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.




Baby no. 2 is nearly two! The Cycle of Life.

Yesterday, Lucian was playing in between the bookcases and something in my memory jolted and I rushed for the camera. I didn’t even realise until I went back to check but life has a funny way of repeating itself!

This is Spring 2013, Lucian aged 22 months.ImageAnd this one is Spring 2011, Gabriel aged 19 months.


You can see why I leapt for the camera! I didn’t set it up at all, but they both happened to play in the same place (Lucian had never gone between the bookcases before) at roughly the same age, both in March wearing the same jumper! 

Gabriel was only 19 months here but had trainers on, whereas Lucian is 22 months but no trainers. Who will be the tallest? It’s anyone’s guess! This cheered me up after a few days of non-stop migraines and a humiliating episode in a café in Central London where both boys shrieked, cried and generally showed me up as a useless mother who can’t control her children at all and ended in me calling my husband in tears to come and pick us up!

It started well enough:


We had been out for the day, following the same routine as we always do: A walk from our flat at Finchley Rd to Regent’s Park with them in the buggy, let them out to play in the playground and then walk to BASE bistro on Baker St. for milkshakes. I did everything the same as usual, I just didn’t see it coming! Although I had some sense that the boys were bigger and more demanding and active and I had planned for a change to grab a sandwich and juice from Pret A Manger next door and take it to the park but it being Easter Weekend, the place was jam-packed so we ended up in our usual restaurant, unusually crowded with hushed adults having a grown-up lunch. At least they were: then along came the Azoitei boys! It started with Lucian shrieking for food and knocking everything on the table onto the floor, the fish and chips taking ages to arrive, Gabs crying about God knows what and then getting his leg stuck in the buggy and crying as loudly as he could while Lucian escaped and ran off towards the steep staircase while I freed his brother. They had food, drinks, clean bums, crayons and paper and still they made such a fuss! I left in tears, vowing NEVER to go anywhere with the two of them ever again.

Why did this happen?? We live in London, I’ve been a mum of two for nearly two years, Gabs is usually fantastic in public places, so grown up. What the hell went wrong?! I realised on the way home in the car: We’re starting a new phase.

Gabs is turning four this summer and already very excited to learn what school he will be going to. All his mental energy is gearing up for it, he talks about it all the time. And for some reason, this transition has made him really disobedient lately, he’s really testing my boundaries.

Lucian is very nearly two and has just started morphing from an easy-peasy second baby into a strong-willed, noisy, head-strong toddler who is starting to challenge his brother’s place as the “Biggest Personality In The Room”!!

My babies are gone!! I have big boys now. And if I thought I knew what the hell I was doing with two children… well, I was wrong. All these memories of Gabs going through this toddler-twos are coming flooding back: The backbreaking physicality of wrestling clothes on and off them, the stress, the fear of judgement in public, the hard stares and tuts in cafés from people who are under the illusion that it’s at ALL possible to make a frustrated two year old who can’t communicate in many words or any sentences at all, stop shrieking.. people who’ve never had children, people who are yet to have them, people who have forgotten what it’s like to have children and people who should just plain know better… People who are blissfully ignorant that one can’t negotiate with a toddler terrorist and that mum is doing her goddam best and just can’t stay in the flat all day for another day this cold, cold, snowy Spring. I suddenly remembered all the times I left bookshops, supermarkets and coffee shops in tears, wondering when the impossibe-to-predict or plan for, shrieking-in-public-when-you’ve-just-paid-for-food-you-really-need-to-eat-but-can’t-enjoy episodes will end, with Gabs.

And that was just ONE child!

Now there are two of them and just when I thought Gabs was maturing beautifully and such a great little man in public, he gets riled by his brother’s attempts to upstage him and back we go… Regression time! It’s like having twins, with Luci trying to throw his weight around and be the bigger boy and Gabs wailing like a baby. Aaaaaaaarggggh!!!!

But you know what? I accept your challenge, you little monkeys. A New Phase is coming and Mummy will up her game. It took me a weekend, but I finally got with the programme. I don’t have a toddler and a baby any more. I have two big, gorgeous, funny but physically demanding boys and I WILL keep up with you!

This summer, Remus and I are having our large but very worn and shabby flat completely repainted and recarpeted. After six years and two children I can’t explain to you how badly this is needed. We will have a huge declutter. The cot will go down, the pram will be sold, the ball-pool under the bed given away and the boys’ room completely redesigned. I’m going to give them a fantastic place to sleep, read and play. The double bed that takes up the whole floor, which Gabs shares with Daddy, and the cot which Luci has never really slept in (but has fallen out of many times) will go and be replaced by two matching, wooden single beds. They slept in these in a Cornish cottage we rented at Christmas and both loved them. I hope to find something similar:ImageImage

They’ll have much more floor space to play then and I want to get rid of all their baby toys and rubbish bits and bobs and get them some more advanced toys, and this IKEA system to organise all their cars and trains and toys:

ImageSo, once the flat is done, and Gabs is off to school, my next plan is to take Classical Babies to the next level, with more staff and more venues and more little baby string instruments!  I’m not sure how that will work with a demanding toddler around but that’s a plan for another day.

And so begins a new life cycle for Coco and Co.!