This week I have had such a wonderful time! Continuous blue skies with a sprinkling of sun rays and the opportunity to perform for a variety of audiences.

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On Monday morning, before taking ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’ on tour we performed the show at the Scottish Opera Studios in Glasgow, for staff of the institution and a local primary school. My lovely teacher Judith Howarth also came along to support me and gave me some great pointers to aid my singing.

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Francis Thorburn, Me, Stuart Semple and John Kielty ( copyright Tim Morozzo )

This was very exciting as it was our first public practise in costume to iron out any wrinkles, but more importantly to make sure it was entertaining for the target audience of 5-8 year old children. To add to the nerves, it was recorded for Scottish Opera records and the wonderful photographer Tim Morozzo took some snaps of it for promotion. The piece ran smoothly and the children were really enthusiastic and enjoyed the jokes which was very exciting ahead of our first public performances. As a company we were able to relax into the characters and take more risks during the later run. After the performance we stayed in costume and created this short video to advertise the show. It was fun to work with camera! A new experience for me.

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Iain Piercy ( one of the set designers )

On Wednesday morning at 10:00 I performed my final recital of my undergraduate degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It took place in the Stephenson Hall and some of my family were able to come and watch, along with some friends and staff from the school. Who all gave me lovely feedback afterwards. I performed alongside George Todica, who did an amazing job of the accompaniment. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I will always remember the lessons I have learnt during my time at the RCS.

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After this I got changed quickly and made a mad dash to the Scottish Opera Building and I travelled to Kirkcudbright with Jane and Ian who very kindly took me with them so I didn’t have to drive after my adrenaline filled morning. We had a lovely trip in the most beautiful countryside. After lunch I went straight into a rehearsal in the new performance space so that the company and I were ready for our opening performance on Thursday morning.

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In between performances we were able to relax in the beautiful town, everyone was wonderful company. We took some lovely walks around the town and I visited the toll booth clock and Jessie M King’s house which both inspired the stage design for the opera.

By Saturday lunchtime we had performed five shows and then my family and George and Alex came and watched the public show in the afternoon. It was such a treat to perform for them and they got stuck in and helped the young children with the art workshop that takes place during the performance. After that the company and I took down the stage and started to pack it all into the van like a huge game of Tetris! Once completed we hit the road ready for a restful Sunday today.

This coming week we are performing two shows in Musselburgh and three in Falkirk.

I’m really excited to announce that I am working with Scottish Opera’s Education Department on their touring production of ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’.

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It is an interactive show for 5-8 year olds and their families. The tale is inspired by the illustrated story of the same name by “Glasgow Girl” and artist, Jessie M King; next year will be the 100th anniversary of the publication of the book.

In the interactive music adventure I play Jessie Junior who meets some fabulous characters; Gilbert; Dame Lucky; Sweetie Meg; and Boofoo the Talking Cat together we repair the town made from ‘cardboard’. The story will challenge and encourage the children to think about the area around them and how the buildings were they all live help to create a wonderful place to grow up.

It ties in nicely with 2016 being Scotland’s year of innovation, architecture and design. It has been a pleasure to work with the whole team over the past two weeks and I’m looking forward to our last week of production next week.

We will be going on tour to Kirkcudbright, Musselburgh, Falkirk, Aberdeen & Glenrothes from 26 May to 10 June. It will be a wonderful way to celebrate the end of my undergraduate degree and get some experience working in a company. I’m very grateful to Scottish Opera for the Experience.

Here are some pictures from rehearsal with my fellow performers, Francis Thorburn, John Kielty and Stuart Semple, learning so much from these guys, as well as my wonderful director Julie Brown and Music Director and Composer the fabulous Karen McIver. To help make our rehearsals run smoothly we have worked with Katy Nicolson, Paul Nobel and Dougal Gudim our talented technical stage management team. I wish I could show you a photo of the set its exciting and will intrigue the children, but you don’t need to be seven to watch it! It has been such a treat to work with such lovely people. I can’t wait to start again on Monday.

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Stuart Semple, Me, Francis Thorburn and John Kielty

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Karen McIver, Me, Julie Brown, Stuart Semple, Francis Thorburn and John Kielty

After a busy full week, as I’m also keeping on top of my preparations for my final recital, I was able to watch Scottish Opera’s ‘Mikado’ by Gilbert and Sullivan on Saturday night at the Theatre Royal. This brilliant comic opera by the British duo was incredibly humorous and fun to watch from curtain up to the bows.

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On my way in to the Theatre Royal to watch ‘The Mikado’

The comic timing between the company seemed effortless and was very effective in producing lots of tummy tickling moments. The set was fantastic and looked like a colourful Chinese pop-up book on super large scale. I particularly liked the giant skeleton and the male chorus of decapitated heads! Special congrats to cast and the Scottish Opera team for pulling the show together despite the unexpected and superbly executed fire alarm evacuation.

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Outside during the evacuation

It made the night even more memorable and unique especially when Pooh-Bah warns Ko-Ko of the imminent arrival of the Mikado by exclaiming ‘This isn’t a false alarm!’ causing rapturous laughter from all of the audience. This show is now on tour around Scotland and is going to Newcastle upon Tyne, Bristol and Southampton if you need cheering up or just a good laugh go to see this show:)

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Owen Wingrave

May 8, 2016 — 38 Comments

On Saturday, I had the pleasure to watch the opening night performance of Benjamin Britain’s ‘Owen Wingrave’ at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

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I must admit that it isn’t one of my favourite operas but I thought that the singers performed very convincingly and kept me engaged. I particularly enjoyed the four female characters in the ensemble pieces, their voices blended beautifully and created an interesting dynamic against the backdrop of the spooky grey mansion setting.

I was intrigued with the set design and lighting which was very atmospheric and interacted well with the performance space to create effects of new rooms and corridors. This gave the stage the look of a large country mansion devoid of warmth and coldly diseased due to the emptiness caused by the loss of family to ‘War’.

As a contrast to the visual setting it was lovely to hear the voices of the children’s choir in the second act, as they provided an eerie colour to the already tense storyline.

The direction of the opera was excellent and I found the use a young boy actor in the prologue intriguing as it helped set the scene by explaining the story behind the haunted room within the mansion. Another directorial highlight for me was the use of six young soldiers, who entered the space to suggest the night terrors Owen experienced about War.

There are  further performances on Monday 9th May, Wednesday 11th May and Friday 13th May.

Update: fab 4⭐️ review “Moving and brilliant: Owen Wingrave” @RCStweets 

RCSOn another note, I will be culminating my studies at the conservatoire with a recital on 25th May 2016.

It would be lovely to see some supportive and friendly faces in the audience 😊

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Happy May Day

May 1, 2016 — 69 Comments

I can’t believe that it is the 1st of May already, this year is just flying by with the end of my undergraduate course zooming towards me faster and faster. This weekend I have been researching and concluding the work on two of my academic essays and because I get so absorbed I find that the hours just disappear and I nearly forgot to put my post on. So rather than bore you all with the intricacies of my essays I wanted instead to share with you one of the craft projects that I started last time I was at home. I find the distraction of doing something totally different takes my mind off my studies for a while, then when I return to college I find that I am better able to push on and tackle new projects with extra energy and focus.

I wanted to create some gifts for friends that were a little different from the thank you cards that I would usually make at home. I flicked through some magazines and discussed some ideas with my Mum and decided to create some hanging hearts as they seemed an ideal way of saying thank you:)

I started with MDF hearts about 20cm by 20cm

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Then with the trusty essentials, PVA glue, foam risers, double sided tape and a hot glue gun it was time to get started.

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The first job is to select scraps of paper in colours and designs that you think will go together.

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For the first heart I cut out the backing paper with scissors, glued it down and finished off with a scalpel to fit.

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Stick it on to the MDF with PVA glue.

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To decorate I used chalk to dust the torn edges of pictures I had chosen. A torn map and a car I cut out of a sheet of men’s toppers you can get from craft shops.

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I finished off with a some musical accents, an mdf clock and a little ribbon to hang it with:)

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For the next heart I layered scraps of paper in strips and stuck them to the heart using PVA glue. Once dry I turned it over and cut off the excess paper with the scalpel.

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I wanted to use an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme for this heart using some decoupage images.

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Cutting them out and building up the picture with foam pads can be fiddly work.

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After putting together the rest of the items and glueing them down here is the finished article.  Playing cards from a set out of a Christmas cracker, a ‘drink me’ bottle from craft supplies from The Works, I cut out the teapot and china cup from a craft book and added hot glue to make the tea and coloured it when it was dry. Hope you enjoyed my craft day.

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This week we have celebrated some wonderful anniversaries. On Thursday 21st, celebrations took place for the Queen’s 90th Birthday and on St. George’s Day (Saturday 23rd) I had the pleasure to celebrate the anniversary of the 100th Alderley Edge Music Festival by performing in their fabulous gala concert.

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It was a wonderful event and celebrated the hard work and the success of the festival over the years and took place in the newly renovated Festival Hall. The hall was fantastically decorated with red, white and blue balloons and the stage had a star-lit back curtain which provided a beautiful setting for the concert and helped create a fabulous atmosphere! The full-house audience were neatly sat in lines of long tables that reached the length of the hall, ornamented with tremendous hors d’oeuvres and little British flags for everyone. The event was organised by the very talented Anna Meadmore who also compared the evening with her witty and reminiscent introductions. It was quite a party atmosphere!

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Natasha Agarwal and Me

The performers were from across the disciplines of music, speech and drama and showcased some of the talented individuals that participated in the festivals over the years and who have gone on to study or work professionally in their chosen fields. It was wonderful to see people that I watched when I was younger grow into very talented young men and women. It was lovely be reunited with the fabulous volunteers without whom the festival couldn’t take place and who were still so enthusiastic about the event, not forgetting the wonderful accompanists who were able to take centre stage for a change with two pieces for eight hands. I was also able meet some new faces who’s careers are beginning to take off. I wish everyone the best of luck with their future successes.

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Matthew Thistleton and Me

I had the pleasure of performing with Matthew Thistleton “La Ci Darem La Mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. We both arrived at the event without previously ever meeting and we only had a 20 minute slot to spontaneously create the romantic and cheeky staging that we devised between us in a short rehearsal.  It was wonderful to perform alongside him as he was so easy to work with and gave me lots of actions to react to, especially when he dropped to one knee and grabbed me at my waist! I hope we can share the stage again in the future.

The whole evening went tremendously well and I wish the festival another 100 successful years as I have many fond memories of entering numerous classes, photocopying and sellotaping reams of music scores for the accompanists, running from room to room (and even building to building!) singing my heart out and enjoying picnics in the middle of it all. But mostly I will be thankful for the musical lessons it taught me like how to pick yourself up after mistakes, gave advice on what to work on and how to deal with losses, how to work with accompanists and give your tempi and most importantly the friendships made along the way!

I would definitely recommend anyone interested in singing, instrumental playing or acting to look at the federation of music festivals and consider applying!

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Performers:
Adam Slater – Clarinet
Sophie Roberts – Special Composition
Oliver Rushton – Speech and Drama
Rosie Lomas – Soprano
Simeon Evans – Saxophone
Charlotte Deams – Speech and Drama
Charlotte Heaven – Cornet
Natasha Agarwal – Soprano
David Schofield – Piano
Marie Dixon – Music Hall
Dan Parr – Speech and Drama
Paul Exton McGuiness – Trombone
Helen Meadmore – Speech and Drama
Laurence Jeffcoate – Tenor
Emma Rushworth – Violin
Charlotte Hoather – Soprano
Matthew Thistleton – Bass
William Jeys – Trumpet

The Accompanists:
Tim Kennedy
Catherine Hall Smith
Kathleen Hesford
Stewart Death

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Me, Matt and Tom with our Pepa and Mema

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Me with my Mema

Sadly this week I also lost my Mema (Grandma), a loving woman whose life we will continue to celebrate through the memories that we have of her. Last night I dedicated my performance to her and I chose to sing in red dress as it was her favourite colour and though she will be missed it is comforting to know that I have another angel in heaven watching over me. God Bless Mema.

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Last weekend I had a short yet musical holiday to Treviso in Italy, where the sun was shining bright so I could recharge my batteries before a busy final term at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  The main reason for my visit was that I had been accepted to compete in the 8th International Competition “Giovani Musicisti – Città di Treviso”.

I had to prepare five arias for the preliminary round and a 15 minute program for the final. As always I prepared as well as I could and after visiting the Leeds lieder master-class the previous weekend I had some new ideas to try out to help improve my communication of the arias and the portrayal of the characters.

The other competitors were wonderful and very friendly. During the competition it was lovely to hear voices from Switzerland, Slovenia, China, Lithuania, Italy, Poland and Georgia and to be able perform alongside them.

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The stage was in a large converted cinema, that paid homage to Charlie Chaplin in its corridors with screen shots from his movies. The stage had rich velvet curtains draping the performance space, a selection of fresh cut flowers and two grand pianos. The day before the competition we were able to have a short rehearsal on the stage to test the acoustics and to get a feel for the space.

On the day of the competition at lunchtime I performed Rusalka’s “Song to the Moon” by Dvorak and “Prendi Per Me Sei Libero” by Donizetti in the preliminary round.  Following which I stayed to watch the other contestants who performed some glorious Arias such as ‘Chi Bel Sogno Di Doretta’ by Puccini and ‘Don José’s Flower Aria’ by Bizet. We all then had to wait until late afternoon for the results of who would go through to the final that evening.

At 16:00 a sheet was posted onto the notice board with the names of the contestants through to the final, mine was the only name on the list for my category which I thought a little strange at the time.  Apparently the competition has a very strict rule that unless you get at least 85/100 you cannot proceed to the final. I was shocked as the standard of singing from everyone there was very high.  So I began to mentally and physically prepare for the final which I knew would be both exciting and demanding as the standards were so high.  This meant dashing back to my hotel room to get my dress ready to perform again at 17:00 alongside the finalists from the older category.

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The River Sile In Treviso

In the early evening I went on stage again to perform my final program and gave it everything I’ve got. I tried to give every musical phrase a reason and a thought which provoked it. But in all honesty I don’t remember much as I went to a place of sheer concentration and the time just disappeared. But I know that I had a lot of fun and the adrenaline gave me such a rush I had to be careful descending from the stage via the stairs as my feet were quivering haha.

I then watched the three older singers who performed in the final of their category. All very lovely and extremely talented singers. The three were Chinese but study in Bologna so I was able to converse in Italian with them. (Which was very exciting!)

Then came the time for deliberation. The performers and audience had to leave and await the verdict. When the three judges had finished we were called forward. The three judges, who were all opera singers gave their verdict in Italian mainly, which I could understand but they broke it down into English at times (possibly because of the look of deep concentration on my face). Sadly they didn’t award any prizes to either category as they said this industry is very tough and often you learn more and will then work harder from receiving a ‘No’.

They explained that if we were all auditioning for work in Italy though we all sang well we still had areas that we needed to improve. They further explained that to be an opera singer you must be able to navigate and be efficient in all five main areas, idiomatic pronunciation, legato, projection, breathing, acting (colouring the voice).   Afterwards I was able to speak to the judges individually and discuss in more detail what I needed to address first and their comments have enabled me to create new tasks to work on with my teacher going into my final term and then to continue with during my master’s degree.

Reaching the final in my first non-UK based ‘International Competition’ was such an exciting experience and I can’t wait to try again.

So perhaps they were right telling me ‘No, try harder’.  Which is what I have already started to do after returning to Glasgow.

(Even though I don’t know how I have managed to raise the bar – I think I need an extra hour in every day:)  )

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Lewis Carroll

 

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Last Sunday 3rd April I was invited along with George Todica to attend the Leeds Lieder Festival hosted at the Leeds College of Music. The Leeds Lieder festival is an amazing opportunity for anyone interested in Art song to immerse themselves in this fabulous art form through performances, master-classes and pre –concert talks.

The master class on the Sunday was on between 10:00 am to 13:00 pm, presented by Roderick Williams, a baritone and the Artistic Director of the festival. It featured four duos from UK conservatoires and I thoroughly enjoyed their programmes and the insight provided by Roderick to each of the pieces. The master-class was very thought provoking and left me with plenty to think about for my own performances.

In the afternoon George and I performed alongside four other duos in the Master-class Fringe Concert held in the recital room. It was great opportunity to perform with other students from all over the country in this fabulous festival.

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The other duos were :
Andrew Henley ( tenor ) and Conal Bembridge-Sayers ( piano ) from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Emily Gray ( mezzo soprano ) and Francesca Fierro ( piano ) from Trinity Laban.
Adam Gouldin ( baritone ) and Marcus Bingham ( piano ) from Leeds College of Music
Michael Vickers ( baritone ) and Ljubica Stojanovic ( piano ) from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

During conversations with members of audience after the concert I got a real sense of the enthusiasm and passion that they had for the event and I was so pleased to have taken part.

If you are in the Leeds area next year between the 21st and the 23rd April then I would encourage you to drop in and listen to what is on offer I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

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