling teeth...Surely it must get easier, though, the more I do it? Anyway, my plan is to reward myself with a fancy recording device if I successfully produce some work...Also hoping things pick up on the busking / gig front...
I, my double bass and my wonderfully supportive partner, Jan, were in Paris between 13th and 20th September 2010: I had been organising this busking / jamming trip for 3 months and trying to brush up on my French. I was afraid of so many things while preparing for this, and needed lots of reassurance that I wouldn't get arrested for busking (the illusive Mairie De Paris was where I was supposed to be able to get specific clearance to perform in the street), and we chained my double bass to a table in our room at Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera, 152 avenue Ledru-Rollin, in a bid to prevent it from getting stolen. The whole experience for me, though, turned out to be a great lesson in learning to trust my instincts, and once I'd set my mind to this project, I found that a series of chance encounters (mostly imbued with strange, vague connections with my past), paved the way for a smooth, hope-filled journey: Armed with my belief that 'FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD', and having wood-glued the flaking sides of my double bass, we set off at 4.30am to get the first tube from Hainault. Already I was knackered from carrying the contrebasse ("our cross we must bear", reflected my friend and Chet Baker's double bassist, Riccardo Del Fra), and my heart sank further when on boarding Eurostar, a woman made one of the many mindless, stupid, irritating comments I get all the time when carrying my double bass in England, about betting I wished I'd taken up the flute...The first thing I'd writtten in my diary was that Place Des Abbesses in Montmartre is a good busking spot. This turned out to be true, as Abbesses was where good, heart-warming things happened for me all week: Had we not wanted to visit the stunning Sacre-Coeur on the Tuesday, I'd never have run into guitarist and songwriter, Denis, at Bar-Restaurant 'Au Rendez-vous de Montmartre', and on Wednesday we met up with Richard Lewis (an English musician and songwriter who moved to Paris 5 years ago). I met Richard on MySpace, and he gave me a wealth of information regarding living and working as a musician in Paris. My trombonist friend from Hove, Daniel Rehahn and I ended up busking on the terrace of the cafe where Jan and I had had (extortionately expensive) coffee with Richard ('Le Nouveau Carillon'), along with another cafe in Abbesses - 'Le Saint Jean'. A flock of Chinese tourists grabbed Dan and I for photos as we played on a bridge over the Seine near Notre Dame (I'd come a long way since my first attempt at busking my bowed solo set outside the Pompidou Centre, where I was drowned out by a didgeridoo and my set list blew away)! This special day with Dan was capped off with a visit to the graffiti-covered house of Serge Gainsbourg on the rue de Verneuil at Saint Germain. I told Jan that I'd had a good feeling about a jazz 'cave' I'd been told about by 'jeremuliguane' on Twitter near the Moulin Rouge, called 'Autour De Midi...Et Minuit', where we ended up seeing the fantastic Laurent Epstein Trio, and I participated in a jam session, which was such a buzz. Riccardo Del Fra showed my around the typically 'underground', dark jazz department at the Paris Conservatoire where he teaches, and one of the highlights of my week was playing 'Autumn Leaves' with Riccardo (I rarely get the chance to play with another double bass). It would seem that jazz is played in a lot of black market venues in Paris and that musicians are respected and valued highly: Refreshingly, I wasn't made to feel like a 'walking joke with a double bass' in Paris, although I'm sure that I got money a few times for being a tourist attraction (I even got offered a year's contract to work as a musician in Shanghai)! One thing's for sure, I had thighs of steel by the end of the week!
I've just turned 35, it's 2010, and I feel that now I want to do something ground-breaking...It was nice playing 'moon songs' ('How High The Moon' and 'Moonglow') outdoors by candles hanging from trees at Kate Hastings's garden party in Kingston, with 'Bass, Bone & Blue' last night.
I'm feeling in my waters that a big change is afoot for me: a new life in Paris, maybe? I'm desperate for a new challenge musically, and bored of England, and feel as if I've explored many of the 'jazz avenues' in Brighton...???
After the week from hell of having to get the police to deal with my nuisance neighbour and trying to work out difficult things within my relationship and finding out that I can afford to let my guard down with family and friends occasionally, I'm trying to get back into my work in preparation for my week in Paris next month with the double bass and Jan: Music, as ever, has been my life-line throughout all of this, and I've enjoyed 'stretching' busking sessions at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe, Brighton, with excellent guitarist, Sam Arts this week...
Yesterday I played to a 300+ audience for the first time with 'The Priory Street Stardusters' at 'Proms In The Paddock' in Lewes, hosted by the Commercial Square Bonfire Society For Independence: It was such a buzz, and we managed to finish our set as a beautiful rainbow appeared just before the rain.
Why do some buskers in Brighton find it necessary to use full amplification when they're busking, thereby blasting out quieter bands busking nearby who have an equal right to be there too? Sometimes it feels as if musicians are competing to be the loudest, fastest, most showy...and the general public seem to love it?! This isn't for me, I'm afraid: I'd rather play with musicians who listen to other members of their bands and actually 'feel' the music...
On Tuesday 27th July 2010, I attended a focus group lead by Chris Hodgkins (the director of Jazz Services), for the Jazz Services 'Campaign For More Jazz On The BBC' in Bloomsbury, London: Supporters of the campaign are proposing that a portal for all BBC jazz programmes (just radio to begin with), be put on the Internet in order to make the broad church of jazz more accessible to listeners, who will hopefully, in turn, be more encouraged to go out and buy the music. We came to the conclusion that the way that jazz content on the BBC is presented is important (for example, the inclusion of local radio representation of UK-based bands from venues like jazz clubs), and that more emphasis should be put on educating the young about jazz and what it is and has been, in order to keep the music alive...Please sign up to the campaign by visiting www.jazzservices.org.uk (or go to the 'LINKS' page on this website). Thank you!
I need to go out busking as much as possible in order to keep the gigs coming in, but I also need space to have fun, see friends, spend quality time with my partner...so important...
Bass, Bone & Blue (jazz trio playing standards from the 1930s and '40s, featuring Gemma Boyd on double bass, Piers Clark on guitar and Daniel Rehahn on trombone) is taking off: We played at a wedding at Broyle House, Ringmer and at a birthday party in Brighton yesterday, and people were vry impressed and took our card, so hopefully we will get some new bookings soon...
I'm hoping that something will come of my getting a busking pitch at Portobello Market, London, and being asked to be involved with the new CompARTment project at the old market on London Road, Brighton...I'm hungry for new, exciting projects: I want to get away from it all to figure out what exactly it is I want...
We were encouraged by how customers at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe in Brighton and some builders in The Lanes enjoyed Early-Bird Special (western swing and cowboy jazz): The sensitive and gentle sounds of Piers Clark's steel guitar seemed to compliment the hot, sunny day perfectly...
It felt good to be back busking at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe, Brighton, with The Priory Street Street Stardusters again yesterday, with the green flies, cheeky seagulls and people enjoying a cup of tea and good food applauding us...Please come down and listen (you're likely to catch us on some Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays).
I'm proud of myself and walking tall because I braved my anxiety of going to Steyning, West Sussex; a place which is haunted by the ghosts of my painful past, to play at the monthy farmers' market in the High Street car park for the first time with The Priory Street Stardusters. We're hoping that this will become a regular occurance...This experience for me highlighted profoundly the transformative, healing effects on both the body and mind of playing music...Thank you to my angels, my friends, fellow musicians and partner, Jan :-)
I think I'm going to stop busking in shopping precincts: People often just sit around on the benches and get a free concert (they like to listen, but won't contribute)...Also, I'm sick of the 'half-baked' attitude that a lot of people seem to have in society nowadays: Where's the passion, pride, respect and committment?????!!!
I really enjoyed my first busk with Nils Solberg (fantastic vocals and guitar) and Piers Clark today on the shopping precinct in Lewes: I really felt some of the old standards I've been playing for years, come to life again. Also, I'm hoping to have the time to be a part of 'Bad Uncle Jimi and the Jazzy, Bluesy, Country Rockers'...
I'VE NOW BOOKED MY BUSKING TRIP TO PARIS ON 13TH SEPTEMBER 2010 FOR A WEEK, AND NOW I'VE GOT LOTS OF PLANNING TO DO! IT'S A STAB IN THE DARK, BUT I HOPE THAT I'M GOING TO HOOK UP WITH SOME GOOD MUSICIANS THERE!
The Priory Street Stardusters have got George Levy (clarinet) and Roy Leith (tenor saxophone) depping for us at out monthly gig at The Albion pub, Hove today: I like it when we have deps in, because it refreshes the music, and brings back some sparkle into the playing. I hope I'm not getting a cold, though...
The pain in my shoulder is easing - thank goodness! I don't know how people who are in pain 27 / 7 cope. I just hope that it's not R. S. I. from playing too much double bass... I'm going to kick myself up the butt to get my busking trip to Paris in September paid for and organised...
I felt very privileged and excited to be a part of Brighton Theatre Group's stunning production of 'Beauty And The Beast' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton last week....I hope I get asked back to do another production at this beautiful old-fashioned theatre next year....
Vic at 'The Runaway' cafe on Lewes station called my double bass a "rhinoceros" today; a welcome original comment given that I get fed up to the back teeth with people saying, "That's a big guitar / violin!"..."I bet you wish you took up the flute / piccolo!" NOT FUNNY, PEOPLE!!!!!
I enjoyed my first rehearsal for 'Beauty & The Beast' today: Apparently the pit at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, where Brighton Theatre Group will be performing it from 1st - 5th June, is like something out of a Dickens novel...Please come along!
I'm annoyed because I'm tired: I've got so much practice to do, so many gigs to secure, a busking trip to Paris to organize, friends to catch up with, sorting-out to do...Where do I start? All I want to do is sleep, though (sometimes lugging my double bass places really takes its toll)...I can't have a coffee, though, because it gives me a migraine...
"One door closes, and another one slams shut in your face!" - Colin Collins (a late jazz pianist from Portsmouth)
Myself and the other jazz musicians I play swing jazz and blues from the 1930s and '40s with, on an around Cliffe bridge in Lewes, are grateful to the appreciative people of Lewes who have asked us to play at their parties and weddings this summer. Thank you!
I'm studying the letters of trombonist Clyde Bernhardt at the National Jazz Archive this morning (a very generous musician who didn't judge or discriminate against other musicians because of the colour of their skin or their looks; he just cared that they could play well). Please come along to the National Jazz Archive's Summer Jazz Event featuring John Altman in celebrity conversation with Digby Fairweather, followed by live music from John, Digby and friends, on Saturday 10th July 2010 from 1.30pm - 4.30pm at Loughton Methodist Church, 260 High Road, Loughton, Essex. Tickets are £10 (contact David Nathan at the Archive in Loughton Library - Tel. 0208 502 0181). For more details please click on the 'National Jazz Archive' link on my 'Links' page...
Piers, Annie and I (The Priory Street Stardusters) had a really good busking session in Lewes on the bridge today: It's often when I'm not feeling enthusiastic about going busking because the weather's dicey, that we have a really good session, with lots of potential gigs coming our way...
I really enjoyed playing for the first time with Spanish guitarist, Diego Parada today, at Hove Farmer's market (which is sadly having to close due to a poor turn-out). I enjoy playing with 'new' musicians: It keeps things fresh...For some reason, I'm getting the urge to paint / do art again?! Hopefully I'll get out for a bike ride this evening before it rains again...
Now that my website is more or less complete, I'm looking forward to getting back to making music, practicing and cycling. I'm rehearsing for 'The Magic Flute' tonight at a school in Shoreham...Have a great weekend, everyone! Gemma :-)
I'm fed up because I completely misjudged the weather today: It hasn't rained once, and I could have done a day's busking and maybe picked up some gigs. Never mind, I got a wedding gig for 19th June with Dan Rehahn on trombone and Piers Clark on guitar, though, and managed to prepare all of the 'Easter food' for my partner Jan's arrival tomorrow. I'm about to rehearse with guitarist Matt Wall for our gig at The Pelham Arms in Lewes on Thursday (hot swing jazz) - I hope! Have a great Easter everyone...!
Today I'm full of cold, and doing my best to get on with my work and double bass practice: I'm making getting this new website of mine up and running a priority (I've had the package for nearly a year, and must renew it in 50 days)! I'm hoping that the weather will improve this week so that I can go out busking more in order to (hopefully) get more gigs...http://www.myspace.com/gemmabrandyboyd