Behind the scenes at BeVox: A week in the life (episode 3)

Part One of this post is here
Part Two of this post is here

Part Three: Mid-week – Session days

Tuesday 29th May: Backups, admin, Nottingham session

Up at 8:15am today, which is a little early for me, but I was awake so thought I ought to get up and get on with things. I’d had a minor nightmare about my computer crashing and deleting everything I’ve ever written, and it got me thinking about how I back up my work. Before I got my audio PC, all my data was stored on one computer, and I backed it up periodically to an external hard drive. I have to confess I didn’t do this as regularly as I should, and occasionally this caused problems. Since getting the new audio PC, I tried a different strategy for backing my data up, but it was quite a bit of faff, and I’d fallen out of the habit of backing up regularly. I took the hint from my mini-nightmare, and spent a little while researching good backup tools. Around 9am, I took the plunge and bought a license for an online backup system (Backblaze), installed it, and set it to work backing up all the data on my audio PC. It will take a few days for it to copy everything onto its remote servers, but at least then I can just let it run in the background, rather than having to remember to run a backup process regularly.

I got a call from our Nottingham venue around 9:30am, letting me know that the electrical work they’d scheduled for today had hit a problem, and there was not going to be any power in the main building for our session that evening. They’d let us know this was a possibility last week, and they had a contingency plan in place, which is what I’d emailed our Nottingham singers about the previous night. The plan was for the session to be moved to the Sixth Form Centre, rather than our usual room – apparently this might be a bit more “cosy”, but should still work for us. We’ll see how it pans out!

I went through the notes we took at our business meeting the day before so I could prioritise my “to do” list. There were some admin jobs that needed doing, such as working out the timings for the soloist auditions and sending them to people who were auditioning, and following up on some details with some of our suppliers for our Musical Mystery Tour event. These took me through to about 11am, then I went back to playing in the orchestral parts for the Les Mis medley. I finished the final pass of the string parts at 2pm, so took a break for lunch.

After lunch, I replied to a few emails, then jumped in the shower before heading off for the Nottingham session. We left the house at 3:45pm – a little earlier than usual, but that was to give us time to sort out putting up signposts at our Nottingham venue to direct people to our alternative location, and to sort out the seating. We got to the venue at 5:45pm, and spent 45 minutes getting everything ready, then the usual half-hour welcoming people and signing them in. The session ran 7pm to 9pm, and it was a tough one – the alternative venue was challenging to sing in, with poor acoustics and an amount of background noise, plus half-term meant we had lower attendance than usual. Everyone there put as much into it as they could, and we got some really useful work done, but it was still a hard session for everyone. We packed up and hit the road home by about 9:20pm, which meant we got home at 10:40pm. We were both tired, but also hungry, so we made some dinner and got to bed a little after midnight.

Wednesday 30th May: Admin, software update, Lincoln session

I was up and working by 11, and when I got up, I saw two Facebook posts on my phone that prompted action – one was from the husband of one of our singers, who had seen that a Classic Car Show had changed the date of their visit to Clumber Park, and it now coincided with our concert in the Chapel at Clumber Park. They’re expecting 10,000 visitors to the car show, so that could easily have an impact on our concert. I emailed our contact at the National Trust to see what we needed to do to ensure our concert would still run smoothly. The other thing I spotted on Facebook was that my music notation software, Dorico, had just been updated to version 2.0. This was exciting news – I hadn’t been expecting an update until the autumn, and there was an amount of new functionality included that I was waiting for. I paid the upgrade fee, downloaded it and installed it as soon as possible! The next hour or so was spent familiarising myself with some of the new features – just the ones that will be immediately useful to me, initially, although I’ll want to spend a significant amount of time exploring some of the other things when I have some “free time” (whatever that is!).

There was more admin to cover next, with a couple of people kindly volunteering to step down from concerts where we had an imbalance of voice parts. I allocated their places to singers on the reserve list, which moves those events closer to being well-balanced, and emailed the singers who had now got places on the events to tell them. I’d received a couple of invoices that needed paying, so I processed those, including logging all the details on our internal financial system so we can include the figures in our reporting to HMRC. My accountant had been in touch, reminding me we hadn’t paid his last invoice yet (oops!), so I quickly sent that payment too.

Lunch was calling at 2:45pm, so I stopped work on the admin. Straight after lunch I had a quick shower before we left for the Lincoln session at 4:30pm, getting to Lincoln at 6pm to set up, welcome everyone, and run the session from 7pm to 9pm. It was a good night, with everyone in fine humour! We were packed up by 9:15pm, but then we headed over to the local Tesco to do our weekly food shop (I know it sounds daft, but we like to do this after the session in Lincoln on a Wednesday night – it’s a better-stocked store than our local one, and it’s quiet at that time of night – plus it’s about the only point in the week when we can make the time to actually do some shopping!). Whilst Toni nipped round the shop, I took the opportunity to call my mum and dad for a catch-up.¬†We were home for 11.15pm, and made a quick dinner which we ate in front of the telly. I had a few bits I wanted to catch up on after dinner – mainly reading more details about the new update to Dorico – so I eventually went to bed at 2.45am.

Thursday 31st May: Admin, backing tracks, Sheffield session

I was up and ready to go at 10:30am. I had some more admin to do first of all – various emails to send, and people to chase up. I also finished off the articles I’d been reading the previous night about Dorico – there’s a lot of new functionality in the upgrade, and it takes time to learn how to use it. By noon, I was ready for something more creative, so I went back to the Les Mis backing track. I’d earmarked Friday for writing my final Christmas arrangement (always good to have an uninterrupted day for writing), so I could work on bits and pieces throughout Thursday. I played in the majority of the percussion parts, which were a bit fiddly in places. I got so engrossed in the process, I didn’t surface for lunch until 3:15pm.

After lunch, I checked my emails before heading for the shower. We were on the road by just after 5pm, which got us to the venue at 6pm to set up. The session ran from 7pm to 9pm as usual, and there was some good singing, and a good atmosphere, even though the music was a bit stop/start – doing detailed work on tricky pieces like Scarborough Fair and Solsbury Hill is always tough, as I’m trying to balance the necessity for getting the small details in each part right against the need to keep everyone involved.

We were packed down and out of the venue for 9.15pm, and we went over the road for a quick drink and a bit of socialising with some of the Sheffield singers. We didn’t stay too long – out by 10pm, so we could be home for 10.45pm, in time to make some dinner. After dinner, I went back to my studio to finish off the percussion parts for the Les Mis backing track. I was enjoying the process, so I pushed on to start the brass parts too. I worked on these until 3.30am, then decided to call it a night – the brass parts weren’t quite finished, but I’d made a good start, and I knew I’d just get slower if I kept working when I was starting to get tired. I was planning to spend a good chunk of the following day writing the arrangement and orchestration for the final song in our autumn programme, but I knew I could always swap back to Les Mis if inspiration wasn’t striking. First job for tomorrow though – write the weekly email – which brings us round full circle on the week!

Conclusion

So, there you have it – a week in the life of BeVox, or at least from my perspective. I didn’t get chance to tell you about all the things that Toni got up to in the week, and of course I’m bound to miss a few things when trying to write it all down too. In total, if you include the time travelling to and from sessions, I worked about 74 hours this week – this is fractionally above average, but only by a small amount (last time I checked, I work an average of 71 hours each week). And of course, on top of all the things I’ve written down, I also somehow squeezed in the time to write this 5,000+ word blog series!

Author: Tim Allen (admin)

Director of BeVox

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