Categories
About Allegro Music

Now Yanna can see the music

A talented pianist’s search for help to see the music

In this blog, we look at how a talented and inspiring Pianist was helped by our specialist musicians’ glasses. Yanna is a fascinating woman, and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with her. Her music history encompasses the traditions of her family’s heritage, (Asia Minor) and the complexity of her musical background, as evidenced by a successful career as a teacher, concert pianist, conductor, and accompanist.

Yanna was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and is a proud citizen of both Greece and the UK. She grew up with a wide range of musical influences from her parents’ unusual musical interests that covered everything from Greek folk music and Theodorakis to Tchaikovsky and Bartok.

Time to TangoA person playing a piano

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

From a young age, Yanna played the piano for her parents and their friends, reading from a piece of faded photocopied ‘fake’ sheet music with all the fashionable tangos, waltzes and ballads of the 1930s and 40s as they all sang in harmony.

Yanna is an experienced pianist and accompanist. In 1987 she was awarded the Dimitri Sgouros ‘Prize and Scholarship’ by the New Conservatory of Thessaloniki from where she graduated in 1988 with the ‘Diploma for Piano performance and teaching’. 

London Calling

She continued her piano and conducting studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she was awarded the Cipriani Potter Exhibition prize during her second year as an ‘Advanced Studies’ student. She graduated with the ‘Diploma of Advanced Studies’ in 1990. Yanna moved to the US in 1991 where she gained her Master’s degree in ‘Piano Performance and Literature’ at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester NY U.S.A. in 1993.

After a 10-year worldwide concert career, Yanna settled in the UK where she raised a family, taught the piano privately and classroom music since 1993. Since 2018, Yanna is getting back to performing professionally and is currently preparing her first solo CD album which is due to be released in December 2022.

In 2018 Yanna co-founded ANIMO, a flute and piano duo, with her friend Sarah Waycott. Since 2019, she is the proud owner of a Gustav Klimt (Goldene Adele) Bosendorfer 214 VC which she has used for several recordings, Animo’s first and second CD albums and weekly Livestreams during the last few years.
A picture containing person, music, indoor, window

Description automatically generated

Yanna needed to see the music

Having always had a relatively high myopic prescription Yanna is an experienced spectacle wearer. However, the varied focusing distance required of a professional pianist was beginning to present her with the problems associated with presbyopia which are very familiar to us at Allegro Optical. Yanna needed to see her music on the stand, her musical collaborators and ideally a good view in her periphery.

Yanna first contacted Allegro Optical in February 2020, just before the COVI|D-19 crisis and the ensuing national lockdown.

She explained that she played a grand piano and had begun to struggle with blurry notes and indistinguishable shapes and lines. Yanna told us that when playing professionally and performing downlighters or overhead lighting reflected and displaced the image she saw. This caused all the notes to become blurry. The reading glasses that were made for her were impractical and her varifocal lenses gave too narrow a field of view.

Yanna booked her first appointment with Allegro Optical for Friday 27th March in Greenfield, Saddleworth. That was unfortunately postponed due to the first 2020 lockdown and Yanna didn’t get to visit us until September the same year. In the meantime, Yanna began having some issues with a retinal tear and was referred to Birmingham Midland Eye Center for further advice and investigation.

Following her discharge from the hospital in August 2020, Yanna contacted us again and we arranged an appointment in September of the same year.

A bit of a conundrum

The day of Yanna’s visit was an extremely busy day, with a very full clinic. Optometrist and flautist Amy carried out a thorough eye examination and noted Yanna’s complex ocular history and her many working distances. She then produced a prescription

covering all Yanna’s working distances and then introducing her to dispensing optician Sheryl.

Sheryl took all of Yanna’s facial measurements to help her find a frame that fitted perfectly, both in terms of comfort and performance. Well-fitted frames would provide the perfect mount for Yanna’s complex lenses. The frame also had to be practical but reflect Yanna’s unique style and work with her deep colouring. They also had to stay put while Yanna was playing. Little did the pair realise this meeting was to be the start of a long-time collaboration and Yanna now works with Allegro Optical to help us develop musicians’ eye care further and to raise awareness among performing artists of the need for specialist eye care.

Multiple distances require multiple solutions

After some discussion, Sheryl was concerned that including her correction for an elevated music stand in one pair, would compromise Yanna’s field of view and posture. To give the very best solution they settled on one pair of varifocals for everyday wear and another for use with a music stand.

Yanna opted for a Hook LDN HKS011 frame in Navy and Tortoise as the colours complimented her colouring, reflecting her personality while providing a comfortable fit and good lens size. We glazed these lenses with an individualised freeform varifocal in 1.74 index lenses with Transitions® Signature® GEN 8™, the first intelligent photochromic lens with their breakthrough nanocomposite technology that enhances photochromic performance and provides optimal vision, comfort and all-day protection.

Something for the piano

To provide the widest possible area for music (about 1.2 meters across and elevated) Sheryl dispensed a pair of spectacles with our Fogoto lenses to provide the widest and deepest field possible.

This time Yanna opted for a traditional yet iconic style of frame, choosing the Anglo American 313, HYBG. Again we decided to glaze these lenses with Transitions® Signature® GEN 8™. Yanna’s music room has a lot of glass with two huge windows. Glare is often a problem and a photochromic lens option appealed to her.

Things don’t always go to plan

When Yanna collected her new spectacles she was delighted with the varifocals, but it quickly became apparent that there was an issue with the right eye in the music spectacles. While the vision in her left eye was in her words “amazing” the music in the right side of her right eye appears blurred. We invited Yanna back for further investigation. Optometrist and Gospel Singer Gemma carried out a detailed eye exam and found that Yanna had some partial defects on her binocular visual field exam, possibly caused by some slight scarring. Yanna had developed a “Weiss ring”, a circular peripapillary attachment that forms following a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) from the optic nerve head. We then worked some prism into Yanna’s lens design to try to resolve the issue by moving the image she sees from the scarred area of the retina.

Yanna visited Birmingham Midland Eye Centre again in March 2021 but decided against vitrectomy surgery because of the risk of retinal detachment. In January 2022 Yanna felt she needed a change of glasses and she again travelled up to Meltham. This time she saw Optometrist and fellow pianist Liz. Liz conducted a 3D OCT examination which revealed a large mass of floaters from Yanna’s previous PVD in the right eye and a partial PVD in the left eye.

Time lapse

Since her last visit, we had invested in a Saccadic Clinical Eye Tracker allowing Liz to assess binocular function while the patient is sight-reading or making a series of saccades or performing other complex tasks. This was a game-changer for Yanna as the examination revealed her binocular vision to be a little unstable. Her fixation disparity varied and prisms now preferred the opposite to phorias. Liz also found that while the right eye was dominant in the distance Yanna was now left eye dominant near. The floaters in her right eye also seemed to be causing problems.

The trick now was to create a pair of spectacles that would help Yanna to continue playing despite all her vision problems. Sheryl designed a pair of lenses that would make the most of Yanna’s limited vision in her right eye. With a difference of nearly three diopters, there was a danger of double vision caused by differing image sizes. This was resolved by using different indices and asphericising the right lens to reduce minification. Using computer numeric control technology we were able to create a lens that minimised optical aberrations giving Yanna the best vision possible.

When Yanna collected her glasses we ran the same Saccadic Clinical Eye Tracker exam with her new glasses on. The exam revealed no binocular problems whatsoever. Yanna was delighted and it wasn’t long before she left the following Google review.

Yanna said; “Probably the most thorough, knowledgeable and persistent in getting results opticians I have ever encountered! I went to Allegro Optical initially for musician’s glasses. I really wanted to be able to see more when performing on stage and to be able to communicate with my duo colleagues rather than looking at a foggy outline or having to swap glasses all the time.  Unfortunately, a retinal tear that developed immediately after I made my first appointment in 2020 and COVID getting in the way of everything, we had to work around many difficulties, none of which deterred the owner Sheryl Doe, who was determined to make me the best possible pair of glasses as close to the original brief as possible. And in April 2022 they did! I am the very happy owner of two fantastic pairs of specs, one varifocal and the other my “magic” pair for playing the piano and working on the computer. This was all possible thanks also to their new saccadic eye scanner which showed them exactly the kind of issues I had to struggle through when I was reading a score. The result is miraculous! I can see better, my eyes are more relaxed, I am not getting a single headache from reading music or working on the computer and as for my varifocals, it’s like I am not wearing glasses, that’s how comfortable they are! Allegro, Optical thank you!

I would recommend Allegro’s unique skills to anyone, particularly if you are struggling with any eye issues or you want to be able to read music effortlessly. Superb service in every way!”

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

As an independent family run business, we are gaining an international reputation for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs.

Now known internationally as the ‘Musicians Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further afield. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors has resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM).

We treat each client as an individual and 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

So successful has Allegro Optical been in helping performers that this year alone we have scooped no less than five national and regional awards. 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 in 2021 Allegro Optical Dispensing Optician Kim Walker scooped the same title.

The company has been featured in many national publications including The Times 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine.
Are you a musician who is struggling with their vision? Is making music no longer the enjoyable experience it once was? If so call us at Greenfield on 01457 353100, Marsden 01484 768888 or Meltham on 01484 907090.

Categories
Music

Guest blog by pianist Norma Wilson

Norma Wilson is a pianist and flautist from the West Country. She first visited Allegro Optical in 2020 and has since collaborated with us on several projects including The RSM & BAPAM, Sustaining A Career Into Old Age podcast. 

In this blog, Norma talks about how Wet Macular Degeneration has impacted her career and how she manages her condition to continue playing.

Wet Macular Degeneration – a musicians perspective.

I am a keen amateur musician.  From a young age I would borrow music scores from the library and I am a proficient sight-reader.  In 2016 I was diagnosed with Wet Macular Degeneration in both eyes. The onset was very sudden ( I noticed Fiona Bruce looked beetroot colour with a very long face when I watched the News) and when the second eye was affected I was devastated when the Eye Consultant said it could affect the way I read music. 

I had noticed that when I looked at music notation the lines were wavy, there were some blurry patches.  The main problem was the light, I would get a sparkling effect when I moved my eyes from the score to the keyboard and back again.  The light was refracted and I had a general feeling that my vision was distorted.  

Fortunately, I read an article about Allegro Optical, in SideView, the Macular Society Newsletter.  I live in Bristol but made the journey to Meltham to see if they could help me. Allegro Optical describe themselves as a musicians’ optician.  It was a very different eye assessment, I took music along, there was a piano and a music stand.  The measuring process to make me special ‘music reading glasses’ took quite a while.  Allegro Optical have a piano and music stands, so I took some music with me and my flute which I play as well as the piano. 

  • I had an eye test, which included an OCT scan, a field of vision scan my eye movements were tracked and I had an eScoop assessment for my AMD.
  • They measured the distance between the music score to my eyes both seated at the piano and standing with my flute in front of a music stand.  They were trying to find my ‘working distance’  in my case 21 “
  • My previous optician had tried several times to make me some music reading glasses, they were single view with increased magnification, but that did not address the problem and created more distortion and reduced the field of vision. 
  • Allegro Optical were considering colour and prism. They measured eye to music, eye to stand, eye to piano and how wide my field of vision was. I was persuaded to have a slight yellow filter, I have to say this has helped reduce the sense of eye strain. 

When we consider how a musician reads a score we know that

  • You often read more than one line at a time, treble and bass clefs, but if you play with other people you read across four or more staves.  Your eyes are looking up and down and across. If you then turn your gaze away from the score to look at your fellow musicians you are looking into a different light source and back again. 
  • Light is of the essence, so getting advice on this is important. 
  • Relying solely on reading from a paper score is not always easy so over the years I have been advised to get an IPad Pro (larger iPad A4) and to use several Apps:
  • it depends greatly on which software is used, but Scoringnotes.com for instance tends to make adaptations that work for the visual effect of the score.
    > More detailed information on this can be found here:
    https://www.imore.com/best-music-reading-apps-ipad
    https://www.musicnotes.com/now/tips/the-3-best-hands-free-page-turners/
  • IMSLP  International Music Score Library Project  it started in February 2006. It is a project for the creation of a virtual library of public domain music scores based on the wiki principal. There is  forScore, Piascore, Musescore etc

I was advised that I scan my own score and then get it in Dropbox and then get that into the App ForScore which I use on the iPad. But whether or not you do that or just download, the important thing to get it bigger is to have an iPad Pro (large screen size) and then turn it on its side. That makes the music much bigger—though of course then you have to turn the page twice as much! Using an iPad also helps because it is backlit so the light is more consistent. 

It is important for me that I continue to play music as I age and with my specialist music reading glasses, iPad and the use of various Apps I know I can continue for many years to come. 

Norma Wilson

Categories
About Allegro Music News

A Scottish Pianists journey to clear vision – From Perthshire to Saddleworth

Scottish pianist Muriel Johnstone

travelled through The Torrent to visit The Optical Majician in Saddleworth

Muriel Johnstone is arguably one of Scotlands’ most prolific composers of Scottish country dance music ever, and one of the Scottish Country Dance Society’s best-loved musicians. Born in West Hartlepool, England to Scottish parents who were both dancers, Muriel was exposed to music from a young age. Muriel studied music at Edinburgh University and went on to forge an enviable career with a vast catalogue of recordings, compositions and publications.

Muriel Johnstone is arguably one of Scotlands’ most prolific composers of Scottish country dance music ever, and one of the Scottish Country Dance Society’s best-loved musicians. Born in West Hartlepool, England to Scottish parents who were both dancers, Muriel was exposed to music from a young age. Muriel studied music at Edinburgh University and went on to forge an enviable career with a vast catalogue of , compositions and .she buys her glasses at Allegro Optical Opticians

Having taught and performed in many countries including the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many more, muriel knows a thing or two about Scottish music. Having qualified in the study of classical music (BMus and LRAM) she has become a sought after performer, accompanist (especially for dance) and teacher, bringing into prominence the role of piano in traditional music.

Muriel has over 800 compositions in the Traditional Scottish genre, a good many of which are for dancing. With many pieces commissioned to celebrate events and festivals. Muriel’s Scottish dance music includes reels, jigs, strathspeys, pastoral airs and waltzes. Her additional repertoire encompasses other forms of music inspired by the beautiful landscape of her home.

The Dilemma

With so many fantastic achievements under her belt and a huge catalogue of compositions, Muriel was becoming frustrated when making music. Having had pretty poor eyesight all her life Muriel turned to laser surgery in 2005. She elected to undergo monovision correction and chose bilateral monovision LASIK correction. Monovision (MV) is a correction to compensate for presbyopia. One eye is corrected for distance while the other eye corrected for near vision. Patients should be able to suppress the blurred image from one eye and see clearly at all distances without glasses. However, this surgery may not be suitable for some patients. Those whom night driving and/or reading are an essential part of their life. Reading music on the stand is an essential part of Muriel’s life. Recently this compromise in visual acuity was becoming an increasing problem.

Muriel Johnstone is arguably one of Scotlands’ most prolific composers of Scottish country dance music ever, and one of the Scottish Country Dance Society’s best-loved musicians. Born in West Hartlepool, England to Scottish parents who were both dancers, Muriel was exposed to music from a young age. Muriel studied music at Edinburgh University and went on to forge an enviable career with a vast catalogue of , compositions and .she buys her glasses at Allegro Optical Opticians

Our regular readers will have seen previous blogs where we talk about the problems monovision refractive surgery causes musicians. Muriel is no exception. Like Swiss Cornet player Angelo Bearpark, the surgery had a detrimental effect on Muriel’s vision when focusing on the music stand. Muriel visited her usual optician in November 2018 but was unhappy with the solution provided. She returned in February and was dispensed with a pair of varifocals. While useful for daily tasks were unsuitable for playing the piano.

Muriel then visited her optician for a third time in July and was dispensed with a pair of single vision glasses for driving. However these were not as clear as the varifocals. She was also provided with a pair of occupational lenses for music. But she couldn’t read the music without leaning forward considerably, which wasn’t practical. It seemed her optician was unable to help and at this point Muriel began researching musicians eyecare and discovered Allegro Optical.

The Happy Meeting

Muriel contacted us and explained her problems with her vision. She talked about her frustration at a failure to acquire a satisfactory solution. We talked at length about Muriel’s working distances, the instruments she plays and her previous refractive surgery. However our location, in the heart of Saddleworth in the small village of Greenfield, was hardly convenient. We are over 500 kilometers from Muriels’ home, but she decided to fly down for a consultation anyway.

Managing Director Stephen met Muriel at the airport. They had a very wet trip to Greenfield from Manchester chatting about all things music. When they arrived, Muriel received an extended eye examination with our fabulous Gospel singer, flautist and optometrist Gemma. Having performed in some iconic venues such as the Royal Festival Hall and the Tate Modern, Gemma completely understands a performers visual needs and was able to find a suitable prescription.

Figure it out

As a result of the bilateral monovision LASIK correction Gemma found Muriel needed uneven near and music stand additions. She also has a variable ocular dominance, as would be expected post LASIK.

Playing a piano and sometimes the organ Muriel needs a very wide field of view. Her previous optician had tried to address this by dispensing Zeiss Occupational lenses. They felt the working distance of the lenses were the closest to Muriel’s needs. Sadly for Muriel they didn’t work as she had to keep leaning forwards to get the music in focus.

Unfortunately Zeiss, like most large lens manufacturers don’t make lenses specifically for musicians. So it was always going to be a bit of a compromise. Even using the best of the ZEISS Office Lens portfolio with Maximum Intermediate Distance (M.I.D.) technology, the lenses didn’t work.

The Solution

To resolve Muriel’s vision problems and give her clear vision across four sheets of music and the ability to see her audience we had to create a lens design to her Muriel the widest possible field of view. We based her lens design on our Fogotto range of lenses but added an anamorphic component design to widen her field of view further. The term anamorphic derives from the Greek words meaning ”formed again.” This enables us to squeeze in more lateral vision. We also incorporated some prism assistance to help with fixation and fatigue when playing for long periods of time.

Muriel’s lenses are made from a 1.67 high index optical resin. This provides durability with minimal weight as she often plays for hours at a time. The last thing she needs is a heavy pair of spectacles weighing on her nose. As Muriel doesn’t always play alone, at times she needs to see her fellow performers, so we needed to produce the lenses in as wide but flattering shape as possible. Muriel chose the beautiful Crystal Diva rimless frame by Silhouette, although we glazed it with a larger lens shape to give a better field of view.

Muriel Johnstone is arguably one of Scotlands’ most prolific composers of Scottish country dance music ever, and one of the Scottish Country Dance Society’s best-loved musicians. Born in West Hartlepool, England to Scottish parents who were both dancers, Muriel was exposed to music from a young age. Muriel studied music at Edinburgh University and went on to forge an enviable career with a vast catalogue of , compositions and .she buys her glasses at Allegro Optical Opticians

A Celebration Jig

Once fitted with her new glasses a few weeks later Muriel was delighted. She was utterly surprised by the clarity her new spectacles provided. We even had a cheeky whisky to celebrate. When asked how she felt about her new glasses she said; “I just want you to know how THRILLED I am with all of my new glasses. My eyes feel very comfortable in the varifocals and later today I hope to have a long session at the piano to really test my (stunning) music glasses! Thank you again.”

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

As an independent family run business, we are gaining an international reputation for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs.

Now known internationally as the ‘Musicians Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further afield. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors has resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM).

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

So successful has Allegro Optical been in helping performers that this year alone we have scooped no less than five national and regional awards. 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 has been shortlisted for the AOP Dispensing Optician of the year 2020.

During March Allegro Optical was awarded the ‘Scale-Up Business of the Year‘ at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York and 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’s unique optical solution and our cutting edge approach to dispensing has led to the group being named finalists in the Huddersfield Examiners Business Awards in the Innovation and Enterprise category.

The company has been featured in many national publications including The Times 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine.

Are you are a musician who is struggling with their vision? Is making music is no longer the enjoyable experience it once was? If so call us at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.