Wellington appreciation

I was lucky enough to visit Wellington last week! Willie's grandma was turning 90, so we all came over from Melbourne for the celebrations and to see our family & friends. It's always great to see my home city again, but this trip had a few extra-special highlights. 

Thursday was a whirlwind of brunch at Island Bay, settling into the hotel where we would be holding the first of the birthday parties, and zipping around town gathering supplies (and coffee)...

The waves at Island Bay, across the road from our brunch cafe

Julian and I stopped for long blacks at the Flight Coffee Hangar!

On Friday, after the party, I went for a lovely solo stroll from our hotel to the waterfront and back. The familiar landmarks looked beautiful in the early evening light...

Looking across the harbour

Over the bridge to Civic Square

My favourite library ever (sniff)...

Old Bank Arcade with overhead bus power-lines

I had Saturday afternoon all to myself, so naturally I headed for Tash's amazing yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Co, stopping for a quick lunch at Deluxe on the way.

Oriental Bay beach, below my old flat

Deluxe Cafe has reliably amazing salads!

I spent nearly two hours at the yarn shop, browsing and chatting... and spinning! A spinning group was in residence on the shop's couches, with wheels and spindles whizzing. Jen invited me to join in, and loaned me one of the shop spinning wheels and some fibre to have a try at wheel-spinning.

I had only ever spun yarn using a spindle, so I needed help to get started (thank you Alexis!). I managed to get everything flowing nicely a couple of times, in between fighting with over-twisting, re-attaching my fibre, and spinning the wheel the wrong way. I definitely got a good taste of using a wheel, and I've started researching affordable models. ;)

Holland Road is a wonderfully colourful place!

A rainbow of Quince & Co yarn

The Brooklyn Tweed Shelter wall

My very first wheel-spun yarn!

An amazing Sophie's Universe blanket on the shop's knitting couch

Heading back to Oriental Bay via the waterfront

Boat-sheds in the sun

The other big highlight of my few days in Wellington was joining my old choir on Sunday morning for some plainchant, Byrd, and Palestrina. Due to a long and expensive period of earthquake-strengthening, St Mary's has been closed for the last few years and only re-opened a couple of weeks ago. It was so good to see my choir friends and sing with them again...

The restored St Mary of the Angels, open again at last!

My view from the choir loft

I rounded out my trip with a lovely lunch with Willie and family, and then headed north to my family in Whakatane. I'll be here for a couple more weeks before I fly back to Melbourne. So far I've been enjoying Mum & Dad's cooking, scoffing all the feijoas I can find, and quietly getting back to my knitting projects.

These are my precious new yarn pets from Holland Road - aren't they gorgeous?

Knitsch Singularity + Brooklyn Tweed Arbor

Yarn is definitely my favourite kind of souvenir. <3


I'm in New Zealand again, hooray! Willie had a couple of family events to attend in Christchurch and Wellington, and I decided to tag along and visit some of our friends and family.

My first stop was rural Taranaki, where Willie's parents live. We stayed with them for a few nights, and it was great to be in the countryside for a change. I'll write a post about that bit of the trip once I've sorted out my photos.

We all drove down to Wellington on Friday night, so Willie and his folks could attend a family wedding. Happily, we'd struck one of Wellington's magical calm-and-sunny weekends!

Wellington <3

On Saturday I visited the Underground Market at Frank Kitt's Park, which was fortuitously having a wool-themed week. I didn't buy quite as much yarn as last time, but I did score some natural-coloured 4ply wool from Anna Gratton's Little Wool Co (which will become a stripy cardigan), and a nice squishy skein of undyed DK wool from Maniototo Wool (which will probably become a cabled hat or cowl).

My new pretties:

Then I met up with Rowan for a beer and some afternoon tea. :)

Since then, I've had a lovely dinner with Olivia and Noel and Robert and Andrea, sung with St Mary of the Angels' choir (but not actually at St Mary's as it's awaiting earthquake strengthening), visited Rowan and Amanda, sung with a consort of viols, visited Holland Road Yarn Co's new CBD shop, and raided the library's cd section (my library card still works, mwahahaa).

We're heading back to Melbourne on Sunday - we'll see how much more we can fit in! We still have a lot of people to see, places to revisit, and favourite foods to eat...

Vespers II

Well, last night I had my final singing occasion at St Mary's before I cross the ditch. We had a sung Vespers, followed by a short concert which included a big, big solo for me in Mendelssohn's 'Hear My Prayer'.

The Mendelssohn piece was a kind of send-off for me - definitely going out on a high note, hurr hurr. But it really was! It's the longest solo I've ever done. It was great fun to sing, and having a really good accompanist (Tom) made it easy to relax and get into it. I love it when I flick into 'performance mode' and stop feeling self-conscious, and the rhetoric just comes naturally. It was also nice to have Willie and Rowan in the audience for moral support, and the three of us had a good feed afterwards at Satay Palace, one of our old-fave cheap-and-tasty places on Cuba St.

I don't usually listen to recordings of pieces I'm preparing to perform (at least, not too close to the performance), because it makes it harder to come up with my own interpretation. But it's fun to do when the performance is all done and dusted! I found this 1980s recording with Kiri Te Kanawa, a singer who a certain primary-school teacher of mine adored. ;)

It's a very different singing style to mine, but it really brings out the chocolate-box aspect of the music! Good fun.

I'm really going to miss being part of St Mary's Choir. Such a lovely (and interesting) group of people! It's hard to believe, but I joined a whole decade ago, during my honours year at uni. I was attracted by the prospect of singing Medieval and Renaissance music, and I was studying Latin at the time and loving it. I started out in the alto section, with almost no voice - no resonance, dodgy tuning, pretty much bad all round! But I could read music, and I was keen, and over time I got better. ;)

Robert, the choir director, really inspired me with his passion for early music, and when I started having voice lessons with him and working seriously on my singing, it all got easier and easier (and more and more fun). Now, I feel like I'm in a good position to try the waters in a bigger pond - I finally have the confidence to have a go at pretty much anything. As long as I keep practising! And I'm looking forward to joining in with St Mary's choir on my trips back to NZ.

Out of my comfort zone

Yesterday afternoon my choir held an 'open day' - a concert with items from the choir, the kids' choir, and the two young organists, followed by mulled wine in the choir room. The main event for me (other than the really good mulled wine - lots of cinnamon sticks!) was singing the solo in Mendelssohn's "O for the Wings of a Dove". I don't usually tackle 19thC music - in fact I tend to actively avoid it - but the choir director Robert has a soft spot for what he calls 'chocolate box music', so I had to suck it up!

One aspect that differed from my usual Baroque fare was that I had to obey the dynamic and expression markings in the score, instead of making my own decisions about those things. And of course I didn't have to worry about adding trills etc, so it was actually a more straightforward process than I'm used to when I prepare pieces for performance.

In the end, it went really well! Luckily our organist Tom is a very experienced Romantic performer, so it was easy to really get into the music with him accompanying. And the choir sang well too. :)

In other singing news, I'm now on Day 27 of my self-imposed course of sight-singing Bach chorales. And I'm getting better! As with many things, doing a little bit each day does get results. I discussed it with Robert, and he suggested playing the bass line on the keyboard while I sing the other parts, to help give context. I tried it, and it makes the sight-singing so much easier it kind of feels like cheating. :p

I'm still having trouble with some of the larger intervals. It's pretty embarrassing, but I still can't reliably sing 4ths and 5ths! Playing the bass line does help, but I need to have another strategy so I'm not just guessing. I'm going to try 'filling in' the interval with a fast scale, out loud at first, and then in my head. Simple, and hopefully foolproof. We shall see...

Handmade: Day 2

This morning I had choir as usual at St Mary's, but with a couple of incidents that weren't entirely usual. During Mass, Olivia and I sang the Monteverdi duet we'd been working on (a 'Salve Regina' setting), and it went really well. We'd had a good run-through before Mass, which helped our confidence a lot. I'm even getting more used to leading now. But alas, Olivia is departing to Berlin to pursue her art career. The choir had a farewell lunch (bring-a-plate style), and it was all a bit sad. But she has promised to return after a year or so, and keep us up-to-date with her adventures via email.

Afterwards, I headed over to Te Papa for more crafting at the knit lounge. I hadn't signed up for any classes for today, so I just hung out and did some spinning and knitting and chatting. A couple of people had brought their spinning wheels, which was cool to watch. I started spinning some rainbow merino on my wee turkish spindle (both recently acquired).

When I got sick of spinning, I switched to working on the little knitted bag that I started at yesterday's two-handed knitting class. Happily, I still remembered how to do it! Still awkward, but I shall keep practising. Eventually I started making mistakes and dropping needles, so I took a hint and called it a day. Time to curl up with a pot of tea and my kindle... :)