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George Todica and I first worked together when he was asked to accompany me by our Conservatoire for the Kathleen Ferrier competition in Blackburn when I was starting Year 2 and he was commencing the third year of his Piano course.  He also accompanied me in the Llangollen Eisteddfod last year and we were finalists in a German lieder competition this year.  It’s a privilege to sing with him because he isn’t doing an accompanist degree he trains as a concert pianist and has so little time to spare.  A few months ago we auditioned for a series of Grieg master-classes to be held in Bergen, Norway and I’m thrilled to let you know that we were accepted on to the course which I’ll tell you more about soon.  It’s taken a while to get this interview together due to rehearsal schedules but finally I persuaded him to put a little time aside to tape this interview so that you can see what a trainee pianist goes through.

Here is a sample of George’s playing :)

What age did you first start playing piano?

I started playing at the age of three, my brothers, who were 12 and 14 at the time, taught me at first as they were already in school and knew how to play. They taught me little songs with one finger to start with, I remember I had a big pink book but I don’t remember what it was called, whilst I was in Kindergarden to play for the family. At the age of five I had my first official lesson with Silvia Panzariu in Iasi, Romania where I grew up because my Dad who is also a musician saw potential in me. She was a teacher at the High School the lessons were once every fortnight before I started school. I was always excited for my lessons. At about the age of six my brothers got their first basic computers and to test my love of piano my father offered me the choice of a computer or continued piano lessons and I chose piano.

How often did you practise each week?

I don’t remember exactly initially I enjoyed playing new pieces and I enjoyed learning new songs often for hours at a time; but exercises, playing things over and over again I didn’t particularly enjoy, I think that was probably about one hour each day. Silvia was my teacher for most of my childhood then I went to her daughter Ralucia and she taught me from about eleven for a few years. They were a very musical family. When I was fifteen I changed to her sister’s husband.

When did you start performing on stage or in front of audiences?

I learnt a lot before I got into School so I used to compete each year. I used to enjoy the competitions as I used to win first prize from the age of seven. I used to be more concerned about my walk on and bow than I was about my playing. I had to wear formal little suits, my parents wanted me to look special and stand out and they got me a burgundy jacket and I used to look at all the black jackets and think ooh no one else is wearing a burgundy jacket. I used to sing a lot when I was young and in a choir as a bass when I was older but I was really drawn to the piano and as we had a piano in the house it was very accessible so I concentrated on that.

Romania

What other subjects did you study at school in Romania?

Our system makes us do compulsory subjects until very late; Romanian literature, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, in final exams you can choose between History, Geography, Philosophy and Economics, I chose History which I enjoyed. Music was outside of choices.

When did you come to study in Scotland?

In Year 10 in Romania I won a scholarship at the Stewart Melville College in Edinburgh where I spent a very enjoyable year, I studied in S6 ( advanced highers ) studying classical History, Philosophy and Music and passed my examinations.  When I finished that year I went directly to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Was it difficult to leave home and move to the UK?

I had been sort of prepared for it because I was travelling to outside competitions and concerts being organised by my piano teacher Iulian Trofin, I would travel two hours to his class on the bus. I met him when I was ten and I studied with him until I came to Glasgow. From eight, I always walked half an hour to school alone. It was very difficult at first even though I spoke English quite well, I studied it in my last four years of school. I learnt English from cartoons and things and speaking to my friends to practise whilst we played computer games I just picked it up from this. It was strange not coming home at the end of each day, but they were very nice, kind and supportive to me in Edinburgh and I was allowed to phone home so it was mixed with lots of excitement.

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Absolute 1st Prize At The International Competition “Citta di Cesenatico”, Italy

What are your proudest achievements?

Winning the scholarship to Edinburgh definitely it absolutely changed my life, if I hadn’t got that I wouldn’t have thought to apply to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I wouldn’t have had the funds to move to another Country either. I was offered a full scholarship for Edinburgh including flights. I won my first international competition when I was 12, I went to Italy with Mr Trofin and I won first prize in my category it was a big prize for me at the time.

What’s a typical training schedule like for you?

I have been living in Scotland through scholarships during the past four years and I never had to worry about working in a bar or shop thanks to this, so that I could focus on learning piano every single moment, seven days per week. I usually strive to do an average of at least six hours piano practise per day excluding improv sessions, stretch breaks, research. I usually get up each day around 7am, I like early mornings waking up with the sun to relax, eat and check my e-mails and I usually get to school by 9am – at least three hours dedicated practise in a practise room before lunch around 1pm because mornings are most productive for me, then I’ll break off and do other work, then go back for an hour and a half solid practise, then have dinner around 5pm, then I’m usually back in school practising from 6pm to 9pm other than on a Sunday when they shut earlier.

What is coming up next for you?

I have three competitions in April and May in Sussex, Portugal, and Malta. I have a concert in Edinburgh on the 6th April at St Giles Cathedral at lunch time Mozart, Ravel, and Enescu. Then of course I’m moving on to a master’s course I have accepted my offer of a place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland because I’ve really enjoyed my four years here and got into the atmosphere of the Conservatoire. I was also offered places at RAM and RCM but I felt that the transition process would just take up valuable time. I have a new piano teacher Normal Beedie and I feel I can continue to learn a lot from him and make better progress here. I have a partial scholarship for masters and I am in the process of applying to trusts in the hope that people will help me to stay here. 

I believe I have a musical voice and the potential to bring something new to music to teach people to enjoy pure music, just the actual syrup and honey that comes out of classical music and not just consider it a type of genre people like or don’t like. I want to promote this music to help for its own benefit not just make myself a career, to share the joy and light that it brought into my life since I was really young and I like sharing that and helping people to see what I see.

You can listen to George’s music on his new You Tube channel or Google+ page. George also provided the beautiful accompaniment on the Aaron Copland American folk songs that I shared with you all earlier this year and on my album Canzoni D’Amore.

 

The Laird O’Cockpen

March 22, 2015 — 50 Comments
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Getting Ready

This weekend we have been rehearsing with Scottish Opera Connect for the coming production of “The Walk From The Garden”. It has been fantastic to practice alongside the string quartet today and the excitement of feeling it all to come together makes it all so worthwhile.

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My Score From Today’s Sitzprobe Rehearsal

Over the last few weeks I have been totally absorbed with several projects; learning the music and lyrics for our Chamber Choir performance on April 17th playing catch up because I’d missed a couple of rehearsals due to Dido, seeing all the aspects of “The Walk From The Garden” take shape and learning the music and dance routines as member of the chorus of “Sir John In Love” I have enjoyed being put through my paces.

For tonight’s post I wanted to leave you with the last of the songs from my album, “The Laird O’Cockpen”. This humorous Scottish folk song was written by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne ( 1766 – 1845 ). She wrote several beautiful songs which have become thought of as traditional Scottish songs. As the daughter of a staunchly Jacobite family she often wrote in sympathy of the cause, setting her songs to old established tunes.

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The Laird O’Cockpen – A Painting By Watson Gordon

Following her marriage to Major William Murray Naine she moved to Edinburgh becoming Lady Nairne. Whilst in Edinburgh she carried on writing her songs under a pseudonym as it was considered a “queer trade” for a titled Lady. The songs were kept secret from her husband and her work “Lays From Strathearn” was eventually published in her own name in 1946 after her death.

Carolina-Oliphant

Carolina Oliphant ( 1766 – 1845 )

The Laird o’ Cockpen

The laird o’ Cockpen, he’s proud an’ he’s great,
His mind is ta’en up wi’ the things o’ the State;
He wanted a wife, a braw house to keep,
But favour wi’ wooin’ was fashious to seek.

By the dyke-side a lady did dwell,
At feast he give he thocht she’d look well,
M’Leish’s ae dochter o’ Clavers-ha’ Lea,
A penniless lass wi’ a lang pedigree.

His wig was weel pouther’d and as gude as new,
His waistcoat was white, his coat it was blue;
He put on a ring, a sword, and cock’d hat,
And wha could refuse the laird wi’ a’ that?

He took his grey mare, and rade cannily,
And rapp’d at the yett o’ Clavers-ha’ Lea;
‘Gae tell Mistress Jean to come speedily ben, –
She’s want to speak with the laird o’ Cockpen.’

Mistress Jean she was makin’ the elderflower wine;
‘An’ what brings the laird at sic a like time?’
She aff her apron, and on her silk goun,
Her mutch wi’ red ribbons, and gaed awa’ doun.

An’ when she cam’ ben, he bowed fu’ low,
An’ what was his errand he soon let her know;
Amazed was the laird when the lady said ‘Na’,
And wi’ a curtsie she turned and awa’.

Dumfounder’d was he, nae sigh did he gie,
He mounted his mare – he rade cannily;
An’ aften he thought, as he gaed through the glen,
She’s daft to refuse the laird o’ Cockpen.
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Over the last couple of months I have been asked a couple of times if I have any CDs for sale rather than having to download the tracks from Amazon or iTunes. I do have about 30 that I have signed so my Dad has added a page to my blog where you can order one from (link).  

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Now Available As A CD To Buy From My Store

 

2nd Anniversary

March 18, 2015 — 109 Comments

2nd-Anniversary-Blog

It has been two years since I first decided to start my blog and record the experiences and opportunities that I would face as a student here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. So here I am 230 posts later and to everyone that has joined me here, supported my endeavours, shared in my experiences and provided invaluable advice I just want to say thank you.

I just love this time of year as all the rehearsals are coming to fruition and the performance dates are just around the corner.
On the 17th April at 7:30 pm I will be taking part with my fellow students at the RCS in our chamber choir, conducted again this year by Frikki Walker at St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow.

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The following day I am very excited that my family and friends will be traveling to Glasgow to see me take part in the Scottish Opera Connect production of Jonathan Dove’s opera “The Walk From The Garden”. This will be my first lead role playing Eve alongside a fellow student from the RCS, Glen Cunningham who will be performing the role of Adam. The dates of the performances are 18th April 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm and 19th April at 3:30 pm. This opera is part of a double bill, the second production is “Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow” which was inspired by “The Cautionary Tales” by Hilaire Belloc.

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As a member of Les Sirenes Female Chamber choir we have been working on Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a performance with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on Thursday 14th May at the City Halls Glasgow.

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Sir John In Love – RCS Glasgow

Then as the end of the academic year draws to a close I will be performing as a member of the chorus in the RCS production of Vaughan Williams’s opera “Sir John In Love”. With shows on the 9th, 11th, 13th and 15th May starting at 7:15 pm.

Mother’s Day

March 15, 2015 — 63 Comments

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My Mum is rather splendid she is always telling me to “Make The Commitment To The Real You”.

I can count on her to pick me up when I am down, support me when I am busy and help me to land after flying high. Today in the UK it is Mother’s Day I want to thank her for being so special and to share with you some of the guidance that I am lucky enough to receive from her every day :)

This year I have had the opportunity to make decisions about my training and consider my options at each crossroads that I have encountered. It has been one of my busiest years so far with so much still to do, building towards a climatic end of year. But I know that I would not be able to stand on my two feet so confidently, smiling and excited for the tasks ahead without the amazing help of my Mum.

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There are many times when each of us needs the help of others, they help us to trust in ourselves and commit to the journey we are each on. At times when we question our abilities it is important to ask, or receive help through positive encouragement whether this is through reading inspirational quotes, listening to suggested Ted Talks, watching motivational videos or films about American sports stars (my dad’s personal favourite ). But for me I have my mum. She has always had my back and gives me strength daily to strive to be the person I want to be.

I remember talking to her about the changes to the development of my personal singing training and the frustrations I felt. My mum asked me to research the growth of a bamboo tree, and she sent me this amazing video:

If you can then I recommend that you to watch it in its entirety, or save it for a day when you need a little positive nudge.  For me, it reminds me that I have the power to fulfil my dream.  If I take the time now then over the next several years I can nurture myself, train hard to enable me to grow and flourish. It takes patience and persistence. I am up for the challenge and I thank my mum every day for encouraging me to take on each challenge, supporting me to achieve my goals and always being there for me every step of my journey.

But I ask you:

‘Are you up for the challenge, to commit to the real you?’

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Franz Schubert, born in January 1797, was an Austrian composer who died at the young age of 31 years. His work bridged classical and romantic. He had an early gift for music playing the piano, violin and organ and was also an excellent singer although when his voice broke in 1812 it forced him to leave college, Stadtkonvikt (Imperial Seminary) after earning a choir scholarship there in 1808. His father was a school teacher, and he taught the young Schubert rudimentary violin whilst his elder brother taught him piano. His mother was a home maker and played the cello. He was their 12th child, he had 14 siblings, nine died in infancy.

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Franz Schubert

Between 1813 and 1815 Schubert was a prolific songwriter, at the age of 17 he wrote two of his first German Lieds ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ and ‘Der Erlkönig’. He worked with texts from poetry giants like Wolfgang von Goethe, interpreting their poetry using his musical creativeness. These pieces are very dramatic, the depiction of the spinning wheel and treadle in the piano in ‘Gretchen’ are a tricky pictorial keyboard figuration.

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Therese Grob

He had to teach to make ends meet but he hated it. In 1814 he met a soprano called Therese Grob and wrote several works for her, he wanted to marry her but was thwarted by harsh marriage laws where he had to show he had the means to support a family. He lived in the early 1820’s with a close-knit group of artists and students, he and four of his friends were arrested by the Austrian police who were on their guard against revolutionary activities. One of his friends was banished from Austria and Schubert was ‘severely reprimanded’. Schubert was not quite five feet tall and his friends nicknamed him “Schwämmerl” ‘Little Mushroom’.

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Franz Liszt

When he died in November 1828, he’d been ill with headaches, fever, swollen joints and vomiting, impoverished and neglected except by a circle of his friends who were in awe of his genius. The composer Franz Liszt said of him after his death that ‘he was the most poetic musician who ever lived’. His output in his short life was prolific consisting of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven completed symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music.

Today Schubert is placed amongst the greatest composers of the early Romantic era and as such is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century.

This was the video of performance of this fabulous composition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2014 courtesy of Llangollen.

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An Early Depiction Of Gretchen am Spinnrade

English Translation

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.

Where I do not have him,
That is the grave,
The whole world
Is bitter to me.

My poor head
Is crazy to me,
My poor mind
Is torn apart.

For him only, I look
Out the window
Only for him do I go
Out of the house.

His tall walk,
His noble figure,
His mouth’s smile,
His eyes’ power,

And his mouth’s
Magic flow,
His handclasp,
and ah! his kiss!

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.

My bosom urges itself
toward him.
Ah, might I grasp
And hold him!

And kiss him,
As I would wish,
At his kisses
I should die!

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Opening night of Dido and Aeneas, stage make-up done, excitement at boiling point, thank you all for your positive energy, feeling it :)

Best wishes

Charlotte

UPDATE

Here are some photographs taken by the RCS.

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RCS 02

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DidoAndAeneasRCSCopyRight04

 

Here is the review from the The Herald written by Keith Bruce

The Opera Project, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Four Stars

The unassuming portmanteau title given to this double bill, featuring senior students at the Conservatoire, masks a very fine double bill of short operas written three centuries apart, which has further performances tonight and tomorrow and will more than reward the effort of catching at the Alexander Gibson Opera Studio.

Both crucially showcase the significance of the new name for “the Academy”, as they feature dancers from Modern Ballet course working alongside undergraduates and masters students of music. Kally Lloyd Jones has choreographed both the dancers and the singing company in both shows in what is an admirable example of integration at work.

The dancers crucially animate Mark Hathaway’s staging of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, a piece which is full of good music but only really has the one great tune, given a heart-breaking performance at the close of the tale by the full-voiced Eirlys Myfanwy Davies. She was very ably supported by Charlie Drummond, Jane Monari (Sorceress), Charlotte Hoather and Anna Churchill (coke-snorting witches) and particularly Victoria Stevens as her sister Belinda, whose bold first entrance signalled a skill for dramatic phrasing.

With a baroque band of seven and a chorus of eight, under the baton of Tim Dean, this was a well-resourced and very effectively, if minimally, staged Dido. Our Aeneas, Euros Campbell, however, looked much more comfortable as Le Directeur, opening proceedings for the juicy rarity that is Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias. This outrageous post-Second World War appeal for French procreation, with a libretto by Apollinaire from his own First World War play requires a good deal of cross-dressing, much dada-ist larking about, and our heroine to liberate her balloon breasts from her bodice and become a proud, flat-chested, and, um, bearded, feminist.

In fact Le Directeur’s prologue (and another layer of satire about opera staging) is preceded here by tenor Matthew Thomas Morgan singing the rather more serious Apollinaire/Poulenc song Bleuet in a clever piece of period contextualising by musical director Oliver Rundell. Morgan returns later as Le Journaliste in the picaresque tale that incorporates vaudeville, a hilarious snippet of classical ballet, and a big mirrorball palais de dance finish. Barbara Cole Walton and Luke Sinclair are both excellent as the central couple in a company that includes fine performances throughout and is musically sure-footed over tricky terrain, accompanied by pianists Marija Struckova and Michal Gajzler in the version made by Benjamin Britten for Aldeburgh. The piece is a gem, and a real hoot to boot.

Long Time Ago

March 1, 2015 — 41 Comments

This is the last of the four songs that I chose to sing from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Folk Songs”. The lyrics are sorrowful and speak of lost love, the love of someone very important to the writer. It reminded me of the lyrics of “Danny Boy”, having to come to terms with being parted from someone that has become the centre of your world.

The lyrics were originally attributed to George Pope in 1837 but may have been adapted from an earlier song by John Cole in 1833. The sympathetic and emotive melody along with the piano arrangement added by Aaron Copland make this a particular beautiful song to perform.

Long Time Ago

On the lake where droop’d the willow
Long time ago,

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Lakeside Willow


Where the rock threw back the billow
Brighter than snow.
Dwelt a maid beloved and cherish’d
By high and low,

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American Bride 1880’s


But with autumn leaf she perished
Long time ago.

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Mid 1800’s Funeral Cortège

Rock and tree and flowing water
Long time ago,
Bird and bee and blossom taught her
Love’s spell to know.
While to my fond words she listen’d
Murmuring low,
Tenderly her blue eyes glisten’d
Long time ago.

Today I have been asked to sing the four Aaron Copland songs during the judging interval of the Bruce Millar Gulliver Singing Prize in Stevenson Hall at the RCS. My good friend Jessica Hurst will be performing four songs after me and then we are both to perform a duet, Rossini’s “The Cat’s Duet” it is such an amusing piece and makes me smile thinking about it.

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Jessica Hurst And Me Back Stage Before Today’s Performance

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George Todica Accompanied Me In My Performance Of The Four Aaron Copland Songs

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Had Great Fun Performing Rossini’s “Cat Duet” With My Best Friend Jess Accompanied By Julia Lynch, Who Is One Of The Busiest Accompanists In The Country Who Has Performed With Many Distinguished Artists.

Now I am off out for a Pizza :)