A Sojourn in Paris

April 22, 2018 — 44 Comments

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During my free time whilst working in Paris I have enjoyed reading your comments so thank you for taking the time writing them, I have also enjoyed eating delicious food, practicing my French, visiting galleries and walking my socks off. I thought this week I’d share some of my highlights and places to visit in case you may be planning a trip to Paris, or just wondering what it’s like.

The team and I stayed super central, near Les Halles, in the Citadine Hotel. Our rooms came with a little kitchenette which proved very budget friendly during a long stay. We were very close to bustling cafes and bars that populate Paris.  I slept extremely well but that may be because I was running after crawling babies all day.

 

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Louis, Me, and Matthew at Café Vigouroux

 

We quickly made Café Vigouroux on 10 rue des Halles our local. The staff there were friendly but strict with our French lessons that were to come. I will remember fondly, trying to ask Louis (one of the owners alongside Matthew) for the internet ´passwort’ in a wonderful mash-up of German and French. I quickly realised saying a word in a French accent with some conjugated verbs was not going to cut it. Louis then taught me to say ‘Qu’est-ce que les mots de pass pour le wifi?’ Which on my travels was very useful. Another great phrase for those trying to save some pennies ‘Je voudrai une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.’ Which enables you to ask for tap water – l’eau du robinet. This was particularly handy during the beautiful sunny weather we experienced during our stay. If you are in this area of Paris I would definitely recommend you to stop by Café Vigourou.

The food in Paris was très délicieux! I visited a few restaurants for my evening meal. Amongst my favourites were:

Café Plume on 164 Rue Saint-Honoré, this restaurant and thriving evening bar served the most exquisite dauphinoise potatoes, that when Stuart (our percussionist) and I tasted them, we decided we simply had to bring the rest of company there to visit. This recommendation was very well received and confirmed with six empty plates.

Au Terminus du Châtelet on 5 Rue des Lavandières Saint-Opportune, is a beautiful traditional French restaurant, which I believe is in its 4th generation of family management. The Bambino team shared our first meal here and the food was outstanding. The menu is changed daily, responding to the chef’s inspirations based on the produce for the current season. A real delight for the palate!

Le 6 Paul Bert on 6, rue Paul Bert 😉(catchy and helpful name), a un tres goûteux menu (had a very tasty menu). The restaurant grows their own vegetables and take great pride in the produce used in their dishes. With great lighting and attentive service, this is certainly worth the walk.

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In between eating and more eating, I was able to burn off some calories by exploring Paris on foot (hence the trainers). During my adventures, I visited many of Paris’ beautiful museums and art galleries. I didn’t realise, before Laura (our cellist) advised me, that I could visit most of these museums for free because I am under 26. (Make the most of this deal if you can, all you need is proof of age!) So as a true bargain hunter I tried to visit as many as I could. My all-time favourite was Musée d’Orsay, it was here that I was able to see  Renoir, Monet, Rousseau (who I remember studying in High School ´Tiger in a tropical storm’ springs to mind) and more, my favourite piece of art in the gallery was Galatée by Morceau. I am now in search of a print of this image. The internet pictures do not give justice to the brilliance and sparkle that he has been able to achieve in the original to capture the mythical and magical subject it’s inspired by.

My favourite places to read, relax and study my music in the sun were the ‘Jardin du Luxembourg’, I will remember fondly the beautiful arrangements of tulips, the outstanding palace which now holds the Sénat, the beautiful water fountains, and the Grand Bassin, an octagonal pond where children can play with toy sailboats that can be rented. I lost many hours here and will miss this spot greatly.  My other little spot was the little garden that surrounded Saint-Jacques tower. A peaceful place to people watch and listen to some great French jazz.

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To get an amazing panorama view of Paris for free, visit the rooftop of the Galleries Lafayette! I was recommended the Pompidou Centre too, however, I thought the windows of the viewing deck needed a good scrub clean, but if you walk down to level 4 or 5 the view is very lovely there too.

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If you love flowers don’t miss Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II. One of the marketers told me flowers have been sold there since 1808 and are the oldest market of any kind in Paris. I sadly missed this, but my friend told me that on Sundays it turns into an eccentric bird market, where one can purchase a fine creature of flight! Next time I visit I’ll try to go on a Sunday!

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On that note, I will bring my recommendations to a close, if you are interested in anymore please do get in touch! These are just the tip of the iceberg, but my main piece of advice is talk to the locals take their recommendations and walk, walk, walk and soak up the amazing atmosphere that is Paris!

Next stop New York, I can’t believe I’m actually saying that 🙂

 

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Me, David, and Alison on an open top bus tour of Paris

 

 

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Laura Sergeant, Tim Connor, Ruth MacKenzie ( Théâtre du Châtelet ), Me, and Stuart Semple

The venue for our final week’s performances of BambinO is the CentQuatre, it is a huge exhibition and performance space owned and financed by the City of Paris.  We are using one of the many smaller performances areas within this amazing building, which in total covers over 25,000 square metres and can accommodate over 5000 visitors per day.

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Outside one of the great halls at the CentQuatre

I discovered that the building has over 200 artists in residence and provides a varied and intriguing mix of both live performances and static Art exhibitions.  It is hard to visualise that this building originally housed the city undertakers for Paris, for over 120 years it employed over 1000 people who arranged over 150 funeral processions each day.  In 1993 the municipal monopoly on the provision of funerals came to end and the building finally closed in 1998.  Luckily the building was registered as a historical monument and with the backing of the people of Paris, the Mayor went about finding out the best way to both safeguard and reuse the space.  In 2008 I think that they achieved both when it reopened in its current configuration, and I hope that it continues to provide Parisians with a place to socialise, a grand exhibition space, and somewhere to enjoy a wide variety of live performances.

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Inside CentQuatre

Our run here at CentQuatre finishes on the Friday 20th April, which will also mark the end of our short tour here in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet. It has been a wonderful time with some amazing venues and I will be sad to say goodbye when we have to leave next Saturday, so instead, I’ll just say au revoir.

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After One Of Our Performances Last Week at Bibliothèque Jacqueline de Romilly

 

Some press links :

France Musique

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MSN Video

 

 

I arrived in Paris with the rest of Team BambinO and we were immediately welcomed by everyone at the Théâtre du Châtelet.  The French audiences have been amazing and with the first few shows successfully completed I can’t wait to continue the run.  It is crazy to look out across the city skyline from each of the venues and see so many iconic landmarks.

I have managed to practice speaking French and more importantly understanding replies and been happy to walk around Paris in the Spring sunshine. Here are a few photographs that I have taken for my scrapbook that I wanted to share with you all.

 

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Tim Connor, Alison Reid, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple, Lissa Lorenzo, Me, and Laura Sergeant on the balcony of our changing room at the British Consul, Paris.

 

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The set laid out ready for our performance at the Conservatoire Municipal, Les Halles, Paris

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The three pictures above are from the Flower Market on the Île de la Cité, Paris.

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Stravinsky Fountain, 2 Rue Brisemiche, near the Pompidou Centre, Paris.

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This stunning iron-work sculpture is on the wall of the building next to the Le théâtre de la Tour Eiffel, Paris.

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The view of the Eifel Tower across from the British Consul, Paris

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Basilique Sainte-Clotilde, 23B Rue las Cases, Paris

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At the bottom of the Rue des Dechargeurs as the Paris marathon passes on the Rue de Rivoli

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The Metro at Place Colette, close to the Musée du Louvre, Paris

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In the Jardin Nelson Mandela near to the Chatelet Les Halles, Paris

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Inside the In the Chatelet Les Halles, Paris

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Inside Galeries Lafayette,Paris.

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The view from the roof of the Galeries Lafayette Paris

In between practice and rehearsals, it has been great to read all your comments this week and I will try and answer them if time permits whilst away in France.  I have enjoyed catching up with my friends in Glasgow as we prepare for our mini tour and I managed to get the opportunity to Interview Lliam Paterson the composer of BambinO.

I am so happy that I am finally able to share some more amazing news with you all, we are to take ‘BambinO’ to New York 😊 at the end of April for the Metropolitan Opera. I never dreamt that being a part of this fantastic production would allow me to visit and perform in both Paris and New York.

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Lliam Paterson and Me

Liam when we met you were the resident emerging artist Composer at Scottish Opera, what did this entail?

The first thing to say is what an amazing opportunity it was to be resident in a national opera company! The level of support and the inspiring atmosphere were really outstanding. Scottish Opera helped to nurture my theatrical instincts, and importantly the company wasn’t afraid to take risks in commissioning a hitherto unknown young composer!

When I first arrived at Scottish Opera, I worked on small-scale pieces: I wrote miniature operas for the marvelous Opera Highlights tours, which take opera to the farthest flung parts of Scotland! It was marvelous knowing that my little dramatic works – each written to a comic libretto of my own devising – would be performed dozens of times all around the country. I also wrote a fanfare to celebrate the opening of the new Theatre Royal foyer in Glasgow in 2015.

After this, I was commissioned to produce large-scale works. The 8th Door was a new opera to partner Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, performed in a co-production with Vanishing Point in a production by Matthew Lenton, and conducted by Sian Edwards. During the process of working on this, Jane Davidson – head of Scottish Opera’s Education Department – commissioned me to write an opera for babies aged 6 to 18 months! The resulting piece – BambinO – opened at Manchester International Festival last year in a production directed by Phelim McDermott.

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The 8th Door – Photo By Mihaela Bodlovic

For both works, I had lots of workshop time facilitated by Scottish Opera. I worked really closely with Matthew Lenton for The 8th Door and with Phelim McDermott and design team Giuseppe and Emma Belli for BambinO. I learned so much about all aspects of creating powerful opera through working with these amazingly creative people!
I also did a lot of repetiteur work for the company, ranging from regular playing for the Connect Company (Scottish Opera’s youth opera) to Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Greek at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Where did you go to High School?

I attended the Aberdeen City Music School and for my last two years of school went to St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh.

When did Composition become your main interest?

I become really fascinated by the idea of composing around the age of 12, although my first work came the following year! For most of secondary school, my main studies revolved around the piano and French horn. However, I realised early on those composers of the past had all been performers too, so for that point on performance and composition were totally linked for me.

What were your favourite subjects and which subjects most helped you to achieve your goals looking back with hindsight?

I loved English and Art & Design more than anything!
Creative writing and Art both help you develop a uniquely subjective view of the world. This is so important in composition, where you have to really believe in the integrity of the sound world you create, whatever it is!

What did you do after high school?

After school, I studied music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, and subsequently studied for a Masters in piano accompaniment and repetituer studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I started my residency at Scottish Opera even before I’d graduated from Guildhall!

What instruments do you play? What age did you start lessons? Are your family from an art or musical background?

I play the piano and any keyboard instrument that’s put in front of me! For recent opera performances, I’ve played digital piano (set to a fantastic retro 80s synth sound!) and harmonium! I played French horn until I was twenty, but piano and composition took up all my time by my second year at university.

I started piano lessons around age nine and horn the following year. Before that, I was already singing in the Haddo Children’s Choir, which really developed my ear.

I’m from a very creative family – my parents went to the Glasgow School of Art, as did many other family members, and my sister has had a very varied career in the arts, from working in the film industry and radio broadcasting, to teaching English! Although my parents aren’t musicians, they have a very broad interest in the arts, so it feels natural that I ended up as a musician. They encouraged open-mindedness but the impetus for getting involved in music came from me I think! I became obsessed with the idea of playing the harp for some reason! My sister was also in orchestras and choirs all through secondary school.

Scottish Opera's Emerging Artists 2016

If you hadn’t gone down the Music/Composition route, what would you do instead? Is there any way you can interweave this into your future career?

I think I would have attempted a career writing fiction and being an academic in a university English department somewhere! It’s wonderful that I now have the opportunity to write my own libretti and devise scenarios for theatre works. It’s much collaborative but still uses my instinct for creative writing!
I’m also a huge fan of film across a wide range of genres! I think this partly stems from my sister’s involvement in the film world! Film really flared up as a big passion at university and remains so today – I collect the BFI’s Sight and Sound magazine and the film journal Little White Lies. I’m currently writing my first film score for a documentary, so it’s brilliant to get my first taste of this business from the creative end of things!

Who would you say are your main role models not just for composition but for life too?

Composer Sofia Gubaidulina for her absolute integrity in everything she does; film critic Mark Kermode for his insights on the importance of film makers’ views of the world and the need to challenge censorship in art; composer John Luther Adams for his connectedness to the environment and his use of music as a powerful reflection of the state of the world; composer Lili Boulanger for reaching profound depths in her work at such an early age despite suffering from debilitating illness and being in the midst of war; film-maker David Cronenberg for the uncompromising vision of his work; composer Philip Glass for the amazing volume and diversity of work he has achieved in his life!

Recently when I have been sourcing contemporary music, I had problems finding
music for a small ensemble, (piano and voice). Is accessibility a concern when you compose or do think that would sacrifice musical integrity?

I think of accessibility as allowing a way in to a musical work for a listener, whether they are a musician or not. How do you grip a listener’s attention in the opening moments of a work to keep them interested? How do I move between consonance and dissonance in my music to keep dramatic tension but overload an audience not accustomed to new music?
I believe that if you make accessibility a core element of your approach to art, it doesn’t affect musical integrity.

You have been writing Operas is this your preference? If so why?

I love the dramatic immediacy of opera, and music’s interconnectedness to all the other art forms that make up opera: set design, lighting, acting, etc. Music in opera is not abstract: it can propel dramatic action just as it can become the soul of a character. I become inspired by my role in an art work that is greater than the sum of its parts! I am inspired by conversations with directors, librettists, set designers and so on. There is much ‘abstract’ music I also love, but the writing process is much more of an interior one, at least for me. I love the sociability of creativity in opera.

Do you ever enter your compositions into competitions? And what are your thoughts about them?

I have entered my compositions into competitions in the past. For instance, I won the 2014 International Frederic Mompou Composition Competition in Barcelona. Competitions are as much the reflection of a jury’s taste (or the tensions between jurors) as they are a reflection of quality and integrity on the part of competitive artists. Competitions can give a much needed financial boost to an artist in the early stages of their career, as well as giving artists a platform to hone their craft in a highly pressurised environment.

For composers, competitions almost never launch a career – but they are useful if the prize involves the performance of a work for orchestra or other large-scale forces. I’ll end with the much-quoted (and probably miss-quoted!) saying of Béla Bartók: ‘Competitions are for horses, not for people!’ People have very unique strengths and qualities that competitions often don’t have room to recognise.

Do you have a particular approach when you write a new opera/large scale works?

Usually, I do as much research as possible at the start of a project, reading about the subject matter of a new opera from many different angles. Discussions with other collaborators on a large-scale project are also crucial to making many decisions about the work at an early stage.

I write a sketch score of an opera very quickly, usually working to a strict routine every day. Then I play through the sketch score a lot to get a sense of how the dramatic pacing is working, and make extensive amendments if needed. After this, I orchestrate the work and revise as I go.

If possible, I like to speak to singers cast in one of my works as soon as it is finished, so I can respond to any concerns and make revisions. If I know a singer’s voice beforehand, this is in my mind throughout the creative process, and I hear their voice as I write their vocal lines. This was the case with your role of Uccellina in BambinO!

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement…. that would have to be my name appearing in the New York Times in an article about the Metropolitan Opera performing BambinO! I love the New York Times and am a subscriber, so that was a thrill!

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BambinO – Photo By Jamie Glossop

Do certain places inspire you to compose?

I can compose almost anywhere, but I prefer to be in a room with large windows overlooking a city! The Board Room on the top floor of Scottish Opera’s Elmbank Crescent building was my composing base for three years!
Natural landscapes and open skies inspire me very much, especially those of the North- East of Scotland. I also love Suffolk, Aldeburgh in particular.

What are your future aspirations?

I would love to continue writing opera and to explore collaborating across different art forms. In future, I hope to collaborate with other artists who also seek to fuse opera and film.

Finally, Lliam What is your favourite colour?

Coming from a family of visual artists, I have always been sensitive to the different tonal qualities of colour! I am most drawn to blue in all its many shades.

Thank you Lliam for being so open and giving us your time and a peek into your world.

Here is a link to Lliam’s website: Lliam Paterson

BambinO Takes Flight

March 25, 2018 — 66 Comments

Bonjour Paris text with tower eiffel and bicycle. Romantic postcAs the Easter Holidays approach, I have some great news to share with you all, I have been asked by Scottish Opera and Improbable to join my friends Tim Connor, Stuart Semple and Laura Sergeant to perform ‘BambinO’ in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet this April.

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

But before leaving London I had to make sure that I returned all the books that I borrowed from the RCM library for my recent project ‘Women In Music’, my backpack was a lot lighter on the way home 🙂

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I arrived back in Glasgow late on Thursday night and it was great to team up with my friends again on Friday morning for rehearsals to refresh the show for the French audiences.  It is amazing to see how this wonderful mini-opera, written by Lliam Paterson and directed by Phelim McDermott, has progressed since we first got together back in December 2016.  I can remember seeing the set and the costumes for the first time, designed by Emma & Giuseppe Belli, trying to visualise how the babies would respond to their imaginative use of props and move around the fabulous space created for each performance.

Following our performances in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow last year I can’t believe that we will now get the opportunity to perform in several venues around Paris organised by the Théâtre du Châtelet, who have embraced the idea of making this production accessible to a wider audience.    We will start the tour on 6th April performing twice a day in various locations until the 11th April.  On the 13th April through to the 20th April, we will perform twice daily at Cent Quatre.  The shows are free for babies with a small charge of four euros for each accompanying adult.

It will be such fun to practice my French with the audiences after each show and I hope that the babies can cope with my pronunciation.  I’ve already started revising my French conversation skills and I would love to hear of any recommendations for nice walks, places to visit, French meals I should try to cook over the course of my visit. (The perks of having a self-catered apartment).   It is such a fantastic opportunity for me to spend some time in Paris and experience the French culture which will hopefully influence my interpretation of French song.  I will let you know how it goes and hopefully get some pictures to share with you.scroll

Following my blog anniversary, I said that I would select three people from those who commented or placed a like on the post and send them a signed copy of my ‘Haugtussa CD’.  There were 139 people in total so I used a random number generator to select the winners.

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I am pleased to announce that the three-people selected were John Howell, Peter Alexander, and Dora Buonfino.  I managed to contact John and Peter and have posted their CDs to them which should arrive this week (fingers crossed).  I have just received Dora’s forwarding address and will try and post it to her before I leave for Paris.

A Week Full Of Music

March 18, 2018 — 50 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Me With Joe Kiely

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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.

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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 — 48 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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 perhaps 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, and I need to figure out how to record attach the spoken word to the PowerPoint presentation 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.