It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas! This week I was celebrating the holiday cheer by catching up with friends, colleagues, and teachers to celebrate the end of the academic year (almost 🤫). The Royal College of Music was decorated with Christmas trees and my Student Village was adorned with lots of tinsel, Christmas ornaments, and lights.

 

Soloists Kingston With John Bate

John Bate, Beth Moxon, Steve Mills, Me, and Dan D’Souza

 

To add to all this cheer and merriment, I was invited to perform alongside my talented peers, Dan D’Souza, Steve Mills, and Beth Moxon at the Thames Philharmonic Choir Winter Concert conducted by the wonderful John Bate. I arrived at the beautiful All Saints Church in the heart of Kingston on Thames at 13:45 ready for afternoon rehearsals beginning at 14:00. It was the first time I would sing through the prepared pieces with the choir and orchestra. It was very exciting and spirits were high. The rehearsal went really well and it was exciting to hear all the hard work come together by the joining forces of so many talented musicians.

 

Rehearsal

The Rehearsal

 

This concert was particularly exciting for me as I was able to sing my first cantata, Handel Psalm 112 ‘Laudate Pueri Dominum’. A cantata is a work for solo voice, choir and orchestra. This form of vocal music was particularly popular in the Baroque period. This particular cantata was written by Handel when he was 22 years old during his stay in Italy. It’s a truly beautiful piece and I thoroughly enjoyed working on the challenging vocal writing with one of my coaches, the wonderful Andrew Robinson.

Thames Philharmonic Choir Programme

My parents came down for the performance which made it extra special and we were able to enjoy a lovely walk around Kingston where we were able to admire the festive Christmas Markets in light snow fall.

 

Late this afternoon Timothy Connor contacted me to tell me that Fiona Maddocks, a classical music critic in The Guardian newspaper included BambinO in her top ten performances of 2017.  It was such a wonderful early Christmas present for everyone involved in the production.

Link to her review of the year:

Blackburn Solo

Yesterday, Saturday the 2nd December 2017 I traveled North to Blackburn, Lancashire, where I was to sing the soprano solos in the Blackburn Music Societies performance of Handel’s Messiah.  This was the first time that I had been back to Blackburn since winning the audience prize in the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary Competition in October 2013 and it was lovely to see Sylvia Alexander again, who was one of the organisers and Trustees of the competition, this time as a member of the choir.

Blackburn Cathedral

Blackburn Cathedral

As I arrived the choir, under the baton of Tom Newall, were in full voice rehearsing for the evening’s performance. I settled myself down and waiting to have my first run through with the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra.  I knew Matthew Mannion, baritone soloist, having performed opposite him in Opera Britain’s Don Giovanni and it was great to catch up with him.

I met the other two soloists Helen Anne Gregory, mezzo-soprano, and Alexander Grainger, tenor, and together we sang through most of our solos and got used to the acoustics in the beautiful cathedral. It was a fabulous venue holding over four hundred people and the choir was expecting a full house.

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With the rehearsals over, we had time for a quick bite to eat before changing and preparing for the evening performance.  As the time arrived we could hear the bustle of the audience as we walked up the stairs from the crypt, I felt a sudden rush of excitement, this was to be my first Messiah as a soloist and then I couldn’t help smiling as we walked across the cathedral just in front of the main altar.  The cathedral was full and I could see hundreds of smiling faces looking back at us as we took our seats and the orchestra tuned their instruments ready to begin.

View Of The Altar

View Of The Altar

You could not help but feel the emotion of the music as the choir sang in beautiful harmony accompanied so aptly by the instrumentalists of the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra. Suddenly I heard my cue and I stood to sing my first solo, all of my emotion channeled into that moment, I felt so alive.  It was a wonderful experience and one that I shall not forget for some time.  Like most things in life we like to remember and savour the first time we do anything of significance and this was such a moment for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening, the choir made us feel so welcome and singing alongside such wonderful performers is a such a privilege and one that I hope will continue for many years to come. I will take away from this some fantastic memories and was thrilled to share them with my amazing fellow soloists Matthew, Helen, and Alexander.  Lastly a huge thank you to Tom Newall for his constant encouragement and support, and for making the evening so special for all of us.

Soloists and Tom

Matthew Mannion, Alexander Grainger, Tom Newall, Helen Anne Gregory, and Me

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Next week I move on to Kingston Upon Thames for the Winter concert of the Thames Philharmonic Choir. For anyone that is going to be in the area next Saturday, 9th December there are still a few tickets left which can be purchased on the door or through the choir’s website  www.thamesphilchoir.org.uk This is a great way to kick-start your Christmas spirit.

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To finish off tonight can I just let you all know about a fundraising initiative from the Royal College Of Music, which allows for matched funding of any contributions made through The Big Give: Christmas Challenge 2017

It only runs through to 12:00 pm 5th December and every pound raised to make a huge difference to so many talented music students supported by scholarships here at the Royal College of Music.

The Big Give 2017

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On Friday afternoon I took time out to watch my talented colleagues perform in the dress rehearsal of the Royal College of Music’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen. This wonderful opera by Janácek’s was sung in English for this particular production and tells the exciting and episodic story which constantly raises the imagined similarities and differences between humans and animals.

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The costumes designed by Hannah Wolfe were flamboyant and wonderfully colourful. Every costume was personalised and each suggested a hint of different animalistic features, such as a spiked backpack worn by a hedgehog/man. It was fun as an audience member to notice these intricacies which added to the story and allowed your imagination to build on the images played out on stage.

The set was also exquisite and full of extra compartments that drew your attention as they that opened and closed the space to new scenes. My particular favourite scene that Alex Berry designed was the chicken coop which showcased a Charlie and Chocolate factory esque egg laying factory that really caught my childlike imagination.

Daniel Slater beautifully combines lustful dancing with animalistic gestures performed by the Singers in his direction of this opera. It worked brilliantly and told the story seamlessly. I particularly enjoyed the love duets performed by the dancers which continued to expand on the story during the passionate orchestral interludes, sophisticatedly lead by Michael Rosewell.

This is a great production and my friends were in top form. There are a still a few tickets left if you are in the area and it is definitely worth a visit:  http://www.rcm.ac.uk/events/listings/details/?id=1383768

7:00pm | 27 November 2017
7:00pm | 29 November 2017
7:00pm | 01 December 2017
7:00pm | 02 December 2017

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I’m really looking forward to the ‘Winter Concert’ with the Thames Philharmonic Choir and Beth Moxon (alto), Steve Mills (tenor), Dan D’Souza (bass) under the direction of conductor John Bate and Stephen Disley (organ) in Kingston upon Thames, with our thanks to The Josephine Baker Trust who match us to engagements and provide half the fees.  We’ve had our first rehearsal the program is called ‘A Feast of Baroque & 5 Modern Carols’ you can get tickets at www.thamesphilchoir.org.uk or at the door, should be a great start to the Season.

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I’ve also been working hard on my Handel ‘Messiah’ soloist preparations, the Messiah is an English-language oratorio from the Baroque era, composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, it premiered in Dublin in 1742 at Easter and has been performed by choirs across the United Kingdom every year since. Handel continued to work on the piece until 1754 when he arrived at the version we use today.  You can read more about it here http://www.classicfm.com/composers/handel/music/george-frideric-handel-messiah/

I’m excited to start the first of two performances at Blackburn in Lancashire with the Blackburn Music Society and the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra under the baton of conductor Tom Newall and with Chamber Organist Samuel Hudson.  My fellow soloists in Blackburn Cathedral are Helen Ann Gregory; Alexander Grainger and Matthew Mannion who I last performed with in Don Giovanni at Opera Britain last year.  Tickets: 01254 201978 or on the door.

Blackburn Concert

 

 

Mesmerising singing and acting that made me run home to get some sleep so that I could wake up early today and practice some of the ideas I have learned from watching the opera Monday evening.

The soprano Lisette Oropesa performed Lucia exquisitely and despite telling the story with determination and honesty kept the singing consistently beautiful at all times despite the deeply dramatic gothic libretto.

I didn’t know this opera very well and this evening was my first real encounter with it from start to end I felt transfixed by the story.

The direction was very interesting, I loved it and thought the concept of having two distinct rooms in which separate scenarios of the story were unveiled to us in real time was thoroughly enchanting and allowed me to really connect with the character Lucia as I watched her hatch the plan to meet Edgardo her true love and kill Arturo to whom she had been betrothed. To me, this enhanced the intricate detail of the intrigue and added to my enjoyment of the opera.

However, as a singer, I felt for some of the singers on the stage as at times it was difficult to know which of the rooms to watch on the split-screen set. Often, I was drawn to the scenes that were just acting and the performers didn’t sing, but always returning to the singers communicating the story.

For the majority of the story, I didn’t need to watch the subtitles the plot was strong and the acting really told the intricacies of Donizetti’s tragic masterpiece.

It was a brilliant production for anyone preparing the role of Lucia as you watched her live every moment and understand perhaps why she came to complete the actions that she did as a consequence of a forced marriage.

 

I have had a great Birthday weekend at home with my family.  As a treat my Mum and Dad arranged to take me, Matt, Tom and Alex into Liverpool to watch Judith Howarth, my singing teacher and good friend from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, performing the role of Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus.

I was thrilled to be able to watch her on stage, especially on my Birthday.  Judy was so encouraging and supportive to me whilst studying in Glasgow, and also during my time here in London, having the opportunity to support her from the stalls was a real treat.

We arrived in Liverpool and found the theatre quite quickly which was fortunate as it was quite chilly and the wind was picking up.  Mum and Dad had booked us into the Ambassador Lounge at the theatre as a birthday treat and for anyone attending a performance here I can thoroughly recommend it.  It was lovely and warm inside and the hostess brought us all a welcome drink and you could order nibbles or a snack if you wanted. It was great to be able to leave our bags and coats there and avoid the packed bars before the performance and during the two intervals.  The performance was a matinee which started at 4.00 pm which allowed us all to go out for a celebratory meal afterward.

Family In Opera Lounge

Tom, Dad, Alex, Matt, Me, Mum

Die Fledermaus is an operetta by Johann Strauss II with the original libretto in German.  However, for this production, the WNO ( Welsh National Opera ) used an English translation by David Pountney and Leonard Hancock.  The story is quite comedic with wonderful music and I can strongly recommend it to anyone and especially for those who want to see an opera for the first time.

WNO Programme

WNO :       “Rosalinde is looking forward to a few days carefree time with her lover, while her husband is facing time in prison. Her maid asks to be excused in order to care for a sick Aunt. In truth, all four characters are planning to spend the evening at a magnificent masquerade ball given by the Prince. As the characters are brought together in various guises, we set the scene for a hilarious story of mistaken identity full of splendour, posh frocks, and masks.”

Judy was amazing as Rosalinde with crystal clear coloratura and a legato line to die for.  She gave a very believable portrayal of the character as she drew in the audience and made us laugh and giggle as the story played out. Both Paul Charles Clarke who played the lover Alfred and Mark Stone who played the husband Gabriel Eisenstein brought power and energy to their roles which complemented Judy’s beautiful vocals and wonderful characterisation.  I must also mention Rhian Lois who played the role of Adele, the chambermaid, her comedic timing was excellent and she sang the role beautifully.

The orchestra under the baton of maestro James Southall brought the whole production to life and the ensemble players added a little sparkle to the party scenes in Act II.

The tour moves on to The Bristol Hippodrome on the 17th and 18th November 2017 and then finishes at the New Theatre, Oxford on 1st and 2nd December 2017.

 

Judy and Me After The Show

Me with Judith Howarth after the performance

 

 

BambinO, That’s A Wrap

November 5, 2017 — 54 Comments

As I sit on the train traveling down to London this evening looking through the window as we travel south watching people celebrate bonfire night with the most fabulous firework displays. It is great to reflect on our last two performances of BambinO today which like the displays I have witnessed tonight concluded in spectacular fashion.

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This has been a fantastic production to be involved with and I have enjoyed every second working on stage alongside Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, and Stuart Semple. With over 70 performances this year at venues around Manchester, Edinburgh and now Glasgow David Sneddon our brilliant Stage Manager has played a huge part in allowing us to bring a little music and magic to the wonderful audiences that came to join us.

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Back Line: Laura, Tim, Lliam, Rachel, Stuart Front Line: Me and Julie

With each show, our front of house colleagues have made sure everyone who comes to watch has an amazing experience and I can’t stress enough the importance they play in making each performance feel special.

From the fabulous and inspiring set and costume designed by Emma and Giuseppe Belli to the free-flowing and imaginative direction inspired by Phelim McDermott, this production has been a real joy to be a part of.

But for me the cherry on the top has been the music composed by Lliam Patterson which I have loved singing and which will stay with me forever.

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To those of you who came along to watch one of the performances this year I want to thank you for joining us, it has been fantastic to meet you all and I will take away with me some very special memories. The most amazing thing about performing in this production is that each and every audience has been unique. The babies and toddlers have brought with them their individuality, interacting with us in unpredictable ways and making every show just that little bit different.

Not forgetting Scottish Opera, The Manchester International Festival and Improbable who made all of this possible sincerely thank you very much.

On Saturday it was lovely to see one of my old teachers from the RCS Helen McVey and her son Charlie who came to join in with one of the BambinO performances. I am glad that they both enjoyed the show. I would like to give a big shout out to the toddlers who came in their Halloween costumes to watch today as they were just SO CUTE. Lastly a big thank you to the family who came over from Switzerland to watch as part of a family birthday treat, happy 72nd birthday from me and all the team at Scottish Opera, it was lovely to meet you all.

Then after the last of my two performances of BambinO today David Sneddon the stage manager made sure that I had just enough time to meet some of the toddlers and their families before having to dash off to catch a train down to London. Tonight is the 21st-anniversary party of Improbable hosted by Nick Sweeting and Phelim McDermott. I was thrilled to be invited and jumped at the chance to join in the festivities as I have a couple of days off before the final week of performances starts again in Glasgow. I expect it will be a great way to have a little fun and relax for the evening.

Improabable Annivesary 2017

After the performances end in Glasgow next Sunday I will be finalising my rehearsals for the three concerts that I have coming up in December. The first of which is with Blackburn Music Society, conducted by Tom Newall with Samuel Hudson on chamber organ. The concert takes place on Saturday 2nd December at Blackburn Cathedral where we are performing Handel’s Messiah accompanied by the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra.  The performance starts at 7pm and details of how tickets can be purchased are available online at:

http://blackburnmusicsociety.org.uk/tickets-booking/

For those that won’t know until the last minute if they can come tickets will be available on door.

Blackburn Concert