Tag Archives: Kate Miller-Heidke

Invisibility and Visibility 2022 #29

The signal on the outside are bells ringing in the foyer, on the inside the lights go down and we know something extraordinary is about to happen.  What has been invisible is about to become visible. We know to get ready; our preparedness will be rewarded with the strike of a chord and our senses are called to attention the relationship between the performers and the audience has been consummated. 

I love live music. I deeply appreciate the thousands of hours of effort to get into a place to be able to walk on stage, the hundreds of people involved to enable this feat to take place and the community of support required to make it happen. It is so instructional to me. The over night success twenty years in the making or the random gift of a proud Mum leaving a message on Instagram that enables a 15year old to take the stage. The generosity and grace of seasoned performers is always on show by the ones who really know and embrace the privilege.

It is not just on the stage though that we can see this phenomenon. Earlier in the day I had been at my grandson’s seventh birthday where hours and hours of effort into making treats and games and a complicated Dragon pinata were on display and fully embraced by the young guests. Setting the scene for each activity requiring clarity about what was about to happen, how to fully prepare, participate, and bring your own appreciation to the moment. Between the tuile of princesses and masks of Minecraft characters, there were sugar fuelled squeals of delight, not too different to the audience at Thebarton Theatre later in the evening. The human experience of gathering to celebrate, appreciate, play being universal and not bound by age. The concert’s theme was Child in Reverse and it seemed a fitting bookend to the day.

There are a lot of stops and starts going on with COVID interruptus at the moment. Things not quite landing, work arounds, re-scheduling, disappointing-not-quite-right-a-bit-annoying is what we are all experiencing. Being a lifelong improviser, I do not mind the challenge of living inside these beautiful constraints, yet I see my social media feed full of unhappy travellers stranded or not quite arriving the way they want too in the school holidays.

These moments are offering up the opportunity to just stop, pause and start again. I loved how the singing pair last night in the concert, did just that, a tiny error, a wayward word, was the cause. And then with good humour, professionalism and absolute precision, they picked up where they had left off. I appreciated the lesson in front of a packed half-masked up auditorium. 

We all have times when things do not go our way, it doesn’t mean we can’t adapt. It is an invitation, a big wide invitation, to see what we can make of the moment.  When the seven-year-olds were waiting in anticipation their turn in pass-the-parcel and the music didn’t quite stop when the rotating gift arrived to their expectant hands and lap, some lingered with their hold, others passed it like a hot potato to keep it moving while others wistfully watched it go past with longing in their eyes. 

Not all our expectations will be realised, is a lesson learnt early, and often.  We always have a choice to pick up where we left off and draw on our invisible experience and strength to keep the show going.  We are never alone, entire battalions of people have enabled all of us to get to that point, they maybe invisible to us in the moment, but they have been there and getting up again is a way of honouring all the effort that has gone before to enable us to be ready and available to accept the invitation when it arrives.

Thebarton Theatre 16 July 2022

Sparks will fly #21 #music

The poet sings like a lark surrounded by virtuosos who know how to get the best out of each and every inch of their instruments, in a space designed for the singular purpose for sound to reach our ears and soak into our bodies – this was a musical nourishment to savour. One indeed to take to the grave, as I instructed my youngest to include You’ve underestimated me dude in the set to be played at my funeral. Energetically, the pulse of life, with all it highs and lows, swirled around us in raptures. I bow down to your talent and your willingness to share them with us all:

Kate Miller-Heidke | vocals / piano
Keir Nuttall | guitar
Iain Grandage | cello / piano
Jessica Hitchcock | backing vocal

You know sparks will fly when the shock of greying luxurious hair on the cellist arrives just before the first words of introduction are spoken. The ancestors were already in place and the next generation eagerly was taking up their invitation to join the appreciation society. David Whyte says: Poetry is language against which you have no defenses. The quartet raged a triumphant victory march and reached into the cracks and chasms of my heart and soul, my sword and my shield were rendered helpless, I was left defenceless.

I am being instructed through a set of exercises which is calling me to examine some of those cracks and chasms. It is not all comfortable. As this day dawns I am wondering how perhaps there is another way in to be opened, music and poetry has served me well in the practice to keep being broken open, they can creep into me with the open-heart surgery and exam of life seems to require!

In a recent speech I made, I shared a couple of snippets of time when I was literally under threat of death – a knife being pulled on me and a gun pointed at me. There have been a few other times death has come knocking. As a child suffering from asthma where breath in the body was scarce, in traffic there have been a few near misses, running behind a bus as a ten year old on the streets of London. And, I have had a death threat too during anti-racist campaigning. Coming close to death is an invitation to live more fully. It is also to unpack how these near-death experiences can continue to work their way into the future and not be relegated to the past, as if somehow they already processed, packed up and neatly put away. Music calls these experiences out into the open for review.

The emotional labour is never really over and comes repackaged and repurposed … and often for me this is through music or poetry. When a song moves you it has tapped into memory, or maybe into possibility or fantasy. There were many such moments last night. The cello becomes your spiritual director, the shaker becomes the metronome of your heart beat and the highest notes crescendo to match your higher self as the heavy darker tones of chords thumping on strings and keys takes you down as far as the notes will go … and then some. Rumi says: If all the harps in the world were burned down, still inside the heart there will be hidden music playing. It is this hidden music which is being examined but I can’t get to it without the live music on the outside. And it is in between sets that the reflection takes place, in the quiet, when instruments are lying in state, when the cup of tea is getting cold, when the chairs are empty, when the leads are relaxed. I am in between sets when I reflect, everything is still on stage, there is gratitude and expectation of more.

Remaining open is the way sparks will fly and the door is always ajar when I can hear the music.


Between sets, Ukaria 25 May 2019