“In conversation” with Cory Band’s Flugelhorn star;  Helen Williams

Allegro Optical talks to Helen WIlliams

“Green Eyewear” for green eyes

“In Conversation” will be a regular interview series, in which one of our team sits down with leading lights from the world of music. From musicians to dancers, public speakers to instrument makers, this series will allow us to chat with some of the creative people we have helped and talk to them in-depth, about their careers, creative processes, and most importantly their vision and eyewear. Allegro Optical, “the musician’s optician” MD Stephen Tighe, talks to Cory Band’s Flugelhorn player and good friend of the musician’s optician, Helen Williams.

ST – Helen, how have you coped with lock-down?

I’m fortunate to be in lockdown with my best friend, (and husband!), Glyn. So, apart from a few business and financial worries that we’re coping with by being extra savvy at the moment, it has been OK…, well apart from not going to rehearsals and giving concerts. That is what we’re missing almost as much as our families!

ST – We’ve noticed lots of online activity from you, Glyn and the band. How was the interactive experience for you?

We have been craving the performance element of our lives, so having projects to work on with Cory and the individual things we have been doing, has been helping a lot. We’ve tried using the Acapella App… and really enjoyed the process. What a brilliant practice tool it has turned into! Listening back to recordings has helped work on tuning and ensemble. The aspects of playing that we almost do without thinking, whilst in a band rehearsal or performance and something we are missing most. I’ve taught myself several new IT skills involved with recording and editing, using (new to me) software apps, and enjoyed doing it as I’ve had the time on my hands to do it properly!

ST – How have your specialist musicians’ glasses helped? Or Since coming to Allegro, have our lenses helped with your playing and previous eye-sight issues?

To be honest, I really couldn’t do without my glasses from Allegro. I would liken it to having had my failing eyesight, (due to my age), totally corrected. I wear my glasses all the time. Not only can I see my music on my stand as I practice, rehearse, and teach, but also when I’m performing as a soloist. This is when I’m using my left eye more than my right (dominant eye), because of the nature and positioning of my instrument. It’s very important to have this knowledge, as you stand in front of an audience that you are going to be able to see what you’re playing. Then literally, all you have to do is perform! I wear my glasses for driving, watching TV, using the computer…ALL THE TIME.

ST – Would you recommend our in-depth consultation process to other musicians?

The consultation process was key to finding a solution to my very particular difficulties with wearing glasses to read music. There was some trial and error involved, but Sheryl quickly got to grips with what I needed, (and the solutions required to overcome my problems), and found the perfect solution for me. I cannot recommend Allegro highly enough and have done so lots of times!

ST – What’s with the stamp collecting?

This will follow me to my grave now won’t it?!?!? It is literally something I’ve always said just before going on stage in a contest. Just when the apprehension reaches its peak, the moment you are about to step on stage, another less perilous hobby springs to mind. I mentioned it when we were making the SkyArts documentaries in 2018 and they edited just that one comment from me into the titles for each programme. If I had £1 for every time someone has mentioned it to me since…

ST – You chose a handcrafted David Green eyewear frame, what attracted you to these frames?

I like the design of the frame and the ones I chose are a change from my usual glasses. I’m a creature of habit and a bit of a plain Jane normally, always going for the same or similar. My new frames are just a bit different for me.

ST: Is the idea of low impact and environmentally friendly eyewear important to you?

Environmentally friendly is not something I had ever really considered before when looking at new eyewear, but what a fabulous idea. I’m delighted that my new frames fall into this category!

ST: Isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that you chose a handcrafted frame by David Green Eyewear considering your childhood nickname?

For many years at school, my nickname was “Green-eye”….not surprisingly because my eyes are greenish, (though I think they’re getting browner as I age!). It’s totally appropriate that my eyewear should be from David Green Eyewear!

ST: You’ve been visiting Allegro Optical, the musician’s optician for some time now, and it’s quite a trek from Wales, why do you feel, as a musician, that specialist eye care is important?

It takes about 4 ½ hours for us to get from South Wales to Allegro Optical, but having an optician who understands and can come up with solutions to some very musician specific problems, is an absolute godsend. Why would I go elsewhere?

ST – Can you see how our in-depth “musician focused” eye-care can prolong a musician’s career?

Being able to see the music is vital to musicians. Losing that ability is frustrating at best and totally disabling at worst. I wouldn’t be able to continue playing for Cory Band without my glasses specifically tailored for me by Allegro. Fact!

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

As an independent family run business, we are gaining an international reputation. Both for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs. Now known internationally as the ‘Musician’s Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further afield. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors have resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM). We are currently working with Bapam and The Royal College of Music Healthy Performer project. As part of the project, the Royal College of Music has commissioned Twenty-five short films, one of which features Allegro Optical. Although the release of the film has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The films feature specialist healthcare and medical professionals talking about their area of expertise. As part of the Healthy Conservatoires Network, the films will provide practical advice to help performers recognise symptoms and give preventative advice or discuss treatments available for common conditions. We treat each client as an individual because they are. It is true that no two musicians are the same, so why should their vision correction be? We enjoy creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly.

Award-winning eye-care

We’ve been pretty successful in helping performers to #SeeTheMusic. In fact, in the last twelve months alone we have scooped no less than five national and regional awards for our work in this field. These awards include the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Year at a gala event in London. Managing Director Sheryl Doe was awarded the 2019 Dispensing Optician of the Year and she was a finalist in the AOP Dispensing Optician of the year 2020. She has also reached the finals of the  National Business Women’s Awards, for the Business Owner of the Year category.  Allegro Optical’s cutting edge approach to dispensing and their musical experience has led to the team being shortlisted for the prestigious Opticians Awards, Optical Assistant team of the year 2020 During March 2019, Allegro Optical was awarded the Scale-Up Business of the Year, at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York. They then went on to receive the FSB Chairman’s award at the national finals in May. Finally winning the FBU Yorkshire family business of the year. Allegro Optical has been featured in many national publications including The Times, 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine. If you are a musician who is struggling with their vision and making music no longer the enjoyable experience it once was, give us a call at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.

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