My iTunes Experiment

October 29, 2014 — 24 Comments

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Over the summer I was lucky enough to record the songs that I had been working on over the past couple of years. I wanted to have something to look back on to remind me of the fabulous time that I have had at the RCS and the wonderful people that I have worked with on improving my vocal technique.

I was excited with the results and shared them with my family. I never really thought about trying to sell them as these recordings were intended to be a personal record of my training but my dad convinced me to burn a few CDs to sell at my recitals and concerts next year as I am often asked if I have any.

But now looking to the future I wonder if it would be possible to try and raise some funds for my future training by trying to sell these tracks on iTunes. I have no idea how they will be received but whatever funds I can generate will help me towards achieving my dreams so I have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I would love to hear any suggestions that you may have to help me with this project as this is all new to me :)

If you are interested in checking them out here are the links :

Download-on-iTunes

 

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Special thanks go to George Todica for his beautiful piano playing on these recordings and to Pascal Barnier for his fabulous images used for the cover art. It has been a tremendous treat to work with such good friends.
It would be a great if you could share these links and I would really appreciate it :)

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CMcG

I first met Charlotte McGuinness in my first year at the RCS during a cross discipline collaboration and she ended up strung up like a puppet :)  Whoever said that blondes have more fun was obviously hanging out with the wrong brunette.

I was so pleased CharlotteM agreed to let me quiz her about her course and hopes for the future:

Charlotte you’re in your final year of your three year BA Acting course  at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and it must all getting a bit real for you when you finish your degree to decide your next step, what would you like to do?

I really want to do acting with writing as an add-on, it is obviously hard as an actor to have that that as their only job and wait around waiting for a phone call every day.  So you have to have a secondary job, in London before I started my course, I did a foundation course and I did all the phone jobs and retail jobs to supplement that, so I want to get into writing as that is still creative and I hope to make my own work with our company ‘Ink Dolls’.  The world is so big with social media and social networking and everything you’ve got to be ready to take on every aspect.  I was really inspired by the women who wrote Upstairs, Downstairs they wrote it and put themselves in it.  The same with James Corden and Ruth Jones the creators of Gavin and Stacey to stop getting themselves typecast they wrote for characters to give themselves acting challenges outside their usual casting, they wrote it, developed it then put themselves in it as the actors.  It’s just another way into acting.

Sometimes you do have to create your own opportunities, it’s the same for singers, so how do you know where to start in your speciality?

I think if you want to get into it, you just have to be brave and leap, we started this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe, we’re looking at how to develop new stuff we were writing.  I did a mini internship recently at the Channel 4 Glasgow office producing in their creative diversity unit, making sure their creative programming is varied.  I read lots of projects that have been put forward and it is interesting to see there are funds to create new and exciting projects.  For example have you heard of Scrotal Recall, the program was written and developed using funds from C4?  It is now a successful big programme.

What are you doing at the moment at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland?

I love comedy, I love to do that, at the moment we are rehearsing for ‘The Country Wife’ my role is Lady Fidget, she’s a Tory MP’s wife, very coiffured the original version of the play was written before even Shakespeare wrote his plays so when you first hear it you think this is odd.  It was banned at the time because it was too outrageous, the lead man is Master Horner who is very horney, which is not very subtle, the modern equivalent is the Russell Brand sort of character, the story is from France and he, Master Horner, claims he’s an eunuch .  It’s a lot about public face and private face and my character reflects rich people’s perceived obsession with how they look, honour, dating the right man, upper class, then you see what she is really like underneath.

So you are keeping it quite farcical or realistic?

It is quite farcical which is hard with a modern interpretation.  You start thinking its high style and ridiculous, possibly Oscar Wilde style and then you get into it and there’s no truth in that at all.  You’ve still got to develop the acting, get into character.

Is it true that some actors develop the character from the shoes they’re given?

It’s funny you should say that we had so many challenges with shoes in the last week, we have these costume parades, when you come in front of the Director and they see all this stuff and ideas get developed, so you parade yourself out in this catwalk thing and about eight people are just staring at you and ideas get thrown around, people are readjusting your sleeves and adding or taking away from your costume.  Robert Carson our Director is quite fabulous anyway and he was into detail, for example, he wanted my character in a bigger heel because my costume was quite conservative and he still wanted my character to be sexy and believable.  I was like oh heck because I’m running around all over the stage in 4.5” suede pink shoes (Charlotte’s smiling at me now “I knew you’d like that” – “Oh wow I do!”).  So now I have to glide in and be very dignified and it forces me to take smaller steps, very birdlike, so I guess it’s all helping characterisation.  You can’t just move without reason you have to think about heel toe, heel toe.

In singing we don’t get our costume till late and we’re told it’s all about the voice, all about the voice.  But I think costume is so important, when I went to see Cinderella at the Opera last week I was quite disappointed with some of the costumes.

Your degree is in Drama, if I was 17 and asking you about what to expect what would you say?

The majority of our work in the first and second year is skills classes, movement which is different to dance; animal studies; colours; personalities and exploring all aspects of those.  Voice lessons how to reach the deep parts of your voice and how to have more gravitas, Shakespeare pronunciation.  We have classes in singing, choral and personal and participate in dance sessions.

That sounds jam packed!

We also do acrobatics, Cirque du Soleil, I was asked to do things I’ve never ever done before, but we started with stuff you’d do when you are about 11 like cartwheels, balancing.  I did parkour instead of acrobatics second year, getting grounded.  Workshops including improvisation which is great, you have to fail and get it wrong and explore, it’s the only way to learn to fail and fail again and work on getting things right.  Then we do a big project, ours was ‘Russians’, you start with ‘The Seagull’ laid back understated it’s all about what’s not said.  Then in the second year we carry on with skills classes and a Shakespeare outreach where you teach secondary school students with workshops and games on how say Macbeth develops.  Everybody has energy boards and we develop that on the stage and get into a scrum, we did this project with ‘King Lear’.  We did a big show ‘Coriolanus’, a Shakespeare tragedy about a Roman leader, we took it on tour to Russia.  You have to go for it but it’s crazy and you can’t be afraid to explore Shakespeare large.  Then we build into our high style and Oscar Wilde style which is bigger and we have a Panto which is even bigger, we have the archetypes, the lovers and all of that and a full exploration.  Finally we go back into Film in February, so we go from the glitz and glam of Panto to solid acting pared right back.

Gosh the course can’t be accused of being stale and sticking with say Stanislavski!

It’s important to be versatile.

Do you see yourself as being an advocate for Shakespeare and Drama in say the school curriculum?

Absolutely!  I went to a High School that was put in special measures who gave no encouragement to go on to higher education and they have now converted into an Academy, we did Drama but then only at 13 and 14 it wasn’t part of the English curriculum.  Aside from the fact that for people with reading issues like dyslexia drama and play acting so helps to relate to problem issues in a different way and helps with understanding text. For a lot of people they would otherwise not come into contact with plays and drama productions if it wasn’t covered at school.

I read about you getting into photography in this article  , how did you get into that was it something your Mum was in to?

My Mum went to a similar school to me and they were encouraged to go into offices or shops, people got married and didn’t really consider an arts career.  So my Mum wasn’t part of that world, she was very artistic but she went off to be a secretary and secretarial college, so eventually she retrained as a teacher and now she’s into politics.  But I love art and I sketch and draw, and photography is just an extension of that and it’s something we could develop together and she encouraged me.  I did fine art and photography and carried it through to ‘A’ level.  I did a lot of dark room stuff.  I love fantastic images I researched Annie Liebovitz photography a lot and a guy called Tim Walker, Gregory Crewdson very colourful images, but I like black and white too.  My friend Rob and I used to photograph each other for projects, he’s in Les Mis. at the moment on the West End.  I’m glad I did develop it because I can use those skills to create headshots and posters and I know how to use Photoshop so we can cover lots of our own marketing.  We were clear about what we wanted our logo to look like we used a designer in Greece.  We helped create the poster for ‘Flat Pack’ our play we created for the Edinburgh Fringe.  Em J my partner in Ink Dolls came from a background in the arts as well and it helps with staging, costumes and just how we want things to look, I’m getting quite involved with typography at the moment.

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What do you feel is the most important characteristics for an Actor?

Be aware of what makes up your soul, be aware of your character, be aware of your unique characteristics; be sure you represent your quality – whether it be sly, charming, crazy, or romantic.  People can audition for three to five years just to get into schools like the RCS if it’s something you’re serious about you can’t just have a quitting nature.  Maturity, confidence, experience, love, loss, having a presence , foundation courses, rep years, get experience on the Fringe, mini courses, NYT just getting experience and what the demands are and being around other actors, its relentless.  A good memory is helpful you have to remember monologues with just one day’s preparation.  Go do all the crap jobs to build your character and meet some great characters, see the world around you, and don’t just stay in the rarefied environment of the classroom.  Audition tutors are a good idea too, it does cost quite a lot but so is the cost of auditioning and re-auditioning, they will tell you to concentrate on your strengths and give your critical feedback.  The top Universities like Oxbridge are sometimes easier to get into than the best Drama schools and they have organisations who offer Oxbridge application training to get into those organisations, it’s something you shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to do I wish I’d have known about it.  It is all about you and they help to teach you how to make yourself shine and hope that someone needs the character that you are.

I think a thing to remember is that no Actor, not even someone I admire like Leonardo DiCaprio started out perfect, they will have a back catalogue of less than perfect performances that have helped to hone their skill over the years, until today when he isn’t type cast and can trusted to truly represent a variety of roles, it is unrealistic of 21 year olds to expect to be perfect from the off.

Were there any days you thought you couldn’t do it?

There have absolutely been times where the pressure and the multi-tasking for example when we lived with everyone who did ‘The Flat Pack’  project with us, we didn’t have our internet set up, we’d just given everyone the script, sometimes the hours are so long, so little time for sleep and the house was so mental you forget to eat and we were so busy that it seemed the project might not get done, had we taken on too much? I can’t believe I thought it was a good idea to write, direct, produce, one of us act in it, market it, raise the funds, there are days where you are so exhausted that you just think I can’t do this.  With all big projects I would imagine there are days where you think the monies going to run out, people aren’t auditioning, it’s just a game sometimes of whose the last person standing.  Just remember have faith, keep on going, pick yourself up, get some sleep, if you have a modicum of talent its often those who can handle the most, have great friends, family and remember to be a regular person and that this is a job, you are a person first and foremost and don’t lose sight of that.

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November Shows

October 22, 2014 — 38 Comments

Wednesday-22nd-Oct-2014

It has been a hectic four weeks since the start of term and I’m enjoying being back at the Conservatoire and trying to plan the year ahead. I would like to thank everyone for your comments and contributions to my first piece of “Critical Writing”. It was really helpful to be able to read through your suggestions and I will try really hard to incorporate them when I have to write my next draft, I will keep you all posted :).  It’s a challenging time deciding how to plan out my year and fit in all of the new repertoire and skills I need to learn.

This November I have been asked to join the Tideswell Male Voice Choir to sing in their ‘Never Forget’ remembrance concert, under the musical direction of Dennis Kay along with Christopher Ellis on piano and Des McGill on percussion. The evening will also feature Corus Brass, renowned poet F. Philip Holland and vocal soloists Matthew Mellor, Erin Alexander, Madeleine Osborne, Philip Rigley and Kieron-Connor Valentine.

This year, 2014 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war and there have been a large number of events to help remember those who sacrificed so much during the four year conflict.

The ‘Never Forget’ evening will unfold through dance, visual effects and poetry and offer the audience a feast of delight. The show will pay tribute not only to the heroes of Flanders Fields but also to all those who have made sacrifices in other theatres of conflict down the years and throughout the world.

After practising my songs, all I have to do now is decide which dress to wear for the evening, decisions decisions :)

The first of the two concerts will take place in Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre:

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And the following evening in Buxton’s Opera House:

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Postcodes for the events are Chesterfield S41 7TX and Buxton SK17 6XN
 

Critical Writing

October 19, 2014 — 57 Comments

Module:

• As part of my course this year I have elected to take part in a Critical Writing course, where I am taught how to analyse performances and offer my opinion in a critical way.
• The teachers are very enthusiastic which makes the course seem very exciting.
• We discuss and write about dance, acting and music.

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Samantha Quillish And Me after the concert

On Friday 17th October, I went to watch a concert with my friends Samantha Quillish and Chelsea Plaskitt and I thought I would use the opportunity to try and see if I could have a go at writing a piece for my module. This is my first attempt so I would love any feedback that you could give me :).

Concert:

Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) : Haydn & Mahler
Glasgow City Halls
Charlotte Hoather
17/10/14

The evening started with the powerful and emotional performance of Howokawa’s Meditation. An incredible interpretation and dedication to the victims of the Tsunami on 11th March 2011, focusing on the children lost in the disaster. It included a ferocious duet from violins who appeared to embody demons, their bows striking and hair whipping, which created a visual element to the piece. However the energetic music was interrupted by deathly silent pauses and animalistic sounds created using modern playing techniques. These sounds made me imagine the shrieking cries and the wailing of the school walls crashing into the ground. Then this sound world was disturbed aggressively by thunder claps from percussion which made your ears ring, and your heart race. Waves of music and a sense of destruction filled the pauses after each three consequential hits. ROBIN TICCIATI allowed the sound to reverberate around the hall and die into terrible nothingness. A dynamically active and emotionally hard hitting opening to a Friday evening.

Programme note: http://www.sco.org.uk/content/meditation?print=1

Robin Ticciati

Robin Ticciati – Principal Conductor At The SCO.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) then welcomed KAREN CARGILL to the stage to perform ‘Kindertotenlieder’ by Mahler, continuing the theme of mourning of lost children. From the opening Cargill captured the solemn landscape of this music honestly and gripped the audience’s attention. Standing tall and free from physical tension she displayed with clear consonants and richly dark vocal tone the suffering a parent encounters after losing a child. The cycle continued to develop and an unsolvable pain resonated through the interpretation, through to the last song where Cargill gripped her hands into fists during the introduction. The first sign of physical embodiment of the text. This arriving at the end of the cycle left the audience spellbound and overtaken.

Programme note: http://www.sco.org.uk/content/kindertotenlieder?print=1

Karen Cargill

Karen Cargill – Internationally Renowned Scottish Mezzo-Soprano

After the interval the SCO performed Mahler’s ‘Blumine’ which caused me to imagine a Disney scene of a park in the spring, surrounded in flowers, where two loves meet to celebrate their love with a first kiss. With a regal tone setting the mood this delicate piece painted a sweet and enjoyable scene, a great contrast after a deeply moving first half.

Programme Note: http://www.sco.org.uk/content/blumine?print=1

The concert ended with the rich and sonorous performance of Haydn’s London Symphony. Ticciati had a creative control over the orchestra and executed echoes and the shape of the piece with enthusiasm and excitement. The music was very merry and triumphant. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how the piece could be interpreted to represent modern London. With all the characters and experiences it has to offer now. But it was a magnificent way to finish the concert. But for me the opening piece of the evening was outstanding and really got my blood pumping!

 

Theatre Royal Glasgow

October 15, 2014 — 23 Comments
TheatreRoyalGlasgow

Outside The Theatre This Evening With My Friends Nathan Jenkins And Jessica Hurst Just Before The Opera This Evening

I walked past the Theatre Royal extension this morning on my way in to college excited at the prospect of my visit to watch the opera being shown there this evening. It has been amazing to watch the building change over the months into what will be a beautiful addition to Glasgow’s architecture.

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The Theatre Royal, Glasgow Before The Construction Started.

In 1974 the theatre was purchased by Scottish Opera from STV to become the first national opera house in Scotland and also became the home of Scottish Ballet. Over the years that followed the theatre was updated and refurbished creating a fabulous environment to watch live entertainment and one that I would love to perform in one day.

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The Plans For The New Entrance And Foyer

In 2011 Scottish Opera had plans drawn up to build an new signature entrance on Cowcaddens Road which was described as “a gilded splendour” incorporating the “sculptural shape of the main theatre into the new foyers in a contemporary manner”.  The project is expected to cost about £ 14,000,000.00 and is considered very ambitious and when finished will create a new foyer on four levels with a feature staircase.  So when it opens in December I cant wait to have a look around, if the new entrance is as stunning on the inside as it looks on the outside then it will be worth the wait.

Nearing-Completion

Nearly Finished – The Entrance Takes Shape

Here are some of the productions on the program for the next few weeks, which as you can see are varied and full of things for everyone :)  from Scottish Opera’s La Cenerentola; J B Priestley’s Dangerous Corner; Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee; Richard Alston Dance Company; Beyond the Barricade; An Evening of Burlesque to The Magic of Motown.

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La Cenerentola – Rossini

Scottish Opera – “Cinderella is the ultimate rags to riches tale. Featuring a host of colourful characters, this new production is a highly entertaining take on one of Rossini’s most popular comedies. With music that’s bright, breathless and full of energy, it’s a Cinderella story…but not quite as you may know it.”

 

Opera-Singer

When I first started singing I had no idea where my love for this beautiful art would take me, I only knew that the sheer joy that I felt when I sang was a feeling that I never wanted to lose.   I discovered Disney Sing-Along-Songs when I was two or three and would dance and sing as I watched them, gradually during my time at school my musical awareness widened as I was introduced to different musical genres.

Ariel

I loved to perform and found the work involved in learning more demanding pieces very exhilarating, constantly seeking help to improve my technique and challenging myself to explore new songs.  Eventually in my early teens I remember being told that my voice would probably develop into that of a “Soprano” although several competition adjudicators thought I may fall between “Mezzo-Soprano” and a “Soprano” and though I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that all meant I was very excited at the prospect.:)

Since then I’ve heard my voice develop and though I know that it will constantly change over my career at the moment I am considered a “Lyric Soprano”.   So for a young aspiring opera singer just how important is your voice type.?

Well to answer this question you have to go back to the end of the 19th Century when the Germans developed a method of categorising a singer’s voice, this was then used to improve the auditioning process in German opera houses.  It allowed for the pre-selection of a group of singers prior to auditions based on a range of their vocal characteristics.

range – the notes your body can produce
weight – light voices, bright and agile; heavy voices, powerful, rich, and darker
size – the amount of sound you can produce and your voice’s dramatic effect
tessitura – part of the range which is most comfortable to sing
timbre or colour – unique voice quality and texture
transition points – points where you change from chest, to middle, to head register
vocal registers – how extended each register is
speech level – speaking range
physical characteristics – height and build age and experience

I’m sure that many composers had a particular voice type in mind for the roles they created in their operas.  They were artists who painted with sound and created beautiful stories using a range of characters to bring their work to life.

Wagner - The Ring Cycle

The Ring Cycle – Wagner

When a Director or Conductor is set the task of re-creating the story so imaginatively created by the composer they know that selecting the right singer for each role is so important. The Fach system can help in this selection process, allowing the Directors and Conductors to audition singers on a role by role basis using a very strict set of vocal characteristics. They can then use the audition to look for that little something extra that the singer can bring to the role safe in the knowledge that the vocal requirements of the part can be undertaken by each auditionee.

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The system starts with three female voice types and three male voice type. They are Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano and Contralto for the female and Tenor, Baritone and Bass for the male.

Each of the voice types are then broken down into more specific groups of characteristics, for the Soprano for example we have :

Soubrette – Young, light, bright
Lyric Coloratura Soprano – High, bright, flexible
Dramatic Coloratura Soprano – High, dark, flexible
Lyric Soprano – Warm, legatto, full
Character Soprano – Bright, metallic, theatrical
Spinto /Young Dramatic Soprano – Powerful, young, full
Dramatic Soprano – Powerful, dark, rich

Mozart - The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute – Mozart

If opera is a new art form to you and you still need persuading of its purity and beauty then over the coming months I will try and convince you by writing about these different vocal characteristics and the roles associated with them, the great singers who have performed them and the beautiful operas that they come from.

On the other hand if you adore the art form then please feel free to join in with your comments and help me to persuade as many new people as possible to come and watch. After all one day I hope that it will be me on the stage, singing with all the emotion and colour that my heart will allow and I would love to see you all in the audience.

To close this post I can only say that I find this whole process so exciting, not quite knowing what characteristics my voice will take on makes my training so much more interesting. Working on my technique with experienced and supportive teachers helps me to understand the processes involved with my singing and I hope that it will allow me to improve my performances and paint with vocal colour. As to what voice type I will enter my professional career with, I still do not know but I can tell you whatever it is I intend to enjoy every second of it :)

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La Rondine – Puccini ( my first chorus role in an opera )

Since the 29th July 2014 the charity ALS has raised over 115 million dollars from donations linked to their “Ice Bucket Challenge” which is a staggering amount and I hope that it will help many people in the years ahead.

I don’t normally get involved in chain mail or “pass it on” posts on Facebook, Google and Twitter but for the ALS ice bucket challenge I found myself with no way to refuse as one of my oldest friends had thrown down the gauntlet by nominating me after his own attempt.

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The water was freezing cold and a real shock to the system when it hit me but at least it was over quickly :)  Over the days that followed I was amazed to see that my video was watched nearly 17,000 times which I hope made people chuckle and helped in some small way to raise awareness and generated some donations for the charity.  On Tuesday 7th October I was pleased to receive an update e-mail from the charity detailing the progress of their fundraising efforts and what they intend to do with the money raised. Though I, like so many others, only played a small part in the fund raising it was nice to read how the money was to be spent.

 

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Please click on the image to see a larger copy

 

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I doubt that I will be making a habit of getting involved in future chain-mail social media “pass it on” promotions so please rest assured that I wont be bombarding you with them :)