Meeting Christiane Karg

September 17, 2017 — 25 Comments

 

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The Albert Memorial In The London Sunshine

I have had such a wonderful first week back in London. The sun has been shining and wonderful music has been made.

I was lucky enough to get a student standby ticket for Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House. The performance took place on Thursday and I managed to get a ticket for £10 in the Grand Tier Left. It was such a treat as I was so close to the stage yet far enough away to be able to soak in the beautiful voices and admire and learn from the stagecraft of the talented singers. I particularly enjoyed Siobhan Stagg who performed the role of Pamina. Her silver-toned voice soared and portrayed a young woman with vulnerability balanced with moments of bravery. This was a truly beautiful production directed by David McVicar and conducted by Julia Jones and if you get the chance to come and watch it I would definitely recommend it.

Here are some of the official Royal Opera House production pictures from their Flikr page. I have also added their YouTube trailer which I hope you enjoy.

Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.
Rebecca Evans as First Lady, and Sabine Devieilhe as Queen of the Night In Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.
Mauro Peter as Tamino and Siobhan Stagg as Pamina In Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.e-09-09-17-ROH-3179 MAURO PETER AS TAMINO, SIOBHAN STAGG AS PAMINA (C) ROH. PHOTO TRISTRAM KENTON
Peter Bronder as Monostatos In Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.
Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.
Mauro Peter as Tamino In Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.
Siobhan Stagg as Pamina and Peter Bronder as Monostatos In Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.
Sabine Devieilhe as Queen of the Night In Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera Season 2017/18 © ROH 2017. Photograph by Tristram Kenton.

On Saturday, I was able to live one of my dreams and hear Christiane Karg live at Wigmore Hall, London. Karg has been an idol of mine for a while and I have learned a lot through her recordings about vocal colour, storytelling, and beauty of line. It was an absolute gift to have been able to watch her perform live in such a wonderful venue. She was accompanied by the entrancing and cheeky Gerold Huber on piano. Their program of Schubert, Schumann, Pfitzner, and Mahler was both enchanting and breathtaking. I even got the chance to meet her backstage and she agreed to have a picture with me. She was a delight on and off stage and shall remain as one of my favourite Opera singers. I must admit that I was terribly giddy when I met her and that I have my silly grin in the picture below, but I’m so starstruck I don’t mind.

 

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Me With Christiane Karg After The Concert

These experiences have fuelled me with excitement and motivation in perfect time for my first week back at the Royal College of Music next week. I can’t wait!

An Exciting Year Ahead

September 3, 2017 — 83 Comments

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

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

Scottish Opera

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

Blackburn Music Society

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

Thames Philharmonic Choir

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

Salford Choral Society

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting For David

Julie Burns, Lee Reynolds, Me, and Laura Sergeant

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Julie Burns, Me, and Lee Reynolds

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

 

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Me and my Brother Matt

 

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Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck

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

Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid

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

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Velvet Evening Seance

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

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Into The Woods

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

Into The Woods

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

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

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

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

The Edinburgh Festival

August 6, 2017 — 78 Comments

Header 6th August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save The Dates !!

July 30, 2017 — 68 Comments

[ This is a new promotional video from Scottish Opera for BambinO ]

With August, almost upon us and preparations for the ‘BambinO’ performances at the Edinburgh Festival about to start, I am busy working on my rehearsal schedules for the coming months.  One of the most important things that I have found whilst studying music is the need for good forward planning.  If you don’t sit down and spend quality time working out rehearsal schedules you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed quite quickly.  I try not to put things off, it is better to know what needs to be accomplished and set time aside to achieve the goals that you have set to complete.

I try and work through my diary and schedule my time as accurately as possible.  I set myself tasks for each day and then again for each week.  This allows me to be realistic about what I can achieve in the time available to me.  Knowing what concert and College commitments I have over the horizon is so important as these need to be introduced into my schedule with enough lead time to complete them.

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Back in December 2016 I received an e-mail quite out of the blue from Gary Waller, the chairman of the Gustav Mahler Society. Having read my blog and listened to my recording of Strauss’s ‘Zueignung’ he invited me to perform at a recital as part of their 2017 programme of events.  I was quite taken aback at the time and was thrilled to have been asked, the fact that the enquiry had come after reading my blog was just ‘the cherry on the top’.

Following the initial enquiry, we exchanged several e-mails, met on a number of occasions, and a date and location for the concert were agreed.  Over the months Gary has been wonderful, supporting my recitals, enthusiastic with his encouragement, and understanding of my work and college commitments. I am hoping to perform a mixed programme with a little something for everyone.  With pieces by Mahler, Strauss, Schubert, Wolf, Liszt, Grieg, Quilter, and Dvorak.  The date is Tuesday 10 October 2017 at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Church Hall, Bishopsgate, EC2M 3TL Tickets are available from The Gustav Mahler Society.

Gustav Mahler

To prepare a rehearsal schedule for an event such as this, there are several areas that I need to factor in and work on. For each new song, I have to translate the lyrics, both literally and poetically, trying to visualise in my mind what I think the composer or poet wanted to achieve with the song. I then learn the music and how this interacts with the accompaniment.  I then bring the lyrics and the music together working on the alignment and clarity of vowels and then concentrate on how to articulate each consonant so that the text can be understood, whilst making sure the legato line is not disturbed. Finally, it all comes together so that I have my interpretation of the song which I hope reflects a little of my own personality too.

To close tonight I just want to thank everyone who downloaded a copy of ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’ and I hope that you enjoyed it and that it made you smile.

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Update: Monday 31st July 2017, I’ve just received the very sad and quite shocking news that my friend Gary Waller died suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend. We had only spoken recently when Gary asked me to learn Schubert’s ‘An Sylvia’ for the concert as it was one of his favourites and I’ve been singing it today. I will remember him every time I sing it. Even though I’d only met Gary this past year in London, I feel we knew each other really well as he read my blog religiously and always sent me a supportive message to encourage me. Our concert has been postponed whilst the Mahler Society come to terms with his immense loss. We shall miss him, I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Down The Rabbit Hole

July 23, 2017 — 77 Comments

Down The Rabbit Hole- Cover Art

My third and final album from my time studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is now available to download at Amazon and iTunes, or to listen to on all the streaming sites. It’s my attempt to fund my living costs for my second year of Masters of Music Performance in London (my 6th year of study).  You may remember George Todica and I dressing as Alice and the Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to get into character for the cover of our English Speaking and Song concept album.  Pascal Barnier used those photographs to imaginatively create the artwork that now hangs on my Mum’s office wall and is used on my ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ album cover.

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All of the songs are classical English Art Songs and the spoken sections are prose and a monologue from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.  It’s quite bonkers and a bit ‘off the wall’ but I didn’t want to lose it, so we recorded it live last year.  ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll is the epitome of nonsense literature and fills our heads with imagination.

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The album is my reimagining of adventurous Alice exploring ‘down the rabbit hole’. Using the vast depth of English song repertoire full of wonderfully illustrative poetry and Lewis Carroll’s prose to rework the tale of one glorious golden afternoon’s adventure, where everything is imagined as the only weapon in the war against reality –with a philosophy of life to finish my program when a girl goes through that awkward stage of transition, imagined by her sister at the end of the book, and how she hoped Alice would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood.  If you want to know more about what happened in Wonderland you will need to read the wonderful book.  I tried to tailor the songs to express my ideas and emotions about the start and end of Alice’s Adventure and in the words of the King of Heart’s ‘Begin at the beginning…and go on till you come to the end: then stop’.

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1. Sweet Chance That Led My Steps Abroad

‘Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and having nothing to do: when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her’.  I selected Michael Head’s ‘Sweet Chance That Led My Steps Abroad’, using the poetry ‘A Great Time’ by W.H. Davies to create the scene.

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Punting In Cambridge

2.  A Piper

 Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge’.  I imagined the White Rabbit was rather like the Pied Piper leading Alice astray so follows ‘A Piper’ also by Michael Head from O’Sullivan poetry. It’s one of my favourite English songs.  

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3. Do Not Go My Love

“Why, how impolite of him. I asked him a civil question, and he pretended not to hear me. That’s not at all nice. I say, Mr. White Rabbit, where are you going? Hmmm. He won’t answer me and I do so want to know what he is late for, I wonder if I might follow him. Why not? There’s no rule that I mayn’t go where I please. I– I will follow him. Wait for me, Mr White Rabbit. I’m coming, too.”

Do Not Go My Love’ without asking my leave by Hageman with text by Tagore.  This is an English song I’ve sung for a couple of years and was included to represent the dreamlike fall into the unknown.

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4. Monologue

‘I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?  I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth…  I wonder if I will fall right through the earth! How funny that would be. Oh, I think I see the bottom.  Yes, I’m sure I see the bottom.  I shall hit the bottom, hit it very hard and oh how it will hurt!’

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5. Let the Florid Music Praise

At this moment, Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out “The Queen! The Queen!”, and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked round, eager to see the Queen…… “And who are these?” said the Queen, pointing to the three gardeners who were lying round the rose-tree; … How should I know? Said Alice, surprised at her own courage.  It’s no business of mine.”  The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, screamed “Off with her head! Off___

Only one song could fit this moment of chaos at the end of the day ‘Let the Florid Music Praise’ by Benjamin Britten with the words of WH Auden.  I chose this dark humourous song because it’s so full of energy and excitement I think it fits that moment of panic, with a bold opening flutes and trumpets, imperial standards flying, hot sun raising temperatures.  The unloved Queen of Hearts with too much power.

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The three final songs were chosen from works by Roger Quilter (1877-1953).

6. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

“Wake up, Alice Dear! said her sister…why, what a long and lovely sleep you’ve had’.Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal’ now the white. The beautiful sonnet poetry of this song is by Lord Tennyson.  Tennyson discloses in this poem the stillness of the twilight, beautiful rest and stillness of sleep.  That time in sleep opens your heart and mind to new adventures with an emphasis on what you can see.

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7. Dream Valley

“Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!” said Alice. And she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange adventures’.   Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been. Memory, hither come, begins Dream Valley’ with words by Blake .  Lewis Carroll’s adventures included: happy and sad tales with lots of morals.

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8. Love’s Philosophy

Lastly, her sister sat still just as she left her… till she too began dreaming after a fashion:

‘As Alice remembered her dream, her sister, …. pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman… ‘.  ‘Loves Philosophy’ with poetry by Shelley that describes how different parts of nature interact and depend upon one another and is a classic story of unrequited love using natural imagery.

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I was very fortunate to have George Todica as my accompanist, he has now completed his Master’s degree in Piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is undertaking several large competitions this year to launch his career; he also has an engagement next year ( 2018 ) at The Wigmore Hall, London.

Team BanbinO

Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, Me, Martin Wooley, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple

It is hard to believe that our time here in Manchester has come to an end.  We have performed in Manchester, Wigan, Hyde, Heywood, Oldham, finishing today in Salford.  The staff and Volunteers from the Manchester International Festival have been fantastic and made us feel so welcome at each venue.

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Me with Gwyneth, One Of The MIF Volunteers

Today we all said goodbye as we went our separate ways for a couple of weeks before we get back together again in Glasgow to prepare for the Edinburgh Festival.  We start our first performances there on the 8th August and run through to 20th August 2017.

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Sam Phillips, Laura Sergeant, Timothy Connor, Me, Stuart Semple, Sophie Skellern, David Sneddon

This is one of the duets from the opera that I sing with Timothy Connor

 

Here are some links to press reviews of the production:

‘The payoff for an initiative like this is incalculable…rarely has innocent pleasure felt more vital.’  Please read this review as it is an insightful article which delves into the accessibility of opera and pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

★★★★★ Fiona Maddocks – The Observer

‘Full marks to BambinO. Opera can work for babies, and maybe one day they’ll come to enjoy it as adults, too…’ 

★★★★ Robert Beale – The Arts Desk

‘…it was genuinely moving to see a little girl of no more than nine months giggling with delight as the soprano, Charlotte Hoather, imitated bird sounds during a playful yet beautiful aria

Sam Jackson – The Times

‘…the joy of something like this is watching the joy in your little one’s face.’

★★★★ Dianne Bourne – Manchester Evening News

This video about ‘BambinO’, from the FaceBook page of the BBC, has received over 1.3 million views so far !!