Sunday, December 20, 2015

Maestro Kurt Masur and David Lichine as their singers and dancers remember them

Conductor Kurt Masur 1927-2015

Today on Facebook I heard of the death of Kurt Masur. He worked in New York for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra but I had never heard of him. My omission. The famous singer who had alerted me to his death had written these words which immediately struck a chord.

 You screamed at me in front of a full dress rehearsal audience (to be fair, I screamed back at you..), you grabbed my arm during a performance, you flat out fired me, and you made me madder than hell sometimes.
..and I have learned so very much from having had the privilege of working with you.
RIP Maestro.

This was my first introduction to this famous man and the above singer was obviously not alone for then followed a list of singers that he had yelled at, one was as young as 12!

He yelled at me too...guess I'm in good company!

It was always out of the want of perfection for the music. Not generally to be a jerk... We know who those guys are.

A great conductor, and it now seems yelled at the wrong people now and then. He I suppose is forgivable. He made a great career, if only by reviving the NYPhil.

He yelled at Daisy Eagan, and she was 12! Still, he made some amazing music and lived an important life. Rip.

This was the first thing these singers remembered about this conductor not that he was a brilliant musician but that he had yelled and humiliated them in public. In this position it is impossible for an artist to yell back. It is sad to think that this conductor will be remembered in this way and I feel sure when he yelled at, as it appears quite a number of artists he never gave a thought that one day his yelling would be made public.

Conductors, directors and choreographers did this in his day. They considered themselves Gods and above reproach. How many careers have they ruined? Being yelled at in public is totally devastating and many lose confidence as a result from which they never recover.

My Bete Noire was the choreographer David Lichine who had been one of Diaghilev's young men and was employed for the first Nutcracker by London's Festival Ballet. As a choreographer he was a success and in fact I have never seen a finer version but as a person he was cruel and horrible so horrible that when a book was written to celebrate this production it was even mentioned that many of the children thought Uncle David was too hard on them! Understatement he was Mr. Lichine, we curtsied to him, we curtsied to everyone and he was a tyrant.

He dismissed dancers without a thought. I only got my part because three others before me were summarily dismissed. If we put a foot wrong we were out. To begin I managed but it all went wrong for me when I discovered just how thoughtless  and cruel this man could be.

It was at the dress parade and the press had been invited for publicity. The wardrobe at our school had only managed to make 3 costumes. The designs were by Benois and my design was ghastly. A huge green and white spotted monstrosity with a heavy Broderie Anglaise collar. It was hideous. Lichine didn't like it either and as I stood there he started to scream at everyone. I was terrified. I was only 14 and had know idea what was happening. You can see the offending dress in the right corner.

Then Lichine walked up to me and in front of the cast management and press ripped the dress to shreds with me in it. By the time he had finished I was virtually naked and clutching the remains to cover my modesty. Pre pubescent girls with no bras are very touchy. Yes it wasn't my fault and the dress was horrible but this I realised later was his way of getting the dress remade and it was remade by my mother on dress rehearsal day but this was another story.

However at a photo call that afternoon I still had to wear the dress as there were no others and they needed three. The poor photographer had to disguise that my dress was in shreds and the photos are very awkwardly posed. My face just pokes into one. From that moment the man scared me as I knew then he had no feeling for anyone. Just himself.

All remained well for me until the public dress rehearsal with Princess Margaret in front. In the middle of the prologue for Act II, Kingdom of Sweets, I got my second public humiliation and I could do nothing about it. We all had to lick an enormous lollipop. I was dead centre, kneeling down with my back to the audience, I had to lick the lollipop and turn around and smile. This was fine in rehearsal room as it was flat and where ever the prop landed  I could turn around and smile and even on the run throughs there was just enough room for me on the stage to do this.

At the Royal Festival Hall we had no footlights. There was just a white line to show the edge of the stage and one had to be careful as there was a long drop onto the orchestra. On this dress rehearsal everyone was nervous and somehow the lollipop was place too far downstage and there was not room for me. I was dangerously near being pushed over onto the orchestra. I was scared stiff and I failed to look around when I should.

Lichene yelled at me! Turn around girl, I want to see your face! The whole audience gasped as at ballets one hardly expects such a vocal performance. I was clinging on for life and the orchestra pit was dangerously close so I could not oblige although I felt like standing up and screaming at him so I got a second blast. By this time the music had moved on and I scrambled to safety but I felt awful. I had been screamed at in public. It was humiliating.

If this had happened in rehearsal I should have been out and in fact I think he wanted me out but my mother had made my costume and was busy helping with the other wardrobe disaster that had occurred and while I might not have been missed my mother would have been missed. Needless to say I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me and really I lost my performance confidence that night.

A few days later this man arrived in our dressing room to autograph our programmes. We all lined up. He never said a word or looked at anyone till it got to me and then he did. He started to sign and then he looked at me and gave me a look of exasperation. He was going to say something like You ruined my Nutcracker by not turning around  but he thought better of it. Obviously I had made some sort of impression, I do this, and I feel sure he remembered me but why did he do it?

Why did the man pick on me? Why did he chose to belittle me in front of a whole audience. It was such a tiny point. Did he want me to fall into the orchestra pit? I was doing my best.

Artists never forget these types of reprimands and it appears many have not forgotten Maestro Kurt Masur outbursts.  I don't think any of us really forgive either. We don't make  errors deliberately. Things go wrong that are beyond our control. We do not deserve to be screamed at in public.

I feel sure Masur and Lichine would be surprised that their outbursts of bullying would be remembered so many years later and form part of their legacy. They both deserve it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Can SkyPath fit 14337 cyclists on Northcote Point? SkyPath says it can!

Bike the Bridge 2015 a few of the 3,000 cyclists leaving Smales Farm

Can SkyPath fit 14,337 cyclists & pedestrians on Northcote Point between noon and 3 pm? SkyPath says it can! Many Northcote residents would like to know how SkyPath plans to do this. It is a big secret but they are sure they can do it.

A glance at the photograph above showing a few of the 3000 cyclists from Bike the Bridge 2015 leaving Smales Farm gives some idea of what the numbers involved might entail. The above crowd is by any standards huge and the official numbers were 3,000.  It looks more as they take up so much room. Northcote Point is to receive 14,337 every summer Saturday and Sunday between noon and 3 pm according to the Official Research by Auckland Council  into the viability of SkyPath and this is to rise to 20,000 + in 5 years time.

The Mayor and majority of councillors, SkyPath itself and the Independent Commissioners, Ms Karyn Sinclair - Chairperson, Ms Jenny Hudson, Ms Melean Absolum, and Mr Mark Farnsworth who granted the Resource Consent feel that the effects of this 14,337 on Northcote Point will be minimal.
The Resource Consent  Advice of Decision:
The adverse amenity effects at the Northern Landing (primarily associated with increased activity, privacy/overlooking, noise, and perceptions relating to safety and security) can be adequately mitigated through design and site management as proposed by the Applicant. 
The problem is no one has informed the residents of Northcote Point just how they are going to cope with this problem. The Mayor and SkyPath are convinced that they can  but refuse to say how. Maybe they do not  know exactly how much space is needed for 14,337 people queuing to get into a 4 meter tunnel with only two entrances and exits which are blocked by turnstiles.

Reasons for the decision: 

The reasons for this decision are included in the decision report above but can be summarised as follows: 1. In terms of section 104D(1)(a) of the RMA, the adverse effects of the activity on the environment at the Northern Landing have been considered as moderate. Turning to section 104(1)(a), mitigation measures have been incorporated into the design of the proposal, and a range of consent conditions have been imposed to ensure that any adverse effects on the environment for the entire proposal can be satisfactorily avoided, remedied or mitigated.

How exactly do the Commissioners propose to ensure that 14,447 can be accommodated with no adverse effects?  Are they experts in crowd management?

For Bike the Bridge 3000 cyclists needed the whole of Smales Farm with acres of car parks and all the Bus Station lanes as a meeting point. 300 official marshalls to slow down the traffic, a bank of porta cabins at each end, and around 100 buses to form a barrier for safety. NO pedestrians or children allowed and the traffic which filled the Bridge Lanes was just one way. Traffic was all one way and moving all the time. No stopping.

One has to be blind or stupid to see that Northcote Point with just 50 meters of available land for Skypath that even the 3000 for Bike the Bridge are not going to fit. There is virtually no space either side and one road entrance of about 8 meters, This is for traffic both ways plus pedestrians with children and push chairs.

Buildmedia simulation under Northcote Point. Over 14,000 people are expected!

The Official Research says this is the correct number and in fact SkyPath needs these numbers if it is not to fail financially. If it is built and it is underwritten by the Council and these numbers do not turn up these losses will be paid for by the Ratepayers of Auckland. To add insult to injury Northcote had it rates put up by 16% this year.  To date the costs to the Ratepayers must be millions.

Bike the Bridge Cyclists arriving at Westhaven 

Until last week there was really no visual evidence to support Northcote Point's predicament  but now there is evidence. Plenty of it. So come on Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland, Bevan Woodward, SkyPath's promoter and Ms Jennifer Valentine - Auckland Council's Lead Senior Planner, front up. Northcote Point is waiting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Women's marriage opportunites then and now - Janette Miller

The dating gap: why the odds are stacked against female graduates finding a like-minded man

How great to have so many clever, educated young women spilling out every year, but there could be negative consequences, as a new book, Date-onomics, points out: there may not be enough educated men to go around.

So writes Emine Saner in today's UK Guardian.  Not enough educated men to go around!

So different from  my day. I am circa 1900/1970, then 80% of women of whatever class were, what would today be called, uneducated. Our parents just did not think educating their daughters was a priority as they would get married. Amazingly men of whatever education did not worry about this. Those were the days and it is not so very long ago when Oxford colleges did not admit women.

It was very obvious to all intelligent single women that not only did we require a husband as a career of any meaning was unobtainable without the unobtainable degree but we required a pension as well. This narrowed the field of acceptable mates.  Lucky for us too that most men had to put up with silly women. Most of us, me included, had to be educated after marriage. I certainly was - sex, science and Darwin. I had been educated by the nuns who did not seem to realise these subjects existed. Enough said. 

Today it seems that there are not enough educated men to go around as women have been admitted to the university ranks and rightly wish for a partner of equal intelligence, unlike my day when it was almost impossible for a man to find a partner who was basically educated let alone of equal intelligence.

Maybe the contributor is correct and women will have to lower their sights. Men of my day needed someone to run their lives, like house and children, so they married a woman who was by his standards uneducated  and it worked, sort of. This creature was called a wife. Today many high powered women could do with such a wife to do these useful tasks. 

I found this out when my Oxford educated husband  was  physically attacked in his surgery and had to give up medicine. It was then our roles changed as I become the breadwinner and had to keep husband and daughter in the manner to which they were accustomed. I wished then I had a wife to help me with the living part as neither husband or daughter obliged. It would have helped if I had had a formal education but that is by the by. To my surprise I did manage to keep house and family even though I was not supposed to do this.

Today I should have had a career and an education. If my husband had got to Oxford I think I should have got there too. I should have chosen someone as a husband who could fulfil these roles of housekeeper. lover and father and let me get on with my career.  Today's educated women should think about this.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Slippers the horrible footwear -Janette Miller

Should slippers shuffle off this mortal coil?

Who invented slippers? Those awful check monstrosities one buys at Marks & Sparks.

My mother had a thing about slippers. She hated them. "Nasty sloppy things" she would decry " Make your feet spread".

My ballet school didn't like them either for similar reasons and veroukas. "Never let you bare feet touch the floor" was the order of the day.

So imagine my horror when I got my first solo role in Benjamin Britten's first Noyes Fludde at Aldeburgh when the entire caste of hundreds were kitted out with traditional slippers from Marks & Sparks. They were horrible, infact my whole costume was horrible and green!

I got used to wearing horrible costumes, designers hate women it appears, but I think those horrible slippers were the worst.

I think my mother and school may have been right.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Auckland's SkyPath take heed, human stampedes are not one offs!

The SkyPath proposed for the Auckland Harbour Bridge it is still on track in spite of the dangers that are known to exist. The promoters are still certain that it will be built sometime next year in 2016. They plan a 4 meter wide, 1.2 kilometer enclosed tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists to share with just two exits which are just 5 meters wide and blocked by turnstiles. At peak times the Auckland City Resource consent  plan says officially that for three hours on a Saturday and Sunday there will be 5000 movements per hour at least and that 2000 people will be on  the SkyPath at any one time. They are quite happy with this.

2000 people, packed in a tunnel with 2.5 square meters each with nowhere to escape in an emergency.

Since the hearing which SkyPath won there have been two horrendous human stampedes/crushes both of which could happen with SkyPath. The first was at this year Hajj where 1600 people were crushed to death in streets that were unsuitable for such huge numbers. The streets at Northcote Point are in this category. There is at present no way that 14,000 rising to 20,000 people can be accommodated on a Saturday Afternoon without serious danger. There is nowhere to escape in an emergency and no way fire engines and ambulances could access the area. It would be hard even with no crowds but with even a small panicking crowd impossible. One has to be able to evacuate large number quickly and safely.

Today was the Romanian Bucharest nightclub fire  where out of 300 people 27 are known to be dead and 128  seriously injured. The death toll like the hajj is sure to rise. The one small exit was not enough for 300 let alone the 2000 that could  occur on SkyPath. In Romania there have already been calls for manslaughter charges to be laid on the people who allowed this and this should be a warning to those 4 independent commissioners and SkyPath that their lack of concern about the danger of their proposal could lead to criminal charges if anything goes wrong.

Yes the photos are uncomfortable to look at. This link is a horrific example of what could happen. These stampedes are totally preventable and the danger should not be ignored but at present when it comes to bicycles and pedestrians all safety concerns are overlooked as the risk seems low but as shared paths become the norm the accidents will rise as they have in Denmark where the only research is available by 47% for cyclists and 27% for pedestrians and these are not in an enclosed cage but on paths where people can run out. In SkyPath one it trapped with nowhere to go.

Fortunately those in power do realise the dangers. Simon Bridges the Minister for Transport arranged for me to meet with the NZTA who were very reassuring.  SkyPath as it is shown, as yet no plans have been lodged, will have to undergo a thorough safety examination and that means solid scientific research of which there is none at present. The Minister and NZTA know that they cannot ignore the danger even if Auckland Transport, The SkyPath Promoters and the Mayor of Auckland can. Hopefully the environment Court will be more sensible. The impact is huge.

Auckland does not need a human crush of any kind. It would be better for all if the cyclists and pedestrians wait a little longer and use some of the lanes on the Bridge that will become redundant when the new harbour crossing tunnels are built. This will cost Auckland nothing, be free and what is the most important safe.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Carnet de Bal - the perfume of my past. Janette Miller

Spectre de la Rose and perfume created by  Janette Miller

with a little help from Scentmatchers

Carnet de Bal is a classic fragrance that was created by Maurice Shaller in 1937. It opens with citrus and fruit notes along with chamomile. The heart is floral with rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily and cyclamen, laid on a base of patchouli, oak moss, amber, vanilla and musk.
If I had to choose just one perfume it would be Carnet de Bal. Its beautiful bottle and gorgeous, thick brandy coloured contents graced our cold, tiny black and white bathroom in Stanmore just after The Second World War and continued to grace our pink bathroom in Pinner in 1964 for although the contents had long gone my mother and I could not bring ourselves to throw the glass bottle away.

My mother had been given the precious bottle in about 1939. It had already been opened but my mother was not a great perfume user and so it languished for years with the contents getting thicker and thicker until  I got at it, in the early 1950's it was like treacle. My grandmother had loved Yardley's English Lavender and for everyday summer wear this is a delightful  perfume as it has that hit of lavender with a sharp touch of zing that is missing from cheaper varieties, but Carnet de Bal has class. It is the perfume of desire and seduction and I loved the intoxicating smell of lust even then.

I loved holding the sensual bottle and sniffing its contents. I was not allowed to wear it as it was so overpowering but I was allowed to sniff. I can remember it glorious smell to this day. Over the years the bottle emptied until the perfume  became a lost dream. It must have been in 1960's when it gave up the ghost and ever since I have been trying to recapture or buy a similar aroma but to no avail. It is the hit of orange and citrus that gets me. and as you can see from the description above written today that my nose was absolutely bang on. The perfumiers Revillon went out of business and so it was adieu to Carnet de Bal.

Then in 2015 along comes the internet. In a moment of indecision I played with perfumes on Google and I found Carnet de bal. Perfumes have become antique collectables. Sadly the bottle above was sold in 2008 for a hefty sum. The brandy glass shaped bottle is designed to stand upside down on its stopper.  As I Googled down the page I came across I had never heard of such a thing but it seems that this group of talented perfumers can recreate all the discontinued fragrances of the past.

You see it appears that you cannot copyright a scent, aroma or smell. The only thing the expensive perfumiers can sell which is copyrighted is the name. You pay for the name and anyone on earth can recreate the smell. This firm has thousands of perfumes recipes  and can recreate any fragrance you like and then you give it your name. It is not cheap but not that expensive either. I hesitated for a year and then I found them again. I rang them up and they answered, I thought what the heck and put in an order for not one but two bottles of Spectre de las Rose, my name, which I hoped would remind me of the happy hours I spent in the bathroom inside the airing cupboard cuddling the water heater because it was the only way to keep warm as coal was rationed with the heady smell of oranges and musk. Oranges too were unheard of and as children we got a delicious squash that came in a small bottle.

I told them I could remember the smell, even after 60 years. It is hard to believe but I remember smells, the smell of Covent Garden underground as I went to the ballet. was unmistakable, the smell of oranges and urine with a touch of cabbage, the smell of freesias touched with rain and the smell of coffee brewing on the hob.

Today the package from the USA arrived. Two beautiful glass bottles, in two black satin pouches, perfume hates the light, then the first spray and to my delight the wondrous smell of my youth hit my nostrils. It was being eight to eighteen all over again. I cannot thank the team at Scentmatchers enough for making my day. I have the fragrance again.

It is an enchanting perfume and I am so pleased it has not been lost. So if you have a yearning for a perfume of yesteryear give Scentmatchers a go. They might make your day too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Adobe Muse tablet- iPad issue- scrolling won't work- jerky or frozen screen Oct 2015

Adobe Muse users - Site won't load in Tablet design on an iPad? Won't scroll? If it does, it is jerky and sticks  or freezes? Screen white down the side? Desktop and phone version working perfectly? At wits end trying to get the bloody thing to work? 

Yet if you click and hold refresh button on the iPad Safari browser and choose Request Desktop Site the tablet site pops up and works perfectly with scrolls and all the whistles and bells? Sometimes Safari does go to the real Desktop site and you will see your actual Desktop working perfectly if a bit small.

I have had this problem for about a week, being a Saturday and Sunday did not help as Adobe and Muse support unavailable so I had to play about for hours to work out what was happening. I was almost going to jettison the Tablet version and just go with Desktop and Phone as the net browsers  choose the smaller Phone version if given the choice. Not the best answer for me because the best phone versions are pretty, simplified lists.

Eventually after  hours of chat to Adobe and a wait for a call back that failed to materialize I got an Adobe expert in India who knew how to solve the problem and it is simple.

Adobe has an issue with uploading Tablet version to the iPad at the moment. The problem is all scroll effects and third party widgets that use these. They stop or interfere with the loading and make it jerky, wrong screen size and make the iPad impossible to use. One has to have a set screen size not 100%.

The Answer?

At the moment it is to remove all scroll effects and third party widgets that use them from the Tablet and a set width size.

For me that meant virtually a new design.

Naturally I am pleased that now my site loads and scrolls like velvet, albeit in a very boring form.

Adobe you know this! Please put up a notice  that we can find easily when we Google the issue,  to tell your users the solution instead of us all having to reinvent the wheel. Time for most costs money. I have the luxury of being semi-retired but I am reaching the end of my sell-buy date so time for me is precious and I do want my site up.

Hopefully Adobe will solve this issue soon and issue an update. Please Adobe make it as good as Request Desktop Site upload so I can have a website worthy of what Muse can do and I can make my Dancing Angel fly again. Well scroll down and land on letter W!

Love Muse. It is just so clever and creative.

My site  new site should be available in a few days at but sadly minus all scroll effects. However I do have a very cool versa slide from Muse Themes that works  a treat. Both Adobe and Muse Themes are great by the way and this is by no means a complaint but a suggestion in a kind and loving way!

Friday, October 2, 2015

How an NZ Minister Jonathan Hunt handled Gun Advertising in NZ

Another mass shooting in America': Oregon killings a grim familiarity for US

Gun control.  

To my USA friends who all seem to have difficulty with this subject.

Yet again the world watches in horror at another school shooting. Obama is right on this one. You ought to do something about it. Each one of you.

I can hear you all now saying What can I do to stop this carnage? Nothing! But you can! If you really wanted to stop it and I hope you do, you could. All it needs is public outrage and a strong politician who knows right from wrong and is not in the hands of the NRA.

I put a stop to gun advertising on TVNZ many years ago.

To my horror I saw a TV advertisement late at night after 10 pm for Gun Shed, an outfit selling guns and ammunition from a large barn. To my mind this was indefensible so I made an appointment to see The Minister in charge of guns and TV advertising. His name was Jonathan Hunt and I went to see him.

I simply told the Minister  how offensive and immoral I found this sort of advertising which if allowed to continue would only escalate and lead to deaths.

The Minister's reaction was immediate and authoritative. He told me that he had not known of these advertisements until I told him and they would stop! They did. All gun advertising was removed from NZTV for years. Just like that, although I expect it has crept back but as nobody watches TVNZ any more it is of little consequence. He did the right thing and stopped it.

That USA is how you do it if you really, really want to stop this murder. You all have to stand and say enough is enough. Obama will do it. He wants to do it. Let him and reclaim your country.

If I can do it  you can do it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Janette-Miller's new Adobe Muse web site First reveal

Welcome to  My World and to my brand new Adobe Muse Website.

Janette-Miller/Heffernan welcomes you to her company and personal website. Here you will learn all the passions of the owner. Opera and ballet, bookbinding and philately,  croquet, computers, gardening and trying  unsuccessfullly to encourage all to make Do It Yourself Movies to share your passions. This is a site in progress and experimentation is the  keyword. Nothing ventured nothing learned. Enjoy.

About three months ago Google decided it didn't like the way my, website translated onto tablets and smartphones and dire consequences would ensue if I didn't do something about it. This of course did not happen but I did take a look at my old website, which still looks OK on Desktops  and gave it a think! I can see if I ought to do something and mature enough to take action.

For a couple of years I have subscribed to Adobe Cloud as I did not like the new Final Cut Pro. I can use it but personally I don't like it so I made the decision to move to Adobe Premier Pro. I already used Dreamweaver , which authors websites a long time ago as that is where I made my first website in about 2008 and it has lasted well and looks good. As an opening page it points newcomers where they want to go and I may have to go back to that format.

The about three months ago Google said anything with Adobe Flash was out. As my first website is full of Adobe Flash this was the death knell so reluctantly I decided the time had come. I have better things to do than start coding again. So I have experimented with Adobe Muse and I have enjoyed every second. It is a dream when compared to Dreamweaver and for me as I am  video editor I don't mind playing with it. This must be a nightmare for coders as they like things lean and simple and not unstable and creative.

 I sell Bookbinding DVDs on the company site and am preparing to HD Stream but the image above is the home page of My World which is the personal section of my site where I feature all the things that interest me. Muse allows web designers to do things they never could before, like twirling cubes and angels that float in, this one dances if you click on it, she is the Angel of Life, below is a video time lapse and tabs for all my interests which will hopefully slowly get filled up. The Flash presentation will have to be replaced by a boring slideshow. Not all is progress.

So today or tomorrow gets published. It will still be very much a work in progress. As well as a Desktop version it will have a tablet and smartphone versions too and these may need some sorting out as I do not need either of these devices so I have to rely on friends to help me out with the Beta testing stage. I might even get a tablet as Apple is making a new one in November with a pencil that sounds intriguing.

This is a special page as I need a landing stage for my Janette Miller Blog. This page will change as I move on. So Welcome to My World.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jackie Collins, my old school friend - Janette Miller

I had the luck to be at school with Jackie Collins who has just died of breast cancer. We were in the same class but it appears she was much older than me. We became students together at Aida Foster and we all knew her as the sister of Joan Collins who had been at the school and that, secret, secret, she had been expelled from her previous school.

I arrived at the age of 15 at Aida Foster Stage School in Golders Green. My ballet school AES which I loved was threatening to close down and my mother loathed the headmistress there because she felt she was cruel that I was taken away and dumped at Aida Foster as mother wanted me in musicals not ballet. There was nothing I could do.

Adia Foster was not academic. I was put in the GCE class to find that they were on page one of the arithmetic book and I am not joking. My education came to a full stop. I knew I was good at English and could put myself through GCE English with not too much problem and I decided to have a go at GCE English grammar, literature and history as I reckoned I could do those myself.

I was seated beside the only other two girls who it was thought might get a GCE, one was called Anne Flack and the other Jackie Collins both became firm friends although I had little hope of either being able to actually take the exams. Jackie had a penchant for yellow legal pads which were covered with a large childish handwriting and never seemed to do any work at all. I never thought anything of it at the time but I pitied both.

They might not have been good at English literature but both were good at life. My education began at the local Italian restaurant where we were allowed to go for lunch. Yes, we were allowed out for lunch and introduced to Italian Food for the first time spaghetti bolognaise of which I became particularly fond either that or my other and really best friend Marti Webb but she took me to the Wimpy Bar in Golders Green.

The restaurant was next door to the local police station but it was where the local flashers held out. Stupid really but they did and each day the three of us ran the gauntlet of the flashing gentlemen. Jackie had a thing about flashing gentleman and I see even to this day one of her last Tweets was on this subject. She used to yell at them not too subtle remarks, Like Ooo what a little one put it away. I was sort of shocked but these gentlemen did not shock Jackie Collins.

Jackie did not take the exam when I was there. I did. I got 87% for English Lit but was helped for 3 weeks by the most brilliant teacher I have ever met. A Mrs. Payne, who was tough and beautiful and taught me how to learn.  I have a blog on her too. Jackie was beautiful and was a great model.  I liked her. I left soon after as I was sexually assaulted by a student and just could not face going back. My father was furious with the school. I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and never gave Jackie Collins another thought.

Then years later I saw an article about this well known author in a New Zealand magazine and I saw the yellow legal, pad and the childish handwriting and I thought Hey I know that  writing! I should recognise it anyway. As I went on a read that Jackie Collins had become a bestseller of lurid novels and one thing Jackie described in detail was our encounters with the flashers of Golder Green and I knew it was her. She was a million dollar writer without a GCE and I was an impoverished opera ballet producer with one.

Such is life. Nowhere in her biographies does Jackie mention her stint at Aida Foster although the Fosters were Joan's first agent and in fact one of the Baker Twins a student of the school and a friend of mine ruined Joan Collins's marriage to Antony Newly.

Maybe it was all too painful. It was for me. I am grateful  to the Fosters for giving me confidence and make the best of myself. The Fosters did this for all their students and we all did well considering none of us had an education. What we all could have achieved if we had had one. Jackie Collins knew about life and her father could help her get started which was a great advantage. I admire her courage.

Brian Sewell witty, acidic, misogynist but a unforgettable character, Janette Miller

“There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50% or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.” Guardian

The above quote is taken from the UK Guardian obituary for the art critic Brian Sewell. (pronounced Theweul). He was a one off, a character who had the most witty and cruel repartee that was administered with a spoonful of sugar that no one could take offence. It was almost an honour to be criticised by him unlike Bernard Levin, the theatre critic in the 1960s who was generally hated.

Sewell is so witty and sharp as a razor that I can almost forgive him for being a misogynist. Almost but not quite.

Like Sewell my mother at the age of 9 took me to The National Gallery to look at art and when I got home I announced to my Major in British Army father that I should like to be a fine artist like Rembrandt.

To this day I can still recall his answer. He said, Look at history, there has never been a great woman painter. Women are not great  painters! I became a ballet dancer. In my day women were the best at that.

But  my father was wrong. Women were not great painters because they were not given a chance. Michael Angelo would not have done a thing if he had been a woman. Time will tell but the world of art is still biased against women.

Still Sewell will be missed. He had a delicious and amusing way of being horrid that sort of appeals to the worst in us. We are all so glad it was not us at the end of his very acidic pen.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Britten, Sexuality and The Turn of the Screw - Janette Miller

      Queer pitch: Is there such a thing?
Does a composer's sexual identity influence their music?
          Rolf Hind examines what it means to be a queer composer. UK Guardian

Nice picture of Britten and Pears to illustrate the article by Rolf Hind but nowhere does Britten appear in the actual text itself. Britten was an enigma. Britten never came out during his lifetime and would have sued anyone who said he was gay.

Many of his friends and colleagues who knew him well, Graham, Reiss, Duncan, Katherine Mitchell and myself consider Britten to be bisexual. He was confused about his sexuality all his life and could never choose. Pears, Auden and others chose for him and Britten was always a good little boy.

It is only now that I am approaching the end of my life that I feel I must write for posterity what I have known for years. Humphrey Carpenter, Britten's official biographer, told me that I had to do this.  I was to write down everything. He was going to do this for me but he died before it was published. I have his letters.

Because Britten was stuck for a young Flora I got to know him very well. He liked me and  I liked him. I was 19 and it was allowed. Britten admired me and I  admired him.  Britten went out of his way to get to know me. Nobody noticed at Aldeburgh. It was as if I didn't exist until one night Peter Pears noticed and after that it was difficult but not impossible to be alone with Britten as Pears was  always there! But that is another story.

In Britten's masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw Britten explores the theme of the choice of sexuality with considerable insight. It is as if Britten were Miles who cannot choose between the heterosexual love of The Governess or the homosexual love of Peter Quint both of whom Miles loved and at the same time hated to hurt in any way. At the end being forced to make the choice kills him. Britten never did make the choice himself. That is why this work is so compelling on all levels.

Never has the music of a homosexual lover sounded so enticing as the music Britten writes for Quint when wooing Miles and never has Britten written such beautiful arias as he did for The Governess in The Tower and Letter scenes. The song Malo he wrote for Miles too poignantly illustrates the dilemma Miles/Britten finds himself in when forced to choose.

The drama of this opera is mirrored in the cast. Britten loved  Peter Pears/Quint but he also loved Miles/David Hemmings and he loved The Governess/Jennifer Vyvyan. Little importance is given to this remarkable woman in Britten's life but she had a hand in the completion of The Screw. It was at her suggestion that Britten ended the opera with Miles's song Malo. She told me.

How do I know this? In later years I played Flora. Flora is the forgotten character of The Screw but just as important as the other three. She is bisexual if the ghosts are real. Flora is loved by both Quint and Miss Jessel. James in his novella is at pains to point this out. The difference is Flora accepts the situation and gets on with life. Miles was never able to do this and it kills him. Britten admired Flora. The music he gave her to sing is adult and difficult, too difficult for the child. It needs someone special and Britten knew I was special.

The interesting deviation from the plot was in the novella when the great confrontation with Quint comes and The Governess forces Miles to say his name, in the book Miles shouts Peter Quint you devil and then adds the word Where? Britten deliberately left this word out.  In fact, in the opera, it could be said that Miles may have chosen The Governess. The Earl of Harewood noticed this too and confronted Britten about it as to whether the ghosts were real. Britten is said to have said One must take a stand! What the stand was we shall never know. Years later as I corresponded with Pears. I like him too, and asked him often Pears would never reply.

Did Britten really love Pears? We shall never know. They had their rough patches in their relationship. When I was at Aldeburgh was one of them. Never once did Britten cast Pears as a lover. When a nice heroic part, like Mr Noye, came up Britten gave it to someone else. The rest are murderers, child molesters, rapists, tyrants and simpletons.

So it is right that Britten is not included in the article even though the omission is possibly accidental. Sadly Britten may never have known heterosexual love. The women he chose and I was one, were all remarkable and unattainable, I was too young and wise. As Lord Harewood told me I was lucky to come out unscathed but Britten was always the perfect English gentleman and years later I married a Miles very like Mr Britten so who knows. The women are there and documented if you look and Pears was a jealous lover and guarded him well. The women, me too, all knew our place in the scheme of things. We were there but out of sight.

We were all exceptional. Believe me, I was exceptional! At the age of 19, I could have danced the lead role in Swan Lake and sung Erwartung. I had already won the Production Prize at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and I disliked Puccini and Brahms! I knew most of Britten's music having attended one of the first performance of Gloriana at Covent Garden in 1953. I also like fast sports cars and Gaudia Bretska. I gave way to Galina Vysnevskya, the Russian Opera star and wife of Rostropovitch the cellist. When Britten visited Russia for Christmas it was not Rostropovitch that Britten went to see.

In The Turn of the Screw  Britten says it all about his sexuality if you care to look. I should get a PhD for this!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Stage Fright and me - Janette Miller

Soloists at the Proms perform in front of a live audience of 6,000 people and thousands more on radio,TV and online. How do musicians deal with nerves when playing to large audiences in public. UK Guardian.

I have always suffered from stage fright I didn't always but three performances early in my career were so traumatic that  all joy in live performance turned to terror. I was asked to take on tasks which would have daunted the most mature and experienced performer with no help and little understanding. It is amazing I survived. At 16 after the opera  The Turn of the Screw on Associated Rediffusion TV in 1959 which we did live was my third really horrifying experience that coloured the rest of my life.  A camera went wrong in performance I vowed never to do anything like this again.

Having worked in the live theatre and on live television, for in my day everything went out live, I think and still think the amount of preparation and understanding that a performer is given by the management has a lot to do with the nerves. Regretfully, the fact is, that most of the time performers are thrown on with little preparation and expected to give a first rate, perfect performance. Some of the lucky ones can insist on adequate rehearsal but most of us are not given this luxury.

For most of my performing life my success came from the ability to take over lead roles on the shortest of notice and do it better than the original performer with little or no rehearsal. Doing this is terrifying. Going on with no rehearsal when the original artist had at least 6 weeks is enough to give anyone stagefright. Doing this in the West End is frankly terrifying. Once had to take over major role in four days but circumstances cut this down to one and a half days most of which was taken on by costume fittings. One morning run through and on that night. Anyone would be scared. One was just expected to do it. This was not necessary as the previous artists could have stayed on for a couple of days to give me the opportunity to learn the role properly but due to personal circumstances she was forced to leave. No consideration was given to the fact I had just 48 hours to take over. One run through and I was on.

I remember I had to wait till the performance that night as no time to go home, the management was so mean that they shut the theatre in the afternoon to save electricity  so I took myself off to the cinema to get my mind off it. Nobody really helped.  The wait in the dressing room was unbearable and I just didn't want to do it and then the orchestra began and I made myself go on. I can remember being terrified all through the performance and when it got to the end I just sat down on the stage exhausted and cried. I felt I had done it so badly. The whole cast just stood and applauded but I was desolated. I knew I had to do the whole thing again the next day and I just didn't want to do it. It appears I stole the show but that was little consolation at that moment. Nobody should be asked to do this without help and it was unnecessary.

Artists need help and understanding, especially singers. Union rules mean that singers get little chance to rehearse with full orchestras, usually just one sitz probe and the a full dress rehearsal which is rushed because orchestra's overtime is prohibitive. The BBC Proms is possibly like this so it is understandable that you need a very special type of personality to be able to cope.

I can do it. I have had to but I hate it and now I am so pleased I do not have to do it anymore. But I was forced to perform by circumstances. I was good at it. The fear of performing live has never really left me that is why I became an director. I never asked any artist to do what I could not do myself.

Some artists really enjoy performing but those are the ones who have adequate rehearsal time and help from management. Some artists take it in their all stride and enjoy the performance and feel free to give their best. These are few and far between and I envy their confidence. Ballet dancers are taught not to be nervous and have years of training and adequate rehearsal even if they have to take over quickly as they know the work.  Others are better in rehearsal than performance. Nerves gets the better of them and they never perform to their full potential which is such a pity.

Today I still sing but only record and with the technology available I can at last have full control of my performance which I never did. I do find this type of performance satisfying. Now I like the way I sound and the way I sing because I have the freedom and time to do it and I am not thrown on.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tea in 2015 is still the cup that cheers Janette Miller

Tea is out of favour. By tea, I mean standard black tea from a teabag. With or without sugar, in a mug or taken away: comforting, habitual, biscuit optional. According to research by consumer analysts Mintel, sales of black tea have dropped by 22% over the past five years. In 2010 Britons bought 97m kg of tea, last year only 76m kg. Mintel thinks that figure will continue to decline. What’s behind Britain’s cooling enthusiasm? UK Guardian
Nothing like good old fashioned British Railways for making one feel good, the sort that came splashed out of a huge steel teapot into lines of waiting thick white pottery cups, with or without chips onto real milk. Delicious.

Those days have passed but I can still get that amazing 'kick' if I add just a quarter of a teaspoon of Tetley's Lapsang Chousong to tea made with ordinary tea bag in a small glass teapot and left to brew for at least 4 minutes. I am not in favour of milk in first as it weakens the brew even though family hails from the slums of Royston in the grim old days.
Tea for me is definitely the cup that cheers but I enjoy coffee and champagne too when the occasion arises say 11 am on a damp morning. In the afternoon nothing like a cup of Paris Tea for that sensual aroma sheer decadence and pleasure.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cilla Black died today at the age of 72 in Spain. Cilla was part of the swinging sixties and an inspiration to many of us women who were struggling to compete on an equal footing in an all male world. However instead of the usual kind and considerate comments that usually follow after the death of someone famous I was surprised at the deluge of just plain nasty comments in the UK Guardian. It was hard to find a nice one.

Here are a few examples and this was in the first few:-

"A voice like a crow if you listen carefully."

"I remember laughing when hearing my aunt groaning as she listened to CB straining to reach a high note on one of her recordings."

"When I arrived in England in 1989 I was a bit surprised at the prominence of Cilla Black whose congeniality and 'hur" and "fur" for hair and fair seemed a bit of a put on to me at the time, but hey, she did it " her way" so fair cop. 
She is hardly the first working class person who strikes it rich who votes Tory. It's what footballers tend to do as well."

"A tory class traitor. Hilarious how the luvvies all cry over her now when it is they who spread all the stories whispered about her being an obnoxious and overbearing battleaxe in private."

Cilla Black was a character. I was not in her world, I preferred opera and ballet. I worked in London in musicals but I could appreciate just how clever and talented she was. It must have been so difficult to survive and I am so glad she did. She does not deserve this chorus of hate after her death.

Below is my Guardian Comment

Cilla Black was a remarkable girl. One has to take one's hat off to her. She had a really tough road to hoe and she did it brilliantly. It is hard to start at the bottom and reach the top. She did. She defined the swinging sixties for many off us and proved that a woman could compete in the all male establishment of the time.

Cilla has died and with her goes an age so it is with some surprise that I read the comments in this section. Some are kind but a great many are just plain cruel. Why? It seems that voting Tory has a lot to do with it and the fact that many do not like her voice. Bit harsh of the commentators and not terribly British. In fact I cannot think of the last time I saw such a load of unpleasant comments in an obituary column since Mrs. Thatcher who probably deserved them but Cilla didn't. She was and is one of the people and part of British working class culture.

She should have been made a Dame but hasn't. Bit catty of the British Establishment who gave out knighthoods to some very unsavory men of the same period.

I really should not have to be writing this. All I should have to say is RIP Cilla and thank you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Maestro Wenarto the man to bring opera into the twenty first century? Janette Miller

"dear friends:
I have making youtube videos for a long time and now I have more than 2,000 videos. Mostly opera parody, chansons, lieder, zarzuelas, and many songs from around the world. So far I sing in 36 languages and only few of them are good and most of them are just, my style, which is voice with no training, and on top of that, I can't read music.
Recently there's an Opera article about me, and one of the writer in Seattle said "there's nothing new in the past 5 years" - and this sentence stuck in my heart since. The production of opera youtube is now diminishing but replaced by simple art songs like the attachment below. It is an example that although it is short, it took me few days to learn it (without the score). Myself is about evolution, not revolution.
So at 3 in the morning today, I woke up and asked myself, why I am doing all of these (spending so much money with no payback). From economic stand point, artist like me are a perfect example of not able to save money (but who cares about the money). And now that there are less and less viewer on my channel, I keep saying to myself:
I am doing this FOR ME. I study almost everyday to channel my creativity through music, cooking, painting, gardening, and many more. Music is just one of the outlet in the last 10 years period. Before that was painting. So what is next? God only knows...
I think when I am gone from this earth. I can be remembered by my friends through my art works or my music." Maestro Wenarto.

Maestro Wenarto is a YouTube celebrity extraordinaire. There is no one else like him anywhere on YouTube, He is a one off and very special. He does opera his way. He loves it and is not afraid of it. Make no mistake this man knows his opera and he knows what he is doing and yet he feels that he gets little recognition. I am afraid for a creative artist deferred gratification is still the order of the day. One gets it when one is dead but even so artists do their own thing regardless thank goodness. 

I know exactly how Wenarto feels. I feel exactly the same. I make original short YouTube videos of Leider in a very untraditional way. I used to do this with opera and ballet.  I get little or response yet a YouTube featuring my local master butcher , and believe me he is an artist at his work gets 100,000 hits although my rendition of 'Daisy, Daisy' didn't meet today's young audience's approval  who had never heard of this Victorian ditty.

Like Wenarto I do it because I love Lieder, opera and ballet and fine art and I want to share my love with my friends today. Art or music from a previous age needs constant renewing, Shakespeare is a good example. 'Hamlet' is cut and refreshed and made relevant to the age, everyone can see today that Hamlet is Gay that is why he shuns Ophelia and he dies in Horatio' arms, maybe someone should do the same with the Ring. Chereau made a start. 

Wenarto does this. Some of his YouTubes seem fun on the surface but some like his 'Erwartung' are so clever and so creative. He used hands to describe the forest, a sea of living hands, and I learned only recently that is what Schoenberg had wished for.

Creative artists push artists to push art forward , using past models as a base. This is going to be difficult in future if copyrights are locked up but this is how it works. Opera needs to be brought into the 21st century and so does art song if it is to survive because even a thriving art form will die as the traditionalists die out.

The world needs artists like Wenarto, a he is an artist, to stop our complacency and make us think. We should appreciate these people but we don't.

We do projects because we need to express our passions. Culture is learned and shared. My last passion is Schubert's ''Winter Journey, yes I use an English title as the majority of my friends speak English and I want them to know what it is about and I sing it in English too and I orchestrate in a modern way because this is what this work says to me today, not hundreds of years ago.

But will it get viewed? Yes by a few, and I get the occasional comment that makes one feel it is worthwhile but not in my lifetime. I have decided to try and finish it, all 24 songs and I am going to devote Fridays to it."
Maestro is a master. It is a pity he is not running the Met and he needs encouragement.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Garageband, Apple's gift to Singers Janette Miller

"For most of us, the Apple store is a place to buy aspirational goods,  and, if you’re a teenage boy, to try to leave a mildly explicit image on a Macbook Air. But for rapperPrince Harvey, the outlet in Soho, New York, became an entire recording studio. Using the GarageBand app and an inbuilt microphone, he recorded a whole album in secret while in store, on a display laptop."   UK Guardian

Garageband is an amazing.

I can see why rappers enjoy it. It allows people with no formal musical education to write out and arrange their own music  and not only rappers but classical artists especially singers, many of who do not play instruments.

I'dont. All though my career I have had to rely on friendly pianists or pay vast sums to accompanists to rehearse and of course the chances of singing major works with vast orchestras was out of the question and then at the end of my life along came Garageband and my life changed.

By accident I found out I could write out my accompaniments. I started with simple Schubert. Then I found I could orchestrate and I sung The Songs of the Auvergne, which are beautiful to sing but almost impossible for an ordinary accompanist  to play.

September by Richard Strauss was always on my to sing want list and Garageband made this possible. I just wrote in the 90 instruments. Took a bit of time and for me a fascinating learning curve into orchestration but the finished product sounds better than any orchestra as an orchestra can never play it this accurately and if you think mistakes add to a performance you are sadly mistaken. Strauss is so subtle. The birds stop in mid breath  and the bees a bit later.  Sadly I cannot put this up because of copyright but I don't care I can sing it whenever I like with full orchestra and in about 5 years the copyright lapses and I will if I am still around.

Garageband is not a toy. It has enriched my life. More musicians should learn to use it. It can do anything and in fact more than many professional programmes for free!