All Posts By Sophie Ellis

8 black pairs of shoes I need equally

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I was born in the year of the Goat. I was also born a Capricorn. We are talking double goat here. If you were to ask me, I would say I’m not stubborn about much. If you were to ask honest me, then you might hear a couple stories that articulate what some might call an extremely disturbing power of sticking to things. Honest me might recount the tale of the tunnel slide, where five year old Sophie was determined to take a running leap into that tunnel, climbing victoriously to the top. Despite scraping her back, she turned around and tried again. A casual twenty times. Many Barbie band-aids. No pain, no gain. Playground edition.

This has little to no bearing on why I am so attracted and entranced by all black shoes. And why I must have them all. No bearing, whatsoever. Mmm, shiny.

While taking a peak into my shoe closet right now in Berlin, or even the one I left behind in Melbourne, you might be tempted to ask, ‘Hey Soph… how come you have fifty of the same shoe? Fifty black pairs of clunky, leathery shoes. All black and clunky?’. Assuming you want to survive the experience and leave my apartment with all limbs in their original places, you are quite inclined to agree that I need each of these like the blood in my veins and that yes, all are completely different and essential and run. Run.

Black, bloody, shoes. All shapes and sizes. Please don’t even try to approach me with a red one, god forbid a white one. 

Black shoes. Year of the Goat.

 

 

Here is a (short) list of my essential black shoes, that I need equally.

 

The Platform, always higher than thou

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Buy @ Dollskill

 

The Docs, big-bad-boss woman

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Buy @ Dr Martens 

 

The Simple, that no fuss lady-like ankle

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Buy @ Everlane

 

The Aussie, croc fights + drinking stubbies

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Buy @ Blundstone

 

The Brogue, blatant business action

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Buy @ Zomp

 

The Combat Booties, kicking down doors etc.

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Buy @ Nasty Gal

 

The Dainty Loafer, a whole lotta woman

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Buy @ Zomp 

 

The Pump, a deep lover of all friends

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Buy @ Stylenanda

 

 

Featured image from Dolls Kill, a heavenly pair of starry, knee high power-platforms. I have lived to see so many beautiful things.

Over and out amigos.

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9 Weird things Opera Singers do

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I have to tell you guys a secret. Opera singers seem like the coolest people on earth. The rock stars of the theatre. Ballers, many have said. But the truth of the matter is that we are all a bunch of moist throated, germaphobes hell-bent on social ostracisation based on strange and off-putting habits often inflicted upon members of the public minding their own business.

Ok, I am being a dramatic diva once again. We are strange, but some of these habits listed below you will probably think are totally normal. Lip trilling while on a packed train. Normal. Don’t know what a lip trill is? Are you crazy?

Here are some of the reasons opera singers are fantastically eccentric creatures of the wild:

Humming, lip trilling and singing sirens in public spaces

There are so many occasions when en route to an audition, coaching or singing lesson that I will be in need of warming up with no place to go but the bus stop. Multi-tasking on crack. Humming, singing sirens (think ambulance) and lip trills are what get us warm and buzzing ready to use those precious cords. I mostly try to warm up the higher notes as traffic noises are loud, trains approach the platform etc… but I don’t always get the timing right and this does result in suspicious side glances. Lip trills are most famous for entertaining small children, where you put your lips together and they vibrate as you blow air through, spit flying all over the place. Opera singers don’t spit while doing this, because as they say, we are pros. But the look of doing something in the absence of a child, as an (assumed) adult can disturb even the most open-minded civilian. Understandable. I am so often humming quietly that I barely notice I am doing it until I see the people around me searching for the source of unending scales, arpeggios and cadenzas I just can’t get down pat yet. Oops.

 

Drinking water constantly- and if you’re me, drinking hot water constantly

An opera singer with a moist throat is a happy one. If you drink lots of water, your vocal cords become more flexible, bouncier and generally happier guys than ever before. For this reason you will never, ever see an opera singer without water in close proximity. My own personal habit, is to be constantly drinking hot water. No tea. No coffee. Just, hot water. Delish! The reason behind this is that steam, in combination with the hydration from the water actually helps prevent and aid *inflammation of the vocal cords. Ice cold water constricts them. No, no we can’t have that. My cords are warm, juicy guys ready to rumble at all times. I have disturbed many a friend and foe as they handled my surprisingly hot water bottle, expecting it to be icy cold. Alas, no. Even on the hottest summer day you will find me drinking some nice, mildly hot water. Mmmm.

*ever had a sore throat? Your cords are inflamed!

Ingesting just about any strange concoction in order to sing while sick

If you ever have a sore throat- ask an opera singer. They know the things. Firstly, let me define sick for an opera singer. Sick is: feeling any sort of odd sensation in ones throat. The way in which we react to said sensations (coughs, tickles, inflammation, sinus things or extra mucus) depends on the diva. One tickle and a singer could be out cold for the night where others may soldier on even through having a mild cold. Brave, brave divas they are. When sick, do drink all the water (as mentioned), drink herbal tea, steam the hell out of your throat (towel, head, over steaming hot water sans eucalyptus oil- drying!) and sleep for all eternity. Lozenges- do not. Coffee do not. Milk do not. Many singers I know are into a great myriad of herbal remedies like olive leaf extract, the most disgusting taste I choose not to describe to your delicate ears. My favourite is: hot water (when is it not), honey (one bucket) and pepper. So much pepper. I have no idea why, but pepper is the most important addition that makes the difference. Do it.

Being hyper-aware of absolutely any said sensation in the throat, tongue, jaw and nasal passages in general

The work we do requires being aware of all of these things while singing but also means that throughout our day we are constantly checking in on our jaw tension, tongue root tension, open airiness of our sinuses and hopefully lack of congestion. If you ever see me massaging around my neck, jaw, face area. Now you know why. Move along.

Voice rest

Sometimes your voice needs a rest. Silence. This reduces swelling of the cords from speaking too much, shouting, singing too much or all of the above. Everyone needs a rest, and our little guys are no exception. The problem with this one for me is I have noticed just how much this voice rests annoys everyone coming into contact with you. My roommate and best friend would get so upset, absolutely convinced I’m mad at her and not just a paranoid-singing-maniac. To quote my father- “not this fucking voice rest thing again!” Silently, I draw a sad face on a piece of paper.

Flying long haul gets us wearing masks

Ever heard of a humidiflyer? This baby is a humidity making mask for your face and also really helpful at scaring all remaining passengers on the plane. What does she have?! Is it serious!? Don’t worry mate, she’s just a moisture loving songstress. It looks like this. Most recently flying from Australia to Europe, I got ready to have my big sleep (24 hours is time to get out your best sleeping skills). I brush my teeth, put my ear plugs in, eye mask and finish off with strapping my face in with this humidity making, germ protecting babe. Settle in folks, and keep one eye open at all times. The creepy mask lady’s gonna get ya!

Strong and unmistakable aversion to anyone with a sniffle or cough- god forbid the cough

The common cold is the singers enemy. I have heard stories of some of the greatest divas today sneezing once in the sound check and within half an hour being wheeled out the stage door in a wheelchair, cancelling all performances until further notice. This makes sense to me as a singer. My voice is my instrument, and if it gets sick or hurt I can’t go on. In any capacity. Just leave me here, forget me forever and move on with your lives. Goodbye, dear world you have been good to me.

Making strange noises, constantly

Oh man, living with an opera singer will open your eyes to sounds humans can make that are so similar to sex noises, but in fact are not. We have to get all different parts of the system going- whether it’s a breathing thing, something for the resonators or the tongue and jaw. We do all manner of things. Singing with entire tongue out your mouth- try it. Sighing, very high pitched. Ah, ah, ah! Great to get the voice going and also to pretend you live a wild life behind your bedroom doors. Double the benefits.

Loud- LOUD singing

Ok, let’s put this into perspective. While living in the back of an eight apartment block, eight apartments from the front gate, you can hear me singing my warm ups. Imagine living next door. Or, in the next bedroom. We have to sing over a full orchestra, into a theatre full of hundreds of people without a microphone. It figures… but in real life, I’m sure I have pissed off many a neighbour singing my exercises over and over, making strange sex noises (unfortunately without the sex) and singing only the first half of a song. Can’t be as bad as a band of recorders though, right? Most recently my neighbour knocked on my door asking if it was possible for me to buy some sort of sound box (think telephone box) for me to sing in. Almost as good an idea as these new things I’ve seen advertised.

 

And so, now you have a tiny insight into what it is like being an opera singer, or waiting for a bus with one. Thanks for reading, and if you didn’t, also thanks for not reading because now we will still be able to continue being friends. Opera singers are special creatures, reviving an art that is so old and so magical. We love what we do and we sacrifice being normal for this life of loud, multi-lingual bliss.

If you have never seen an opera, I would recommend Carmen or The Magic Flute as good starting points. Coming soon- a guide to going to the opera for beginners and curious cats looking to get a big slice of diva in their lives.

 

 

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Where the last year took me

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After almost a year’s absence from my lovely piece of internet here, I now announce my return. A solid return, made of sticks and mud and grains of sand that glue everything together for all of eternity. I cannot believe it has been so long since I put my words to screen, but there it is. One whole year.

I love how every year, around October and right on time, I hear myself remarking at just how close Christmas is. Just how unbelievable it is that another year has passed. I hear myself saying this, like some sort of strange Groundhog Day echo that rings through every year since I was young enough to care that time passes as it does. Time just slaps you on the butt without mercy or consideration for your potential to bruise like a peach from a mere change in wind. Slightly surprising and extremely aggravating. So many tiny, insignificant events compile into a year and at the end of it all you can’t really be sure as to what you got. What did you achieve? Did you grow?

The years pass and the small moments in between we inevitably forget! They smush together like a snowball and those moments and years become a general time that is then remembered as a general era of our lives.

We long for those lost eras. We long for moments within them that we aren’t actually able to identify. What did it feel like to sit and have an awkward coffee date for the third time out of sheer desperation to find love? What did it feel like to find love, that initial moment of awe at the luck that has come your way? That pain that aches in you at the memory of a thoughtless act or a stray unkind, cutting word. How did it feel to have those worries that seem just so insignificant now?

Well, like clockwork around October of last year, sitting in a (surprisingly) sunny classroom on the fifth floor of a building in central Berlin, I announced just how close we were to Christmas. How unbelievable was it that another year had passed? My eyes rolled out of my skull at how I forgot, again, to stop saying this.

Early last year I took off on an adventure which at first landed me in the Philippines. I spent a month exploring, swimming, riding scooters without prior knowledge that I should never, ever ride scooters and drinking beer watching the sun set over views of pretty things. I was on my way to doing something I had always dreamed of doing, and have even spoken a little bit here about doing. I was moving to Europe, to Berlin specifically, to follow my dream. Oh man. What a cliché. Fuck it.

The Philippines provided me with this small pocket of time in which I could process what I had just done. Leaving my family, my friends. My job. My sky-blue, basketed vintage bike. My favourite sandwich at my favourite place to eat and drink wine and read and think. Leaving my best friend in our home, with our cat. Half my wardrobe. Truthfully, much more than half. My surfboard. My all of everything. I left it. While lying like a pancake atop crystal blue waters I could ignore the fact that I had just taken the leap into the unknown. That deep abyss. You see, this was not just moving my life, it was admitting that I was going to take a step toward a dream I have had all my life. A dream I took for granted, that was too big and terrible to even look in the eye. Here it goes! And it’s still going- more on that later.

By the time I arrived in Milan, only having sustained the most minor of injuries from my misguided scooter attempts, I was on the conveyor belt that I had set myself up for. All my life I have studied music and dreamed of coming to Europe to become a professional opera singer. It sounds weird when most of the kids my age were truly keen on being Britney Spears the Sequel. Alas, here I was, aged 9 and dreaming of my diva years as a 40-year-old woman dripping in costume jewelry, tripping over a gigantic gown onto a stage hosting a full piece orchestra. I was an interesting child. Europe had always been in my mind as the place I wanted to fulfil that. As I limped through the arrival hall at Malpensa Airport, I was faced with what that actually meant. Terrifying. To me, at least.

I spent the rest of the year doing what I loved and doing things that absolutely scared the shit out of me. I performed in two different Puccini operas in both Vienna and Berlin. I sang for agents, I sang for conductors who ripped me to absolute shreds and built me back up again. I sang in old, beautiful concert halls and I faced colleagues and new friends who all hold such incredibly inspiring talent and passion. I showed myself that I could make the first step and dip my toe into a life that was almost at fairytale impossible status. It was a start. A small start, but a start at that.

At the end of all the bustle and moving and packing and unpacking of bags, I finally settled in Berlin. This was an entire saga in itself of finding apartments, dealing with unimaginable German bureaucracy and having to use my German to understand a tax system that could honestly have been in any language except for that of which humans speak. I was so shocked in the end at how easy it was to make a life. I got a day job to support my dream job. I started making friends and brick by tiny brick, puzzling together a puzzle of what my life was going to be for now.

Don’t ask me where I will be living in six months. Or even four months for that matter. It may be London, it may be Vienna it may be still Berlin (I sincerely hope). Strangely enough where I am living is not really a concern. What I do know now is that the myriad of things I am going to be trying for are ticking towards me and here I am in 2018 still making a go of it. Yes! Yes? Yes.

Last year I learnt a lot about daring to take the first step. Though I took so many of them, I must say that on the other side it doesn’t get any less scary. It doesn’t get cosy. But right now I’m not really in life for comfort. Comfort is for when I retire and/or lose my wits. Whichever comes first. I wanna run and fall to scrape knees only to get back up and make another ridiculous decision. If I’m not a bruised and battered old bat at age 80, I will be sorely disappointed.

 

 

With that, here are my intended ‘resolutions’ for this year. Let’s call them intentions.

  1. Do the splits. Most people who have had one conversation/looked in my direction know that this has been a lifelong pursuit. I will drop into the deepest of splits in 2018. It’s my year, I feel it.
  2. So, 2017 was my year of taking the first step. This year is all about making myself stick to my own bomb-ass guns. Even if this year is a long list of rejections, I don’t bloody well care. I am sticking so hard I don’t care* if I shatter into a billion pieces.

*caring a little bit.

So there, 2018! Come the bloody hell at me.

 

What to expect downtown at the old shesnogood.com… more travel things, more thoughts on art, love and equality. On how to move to Berlin or any country other than your own. Thoughts on taking risks and trusting yourself enough to take a gamble on who you are, and what you got. Love, again. Weird shit.

Thanks for comin’ down, peaches.

 

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