Last week I was privileged to be in the company of Dame Gwyneth Jones. On Wednesday 2nd October, I went to see her being interviewed by Humphrey Burton at the Glasgow Film Theatre with a group of friends from the RCS. Mr Burton’s first job was in the Opera world and he got to look after Maria Callas, an idol of mine, in 1958.

At the end of the evening with Dame Gwyneth Jones,
Dame Gwyneth Jones is a fascinating lady that draws your attention from the start.  She was born on the 7th November 1936 and when she was just 3 years old her mother died at the young age of 28, she got involved in local welsh singing festivals called eisteddfod’s.  Whilst watching a performance of a children’s choir singing  “They’re Changing the Guards at Buckingham Palace” she decided from then on she wanted to dress up an sing for the rest of her life.  Dame Gwyneth Jones’ first singing lessons were with ‘the girl down the road’. But when her teacher decided to stop teaching she told her “don’t bother learning how to sing as you are not good enough”. :O!!!!  She smuggled herself into a children’s choir with her friend so she could get singing lessons by observing the classes. She was found out eventually though as one night she fainted.  The choir mistress taught her from then on.

She has great stage presence
Dame Gwyneth Jones obtained a place at the Royal College of Music age 18, sadly her father died an hour before she received her letter of placement.  She auditioned for a scholarship at an Opera Studio in Zürich.  At the school in Zürich Czech soprano Maria Carpi taught Dame Gwyneth Jones her technique for the top of the voice which she vouches for even now.  “Technique, technique, technique – that’s what will make your career”, if you have your technique “you can fly!” she explained to her attentive audience.

One thing that really came across to me is her work ethic.  At one time she was learning six Operas in a season.  She has sung all of the Strauss, Verdi, Wagner and Puccini roles I admire her so much.  We were shown a clip of her performance in Turandot, the clip begins with a climatic and intense long walk in silence, Mr Burton exclaimed in a panic “excuse me” indicating there may be a problem to the technical staff.  Dame Gwyneth Jones silenced him with “Shut up, it’s my long silent entrance!”  She has a very strong character and she and Mr Burton have been friends a long time.

Dame Jones was picked up early in her career by Decca records.
She divulged some really useful pearls of wisdom and if you want to know more then you will have to go and see her next show 🙂

We were also introduced to her husband conductor and pianist Adrian Müller who was to accompany her during the master classes to be held at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I am often asked if I sing modern popular music and although I enjoy listening to and singing along to modern pop music and crossover music, my preference is for classical repertoire as it is so vast, fabulous and difficult to do well. I love the personal challenge as I’ve never been one to take a shorter route to what I hope to achieve and I want to find my own voice, unique and not like anyone else.

Renee Fleming, an absolute idol of mine says: “ Opera singers are really the Olympic athletes of singing. We perform virtuosic music without amplification. At the same time, we work with a very delicate instrument, so a solid technique is crucial to avoiding damage. Having a wonderful sound at 18 is no guarantee of having a career, especially one that will last. So I am a believer in undergraduate and conservatory programs that give the voice time to mature and the singer time to hone her technique.”

Dame Gwyneth Jones then went on to hold masterclasses with the Masters students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland later on the Thursday and Friday; I sat in on all of them, what a remarkable lady.  I had to leave one lesson early to catch my train back to Cheshire on Friday afternoon and I could barely pull myself away.  I had been paying attention though and rather than walk out of the auditorium whilst she was speaking I decided to leave during a short recess, approached her husband and told him what a marvellous time I’d had and excused myself.

Well I will have to sign off as the pace of a hectic weekend along with the fifth day of my cold is begging me to get some rest as it is another full day at College tomorrow 🙂

Once I get chance to sort through the pictures and videos of the weekend’s concerts I will put a post on for you later in the week 🙂

20 thoughts on “Viva la Diva !

  1. Charlotte, still a wonderful story. When you read it seems to be near you.
    For your chill, if you do not take medicine, try rosemary infusion with honey and a spoonful of whiskey.
    And if your voice to problèeme the secret of an opera singer is an infusion of violet flowers …(it was using by La Callas)
    Take care of yourself girl.
    best wishes

    1. Merci Pascal, Dame Jones is a fabulous 76 year old, her birthday is next month just a few days before mine ;). She had so much good advice to offer.
      The chill remedies sound interesting although I don’t like whiskey, my flat mate is a Scot so I guess he’ll have some. It’s a blocked nose and sinus more than a sore throat luckily.
      Best wishes

      1. For violet in the herbalist to parmacie, waiting for spring to pick …. Rosemary “Rosmarinus” herbalist, pharmacy, dietetics store next to the tea ……. I have full garden ……. I can send you…..and alcool is not necessary. .

    1. Hi Colleen, I hate not being able to stop a cold getting hold, one minute I was fine last Wednesday going to yoga and feeling fit, that night a blocked nose – yikes – just before a two day weekend of concerts. Thank goodness for paracetamol and vics vapour rub ;). I stayed positive and managed to drink plenty and keep it off my throat.
      Best wishes

  2. Take care of yourself snd hope you feel better soon. Pascal might have sonething there for a remedy for your cold. My grandfather believed in whiskey, honey and lemon and he would burn off the alcohol with a match. It seemed to work and made you feel warm all over. Lol!

  3. Viva la Diva…love the title! It must be pretty inspiring to meet the people you do, especially someone you admire & a bit of a mentor like Dame Jones. Get some rest 🙂

    1. There are some great opportunities up in Glasgow 😉
      Dame Jones is so attractive and full of energy and vibrancy and to still be doing what she loves must be amazing.
      I’ve had two early nights ;). I’m a morning person and have always woken up between 6:45 and 7:00am, I’m lying in bed blogging so I am resting I just hope I can do my yoga tomorrow 😉
      Best wishes

  4. Love your story about Dame Jones and it sounds like a fabulous lady who’s had a fabulous life, but not without hard work, struggles, and lots to overcome with losing both parents. I admire your desire to work on your singing and sing in a class with the best. How wonderful that you got the opportunity to observe her first hand. I’m thinking you have a wonderful future ahead of yourself also as it sounds like your work ethic isn’t lacking either. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Feel better soon. Enjoyed my visit.

    1. Before her Opera career took off she worked as a book-keeper and was a chief washer for a company. I’ve found making a good cup of tea and coffee always makes it easy to get on with colleagues at work 😉 lol
      Dame Jones revealed stories about performing in the evening then early the next morning jumping on to planes or in a car to make the next performance on time so it is important to build up good stamina, luckily I find it very easy to cat nap for an hour during the day and sleep in a car or train 😉 which is a bit harder if you’re travelling on a train alone.
      Thanks for your lovely message.
      Best wishes

  5. “I’ve never been one to take a shorter route to what I hope to achieve and I want to find my own voice, unique and not like anyone else.”
    Some day, an aspiring singer will be writing about meeting you and being inspired by you.

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