This week I flew to New York City to participate in the live auditions for a Young Artist Program. I was elated to receive the invitation, during the application season I have to send out applications to Opera companies all over Europe and North America. This is a lengthy process requiring references, audition repertoire to […]Continue Reading...
Tonight I wanted to write about the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan as I will be performing the role of The Plaintiff in their one-act opera ‘Trial By Jury’ for Surrey Opera on the 16th December 2018. I will be joined by the talented Stephen Anthony Brown, the effervescent Giles Davis, and the amazing Tim Baldwin for what I hope will be a fun-filled evening.
My first encounter with Gilbert and Sullivan was when I studied at the junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music when we performed in The Yeomen of the Guard. Gilbert and Sullivan were both born in Victorian England, Gilbert in 1836 and Sullivan in 1842. Their partnership produced fourteen comic operas which have been performed Internationally to appreciative audiences for over one hundred years. Gilbert wrote the Libretti, the text, and Sullivan composed the music.
Trial By Jury
The story pokes fun at the common law of Breach of Promise, it was considered that if a man made a promise of engagement to marry a woman and subsequently changed his mind then his fiancé could sue him for damages. The law was repealed in England in 1970, the last prominent case to be heard in the English courts was the case brought by Eva Haraldsted against the footballer George Best in 1969.
In the opera, I play the role of The Plaintiff who is beseeching the court to award her substantial damages as she loves the man who has broken his promise of marriage. The Defendant pleads with the court to keep the award small as he is “such a very bad lot”. There is much argument between the parties with The Jurymen recalling their misspent youth but as they are all now respectable gentlemen, they can have no sympathy with the actions of the defendant.
The Defendant eventually offers to marry both The Plaintiff and his new love, but as The Judge points out that though this would appear to be an equitable arrangement it would be a serious crime in itself. The Defendant then goes on to explain to the court that he is, in fact, a smoker, a drunkard, and a bully (when drunk) and The Plaintiff would not have wanted to spend more than a day married to him. The Judge suggests that The Defendant should make himself drunk to prove his point. The rest of the court objects to this and fed up with the lack of progress the Judge offers to marry The Plaintiff himself. The Plaintiff finds this outcome much to her liking and as such the opera ends on a happier note.
Classical Gala With Rolando Villazón And Guests
I also wanted to share with you that I have been asked to perform at next year’s Llangollen International Eisteddfod as a guest of tenor Rolando Villazón who will be performing there for the first time. Also appearing with him will be the Welsh lyric soprano Rhian Lois. I am thrilled and honoured to have been asked to take part in the concert which takes place on the 2nd July 2019. Tickets will go on sale on the 12th December.
This week I found the inspiration for my blog post when reading back through some comments on previous blog posts. I came across a comment from my blog-friend Eric Christopher Jackson, a wonderful artist who tells stories through Photography it got me thinking. He wrote:
“When you say things like “bel canto phrasing” or “arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises” I’m at a loss. However, as I continue to read your Blog, I’m learning how to speak “Opera.”
So I thought that I could perhaps create a little glossary, that I could expand upon over time, to help explain some of the details and vocabulary that I may use. Today we will be discussing Voice Types.
But first here are a couple of Buzz Words that you may be helpful:
Vocal Range: A measurement of the range of the notes/pitches that a human voice can phonate/sing.
Vocal Weight: The amount of volume the voice can naturally produce. This is important because it can dictate the size of orchestra that a soloist can comfortably perform with (without any artificial amplification )
Colour: This describes the particular sound of the singer, and is what allows a singer’s voice to be individual and unique. You can describe a voice as warm, bright, dark, light and much more. Preference depends upon the listener.
Vocal Runs: A fast succession of notes that can ascend and descend in pitch rapidly.
Coloratura: An elaborate ornamentation/decoration of a vocal melody, which will often involve runs.
The Voice Types
The initials SATB, which are often used in choirs, stand for the four main voice Types: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. These initials are to show that the choir uses the full range of the human voice, as opposed to an all-female or all-male choir. When singing as a soloist, you will also come across the terms Mezzo-Soprano, [usually the same range as an Alto], Contralto, [the lowest female voice], Counter-Tenor, [a male voice who has the equivalent range to a mezzo-soprano] and Baritone, [the male voice lying in between Tenor and Bass].
The Seven Main Voice Types [High to Low]
In the Opera World, these main Voice Types are further categorized to facilitate casting. This system was created in Germany and is called the Fach system. These sub-categories depend upon much of what we have discussed so far one’s vocal range, vocal weight, Colour, flexibility, characters and more.
Listen to the above youtube video created by the Royal Opera House, to hear the different voice types and excerpts of them singing Opera.
I will now explain a little more about my own vocal Fach. If you find it interesting and want to know more, please comment below and I will expand in later weeks.
The Soprano voice:
- Character Soprano
- Lyric Coloratura
- Full Lyric Soprano
- Spinto Soprano
- Dramatic Soprano
At the moment, I am categorized as a Lyric Coloratura. This means that I have an extended upper range. Personally, I can sing up to an F#, which is needed for roles such as the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte by Mozart and The Controller in Flight by Jonathan Dove. My voice is quite flexible and I can sing a variety of vocal runs. The characters that Lyric Coloraturas would sing are generally young women, who are charming, sometimes short-tempered, coquettish, cheeky and stubborn. In theory, audition songs I select should enable casting directors to see which roles I could be appropriate for and possibly be cast for within their operatic season. This is similar to typecasting for actors in the Movie and Theatre World.
Well known examples of my current voice type: Beverly Sills, Kathleen Battle, Diana Damrau and Natalie Dessay.
To end this evening I have included a link to my live recording of Danny Boy which I performed last week at the Tideswell Male Voice Choir’s Remembrance concert. I was asked if I could share the video of my performance but unfortunately, my Dad was a little too wobbly with the video camera so I hope you enjoy the audio recording instead.
I have had a wonderful weekend of song, gathering with friends to remember the lives of those lost during the conflicts of the last Century.
I sang alongside the terrific Tideswell Male Voice Choir in Tideswell’s Armistice Concert on Saturday 10th November. Malcolm Bennison, the choirs’ Chairman, created an interesting and thoughtful program dedicated to telling the stories of the young men and women who fought for their freedom and their country. The concert picked out the tales of six young men who volunteered to fight in the First World War from the Tideswell area. Sadly they were amongst the many men from this local area who perished in the Great War. Their letters, stories, and family history were shared by three members of the Tideswell living History Group, Gill Adams, Ruth Wilson, and Janyce Ashley. These readings were introduced by Charles Foster, a successful voice-over artist best known for being the voice in the courtroom for Judge Rinder. Charles Foster also provided a narration for the evening bringing the memories to life for everyone present.
I performed a selection of songs suggested by Nick Montague, the Musical Director for the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, accompanied by the lovely Alison Wheeldon. These included: “We’ll Meet Again”, “Danny Boy”, “Roses of Picardy”, “We’ll Gather Lilacs” and “Jerusalem” and I have included links to two of the recordings from the evening.
Roses of Picardy
We’ll Meet Again
Today’s Rachmaninov recital at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury, London was made extra special for me as my friends Hilary and Edwin journeyed into central London to come and support me. As this was my very first public performance of Russian song knowing that their friendly faces were in the audience gave me a huge boost. It was great to catch up with them during the event and I hope they had a safe journey home. It was lovely to meet up with Norman Cooley who has been a huge help to me with both his advice and support when he comes along to my performances in London.
The day went well and I was so pleased for Maya Soltan who has worked tirelessly putting these two recitals together and I wish her every success for next week’s recital. It was a joy to perform alongside such a talented group of performers in a fabulous setting.
Next week I have been invited to perform as part of a Remembrance Concert that the Tideswell Male Voice Choir are presenting at the ‘Cathedral of The Peak’ St John The Baptist Church, Tideswell, in Derbyshire on Saturday 10th November 2018 at 7:30 pm. The concert will be bringing together both the memories of Tideswell men who died in the Great War presented by Tideswell Living History Group and songs that became associated with great conflicts of the 20th Century. We hope that the concert will help remember those who gave up so much in an uplifting and celebratory way so their memories live on as we strive to work together to keep the peace made possible by their sacrifices.
I hope you don’t mind me finishing my post today by sharing this video with you that is a celebration of ten years of contemporary art creations by my good blog friend Eric Jackson, he set his pictures to the Scots Song by James MacMillan which is one of my favourites from my Studies in Scotland. Eric has been such a source of inspiration for me as he has followed his own dream, and I would encourage you to check out some of his amazing work.
Next Sunday 4th November 2018 I will be performing alongside a host of talented singers and musicians at Pushkin House which is the oldest independent Russian Cultural centre in the United Kingdom. The concert is one of two which has been organised by the fabulous Maya Soltan, the other will be held on Sunday 11th November 2018. The two concerts aim to cover all of the songs by Sergey Rachmaninov in a rare opportunity to enjoy them all together through live performances. Maya has been instrumental in both the arranging of the two concerts and the coaching and language preparation for the singers involved.
The two concerts will feature in total 52 musicians from 12 different countries hand picked by Maya Soltan from the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Trinity Laban Conservatoire, the Royal Northern College of Music and the Wales International Academy of Voice. The songs will be introduced by Russian concert pianist Dr. Alexander Karpeyev.
The two songs that I will be performing in Russian are The Answer, Op. 21 no.4, The Lilacs, Op. 21 no.5. I must personally thank Maya for her help whilst preparing these two songs as it will be my first performance in Russian and without her coaching, it would not have been possible.
More details about the two events and how to buy tickets can be found here.
Performers on the 4th November:
Tamsin Birch, Sofia Celenza, Charlotte Hoather, Mariya Irel, Joohyun Lee, Oxana Lepska, Laura Peresivana, Alice Usher, soprano
Kerri Dietz, Bethany Horak-Hallett, Malvina Maysuradze, Julia Portela Piñón, Rosamunde Thomas, mezzo-soprano
Damian Arnold, tenor
Jonathan de Garis, Adam Maxey, Theodore Platt, Luke Scott, baritone
Benjamin Shilperoort, bass-baritone
Sian Davies, Joe Howson, Rustam Khanmurzin, Esther Knight, Camille Lemonnier, Guy Murgatroyd, Harry Rylance, Maya Soltan, piano
Programme 4th November 2018:
Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
Morning, Op. 4 no.2
Oh, never sing to me again, Op. 4 no.4
A Prayer, Op. 8 no.6
The world would see thee smile, Op. 14 no.6
O, do not grieve, Op. 14 no.8
As fair as day in blaze of noon, Op. 14 no.9
Love’s flame, Op. 14 no.10
Spring Waters, Op. 14 no.11
Tis time, Op. 14 no.12
The Answer, Op. 21 no.4
The Lilacs, Op. 21 no.5
On the death of a Linnet, Op. 21 no.8
Before the Image, Op. 21 no.10
No Prophet I, Op. 21 no.11
Sorrow in Springtime, Op. 21 no.12
Beloved, let us fly, Op. 26 no.5
Christ is risen Op. 26 no.6
Let me rest here alone, Op. 26 no.9
When yesterday we met, Op. 26 no.13
The Ring, Op. 26 no.14
The Soul’s Concealment, Op. 34 no.2
So dread a fate I’ll never believe, Op. 34 no.7
In my garden at night, Op. 38 no.1
Daisies, Op. 38 no.3
Dreams, Op. 38 no.5
C’etait en Avril (1891)
The Flower has faded (1893)
Were you hiccupping? (1899)
Letter to Stanislavsky (1908)
I read an article in The Guardian about music disappearing from the English school curriculum as research has shown the number of schools offering the subject at A-level (Advanced Level) is in sharp decline, and fewer students are taking Music at thirteen to sixteen years of age which I believe is down to the new English baccalaureate putting more emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology and Maths) and a humanities plus a foreign language.
How long could it be before Geography or History and other humanities are considered subjects people can ‘study outside of school hours’ and they get dropped, and why not? You can read these books alone outside of school! The majority of 16-year-olds are now expected to stay in compulsory 16-18 education but the options for what you can study is becoming restricted to what ‘The Government’ want to pay for. I’d love to read your opinion even if it differs from mine.
With music, you need help to read the musical language and set you off on how to play musical instruments. Music technology has also declined by more than 32% in the last two years. The problem with only offering music ‘out of school hours’ is the cost for parents and I suspect that if checked the schools that don’t offer a full music provision are those in most deprived areas. In 2012, when I left school, music was a compulsory subject for 11-13 year-olds (up to Year 8), this survey says it is only compulsory in 47.5% of schools now. Music department staffing has fallen by 36% which is a concern for music graduates as a whole employment route is being closed down. Humans don’t just make music for work and career purposes, for many it is their enjoyment, their hobby, a way of socialising and meeting likeminded groups of people.
At my primary school basic singing took place in groups but if you wanted to play an instrument you had to pay extra for a half-hour lesson during breaks or after school. At High School musical instrument tuition and solo singing were outside of the music lessons, I have been truly blessed that my parents paid for these classes but they were supplemented with free GCSE’s (General Certificates in Education) in contemporary dance, drama, and music and I doubt you could fund sufficient lessons privately that would be required without any performing arts in the curriculum and you would be missing out as a student in key skills.
I was the only student taking Music A (Advanced) level at my 6th Form college 16-18 so I took the lessons in a BTEC music group (which is mainly performance based without the music literacy) which restricted the academic rigour of the Advanced Level course and once again my parents stepped in to pay for several private lessons to fill the gaps I discovered I had after my first year of study, this is not to take anything away from my music teachers they were both wonderful, however, they didn’t have the time or funds to help any more than they did. I would not like to have started at a music conservatoire without the full music theory grounding, in fact I’m not sure I would have got in.
Perhaps we in England may need to stop school 6th forms if they can’t offer a full enriching curriculum. Then channel all 16-year-olds into County colleges to consolidate several schools A level cohort (16-18-year-old) giving more student numbers per course? What do you think?
We now have the UK Government deciding what English pupils learn, I wonder how many of them have Music degrees? Perhaps this is a new job prospect for music graduates – enter politics in order to ensure creatives are represented in the seat of power.
I would add that both of my brothers are in professions considered ‘academic’ STEM-related study areas now, yet both were allowed to study the performing arts, Drama and Dance and both took singing lessons and this has enriched their characters, enabled them to enjoy working in teams, and given them the ability to make presentations to big groups of people without too much fear. Both of them still ballroom dance and most of all it taught them persistence, dedication, and not to give up on hard to learn skills. The arts can also provide a relief from stress and is good for their mental health and well being that they can find escapes in art and creative pursuits.
During my studies and training, I have found the help of my music teachers and mentors invaluable, they have each guided my development and progression to date and helped me achieve goals that would have been unattainable without them. I am currently studying with Rosa Mannion who is both an inspiration and encouraging taskmaster. We are currently studying together the importance of the soft palette in vocal technique and I’m excited to hear more about her research and put into practice the recommendations.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of singing, with George Todica on piano, for my brother Matthew’s fairytale wedding to his long-term partner Alexander in Peckforton Castle in the Cheshire countryside. This amazing venue was such a romantic location for a perfect day. I was also a Groomsmaid so after singing I had a quick dash to the back of the great hall to join the procession. When we were choosing wedding songs to celebrate the marriage service they had to be none religious as it was a civil ceremony so we selected songs about love and commitment it was very emotional especially when I was singing as they signed the register.
George played Widmung as the sun streamed through the stained glass windows as we walked down the aisle in the Great Hall on a stunning candlelit and autumnal coloured rose petal strewn white carpet, Matt and Alex had chosen clear glass columns with white petal trees strung with candles in little balls it just caught my breath.
It really was an absolutely beautiful service with gorgeous promised vows to each other, there was just an amazing vibration to the day with six of Matt and Alex’s fabulous girl friends and me as groomsmaids and four groomsmen including my younger brother Thomas who did a reading with Alex’s brother Josef.
I’m just so happy to have a new kind, caring and talented brother in the family.
Our short stay in Shetland came to an end last Sunday, 23rd September and I wrote this whilst sat in Sumburgh Airport, with a hot cup of tea beside me and lots of sweet memories and photos to pass the time.
This beautiful island is home to many wonderful views and walks. The unspoiled countryside, dotted with herds of sheep and cows, the occasional Shetland pony, (who actually seem to come in pairs – ready for Noah’s ark perhaps) makes for a beautiful drive to the airport from Lerwick. I must admit one of the strangest differences in the landscape is that there were almost no trees, apart from ones grown lovingly on private property.
Fields were divided by walls of layered slate and grey rocks, it reminded me of one of my favourite films, Stardust where a dry-stone wall divided the real realm from the magical.
The air on the island is magnificently fresh, yet at times it can be quite ferocious if you get caught in between two winds on the beach that links to St. Ninian’s aisle. It was worth it though, as the team and I galloped across the sandy beach – with no plastic or human waste in sight! The crystal blue water kissed both sides of the shell-sand tombolo beach, creating a heavenly pathway to the quiet island.
Lerwick was a delightful town, decorated with bunting which reminded me of my childhood when Knutsford was decorated for the May Day parade. The cobbled streets were decorated with the quaint window displays of hairdressers, soap shops, restaurants, and an amazing Shetland Fudge Shop. One of their specialties is a candy called Puffin Poo, a tasty recipe of white Belgian chocolate with toasted rice and mallow, hand rolled in coconut. A local favourite.
As well as exploring the town, I performed in BambinO with Scottish Opera at the Mareel Theatre, who magnificently recreated the poster out of origami clouds that hung from the ceiling and a hand-drawn blackboard sign, which welcomed families in the foyer. The stage sat in a cosy wooden paneled venue and our four shows were welcomed by a friendly and very enthusiastic audience. I enjoy performing this show so much, because each performance is so different which in turns keeps the story-telling alive, and visiting places like this reminds me how important music and the arts are to local communities.
How Soprano Charlotte Hoather Took Her Singing — and Blogging — to New Heights
Whether you’re a writer, creator, or business owner, it can be challenging to pursue your passion while maintaining a consistent online presence. British opera singer Charlotte Hoather does just that. Charlotte’s blog celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year — so we recently chatted with her to learn how she manages a demanding, globe-trotting work schedule while posting and connecting with her readers.
How did your blogging journey begin?
As an undergraduate student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) I was criticized for not being able to write essays with enough academic authority and sensible structure. I had always struggled with mixing up words, incorrect spelling, and creating a flowing argument. It was very frustrating, and despite all my hard work and research, I wasn’t sure how to improve.
The RCS suggested that I get tested for Dyslexia. It was a relief to discover after all those years what had been causing me problems. I was encouraged to start an online journal to explore reflective thinking and critical writing. To fuel my posts, I participated in a creative-writing module where we would critique live theatre and discuss general topics. I hoped that by using WordPress, I could improve my English skills and develop my artistic confidence in communicating in words. I obviously still make mistakes, but that was how my journey into blogging began.
How would you define your blog’s niche?
I share my passion for opera with others, whether they are novices or keen Puccini lovers. When I was young, I hadn’t ever experienced classical music and opera. Auditioning for conservatoires was so alien, and I was the first person to do it at my sixth form. I genuinely wanted to get discussions going and to share my world with other people from mixed backgrounds, rather than just talk and interact — which I also love to do — with a small clique of musicians. I wanted people to see why we train for so long and how opera is like athletics and sports. It takes daily practice, patience for long-term goals, and incredible self-motivation, which I am continually testing!
Was earning money through your site a priority?
I haven’t monetized my blog, but I do use it and other social media to encourage people to listen to the songs I recorded on iTunes, Amazon, and any of the leading digital platforms like Spotify, Napster, and Deezer. I’m hoping to record a new CD now that my post-graduate training has finished at The Royal College of Music in London, and I hope that people can hear the progress I’ve made. Now, to find a recording studio and the time!
I can’t remember the program the RCS suggested we use, but I didn’t like that the platform owned all the content — I could never delete anything if I wanted to and I had no control. I looked at Blogger and WordPress, but you can’t self-host Blogger. I liked the blogs I read on WordPress and felt the community was warm and welcoming, so I jumped in, initially with a free blogging theme, and have added in extras through the years to improve the functionality and style of the blog and make it more independent and unique.
It was super easy to set up, and came with lots of free themes and good support. I have gone for a mix of a self-hosted WordPress website and a blog hosted through WordPress.com.
If you could magically add a feature to your WordPress site, what would it be?
It would help if WordPress had a Grammarly plugin so that when you form your replies to comments, they are automatically checked for those people who need it. There are so many brilliant writers and storytellers on WordPress it wouldn’t need to be there all the time.
You’ve garnered a massive following on several social platforms. Do you have any advice for people who are still struggling to find an audience beyond their real-life circle of family and friends?
Of my social media platforms, my blog came first. WordPress community members recommended I set up a Facebook page and linked it, and then another blog friend was surprised I didn’t have Twitter and suggested that and also advised me on how to set it up. Google+ followed, and a couple of years ago Instagram — although I still need to get my head around hashtag use. I try to treat them all as individual platforms now, but I’m really no expert — I just muddle along getting tips from people.
WordPress used to be easier to attract readers, do follow-backs, and build communities, but as I got busier in my studies I found it hard to keep in touch with everyone. But I do my best. I would recommend that you visit, like, and comment on other blogs and build friendships even if you can only do this once each month. Just like friends in real life, if you ignore people for too long they drift away. Blogging is more about sharing and caring about others than just about you.
Training to become a professional soprano is — one would assume! — an often-grueling process. How do you find the time and energy to connect with fans and music lovers online (not to mention others from the blogging community)?
Training to become an opera singer is very taxing, but I adore it. I try to fit my blogging and connecting with my friends through social media around my tightly packed schedule. The way I blog and my expectations of myself have changed over the past five years. I used to post twice each week. I was able to use some of the posts toward my academic credits, and earlier in my training, I had a bit more free time as I was building up my vocal stamina — I could practice a lot less than I can now. As I progressed through my training, I decided to cut down my posts to one per week, preferring quality over quantity. This ensured that I could keep the conversations going and keep in touch with people enjoying my adventures.
I love knowing that on Sunday, I need to create a post! No ifs, no buts! It means that at some point in the week I need to have done something interesting or complete some research on an area of opera that I would love to share with people. It taught me to enjoy the little moments: if I have a quiet period in my career and visit family and make paper flowers, then that’s what I share.
I wish I had more time to answer everyone on my social media platforms individually. I hope that people understand; if they want a reply or a discussion, I ask that they comment on my blog — this platform easily allows for that.
Do you have any practical advice for aspiring bloggers on a busy schedule?
I wake up early and go to bed around 10:30-11:00. I have always had a full-structured, energetic day. I often dictate my thoughts into my iPhone and convert them into text. I think this allows for a conversational style of writing, which I can later edit grammatically. I answer comments as I go along on public transport, or if I have any downtime between appointments. I usually copy the comments into a word document and edit them over a few days. Once they are all complete, I put them all on at the same time. My Dad helps with videos and resizing photos, and my Mum checks my post for spelling and grammar.
On a more personal note, what are the next goals you’ve set for yourself?
After six years of training at Music Conservatoires in both Glasgow and London, I want to apply everything I’ve learned so far and put it into practice. During my studies, I managed to find my own small work projects. Now I want to develop my professional working portfolio while continuing to advance my language, singing, and dance skills, which take a lot of time and investment.
I hope that over the next five years, I can enter a Young Artist Program or Fest Contract at an opera house and maintain a career in opera. I would love to continue working internationally, as I have really enjoyed working abroad, trying new cuisines, conversing in different languages, and partaking in special customs.
But for the next few months, the hope is to keep my head above water, stay motivated, and earn enough to support my training and become an engaged member in this industry.
Do you have a dream role (or roles) you’d love to perform?
My dream roles change constantly, depending on my mood and personal development. At the moment I would love to perform Musetta from La Bohème (Puccini), Zerbinetta from Ariadne auf Naxos (R. Strauss) and The Controller from Flight (Dove). But one thing I have learned recently is that if you are surrounded by a wonderful cast, every role is enjoyable — even the smallest role has a big story to tell, full of personal hardships and glory.
Any other exciting plans for the near future?
I had some great experiences this past year performing in Manchester, London, Cornwall, Oxford, and even Paris and New York, and I’m currently on a tour with Scottish Opera in the Highlands of Scotland. After that, who knows? That is what makes life such an adventure, and hopefully gives me enough blog content to continue.