Friday, December 26, 2008

Musical Cheers

After 2 months' break due to exhaustion and voice trouble, it feels so wonderful to be making music again. My sister Sarah was home for a mere 29 hours, and the weather was cold, damp, and windy, but we managed to find a spot on Taradale to record two of our favourite ballads for our family and friends before she flew south again.

The Purple Hoods spy out the Land

Roses Will Bloom Again
I find this song a great faith builder. When I'm hurting because my hopes have been dashed, or floundering because I've lost track of the vision for my life, it helps to remind myself, Only God knows how or when, but roses will bloom again. He has proved He's faithful. I can trust Him with my life and everything important to me.

The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen
"Aberdeen" was unrehearsed and turned into a big joke as we tried to remember the harmonies. What the wind did to my hair I couldn't have done if I tried. We hope you have as much fun watching as we had singing.

You can also join us on a jaunt down the road to the strains of "How Marvellous".

May you take the road to your own Aberdeen and find roses blooming there.
Best wishes, Narelle & Sarah

Friday, September 26, 2008

War Birds in Dannevirke

Elaine and Narelle warm up at Elaine's piano before flitting off for a show at Rahiri, another in The War Years series.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Spring Calendar


Combined Churches Service
Operation Christmas Child promotion
Sunday, August 31st

Elske Centre
1pm, Tuesday, September 9th

Eileen Mary
2pm, Friday, September 19th

2:30pm, Friday, September 26th

Autumn Lodge
2pm, Friday, October 3rd

Elske Centre
1pm, Monday, October 6th

CANCELLED due to funeral.

Eileen Mary
2pm, Friday, October 17th
POSTPONED. Narelle & Elaine taking a breather.

Autumn Lodge
2pm, Friday, October 24th
CANCELLED due to funeral.

Sacred Music at
The Edwardian House
8 Victoria Avenue, Dannevirke
Labour Day
Monday, October 27th

Monday, August 25, 2008

TIP for purchasing Sheet Music

I use as my primary source of sheet music, but I discovered this week that buying from them is only good value (for folks outside of the USA) if it's digital sheet music for instant download.

I wanted some music that isn't currently available in digital format, but was horrified when they slapped US$30 p&p on top of the book price.

A quick check with located the same music with a much more comfortable shipping cost of US$4.49 (currently NZ$6.32).

I conclude that Musicnotes specializes in digital music, while SheetMusicPlus specializes in paper/books. I'll order my shopping accordingly in the future. = )

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Queen's Birthday Weekend - Scottish Program

Charlie assisting me with my costume.

Elaine Swanney and I performing at the Eileen Mary Retirement Home on Friday afternoon, May 30th.

There was another row of chairs situated behind the photographer, and staff and other residents peeped around the corners, their number increasing as the hour progressed.

I had SO much fun. So did the audience. I've never seen them so invigorated. They sang along and clapped and cheered. Mrs. Sedcole, who appears to be asleep in every photo Mum took, was nevertheless watching me with bright eyes every time I turned to look at her (she was directly behind me), and by halfway through the program, this old and fragile lady was actually sitting forward in her chair.

Clearly, we picked a good program! It included: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean; I Love a Lassie; Stop Your Tickling, Jock; Roamin' in the Gloamin'; Bonnie Scotland, I Adore Thee; The Dark Island; Donald, Where's Yer Troosers?; Loch Lomond; My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose; The Skye Boat Song; Westering Home; The Northern Lights of Aberdeen; Scotland the Brave; Highland Cathedral.

After 'Auld Lang Syne', Mrs. Buchanon commented that they always had that at the end of a community dance. "We couldn't go home until we'd sung 'Auld Lang Syne'," she said. I replied, "Now that I've sung it, am I allowed to go home?" There was a protesting chorus of no's.

I closed with 'The Lord's My Shepherd' (Crimond) and they seemed to know it better than I did. I only added it to the program the day before, so that's my excuse for not lilting over the tricky phrasing with precision. I'll work on that, as I'll certainly use it again.

They all LOVED the hat!

Wearing that hat was actually a bit of a hazard when travelling by car. I had to hold onto the feather tip so I could figure out which way to bend my head when entering and exiting the vehicle, and while in the car, I couldn't turn my head to talk to the driver. In the days of feathered caps, no wonder people rode horseback!

Hopefully I'll soon have some sound clips to add. Thanks for the photos, Mum! Elaine, I love working with you! The best praise must go to the Lord Jesus for enabling me to perform, because only 4 days prior I was in no condition to do anything. Truly, He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.

New recordings available

Anzac video recordings are available on the audio page here. I will be adding wee bits of my Scottish program over the next few days.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Anzac Concert 2008

Thanks, Dave, for your encouragement and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this program. Thanks, Dana, for turning all those black notes and lines into marvellous, majestic sound, and for demonstrating your enjoyment of what I do.

I didn't have anyone to film the show, so the best visuals I can offer are recordings of the rehearsal, available here, and views of my gown and cloak, available here.

At the rehearsal I tested the Anzac outfit itemized in the latter link [Boutique Narelle], including 6cm heels. I hadn't worn high heels on stage since the first time since I sang a solo in competition, aged 16. In those days, all high heels were stilettos. My knees wobbled so badly I nearly fell off my shoes and I declared that I would never sing again in high heels. With all the experience I've gained in the past year, I was ready to test out 'higher' ground.

I'm getting the hang of arraying myself for formal events. Sorry, no pics -- the camera that operates from the tripod with self-timer and flash was in the South Island. Girls, if you have family or friends who can help you get ready for an important occasion, you don't know how blessed you are. Anything I've achieved with my appearance has been figured out alone.

As usual, the ladies of the theatre company did a terrific job decorating the theatre. Streamers and strings of flags twisted and looped their way across the walls, interspersed with military and patriotic flags, creating an inviting and evocative atmosphere.

I was second on the program, which pleased me (no long wait trying to keep the vocal chords warm in the chilly backstage recesses), and I'm happy with how I did. I marvel at how the Lord sustained me that week to enable me to perform without the huge physical distress I laboured under last year. I had a glass of water at the side, which I did take recourse to between songs. I'd recently seen two professional singers apply the water treatment during their performances, so I figured it wouldn't be taboo for me to do it. The audience laughed when I said that throats don't acknowledge important occasions -- clearly nobody minded. I went into a spasm of shaking when I exited the stage and I had to sit down quickly, but my knees didn't wobble one bit while performing, and even when my accompanist took the second song slower than we'd practiced (meaning I needed more breath to reach the end of a phrase) and we got out of sync on the last page, we carried on and got it sorted without a blink, finishing with aplomb.

I was glad of a comfortable armchair backstage, happily one that had a good view onto the stage. Wrapped in my fleecy, satin-lined coat (a Boutique Narelle creation), I watched most of the show from there (whilst eating my picnic tea, since lunch had been at 11am), punctuated with amusing comments from Dana beside me, but some of the spoken items couldn't be heard backstage, so in the second half I ventured out into the auditorium to watch from there. My favourite parts of the program were...

Two of the Camo Girls from the first half featured in the middle of "Three from Company B" in the second half, giving the older girls time to remove the military overcoats and caps they'd started the number in (they wore violent pink sequins underneath). The little girls emerged dressed in pale blue, one from each side of the stage, with their arms holding around them a red, white, and blue flag. They stood together in the centre and unwrapped their arms to reveal a notice pinned to their tummy. One sign said AN and the other, ZAC. Floating their arms like butterfly wings, they danced about until they faced the back of the stage, posing there so the audience could see that one flag was Australian and the other was New Zealand, garnering a round of applause from the audience.

Dave and Alan hammed a comedy duo in Depression era caps and overcoats, a number that reminded me of the 1930s USA variety shows depicted in the movie "The Glenn Miller Story", the guys strolling back and forth across the stage in tandem while earnestly singing some ridicilous lyrics. The piece de resistance was the reading of a newspaper from 10 years ago, announcing the startling news that Dannevirke was now endowed with a woman mayor ("Whatever would come next, a woman prime minister?" said Alan. "That would be astonishing, but totally unbelievable would be a woman president of the United States!" answered Dave.), and the shocking announcement that petrol cost 50 cents per litre -- it's currently at NZ$1.89.

The show closed with "Now is the Hour" (lyrics in the following post), followed by the National Anthem (the gathering and I sang the first verse together; they sang the Maori version while I 'oohed' a descant I'd written the night before; I soloed the fifth verse), followed by the Last Post played with the spotlight on the New Zealand flag. Then in the silence and gloom, retired Lietenant Commander Bill Ingram intoned:

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."*

The audience repeated, "We will remember them." And the concert was over.

I spoke to the bugler afterward, thanking him for his part and saying how much I enjoyed the patriotic ceremony and tradition of the closing moments, something of which our country has very little. He said thoughtfully, "I guess our country is still too young."

The ANZAC tradition, begun in 1915, has lived on for nearly a century. Every year the numbers attending the Dawn and Civic ceremonies multiply, young people, particularly children, replacing the returned servicemen who've died, honouring those who have served our country in times of conflict since that day.

New Zealand does a good job of remembering those who have fallen in battle, but freedom is for the living, and the future of this life and freedom we enjoy is daily compromised by unrighteousness in public affairs and private individuals. Rather than swerving into worship of our fallen ancestors, let's learn from the Anzac tradition -- let's stand up for what we believe in and remain faithful to the cause of righteousness. I felt very privileged to stand on the ceremonial stage with our nation's flag above my head, testifying unashamedly to the truth and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

*From the poem "For the Fallen", by Laurence Binyon.

Anzac news report: Hawkes Bay Today.

Listen to portions of my program here. The recordings were made at the rehearsal. Due to the size of the media files, the limits of PhotoBucket, and my lack of technical knowledge (i.e. file squashing), I couldn't load the complete songs.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Anzac 2008 Lyrics

When I think of Anzac Day, I think of all the goodbyes that had to be said to friends and loved ones, not knowing if they would ever see each other again.


If I could take this moment forever,
Turn the pages of my mind
To another place and time
We would never say goodbye.

If I could find the words I would speak them,
Then I wouldn't be tongue-tied
When I looked into your eyes,
We would never say goodbye

If I could stop the moon ever rising,
Day would not become the night,
Wouldn't feel this cold inside
And we'd never say goodbye.

I wish that our dreams were frozen,
Then our hearts would not be broken,
When we let each other go...

If I could steal this moment forever,
Paint a picture-perfect smile
So our story stayed alive,
We would never say goodbye.

Another thing I remember on Anzac Day is that when the world seems to be self-destructing, when all around us there is fear and anxiety, we need something bigger than ourselves to trust in and bring us hope.


The timeless theme,
Earth and heaven will pass away.
It’s not a dream,
God will make all things new that day.
Gone is the curse
From which I stumbled and fell;
Evil is banished
To eternal hell.

No more night,
No more pain,
No more tears,
Never crying again.
Praises to the great “I Am”,
We will live in the light
Of the risen Lamb.

See all around,
Now the nations bow down to sing.
The only sound
Is the praises to Christ, our King.
Slowly the names
From the book are read;
I know the King,
There’s no need to dread.

See over there,
It’s a mansion prepared for me
Where I can live
With my Saviour eternally.

No more night,
No more pain,
No more tears,
Never crying again.
Praises to the great “I Am”,
We will live in the light
Of the risen Lamb.
We will live in the light
Of the risen Lamb.
Hallelujah to the risen Lamb!


Now is the hour when we must say goodbye.
Soon you'll be sailing far across the sea.
While you're away, oh, then, remember me.
When you return, you'll find me waiting here.

Dunedin editor Thomas Bracken wrote a patriotic poem in the early 1870’s, printed it on the front page of his newspaper, and offered 10 guineas for the best musical setting. A school teacher from Lawrence, Otago, John Joseph Woods, won the prize – and “God Defend New Zealand” was the result. The song was adopted as our national anthem in 1940.


God of nations! at Thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our Free Land.
Guard Pacific's triple star,
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand

Men of ev'ry creed and race
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our Free Land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our Free Land.
Lord of battles in thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our Free Land.
From dishonour and from shame
Guard our country's spotless name
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our Free Land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy Glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

Listen to portions of my program here. The recordings were made at the rehearsal. Due to the size of the media files, the limits of Photobucket, and my lack of technical knowledge (i.e. file squashing), I couldn't load the complete songs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ANZAC Concert at Fountain Theatre

Anzac Variety Concert
4pm at the Fountain Theatre, Dannevirke
Friday, April 25th, 2008

Click image to enlarge.

Visit Boutique Narelle for a preview of my concert dress!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shamrocking with the Old Folks

Elaine Swanney and I provided the musical entertainment at the RSA Club today for a retirement home collaboration hosting an Irish party for old folks from Waipukurau, Pahiatua, and Dannevirke.

Some of the guests had found a green shirt or scarf. A few sprouted tinselly shamrock laurels. Nearly every staff member sported an emerald hat. Elaine looked a trick in an elf costume, but I forgot I had the camera with me!

Amy and Gemma McDonald brought three dancers over from Palmerston North for the Viking Choir’s Irish concert tonight, so they dropped in at the RSA, providing me with a convenient filler between my two brackets. Two of the girls tapped a lively but traditional style jig to a Lord of the Dance track, and the third girl did a barefoot scarf dance to what sounded like syllabus free dance music. The Dannevirke News reporter was clicking away with her camera by then, so I might get a news clipping in a day or two.

My first bracket opened with the lively “It’s a Great Day for the Irish”, followed by “If You’re Irish Come into the Parlour”, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” with both verses, as I consider the chorus to be quite lack-luster on its own, and “An Irish Lullaby”, with suitable comments in between.

Prior to “If You’re Irish” I enquired if there were any Timothys or Pats present. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask for Kathleens when we opened the second bracket with “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”. I later met two Kathleens, and the song absolutely made their day. I’m glad Elaine convinced me to do it. I hadn’t wanted to because I was sick of hearing it and it meant another long ballad to learn, but previous retirement home excursions showed how hugely popular it is and we thought it would be missed if we didn’t do it. I learned one verse and the chorus and we sang those twice, inviting folks to join in the second time round.

Next on the program was “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go”, a bouncy number which didn’t flow as well as it could have because we added it to the program only a week before, had one practice with the chords written out for Elaine, and I had no music at all. It needs to go at a fast lick with a lively bass. We'll work on that.

I closed with “Be Thou My Vision”. Listening to Brian Hughes preach from Acts 6 last night, I realized I needed to say something before I sang it, something unashamedly pointing the way to Christ. I was nervous, but Mum, Dad, and I had prayed together last night and I wrote out what I needed to say. By this point in the program I seemed to have got over the hand trembles – here’s a good reason to eschew a hand-held microphone!...or to get more practice with one! – and to my surprise I actually remembered what I wanted to say and didn’t have to look at my notes (I had the a lyric sheet in my hand in case, and had to make use of it when I lost my way in “Irish Eyes”).

Having confirmed with the gathering that it was indeed Saint Patrick’s Day, I said, “Patrick brought a message to Ireland. ‘The only hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life.’ This next Irish song speaks that same message.” Then I sang verses 1, 2, and 4. Elaine and I weren’t in sync for the lead-up notes at the beginning of each line. I’d only put the song into the program a week prior, and hadn't realized that the words on her music differed from what I was singing. Other than that, it sounded fine.

We socialized with the old folks for a wee bit before going home. Elaine’s in the Celtic Band at tonight’s Irish concert, so we couldn’t stay long, but I learned that I’d made one lady cry, and I had quite a chat with 93-year-old Kathleen Hughes from Pahiatua who, despite significant hearing difficulty, wanted to know all about me, something I’ve not so far encountered in old folks. (They usually prefer reminiscing.) She touched my dress, wanted to see my shoes, and was delighted when I pulled my wool shawl out of my bag – it had been too hot to wear it. I saw some heads perk up, so I walked down the room letting ladies here and there finger the fabric and admire the vibrant colours. Two of them inquired if I’d got it in Egypt, and another hoped it was Irish – it’s Ukrainian, but was perfect for the occasion.

I knew that my outfit would please the old folks, but it’s not a style that holds the usual attractions of the world, so I was interested when, shortly after I arrived at the club, one of the home staff, I think in her late 30s or early 40s, although it was hard to tell under the green lunch-pail hat and sunglasses, murmured with delight, “You look so…” She couldn’t seem to find a suitable word, but I understood her intention and thanked her. “Marvellous,” she finished.

I've enjoyed learning these melodic Irish ballads and finding out how well they suit my voice, and it’s good to know that I blessed people with my music and appearance, but most of all I hope that the real sunlight has shone through the windows of their souls.

Now for some chocolate!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Autumn Calendar


Monday, March 17th
St. Patrick's Day party
Dannevirke RSA Club

Friday, April 25th
Anzac Day Concert
Fountain Theatre

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rosy 99

Mrs. Swanney and I had the privilege this week of providing musical entertainment at the 99th birthday party of Mrs. Kath Maloney. She's the most beautiful 99-year-old I've ever seen. Rosy cheeked and bright eyed with pretty white curls, she sat beneath balloons and bright poster letters, flanked by a rainbow of flowers, enjoying her party with enthusiasm.

The guests sang along to our medley of old time favourites until general insistence that I give them a solo. I chose “An Irish Lullaby”. Mrs. Swanney, amazing lady, calmly pumped from her piano accordian whatever was requested. It’s a blessing not having to rely on an immovable piano, but also what marvelous freedom not needing music in front of you! I’m still building my repertoire, so haven’t managed to dispense with a lyric sheet yet. But I’ll get there.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Where Have All the Pianists Gone?

I know a church that’s trying to find a way to record hymn accompaniments before their pianist gets too frail to play them. There are 3 other pianists in their 70’s who regularly play at local retirement homes. They won’t be able to play forever, and yet they are the only ones who seem to know the music that’s familiar to the old folks.

Songs from the war era, traditional folk ballads, sweetheart ditties – they’re easy to play and sing, and people doing so give the old folks great pleasure. I encourage you, young pianist – buy a book of old songs (see sidebar for links to online music stores), learn them, and offer your services to a rest home’s entertainment coordinator. It will give you valuable performance experience before an uncritical audience, a blessing to your community and service to the Lord.

As a child and teenager, I felt uncomfortable in retirement homes. I was shy and didn’t know what to say or how to handle their deafness and dementia. I wasn’t a confident performer, either. I’m pondering over what made this change, but in the meantime, I can only advise: keep working on it. Serve the Lord with gladness of heart – and this can be done sharing your joy and vibrancy with the old folk. They need your good cheer.

I was so blessed today to see how a roomful of tired old ladies brightened up when Mrs. Swanney and I gave them “Side by Side”, “Pack Up All your Care and Woe”, and the like. We performed their favourites and they would sing along, swaying in their chairs or patting their knees, applauding enthusiastically at the end. Two of them even got up to dance now and then. Mostly Mrs. Swanney played from the lyrics book Topsy (entertainment coordinator) had dug out of a cupboard for us, and I kept one eye on those lyrics and the other on the people I was singing to. I'll have to swat up on my words so I can start moving around the room.

Mrs. Swanney is my neighbour, a terrific musician in great demand in the community. She plays piano, pipe organ, piano accordian in the Celtic Band, and a horn in the Brass Band. We got chatting at a recent neighbourly housewarming party, and it looks like this is the beginning of a fun partnership. We've had two outings together this week and are planning an Irish program to share with the combined retirement homes’ St. Patrick’s Day party at the RSA on March 17th. They’ll all be wearing something green, and I’m looking forward to getting into the spirit of things with my shamrock dress. = ) The costumes are half the fun of performing!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Singing to the Dark Hills

While holidaying with my family at the north end of Queen Charlotte Sound, I left our cabin in the bush as dusk was fading to night, and went for a wander along the shore in front of the old white homestead.

I’d seen photos of weddings Furneaux had hosted, the bride walking on her father’s arm past the stone fountain, down the path between the majestic trees on the smooth lawn, and making her eternal sacred vows in front of the shrubby pink roses overlooking the bay.

Dreamily I followed her down to the roses and watched the retreating reflections on the sea as the pale sky turned to shades of deep grey and purple. The silhouette of the hills, smooth and velvety, and the silver lapping water transported me across the world to Celtic isles, rocky shores, misty mountains…

I lifted my voice and sang out across the bay. The lyrics of “The Mists of Islay” were so perfect (view here) seemed I was really on the Scottish isle. I felt like Kiri Te Kanawa singing in a vast natural amphitheatre to a hushed and eager audience. And yet I was also alone, singing to the sky, the hills, and the water, testing the power of my lungs, pouring my soul into song.

I sang again, and other songs, until I became aware of human presence, hovering behind trees to my left. It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling. Somehow I knew they’d come to listen. I sang on, smiling at the hills.

Somewhere in the middle of “The Impossible Dream”, I was rudely interrupted by the Furneaux dog, a small and indignant creature who apparently disapproved of my pitch. I turned to meet her, still singing, but she yapped more vociferously, so I stopped and humbly apologized. She grumbled and shook her head but scooted off down the beach with two men I assume had let her out when they exited the bar.

I turned back toward the sea, but couldn’t find the curtain back onto my stage. That rude creature spoiled my magic. I didn’t have the heart to sing any more. The invisible audience realized the concert was over and slipped back to their cabins. I meandered down to the deserted jetty to recover…and enjoy the memory of my magical concert to the dark hills.

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