Why practice?

02 Oct 19

I am especially enjoying teaching the piano at the moment. I have lovely students who challenge and inspire me. The progress I see in them is extremely satisfying, and sometimes when I listen to them play, I remind myself that I've had the privilige of guiding this journey. This is what a piano teacher is of course, a guide. Ultimately the effort comes from the student, and the time that they put in. It's like any relationship, if you want to get to know something, you have to spend time with it. Playing an instrument is so much more than can be described (by me at least!) it touches your senses in every way. It tests your patience, it teaches you about yourself. Speaking for myself I feel so lucky to be based in this beautiful Calder Valley. I sit at the piano in my music room which I absolutely love, I look out the window at the hill that rises up on to the moors and I simply play. I don't drift mindlessly, I sit and I focus and listen with my ears and with my body and my touch. I remind myself what my teachers have said, and I try to bring the best out the music. Sometimes I think I must be really lazy... to just sit and play is such a joy, and a way of gently disengaging with more mundane aspects of life! When I feel I have finished, I feel happy and my mind feels full. I feel as if I have progressed and achieved a little more, I feel like whatever music I have been learning, I know now better than I did before, and for this part of the day, I have brought joy. I hope to pass this on to my students, this complete absorbtion - similar in ways to meditation. Music is so multi-faceted and it continues to draw me in. 

Hebden Bridge Folk Festival, Todmorden Carnival and Spare Parts Festival with Global Grooves

08 Jun 19

We've had a run of some great gigs since May. First up was the 'choir jam' at Hebden Bridge Folk Roots with Zarebi- performing with great acoustics in St Michaels church. We chose a set combined of chant, work songs and city songs. After singing, we recieved glowing remarks from audience members. These Georgian harmonies really seem to get under people's skin... 

Later in May I was pleased to be parading yet again (with the first gig of the year!) with Orixá Bloco at Todmorden Carnival. I am so proud of how the band sounds at the moment, and the energy of the members is so beautiful. The flag bearers at this gig were particulary good, coming up with great choreography during the static! After the gig we had a 'pizza party' with marvellous dough supplied by none other than Marco's. We initiated the newly made pizza oven down on Red Acre Allotments... the day was a true success! 

And now... today the weather has turned! and what do we do so well in the the rain in the UK? of course... carnival! I weathered the weather (!) so to speak at Spare Parts Festival in Oldham with the Global Grooves cast of drummers, dancers and puppeteers. We laughed and we got wet and the show went on, we set down some bad ass grooves and we had a truly great time. What's not to like?  

New Opportunities for Big Ears Music

18 Mar 19

This year has already seen excitement and shifts. I made a difficult decision to leave the Yorkshire College of Music and Drama where I have taught piano since 2006. This has meant saying goodbye to pupils who I have taught for a very long time. I have watched them grow (some literally!) and watched as they blossom into fine pianists - it has been such a pleasure. With blessings I now part ways with them on their musical journey and continue on mine. 

This decision now means that I have a little more space to develop Big Ears Music and all its associated projects. Practically it means I am now fully based in the Calder Valley, and my beautiful teaching/music room is more in service to me, my current students and new students. 

In the past 6 months, I have travelled to Georgia, Switzerland and I have just returned from Brazil. These musical and personal journeys have been incredibly enriching, stimulating and inspiring. I have seen communities completely changed for the better as a result of musical programmes. A sense of purpose has happened and a sense of pride restored or preserved. Talent has been honed, and chances have been given. On a personal sense, I have learned so much music, awareness of historical, cultural and geographical context, that simply cannot be experienced any other way than to visit the countries that hold such beautiful treasures. 

I feel absolutely blessed at being able to see and do these wonderful things. It is music that has brought me to these places and music that has taught me about life, its intricacies and pathsways.  

Big Ears Music- Winter Newsletter

14 Jan 19

Big Ears Music - Winter Newsletter 2018-19

Welcome to Big Ears Music first EVER newsletter. First of all I would like to say a massive thank you to all my private students and parents, everyone that has been involved with Orixá Bloco and with Zarebi. Thanks also to fans of Sätteli and Charanga Del Norte.
2018 has been a truly exciting year and incredible progress has been made. Every week I am in awe of you, who come to play music, learn an instrument, learn to sing, come to socialise, turn up to watch a performance. Music and the arts are so stimulating and gives an incredible source of wellbeing. Whatever your reasons for playing, I hope this year you have gained as much from music as I have. 
This year I was very excited about the launch of Big Ears Music. Big Ears Music brings together the community of musicians and carnival arts, from learning an instrument in private practice, to performing together, to singing, yodelling, Georgian polyphonic singing, supporting a performance, taking part in workshops, and those involved in Orixá Bloco carnival arts project. 
There are opportunities available and this newsletter is a way of getting the message out to all people involved together in Big Ears Music, locally and around Yorkshire and Lancashire.



  • Zarebi and I are excited to announce the return of Georgian song master Malkhaz Erkvanidze, who will be leading a full day workshop on Saturday 26th February. Full details coming soon at:  https://zarebi.bigearsmusic.co.uk
  • As part of a wish to develop more local music and arts, I have taken the step of making myself more available in the area. As part of this move I am pleased to say that from March 11th I am able to take new students on Wednesdays. 
  • The 2019 Hebden Bridge Piano Festival takes places in April 26-28th. There are some exciting performance opportunities available for young piano students, taking place on Saturday and Sunday morning. Chat to me for more details! 
  • Plans are underway to create the "Big Ears Music Saturday Morning Piano Cram" This will be held every few weeks and is for young students to meet each other, play to each other and share ideas in an informal situation, from my teaching room - hence the name... space is limited... !  More about this in 2019. 
  • Charanga Del Norte are up and gigging in the North once more! March sees the beginning of the performing season. Unfortunately I'll be in Brazil for the first one... but  if you want to see me play piano live with this fab band, I'll keep you in the loop for more

News from the carnival sector...

Keep your ears to the ground for new drumming classes/workshops and dance workshops happening in Orixá Bloco, as we gear up towards new project plans for the summer 2019 season. This includes a giant interactive snake, new colourful costumes, new grooves and dance choreography. 
  • As part of our new Summer project we have also decided to make 2-4 more flags to add to our current 2. If you have children or young people that would like to be a flag bearer at parades and performances then do get in touch! 
  • Orixá Bloco want a strong hand drumming section. This is a call out to hand drummers, who are interested in turning their skills to the wonderful drum that is the timbal. I know you are out there! Get in touch! To pique your interest see here - https://youtu.be/q8dKfsnfYSA
  • Some of you may know I work as an associate artist with the carnival company Global Grooves. As part of workforce development, I have been attending their inspirational course 'Future Leaders'. This progressive course is aimed towards young artists between the ages of 12-25 who have a strong interest in the carnival arts of percussion, dance and visual art. If you are a young person or have a young person interested then have a closer look at what this involves: http://www.futureleaders.org.uk
  • As part of my own development and learning, I am very excited to be going to Salvador de Bahia for an immersive 3 and a half weeks of music, culture and carnival! I will be away from February 11th and teaching again from the 11th March. I'll set up work for individual students and have a guests tutor/s for Orixá Bloco! 
  • There is an opportunity to take part in the Glasgow Encontro July 26th-28th 2019 as part of an exciting Cuban music carnival project with "La Timbala" directed by Christian Weaver. See -https://www.facebook.com/latimbala/  for details. 

It's been an exciting year. I am so pleased and proud with the progress made by all my private students and group members. Some students have performed for the first time ever in public, how brilliant! and there have been some exceptional results from music exams. I am so pleased by the creative and independent minds that come alive with music.
In terms of community activities, this year saw Orixá Bloco's first major project and some great performances. Zarebi went to Sweden to perform, and back in the UK we had the most beautiful day performing an open air concert at the gorgeous Landfarm Gardens, on a sunny afternoon with people sprawled on picnic blankets.
Through Orixá Bloco, Zarebi and Sätteli we held some great workshops in percussion, singing and dance. I performed a Candomblé set with Global Grooves as part of the project Journey of the Orixá's.

I did an amazing singing weekend with an astoundingly incredible Indian vocal guru and we spent 3 weeks in Georgia on a singing workshop tour with Sakhioba Ensemble. I met a whole bunch of amazingly independent, bright young minds at the Future Leaders project (and yodelled over beatboxing... yes... it happened hear first :)
I gave a one to one lesson teaching Krimanchuli! (Georgian style of yodelling) ...and Sätteli performed at Musicport... to a packed out theatre on a Friday night... hurrah we are finally breaking the mould of people's limited knowledge of yodelling... !!! 

I've attached a few links of various projects, performances etc. Its only a clip, a lot has happened this year! 

Orixá Bloco trailer - https://youtu.be/NchWcoE3VSU
Sätteli at Musicport - https://youtu.be/oQTR7iUanYw
Charanga Del Norte EP - https://youtu.be/mWX3RF5s5W0

So finally.... thanks to all of you for your enthusiasm and support. Best wishes to you for a happy and prosperous 2019.  

love from Helen x

Orixa Bloco at Lamplighter.

18 Dec 18

"Amazing Rhythms, colourful costume, high energy dance and fun spectacular performances" was the feedback given on the Orixá Bloco facebook page after our performance at Lamplighter in Todmorden. There was such an amazing atmosphere at Lamplighter 2019. Our Mytholmroyd drummers and dancers took to the packed out streets once again, in a whirl of melodic grooves, colour and energy. The weather stayed perfect and the artwork was particularly stunning! 

Big Ears Music spreads its musical wings far and wide! 

Too much excitement at Big Ears Music HQ

25 Oct 18

Its been a really exciting few weeks, and I've been so busy I haven't had time to update the musical activities! Zarebi and I had a wonderful weekend celebrating peace with other local choirs and our special guests from Germany, with the wonderful yodeling group Rösen and choir Pi Canta. On Saturday I gave a Georgian singing workshop at The Birchcliffe Centre, where I taught the beautiful song 'Shen Khar Venakhi" and.... well obviously I had to introduce our German yodeling friends to Krimacnhuli (Georgian yodelling) It all went down a storm, and I even gave a private krimanchuli lesson the following Monday! On Sunday was the 'choir fest' held at Wainsgate Chapel and Sunday School. The day felt very supportive, all the choirs sang wonderfully, and of course I was very proud of Zarebi, as we stood linked together singing our beautiful Geogian songs. 

2 weeks later saw Sätteli on stage singing at Musicport Festival on a Friday night singing to a packed theatre in Whitby, unfortunately our warm audience were left calling for more, but we had run out of time! We did however manage to give out 12 free Sätteli EP's to our audience who had to guess what our special Swiss "objects" on stage were... free EP's for those you guessed correctly and those who gave most creative answers. Also performing at the festival were Baka Beyond, and the wonderful danceable band Mokoomba. On Saturday we gave a singing workshop, it was very well attended and so much fun. 

And tomorrow... Orixá Bloco will take to the pathways of the beautiful Lister Park, where we will parade fully illuminated as part of Cecil Green Arts at Museums at Night. After the parade we will be accompanying a fire performance and a gorgeous fire drawing with a pair of hands with flowers coming out of the middle.