I hope that you have all had a wonderful week and if you have any exciting tales to share you must let me know. My week has been filled with music making and observing my talented peers, which I ended with a Saturday focused on Opera.

Every day when I walk to College I pass the iconic museums that are an important part of South Kensington and on occasion, I love to visit them to break up my busy timetable. I find wandering the great exhibition halls of the Victoria & Albert Museum ( V&A ) fills me with inspiration and provides context about society during the periods of history that have affected many pieces of music that I study. Across the road from the V&A is the grandeur of the Natural History Museum which I often drop in to see the butterflies.

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However, on Saturday I went with my friends to an exhibition at the V&A dedicated to Opera aptly named Opera: Passion, Power , and Politics which is a collaboration between the V&A and the Royal Opera House. This wonderful exhibition aims to map out the journey of opera from its creation in Italy to the worldwide platform that exists today. For my student priced ticket, I received a high-tech audio guided tour, (with pretty awesome headphones by Bower&Wilkins) that glided seamlessly between selected pieces of operatic music beautifully handpicked to frame the amazing layout of the exhibition. It was extra special for me to hear Sir Antonio Pappano, a fantastic world-renowned conductor who holds the position of Music Director of the Royal Opera House, relate his personal interpretation of Shostakovich’s Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It felt so personal and exciting that I hung on to his every word. It was an amazing exhibition with so many pieces of beautiful art, videos of performances, librettos and manuscripts, and a working baroque stage. If I am able to, I would like to go again to really soak it all in. Each item was accompanied with a informed explanation that would both interest a new comer to Opera or add to the knowledge of an Opera aficionado. The exhibition ends on February 25th 2018 and if you are in London whilst the exhibition is on I can highly recommend.

Then on Saturday evening, I went to the London Coliseum to watch a performance of Verdi’s Aida. A collaboration between Improbable and the ENO. It was an exciting event for me to attend as my delightful director from Bambino, Phelim McDermott, directed this spellbinding interpretation. The singing was outstanding from the principal cast and the chorus performed with a beautiful blend and incredible dynamic range that kept the intensity of the piece alive. I particularly enjoyed the visually stunning, smokey and dimly lit Sacred Rite scene from Act 1 scene 2, which created a world that was far more intimate. I really believed in the magic of the High Priestess.

In act three the relationship between Aida, Latonia Moore and her father Amonasro King of Ethiopia, Musa Nggungwana, was so raw and honest that it left me guessing as to what would happen in this iconic operatic tale even though I know the story so well. For the production to command your attention in this way was an incredible thing to achieve on stage, as the story develops it draws you in and feels so real that you are there with them for each and every moment.

I want to work on this element in my own singing with the intention to communicate my feelings to the audience as if I myself don’t know how the aria ends, so that I too am in the moment and finding fresh ideas to make each performance unique in its own way.

A truly beautiful interpretation of Aida that is a must see.

Yesterday, Saturday 7th October, I went to the Indonesia Kontemporer 2017 Festival in London. This is an annual festival that celebrates Indonesian arts and cultural traditions by combining performances, stalls showcasing Art and fashion, cooking demonstrations, exhibitions, food stalls and film screenings. The festival took place at Russell Square, part of the SOAS University of London. The weather luckily stayed dry for an Autumn day, which meant that everyone could enjoy the joyful atmosphere of gathering friends and families experiencing and celebrating the wonderful Indonesian culture.

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I went to the event with my wonderful friends [left to right] Stephanie Onggowinoto, Teofilia Onggowinoto, Prajna Indrawati, Prajna Dewi and Amelia Widjaja. I know Stephanie, Prajna, and Amelia from the Royal College of Music and they are all fantastic and gifted pianists. I had the pleasure of meeting their siblings Teofilia and Dewi over the past few weeks and it has been lovely getting to know them. Prajna, Dewi, Stephanie, and Teofilia are from Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia and Amelia is from Padang a city in West Sumatra.

Whilst at the festival I tried some amazing cuisine, Chicken Satay, Bakwan, Indomie, Nasi Uduk, and Bakso. I particularly enjoyed ‘Sate Padang’ which is a specialty from Amelia’s home city. The desserts were fabulous and one of my favourites was Spekkoek, Thousand Layer Cake, which I have been told is extremely difficult and time consuming to make.  Pandan Chiffon cake was also delicious. This cake receives this name because the sponge is so light and similar to the material chiffon. I sadly do not have any pictures of the food as we were sharing and it was too tasty to let go cold 🙂

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At the festival, I watched a musical performance from an ensemble playing the Angklung. This instrument from Indonesia is made from Bamboo and has a particular technique to make the instrument sound. Each instrument is pitched to a particular note. The ensemble performed without music and were lead by their conductor who showed the pulse with one hand like a conductor, but with his other hand presented Solfege hand signs and chord numbers to indicate which pitches should be playing. It was very interesting to watch. Here is a short video 🙂

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In the afternoon I attended a story-telling exhibition lead by Felicia Siregar. She told stories from her two Bilingual, Indonesian and English, books for children called Pirok Goes to the City and Komodo wants to play Music. These stories introduce images from Indonesia:  landscapes, metropolitan life, animals and musical instruments. The second story was accompanied by Gamelan music. It was wonderful to see the children excited and enthralled by the stories and the music, I too also really enjoyed the show.

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My friends also took me around the fashion exhibition and explained to me about their national dress, which is very colourful and ornate. Whilst admiring the fabrics I treated myself to a scarf that was hand woven on Komodo island in Indonesia. It is very colourful and has most of the colours of the rainbow woven into it so I am very happy, especially as the colder months are drawing closer.

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Having the opportunity to experience the culture, cuisine, and arts from Indonesia showed me yet again that though the world is a large and wondrous place that in the end what we all have in common far outweigh our differences.  We should celebrate the things we have in common and be open and understanding of our differences.

60 Minute Countdown

October 1, 2017 — 54 Comments

In my last week of September, I experienced some performances of beautiful music.

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On Monday I went to the Royal Opera House to watch a performance of La Boheme by Puccini. It was very special to me as I have never seen the production live before and the music is just stunning. I was lucky enough, in August, to purchase a student ticket for the performance. These special student tickets were greatly subsidised and ranged from £1-25. The seats were generously donated by the Bunting Family and Sir Simon Robey and I’m so grateful to them to be able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity as watching these fabulous operas is so important to our development as students. The production was vivacious and the singers had great chemistry on stage and sublime voices. The set design by Stewart Lang was divine and I remember sitting with my mouth open during the transition of scenery from act 1 (the annex) to act 2 (boutique streets of Paris), which was visible to the audience.

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Then on Friday evening after a busy week of making music at the RCM, I went to see Sarah Connelly perform at the Wigmore Hall. The concert was very moving and her beautiful velvety tone was consistent from the first song to the last. It was wonderful as a student of Opera to watch and admire her stamina and artistry guiding the music of the evening. Connelly also wore a fantastic sparkly dress which I particularly enjoyed. After all sparkles on Friday is definitely a must especially now the nights are drawing in.

Then today to bring in the new month, I celebrated my parent’s wedding anniversary with them over FaceTime and then I went to an Escape Room with my brother Matt and our friends Alex and Sarah. We arrived at clueQuest just before 13:00 and there we were ‘locked’ (safely) in a room, that expands as you successfully find more clues. Whilst in the Room you have to solve all the puzzles in a 60-minute countdown. I was able to live out my Nancy Drew fantasy of solving a detective crime story. It was a wonderful experience and very mentally stimulating, perhaps not the most restful Sunday activity. All in all, it was terrifically entertaining and I would definitely go again.

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Autumn Term

September 24, 2017 — 44 Comments

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This week has been Induction week at the Royal College of Music, also known as ‘Freshers Week’ by many students. This involves meeting the heads of departments, the helpful and delightful Vocal Faculty, matriculating, group lectures and introductions to the different and many wonderful things the Royal College of Music (RCM) has to offer.

The other side of Induction week involves many social activities organised by the Students’ Union to help introduce and encourage new friendships between students. This year they held events such as a Jazz night; Pub quizzes; a Boat Party and Post-Graduate Speed-dating, (which despite the title is more like speed-friendshiping), you go around and have a short burst of time to meet new people and is a fantastic way to mingle.

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It is a great week to introduce you to the RCM and to experience living in London. One of my favourite activities of the week was watching some of my colleagues perform in a public masterclass with Malcolm Martineau, a wonderful piano accompanist who has worked all over the world with many distinguished Singers, in the Britten Theatre at the RCM. The session started at 14:00 and lasted until 16:30, there were four singers who took part, each prepared two songs. It’s really wonderful to be able to participate and watch these masterclasses as you can learn so much from observing your peers and how the Guest Artist shapes the musical pieces. You can come away with new tasks to try and implement into your own practise and insight into pronunciation and the craftsmanship of storytelling.

They are also very interesting to anyone who has a love for music and would like some more insight into the technical demands of singing, as it is like watching a lesson and can give you an idea into what we have to work on in order to stand up there and give a live performance. If this interests you the next masterclass at the RCM in London will be with Sir Thomas Allen on the 11th October 2017.

Here is a video of a masterclass he has done before at the RCM in 2014.

It will be lovely to watch him work live again as I saw him a couple of years ago in Glasgow and I’m really looking forward to that.

It has also been so wonderful to catch up with all my friends and hear about their summers and share stories of our experiences.

Next week our lessons commence, along with autumn, and I can’t wait to hit the floor running and make the most of my second year of Masters of performance training here.  The nights are drawing in and daylight hours shorten and you can definitely feel the nip in the air so cardigans out from under the bed!

An Exciting Year Ahead

September 3, 2017 — 89 Comments

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September is upon us and I’m about to return to London to start the second and final year of my Masters of Performance degree at the Royal College of Music. I’m excited to announce that in recognition of my efforts during my first year I have been awarded a scholarship from the RCM towards my studies. This wonderful news has really boosted my enthusiasm and I can’t wait for the new term to start.   I have a busy year ahead as I have to explore what options are available to me when I complete my post-graduate degree.  With new repertoire to master and several engagements already booked for the months ahead, I will need to stay completely focused and immerse myself into my studies.

Update:  My scholarship award is gratefully received from The Worshipful Company of Cutlers and the award is called the Charles Jacob Scholarship.  This is a huge help towards my tutition fees for this year.  I hope to meet the society members at some point to thank them in person.

It is an exciting period for me and I can’t wait to get started.  In October, I return for the final leg of the BambinO tour, teaming up again with Tim, Stuart, Laura, and the team from Scottish Opera for our performances in Glasgow.

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Then on December 2nd I will be performing the Soprano solos in the Blackburn Music Society’s production of Handel’s Messiah at Blackburn Cathedral, Cathedral Close, Blackburn, BB1 5AA.  We will be conducted on the day by Tom Newall and it will be great to catch up with him again.  The performance starts at 7:00 pm and tickets for the event can be obtained through the BMS website.

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The following Saturday, December 9th, 2017 I have been asked to perform with the Thames Philharmonic Choir for their Winter Concert conducted by John Bate.  I will be singing the Soprano solos in Purcell’s ‘O Sing Unto the Lord’, Pergolesi’s ‘Magnificat’ and Handel’s ‘Laudate Pueri’.  The choir will also be performing Richard Rodney Bennett’s Five Carols to complete the program.  The concert will be held at All Saints Church, 14-16 Market Pl, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1JP and it starts at 7:30 pm.

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As the Christmas term draws to a close I will be performing with the Salford Choral Society accompanied by the Northern Baroque Sinfonia. For this concert, I will again be singing the Soprano solos in Handel’s ‘Messiah’ conducted by Tom Newall.  The performance will be at the Royal Northern College of Music, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RD at 7:30 PM on Saturday, December 16th, 2017. Tickets for the event can be obtained through the RNCM website.

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I have always loved to sing and perform and over the years that I have been studying, both in Glasgow and now here in London, I can honestly say that this love affair with singing has developed into a true passion.  The intensity of emotion that I experience each time I perform brings a joy to me that is hard to explain, I just know that I never want it to end. So, whatever the future has in store for me I hope that singing will be a huge part of it.

 

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It’s been an absolute dream to be part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. I took part as a member of the Scottish Opera team, who performed an opera specifically created for babies aged 6 to 18 months, called BambinO! After our successful run in the Manchester International Festival, I was excited to be part of the team to take BambinO to a new venue in Edinburgh, enabling different families to encounter the wonder of this beautiful Opera.

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Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor

My role in the production is Uccellina, a bird who discovers an egg.  The egg grows and hatches revealing a baby bird, called Pulcino (Timothy Connor), he takes Uccellina for his mother and explores the world.  I’m initially happy though a bit annoyed at his hyperactive behaviour, we reconcile quickly being pleased to have found each other.  I tell Pulcino of the sky and its wonders and that it’s his destiny to fly from our nest, although also sad about the thought of being separated, we are caught up in our excitement of his first flight.  When Pulcino is ready to fly we sing our final duet of farewell, he soars among the clouds and I ponder his journey.

The show kept the original music wonderfully performed by Laura Sergeant on Cello and Stuart Semple on Percussion, drama, set and costume and we continued to make babies gurgle, laugh, squeak, sing and occasional cry! I couldn’t believe that our show sold out within the first couple of days and that many who missed out wanted details of the dates for our performances in Glasgow in the Autumn.

We began on the 8th August 2017 and continued until our last performances today. Our shows took place at 10:00 am and 11:30 am each day. I loved every minute of each show, and though we had early morning calls it was definitely worth it.  Joining us in Edinburgh to complete our gang were the delightful Lee Reynolds, Julie Burns and Paula Duncan. Their help was outstanding and enabled each show to go on without any troubles. It has been an absolute pleasure working with them. It was also wonderful to see the education team join us at the venue and share in the joy these performances have brought to their young audiences, and their parents, and grandparents, many of whom told me it was their first opera too.

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Back Row: Me, Paula Duncan, Julie Burns Front Row: Lee Reynolds, David Sneddon, Audrey Blake

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Lee Reynolds, Audrey Blake, Julie Burns, and David Sneddon

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Julie Burns, Lee Reynolds, Me, and Laura Sergeant

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Julie Burns, Me, and Lee Reynolds

I was also able to see some of the festival myself as an audience member as my super-duper family came up to support me and to celebrate my Mum and Brother Matt’s birthdays. We saw some fabulous shows and these were the ones that stood out.

 

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Me and my Brother Matt

 

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Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck

We fell upon this show by accident, having joined up with my Mum, Dad and brother Tom and his girlfriend Anna on Saturday 12th we decided to explore what the fringe had to offer.  Walking along we were approached by a persuasive assistant outside the venue and as the show was due to start we decided to pop in.  The show did not disappoint, Ada Campe was an entertaining and articulate performer whose act recounted stories of her life as a variety performer.  She kept the audience enthralled for the 50 minutes she was on stage, delivered adlib lines with aplomb, drew belly laughs from the audience and when she interacted with the audience you laughed with them not at them which is a tremendous skill.  We all enjoyed this little gem.

Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid

This was a late-night show which started at 10:30 pm so the only chance we had to watch it was on Sunday night as my day off was on the Monday.  So, I booked tickets for my two brothers Matt and Tom who came along with me to watch. The show was an enticing cabaret full of laughter, aerial stunts, music and singing.  We had a blast in ‘The Hub’ our seats were a fabulously situated in a fabulous purple booth in which we could truly relax and unwind after a busy day. It was an especially wonderful show for me as my fellow BambinO cast member Stuart Semple was playing! Goodness knows how he managed to juggle his late evening performances for this show with the early starts of our baby opera! He’s a true trooper!

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Velvet Evening Seance

To sample some of the drama of the fringe we decided on my day off to check out some of the shows on offer.  We liked the sound of this one man show, which was set in a Victorian court room.  The monologue was delivered eloquently with sufficient depth to draw you in as the story developed.  The script cleverly twisted in different directions providing enough misdirection to make you think about the guilt of the accused.  Would you send him to the gallows?

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Into The Woods

Though I missed out on this performance my Mum, Dad and brother Matt said they thoroughly enjoyed the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Musical Theatre department production. Maybe I will get the chance to catch it again as they were singing about it for a couple of days.

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It was lovely to combine my holiday with work and take some time to catch up with my family.

On our last performance day, today the cast and crew celebrated with lots of cake, homemade shortbread in the shape of birds (by the wonderful Paula), tarts, cups of tea and surprise party poppers from the marvelous Stuart Semple after our final bow.

I had such a blast and can’t wait to work with everyone again in October!

Please click on the above images to see a larger copy.

The Edinburgh Festival

August 6, 2017 — 78 Comments

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Each year in August Edinburgh hosts what has become one of the largest Arts Festivals in the world, bringing together a diverse range of performers, from a huge array of artistic disciplines, converging in this historic and picturesque city.

The festivals first began in 1947, the brain child of an Austrian impresario, Rudolf Bing. From its early years, the Edinburgh International Festival brought artistic icons to the city each summer for the enjoyment of enthusiastic audiences, keen to be a part of this post war cultural revival.

As the popularity of the festival grew companies of performers unable to get on the main programme hired venues themselves and put on their shows outside of the area of the main festival.  Each year the number of these acts grew bringing both variety and vitality to the city.  The Scottish journalist, Robert Kemp referred to them as being “Round the fringe of the official festival” and the term seemed to stick.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has grown dramatically alongside the main Edinburgh International Festival and is now seen as an integral part of the festival experience.  In 2016 the Edinburgh Fringe Festival hosted 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 separate venues around the city. In all 2,475,143 tickets were issued during the three weeks not counting those who attended the 643 free shows included in last year’s programme.

During the Festival, the main show grounds of Edinburgh Castle host what has become a firm favourite for many who visit the city, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  This large-scale production brings together the different regiments of the UK armed forces who provide the audiences fortunate enough to get tickets with a unique festival experience.

It was great to catch up with the cast and crew of ‘BambinO’ as we ran through the production in Glasgow ahead of our run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It is quite exciting to think that we are to be a part of the 2017 festival which is expected to be even bigger than last year.  Our first performance is on the 8th August running through to 20th August, with two shows a day at 10:00 am and 11:30 am.  The performances will be held at the Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5BL.