A Week Full Of Music

March 18, 2018 — 12 Comments

This week has been filled with such a variety of musical experiences and it has been such a pleasure to share them with both family and friends.

On Monday, my brother, Matt, took me to see the ‘Book of Mormon’ at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The show is a personal favourite of his and provided some much-needed comic relief, I particularly enjoyed the tap dancing, and the choreography reminded me of the fun times we shared together during our dance classes when we were younger.


The Book Of Mormon – London Cast


My dear friend Harvey invited me to watch ‘Rinaldo’ by Handel on Tuesday evening. This was a concert performance, involving very little stage direction, glamourous frocks, and one prop. The performance took place at the Barbican. Iestyn Davies (performing the part of Rinaldo) sang alongside a marvelous cast in an evening of divine music and story-telling. I had not heard Davies sing live before, and it was such a treat. I was blown away by the beauty and warmth of his voice and the fiery coloratura that he made seem effortless.

rinaldo-barbican-the art desk - Robert Workman

Rinaldo at the Barbican ( Photo By Robert Workman )


On Wednesday, my friend Alex accompanied me to watch ‘From The House Of The Dead’ an opera by Janácek. I managed to get two tickets as part of the Royal Opera House’s student scheme. It was a very moving opera, with moments full of doom and gloom. It was unlike anything else I have seen before. The set design effectively created the prison environment, with a yard, and the warden’s office, which later became the backdrop for the prison theatre event. The experience felt like you were watching through a cracked window, which gave the impression of a mosaic, each piece filled with a different story and commentary, depicting the lives of the men in the prison. Leading you to question their morals and evaluate their choices. It was very interesting to watch this with Alex as he is a barrister and has a personal interest in law. We were able to discuss the piece in great detail afterward.


Nicky Spence as Nikita and Salim Sai as Actor ( photo by Clive Barda ROH )


The week ended with a fabulous opportunity for me to make music with my talented colleagues at the RCM. On Friday evening I performed for Joe Kiely whose composition ‘Ice Legacy’ featured in the ‘Composition for Screen’ showcase held in the Britten Theatre at the RCM. It was such an honour to perform alongside the orchestra conducted by the wonderful Akos Lustyik,  a talented composer himself, whose music also featured in the event.

It has been a real pleasure to work with Joe on this piece, the melody and text were inspired by the Norwegian language. The process of preparing for this event was very exciting. The first rehearsal took place in the Belle Shenkman Studio at the RCM, where we were all equipped by the fantastic sound department with microphones and headphones. The challenge of singing for ‘film’ is that the music has to be extremely accurate in rhythm as it is composed to link up with what is seen on the screen. Therefore, it is vital to be with the conductor and the click that we hear through the headphones, whilst also balancing with the live ensemble. I really enjoyed experimenting and learning how to adapt to the requirements of this style of performance I would love to be involved in similar projects in the future.


Me With Joe Kiely



It has really been a treat to go and watch so many wonderful performances. I feel inspired and full of motivation to begin work on my next projects.


With Ann


I bought a copy of Annette’s book “Go You” this week and can thoroughly recommend it. Not only is she a lovely person but you can open this book on any page and a little bit of positivity rubs off on you.

The Art of Singing

March 11, 2018 — 47 Comments

I would like to thank Diana Roberts of the Royal College of Music for inviting me, and my fellow ‘Women in Music’ students, to perform at the Royal Academy of Arts last Friday. The event entitled “In Tune with Feminist Futures” was supported by Dasha Shenkman and we were all thrilled to see how well attended the recital was.



Diana Roberts, Dasha Shenkman, Leanne Singh-Levett, Esme Hurlbert, Me, Lisa Burgess, Katy Thompson.  My thanks to Esme for sharing this photograph.


My friend Jane had traveled from Manchester to London for the weekend and it was lovely to spend time with her before the recital and to see her in the audience.  After the event, there was a drinks reception and we got the opportunity to mingle with the audience and spend time talking with them.

The recital was held in The Reynolds Room in the Royal Academy of Arts which housed some amazing paintings, we were not allowed to take pictures in the room itself but if you are visiting London I would recommend adding the Royal Academy of Art to your places to visit.


Sonia Lawson – Behind is the picture “Night in a private garden”

We were asked to select a work by one of the artists from the Royal Academy to be displayed whilst we performed. I chose a picture by Sonia Lawson “Night in a Private Garden” which she painted in 2010. Sonia Lawson was born in 1934 and has had a prolific career, she was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1991 and at 84 continues to paint in her studios in Bedfordshire and North Yorkshire.

The songs that I chose for the evening were “In Meines Vaters Garden” and “Laue Sommernacht” by Alma Mahler whose father, Emil Jakob Schindler was a famous Austrian Landscape painter who greatly influenced her work.


Leanne Singh-Levett and Me


A big thank you to Leanne Singh-Levett for accompanying me, it was lovely to work with her again for this recital having performed with her the previous day for my “Women In Music” lecture-recital.

Thank you to everyone who joined with me to celebrate my blogging anniversary last week, it was lovely to read all your comments.  I will be drawing up a list of everyone who liked or comment on the post during the coming week and then select 3 people at random to receive a signed copy of my “Haugtussa” album.

I would also like to share with you the news that I will be performing the role of ‘Maria Bertram’ in Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Jonathan Dove’s opera ‘Mansfield Park’.  The performances will take place at Waterperry House, Oxford on the 18th and 19th August 2018. I am really looking forward to meeting and working with the rest of the cast and taking this production to this picturesque venue.

Waterperry Opera

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This weekend has been a key milestone for me in more ways than one, firstly it is the fifth anniversary of my first steps into the world of blogging, secondly it has seen the culmination of many months work as I try to finalise the PowerPoint presentation for my lecture recital on Thursday 8th May for my academic module entitled ‘Women In Music’.

When I selected the module at the beginning of the year, I had no idea how it would affect me, the deeper I researched, the more it drew me in. We were asked to prepare a 20 to 25 minute lecture recital on a female composer. Initially, I thought that this would be quite straightforward but after several months of reading, research and mentoring sessions it has proven to be more difficult than I expected.  Not because I can’t fill the time, on the contrary, I have ended up with such a weight of research and information that I am finding it hard to cut it down to just 25 minutes in total !!

But cut it down I must, so I have been burning the midnight oil, wrestling with myself as to what information should be removed and what should remain.  It is such a difficult and time-consuming process, as I find myself both arguing for and against each small section that I try to isolate and remove from the presentation.

At one point after reading through my work and decided that to try and preserve as much of my work as possible that I will post the initial un précised presentation as a blog post after I have completed my lecture recital.  It may be a little longer than my usual posts, but I do hope that some of you find it as interesting to read as I did researching it.

One of the key points that I have taken away from my research is the importance of encouragement and positive reinforcement to the success of an individual’s creative endeavours. This is especially so if the creative arena in which you wish to forge a career for yourself has few gender or racial precedents for you to emulate or against whom you can measure your progress.  Over the years on my blog many of you have contributed so much to my progress, encouraging me just when I need it, being supportive of my choices in an uncertain world, and most important of all just being there as a constant for me as I face every new challenge.  I know that many of you have had your own creative struggles and by being there with you, sharing your experiences, as you individually overcame the obstacles you faced has been truly inspirational.

Thank you background with confetti.

Part of this module included selecting and working closely with mentors, individuals who gave me their time, advice and the benefit of their experience and I would like to thank them:

My singing teacher and friend Rosa Mannion for consistently reinforcing the sound foundations, technical necessities, and good vocal health needed to sing at the highest levels.

Rosa and Me

Rosa Mannion and Me

Dr Natasha Loges and Diana Roberts for providing the lectures which guided my research for this module at the Royal College of Music. I would whole heartedly recommend it to any future students when they come to choose their options.  Both Natasha and Diana have provided the necessary support needed for a module like this to succeed, and I can’t thank them enough.

Judith Howarth for her frankness and honesty during our sessions, and for her invaluable insight into the operatic world, advice which I will carry with me as I try to build my career in the years to come.

Judith Howarth 02

Judith Howarth

The composer Lisa Illean who has been so patient with me, providing feedback and guidance on the format and timing of my lecture recital, giving up her own time to talk me through the difficult process of how to decide what to keep and what to cut ( which I am still working on ).

Leanne Singh-Levett for coming to my rescue and stepping in at the eleventh hour to accompany me during my lecture recital, it has been fantastic to work closely with her even if it has been for such a brief time.

Simon Lepper for his skilled accompaniment and creative input during our coaching sessions, and for his patience and understanding as I had to change my repertoire just weeks before my recital lecture due to circumstances beyond my control.

A special thank you to all my friends that I have picked the brains of while preparing my reseach.


Just before I finish I want to wish the best of luck to all my fellow students presenting their recital lectures this Thursday; Eloise MacDonald, Lisa Burgess, Katy Thomson, and Esme Hurlburt.

Overall this has been both a difficult yet rewarding experience, one that has made me think differently about the challenges that I will face in the future. It has hardened my resolve to push on with my ambition to make a career for myself as an Opera Singer, to work more effectively to achieve my goals, to be thankful to my professional coaches and teachers, and to recognise that if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well.

By way of a thank you I will be putting all the names of everyone who comments or adds a like to this post here on my blog into a hat and I will pick out three names at random.  I would then like to send signed copies of my Haugtussa album to those selected along with a personal message of thanks.


To help celebrate International Women’s Day the Royal Academy of Arts approached the Royal College of music to suggest a collaborative performance entitled In Tune with Feminist Futures” inspired by revered female artists, including Royal Academicians Gillian Wearing, Sonia Boyce, and Phyllida Barlow.

This was an ideal opportunity for me and my friends on the Women In Music module to perform some of the pieces that we have researched and prepared for our recital lectures on the 8th March.

It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to work with accompanist Leanne Singh-Levett who has helped me to shape my songs, one of which is quite a difficult and quirky contemporary piece by Kaija Saariaho called “Il Pleut”.  Leanne will also be accompanying my friends Katy Thomson and Esme Hurlburt with their contributions to the evening.

There will also be performances by the Maconchy Quartet, Maren Bosma violin, Eloise MacDonald violin, Joanna Patrick viola, and Lily Hope cello.

The programme for the evening will consist of:

Lisa J Burgess Clouds
Judith Weir Lady Isobel and the Elf-Knight
N Boulanger Soir d’hiver
A Mahler Fünf Lieder: In meines Vaters Garden; Laue Sommernacht
Maconchy Allegro feroce from String Quartet no 1
Beach Take, O, Take Those Lips Away
Beach The Year’s at the Spring

The recital is to be held in The Reynolds Room, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly and starts at 6:30 pm. So if you are in London on the 9th March and want to come along and join us you can get tickets from the Royal Academy of Arts website.

Through my research for my ‘Women In Music Module’, I was intrigued to read that the wife of Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler, had also composed before their marriage.  Having recently performed some of Gustav Mahler’s songs I decided to search out her compositions to see if I could add them to my repertoire.

As I read about her life I felt that it would provide an interesting point of contrast for my upcoming presentation on Kaija Saariaho to demonstrate how life’s opportunities have changed for women over the past 100 years.

Alma was born in Vienna August 1879, eldest daughter of a landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler and Hamburg Singer Anna Sofie Bergen. Her early life was influenced by the many artistic people that visited the family home, including Gustav Klimt with whom she is said to have shared her first kiss, she was considered quite a beauty.


Boulevard of Poplars near Plankenberg, Emil Jakob Schindler, Leopold Museum, Vienna

Encouraged by her father, Alma showed great promise as a pianist and with the help of her teachers, one of which was the composer Alexander Zemlinsky, she started to create her first compositions.

Through the growing circle of artistic contacts, Alma was introduced to Gustav Mahler who at the time was the Director of the Vienna Court Opera. Shortly after their introduction Gustav Mahler became enamored by Alma and pursued her during a brief period of courtship.

Alma’s life to that point had been very bohemian with the freedom to explore and experiment, however, Gustav Mahler, 19 years her senior, had a very traditional view of marriage and family life and is believed to have written a lengthy letter to Alma detailing his requirements of a wife.  One of his key demands was that she stopped composing as he did not want her distracted from her duties which included caring for his needs.

Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler

Alma agreed to his demands and married Gustav Mahler in 1902 and her brief experimentation with composition was brought to an end. However, towards the end of his life, Gustav Mahler had an appointment with Sigmund Freud to try to better understand his wife, Freud deduced that Alma had tried to replace the father figure in her life by marrying Gustav Mahler, following her own father’s death when she was just thirteen. Freud encouraged Gustav Mahler to revisit his decision to curb Alma’s artistic outlet through her compositions which led him to have five of her works published.

After the death of Gustav Mahler in 1911 though Alma led a full and interesting life she never returned fully to composing career. Although in 1915 she published a set of four songs and five songs in 1924.

Updated: Alma died in 1964 in New York at the age of 85 the 14 songs, written for voice and piano, that were credited to her from the time before her marriage to Gustav Mahler remained the only pieces of music that she published as most of her earlier compositions were lost in the Second World War.



On Thursday I had the opportunity of going to see ‘Hamilton’ at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. I went with my brother and his friends to the Matinee viewing at 14:30. It was exciting as I was a jump-in for the ticket, so I didn’t know much about the show other than it had been well received in the media.

This musical theatre show is about one of the founding fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, whose drive and ambition lead him to become an American war hero and George Washington’s right-hand man. It was quite an empowering story to watch because it demonstrated what successes can be achieved if you keep working hard and persevere. However, the show also demonstrates the personal costs that this lifestyle can incur. The Hip-Hop musical highlights explain that he was born out of wedlock, then orphaned as a child, and despite these challenges sought higher education when he was in New York beginning to make his connections to the American Revolutionary War.

As a student of Opera, I was keen to see what parallels there were in this piece, especially because it attracted such a large audience, I wanted to see what I could take from the production and apply myself to my own work or future collaborations with composers and producers. It was interesting to see that the story was told mainly through rap, instead of spoken dialogue and then further developed through songs, duets and ensemble pieces. This is very similar to the common structure of opera. Instead of the rap, Opera uses recitative, semi-sung music that allows the progression of the story. The songs could be directly compared to arias because they were sung by a soloist, they enhanced the narrative by focusing on the key emotions felt by the character at that moment in the story. Creating empathy between the audience and the players. I would be very interested to hear from people whether this kind of musical storytelling is easier to connect with than opera? Is it because there is a more modern beat and rhythm behind the rap. (If you are interested you can access the album on Spotify)

I was very impressed by the high energy level of the performers and their ability to rap, sing and some of them dance. It was also brilliant to see a truly diverse and talented cast.



February 4, 2018 — 60 Comments

Allie and Me At Olympia

During the week I was invited to join my blog friend Cate McDermott and her sister, Allie on a trip to Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show at Olympia London in West Kensington. So, I agreed to meet them outside the exhibition centre today as I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take a break from my studies and musical preparations and spend a couple of hours in the company of friends exploring all the exotic destinations on offer at the show. Unfortunately, Cate was taken ill and was not able to make the trip to London but Allie explained that she would still be coming in so we made arrangements on where to meet.

We had a wonderful time walking around the different stalls soaking up the worldwide culture, whilst sharing our dream travel destinations. We also discussed how visiting and researching different towns, cities, and countries influence our work, myself as singer and Allie as a writer and chef. This was really fascinating to me as I love to hear about people’s working methods and how fine details from History, architecture, personal memories, art can influence creativity.

The exhibition is a brilliant opportunity for people to get great deals on trips. Expert speakers were on site to inspire, some of these were Best Selling Travel authors such as Rick Stein, Katie Bowman, Mark Brownlow (producer of Blue Planet II) and many more. If you are set on embarking upon a backpacking trip, cruise or you have an ideal destination in mind, this is the place to go and the exhibition takes place every year, so keep an eye out for the next one.


Inside Olympia

As well as informative talks, the Destination show had street food stalls, travel health advice, and Experience The World Stages (Europe/Asia/The Americas) where we tried Isikate – South American Natural Energy drink, Soju Rice Wine, Mead and Low & Slow BBQ Pulled Pork.  Allie had booked herself on the Travel Photography Masterclass where Steve Davey and Paul Goldstein were giving advice on how to improve your pictures whilst on holiday, which I hope she found thought-provoking and inspiring. I can’t wait to discuss what she learned when I next see her.

I am now filled with excitement and I will begin saving for a holiday getaway. I am still undecided on what would be my dream destination as there are so many beautiful and inspiring places to visit but any recommendations would be gratefully received. Let me know what you think.

I have always enjoyed reading and sharing the experiences and travels of friends I have met through their blogs, here are a few that you may want to check out:








I hope that Cate is feeling better soon and I am looking forward to catching up with her and Allie again soon.