Classical Babies 4th Birthday!

I don’t normally write work-related posts on my personal blog but this seems to be a month of anniversaries and I’m excited about this one! Tomorrow will be four years since the very first Classical Babies concert at the O2 Centre, Finchley Road NW3, so naturally I am celebrating with another concert in similar style at the same location.

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There’s this fab group called The Lydian String who often play downstairs at the O2 Centre. If you’re in the area you might have seen them with their green banner and CDs out raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. They are friends of mine from my freelancing days and put on a really great show. There are always crowds of people stopping to watch them and buy a CD or just donate some money. I am really proud to be joining them on the violin to play for our birthday concert. I think what they do is fantastic. If you take a look at their website  you not only get to hear a preview of what they sound like you can also read about their incredible fundraising work: 10% of every gig fee they receive goes straight to the Macmillan charity, as part of a commitment contract to pay them a minimum of £10,000 every year and 66% of the proceeds of their CDs sold also gets donated. They will have CDs for sale tomorrow, if you are coming please bring cash with you! This is a fantastic thing to play around the house to surround your child with music.

It says on their website (which needs updating!) that they have raised in excess of £90,000 for the charity since 2001 but I happen to know that this figure is wildly out of date and they have now raised well over £200,000!!

As well as the wonderful music, we will have the usual coffee, squash for the older children and a big birthday cake and plenty of balloons, plus some further treats. I’ll give every person through the door a number to be entered into the free prize draw which will take place in the middle of the programme, giving away a bottle of bubbly, some concert tickets and smaller prizes! After all, it’s only our birthday once a year! If you’d like to attend, full details are on the website.

I’m very excited with where Classical Babies is heading in it’s fifth year… With a sell-out first concert in Harpenden, our first Hertfordshire venue, plans for a Cambridge series and our first Manchester venue in the works I feel like expansion is the name of the game in ’14-’15! I can’t wait! I also have a re-brand planned with a new logo design coming from the wonderful Ellie Illustrates. I can’t wait for my website and blog to sport this lovely badge!

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If you know anyone with small children who would like live concerts in a fun, relaxed setting please show them this page and if you would like to know how Classical Babies started and how I got to this point, read my page on this blog about it! It’s something I’m immensely proud of and passionate about so if it’s something you like the sound of please like me on facebook, follow me on twitter @classicalbabyco and tell all your friends – Thank You! – Coco x

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NW6 to NW11: Two kids, a grand piano and a truckload of stuff

So it seems just ridiculous that we made our Big Move up the Finchley Road, from Flat to House two and a half months ago now and I still haven’t blogged it, but that’s pretty much my pace at this blogging thing. So here we are in mid-October, having moved on 2nd August and it’s time for a little retrospective….

You probably all know, because I whinged on and on about it, that we had to up sticks at short notice and move out of our three bed flat on Broadhurst Gardens, NW6 (and area I LOVE, by the way) and you’ll know if you read my bi-monthly posts that we found a great house just up the road in Childs Hill, with plenty of space, a playroom for the boys and a garden, for not a wildly different amount to what we were paying in rent for our old place! We couldn’t quite believe our luck, yet here we are two months later actually living here.

Meanwhile, we had to get all our stuff out of one place, and into another. So somebody had to pack. And that somebody was my husband. I was in Cornwall, sunning myself with the boys, attending my grandmother’s funeral and getting emotional about the move. Because that’s what I’m good at. My husband is good at packing. Now that’s teamwork 😉

Gabriel’s Space Party was really the last day we properly lived in the flat with our stuff around us and knowing this I took some photos around the place in the aftermath of the clear-up that evening (while watching Andy Murray win his Wimbledon Final). I had a good look around and tried so hard to take it all in and store it in my memory properly, because my God, we had a good six years here, and how many memories were made here and how much we loved this place:

The following day we packed for Cornwall and the next time I saw the place, it looked like this:

Watching the piano movers trying to squeeze our Steinway Grand round the spiral stairwell was nerve-wracking:

And then the amazing people from Alexanders Removals turned up. These guys were the best removal men I could ever imagine. They were quick, careful, friendly and when we bought them lunch and coffee half way through the packing they were so sweet and gave me a little pep-talk (I was very emotional that day!) and were really understanding. We couldn’t have wished for a better experience. Moving is a stressful nightmare, but if you have to move, use them!

Then we were left to lock up:

 

My eyes looked upon empty rooms, but my brain saw this:

 

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As if one goodbye wasn’t enough for the day, that morning I got a call from Gabriel’s former nursery mentor, asking was I coming to the “Graduation Ceremony” today for the ones leaving for Primary School? I hadn’t known anything about it!! But there was no way I could let Gabs miss it, it would have broken my heart so even though it was a major inconvenience and Remus wasn’t that happy for me to bail on him mid-move, I took Gabs for his last goodbye to all his friends and teachers. It was so worth it:

By the time we got back (to the new house, not the old!) the removers had unpacked almost everything and were about to leave and we were left with the very, very long road of unpacking and settling in ahead.

So long Flat 3.... Thank you for the memories.

So long Flat 3…. Thank you for the memories.

My non-bucket Wish List 2013-14

I have been reading a few bucket lists recently and I really liked some of the ideas on them but calling these things a bucket list freaks me out, I suppose because the idea is they’re stuff you want to achieve before you die, and once you’ve done them all… Well, I prefer to have a Yearly Wish List, or at the very most a sort of fantasy five year plan. I like the optimism of the assumption that everything on that list will come true sooner rather than later and the fluidity of always achieving your dreams/adding new ones.

I had completely forgotten I had written one of these Five Year Plan/Wish List things several years ago until the other day when something on it happened to come true (almost). Waaaay back in 2006 (OK, so longer than 5 years ago) I wished to one day play a solo at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. I forgot all about it until I was recently booked to play the second solo part in Vivaldi’s Double Concerto in A minor and the Concerto for two violins and cello with London Concertante (Thursday 12th September at 7:30pm, if anyone wants to come you can buy tickets here!) It resurrected my interest in long term wishing/life plans.

You may also remember that I promised to start sharing my usual “Hopes and wishes and dreams?… Yeurgh!” diary entries here in blog-form, despite my utter squeamishness about it, and this fits that category for sure! So, here’s a new non-bucket list, Wish List 2013-14, including some things from my old 2006 list which, lets face it, probably didn’t happen yet purely because I totally forgot to think about them:

 

Wish List 2013-14

* Play a solo (part) at St. Martin-in-the-Fields – hopefully soon to be ticked!

* Play a solo concerto at St. Martin-in-the-Fields

* Play at Wigmore Hall

* Play in a performance of Enescu’s Octet

* Have another baby (I think I will hold this off till the 2015 list!)

* Make a film (this could include writing/acting/directing)

* Appear in an episode of Poirot!

* Play Hermia in a Midsummer Night’s Dream

* Play in a big Symphony Orchestra (I’ve only ever done Concert/Chamber Orchestras professionally)

* Learn to surf

* Be fluent in another language (I’m pretty close in Romanian, but not close enough)

* Live for a year in New York

* Live in Italy

I have to say, the most amazing things I ever ticked off a similar list were on my list practically from birth (Ok, maybe from age 7 or 8) and they were to see the Northern Lights (2005 in Iceland..twice!) and to have children (I’m not sure I’m quite done there, but I couldn’t be happier with my two boys and if that was it for me, I’d still feel completely contented.) It’s an amazingly satisfying feeling. So having realised how awesome it feels to achieve even just one of these big things, I’m feeling motivated for more…

What’s on your list?

Waltzes and Lullabies

lullaby-trust-badge-150x150 Today, the FSID (Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths) changed its name to The Lullaby Trust, a move of which, as a musician and provider of music for babies, I can’t help but approve. The newly named Trust does vital work raising money for research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and provides bereavement support for those affected by infant death. This is a cause very dear to my heart as my wonderful, brave, inspirational blogger friend Jennie found her beautiful baby daughter Tilda dead (of SIDS) in her cot on 2nd February, the day she had turned 9 months old. Since that day this amazing lady, while grieving has thrown herself into organising blogs to raise awareness and events to raise money in Matilda Mae’s memory, trying to make sure this devastating thing happens to as few parents in the future as possible. It was her inspired idea for us all to blog on a Lullaby theme to raise awareness of this wonderful organisation and their new branding. Here is mine, written with love:

You would think, being the owner of a small business running concerts for babies (Classical Babies) and mum to two small boys, that lullabies would be prevalent in my day to day life. But the truth is, until recently I had rarely sung lullabies, or played them at my concerts, for a couple of reasons:

One is the sad truth that my life, personal and professional is already just so full-to-bursting with other types of musical form – from television theme tunes to the Sibelius violin concerto I hear my husband practising every day, to my mobile ring tone or whatever I’ve been rehearsing or recording with whichever orchestra I’m working with that day – that I just forget! Another reason is that I have babies and toddlers of varying ages at my concerts and while we’re all trained to associate music for little ones with lullabies and nursery rhymes, my experience has been that the music that best draws their attention and delights all ages the most, is something a little livelier, something with a regular, rhythmic beat which they can really feel with their little bodies and dance, move or twirl to! Something more like this:

Or this:

The closest thing I really got to a lullaby in my house was this, gorgeous slow movement of Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos. I used to put it on repeat when both my boys were tiny babies and napping on a soft blanket on the floor while I put my feet up with a mug of tea. If you’re not sure you’ll like it, listen from 7:00 mins in to the end.

But really, lullabies had been notably absent from my home, which is strange for a musician and stranger for a mother.

Then, in the days after Tilda’s death, remembering something Jennie had tweeted about how Matilda had loved ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ (incidentally, always my favourite as a child too) I suddenly had an impulse to sing it to my little 20 month old Lucian after his bath. His face broke into a HUGE beaming smile, and I realised with a pang of shock and guilt that I didn’t remember ever singing it to him, at least not in the last year, and he loved it. How was this possible?! I had sung it to Gabs, my three year old many times but somehow, with a second child and so much other music in my head, I had failed to pass on that most basic of mothering legacies to my gorgeous, dimpled boy! Now, of course, I sing it all the time and he knows most of the actions and points up to the sky when I sing “way up hiiiigh!” and giggles. That day after the bath, the first day, after beaming at me for singing it to him and with so much love in his little eyes, he opened his mouth and said his first string of three words: “Dinkle, Dinkle Daaar!” and looked proud as punch with himself.

All because of Matilda Mae.

By the way, Matilda, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle” is Lucian’s clear favourite, just like it was yours and is mine. Thank you for that.

And I love it all the more because it was originally written by the composer closest to my heart, Mozart and later set to 19th century English lyrics. Here is Mozart’s original version:

Mozart ‘Ah je vous dirais maman’

So from that day, and now even more so from researching this post, I’ve rediscovered lullabies and remembered that there’s something so powerful and transformative about them in all their forms, whether in the original classical forms or played by a music box, with their original lyrics or one -off, silly ones, improvised by a mother bending over a changing mat to make her baby smile, lullabies have such an important place in a baby’s life and I’m so happy I brought them back into mine.

This non-classical version of Brahms’ Lullaby (written originally in German) is really simple and sweet. Something about the woman’s natural, untrained voice and the English lyrics makes me think of my Mum and sweeps me off into memories of my very early childhood. It’s like a balm to my soul. I love it!

For my last choice of music, and to tie all the threads of this post together, this piece by Brahms is really a Waltz but feels just like a Lullaby. It’s so peaceful, restful, innocent and pure.

Baby Tilda, this is for you. Sleep peacefully, darling.

xxxxx

xxxxx

Classical Babies turns 3!

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So this Friday 15th March was the 3rd anniversary of the very first Classical Babies concert for mums, dads and babies!!

3 years since the very first concert, at the same venue, also by a string quartet, also with me playing, on Friday 19th March 2010, when Gabs was just 8 months old and I dragged him along with my mum and dad!

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3 years and one month since THIS very, very first Classical Babies free tester concert in my living room for five of my NCT friends and their babies! 23422_10150096825175457_8182611_n

So much has changed since then, not least the fact that I no longer run Classical Babies with Estela, my friend whose fabulous idea these concerts were – that’s a (rather complicated) topic for another blog post. We started doing monthly concerts at the O2 Centre, with audiences climbing quickly to 50, 60+ mums and babies a month, moved to weekly in Belsize Park (something I later slightly regretted, and now I’m back at the O2 Centre it’s still my favourite venue!).

In 2011, Estela and I welcomed the wonderful pianist, chamber-musician, music-blogger and teacher Nadine André  as a franchisee, running a new monthly venue down in Teddington and later Kingswood too. Now we have venues all over and soon to be far more widespread… Essex and Kent coming soon, amongst others. Watch this space!!

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In 2011, my second little boy Lucian was born, two weeks early (again, a future blog-post!) and I really struggled with running the concerts and the sheer amount of work needed to keep my end of the partnership. After a horrible, horrible Christmas, Estela struggling with a divorce and me with a small baby and toddler, I discovered a copy-cat (literally, Facebook-page likes in the same order and all!) had sprung up and was beating us to the punch at our precious, precious business-baby! I came to the almost impossible impasse of deciding whether to jack the whole thing in, or bite the bullet, take the business on on my own at whatever personal cost and really try to build something that could compete. I will cover this topic more fully another time, and it feels like a huge risk even to mention it here. Estela meant the world to me as a friend, I risk upsetting her if she ever reads this as I know she saw the whole situation differently, and for me to affect another person’s life in such a big way was majorly traumatic for me. It also cost me my health, lost time with my little boys, especially Lucian when he was very small, and a fair amount of money!

BUT… this is where I’m at as I look back on the last year and the last three. I wouldn’t change any of it! I haven’t come as far on my own in one year as I thought I would or should, I haven’t failed on my own like I feared I would. And I’m really, really proud of what I’ve done in making Classical Babies my own. There’s LOADS of room for growth and improvement and change and learning. But the boys are bigger and need less of my every waking hour now, I’m coming out of the tunnel of shock of being swamped by running a business – which has enough work for three people at least – alone, with two small kids on my head and I can see a bright, bright future ahead!

I’m so sorry for the casualties along the way – Lucian, my little Lucian, I’m so, so sorry I was such a poor Mummy to you in your first six months or more, I wish I had enjoyed you more and I’m so sorry for how much I shouted at Gabs when I was overwhelmed; Estela and a friendship if not lost, altered forever; my husband’s bank balance! But I’m not sorry I took it on. At the start of Classical Babies’ fourth year, I’m more passionate than ever about creating access to classical music for mums and babies, and mums and babies who don’t even know they like it, or that they are allowed to like it, and all those little ones who don’t know how musical they can be given a chance!!! And I can’t wait to see what comes….

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