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The Edinburgh Festival

August 6, 2017 — 67 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.

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This has been a very eventful week, rehearsals have been blossoming with energy and imagination as we experiment with how to block ‘Bambino’. Our wonderful director Phelim McDermott uses a fantastic method which allows us to combine the qualities of improvisation and movement, to act instinctively and tell the story. It has been wonderful to work in this way as it is full of freedom.

I had my second costume fitting, which is beautiful and I am very excited and I can’t wait to see it when it is finished!  I’m not sure how much I can reveal just yet, but there are feathers! I can’t wait to get to wear it next week. We also had the pleasure to invite some babies along to our rehearsal on Thursday, for this, we focused on the music and performed it in a concert format. In rehearsals leading up to an opera there is a session where the cast and the orchestra finally come together to play through the score, this is known as a ‘Sitzprobe’ It was great fun to think that Bambino’s ‘Sitzprobe’ included babies who would be able to openly react to our music making and decide whether it was enjoyable.  Luckily, we had no crying! but we did have the occasional singing along which was adorable.  Next week we have our dress rehearsal and preview performances. I can’t wait. It’s getting very exciting.

 

Bambino Cast

The Cast Of ‘BambinO’ : Stuart Semple, Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant and Me

 

 

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Picture From The Rehearsals ( MIF Twitter )

 

As the week progressed it did get me thinking though on how important these education programmes are to the future of Opera.  Finding interesting and innovative ways to connect with a new audience is so important for any Opera House and there are many now which are fully involved taking opera out into their local community.  Scottish Opera, for example, take opera out and about using a converted articulated trailer.  This version of a pop-up opera allows small taster shows to be hosted in a much wider area and introduce the artistry and storytelling of opera to those that want to give it a try.

Through the Connect Company, with whom I performed in “The Walk From The Garden”, Scottish Opera provide a programme of classes for teenagers throughout the year culminating in a fully staged production.  The connect company allows both instrumentalists and singers the chance to work with some amazing coaches and learn about what makes opera such a vibrant and absorbing art form.  This also introduces the families of the students to the intricacies of a live performance and encourages them to maybe go along and watch one of Scottish Opera’s main stage productions.

There is also a programme ‘Opera for Schools’ which provides primary school teachers with educational activities along with a full day of immersive participation which ends with a performance for friends and family.  I would have loved to have been a part of one of these days when I was at primary school.

These are just some of the ways that Scottish Opera are trying to broaden the appeal of opera within the wider Scottish Community and I am excited to be a small part of it.  It is the responsibility of all of us who wish work in this wonderful industry to help where we can to explain why we love it so much and with our passion and enthusiasm encourage as many people as possible to give it try.

Happy Father’s Day 

June 18, 2017 — 52 Comments

 

Me and Dad

Me and My Dad

It’s that time of year when we can thank someone who is very special, for their support, love, and reliability. In the U.K., today is Father’s Day and my dad is my superhero. He has superhuman powers of dedication and supports my crazy dream of becoming an opera singer. Especially on days when I need reminding that the final push or the hard work is worth it and that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. The belief he has in me is magical and I swear he gives phenomenal pep talks that he could tour the country giving to people. He has the power to make anyone feel great and always finds the positive in any situation. He is proud of the smallest achievements and always reminds me that when they are all added together these tiny tasks come together to make a huge accomplishment. What seemed insurmountable at the beginning, broken down into smaller tasks is suddenly not so bad and the sense of accomplishment on completion can be breathtaking. I love my dad so much and I’m so thankful that he is my dad.

He is also courageous and he has a fighting spirit that encourages him to never give up. He has taken many risks in his lifetime through business and life choices. Sometimes they pay off and other times they don’t, but he would never regret trying something and once started would never give up.  It reminds me of when we all (my dad, my brothers and I) went to karate and we were training for fighting and he got kicked in his side and broke a rib, but he stayed for the whole session because me and my brothers were having so much fun and were learning new skills, he just got on with it and always encourages us to do the same.

 

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My Dad and Me on my graduation day

He has the strong moral code of a superhero and will help people in need, he has taught me right and wrong in life. He also had a keen sense of motivation and a sense of responsibility in which he wants to provide for his loved ones so that we can do anything we dream of as long as we all work hard for it. He is extremely intelligent and honest, even though I joke that this was soaked up by my elder brother Matthew who is incredibly smart. My dad loves Manchester City Football Club and this love and dedication continue in my younger brother Thomas. My dad’s undying love for my mum is also something from a fairy tale, and did I mention he makes the most amazing mash!! (Mash potato)

Keep being amazing Dad!!

In London At Christmas 2016

Friends Making Music

June 4, 2017 — 60 Comments

As my Recital Exam approaches this week I had the pleasure to perform alongside my dear friend Prajna Indrawati in her exam on Friday. Prajna is wonderful to work with and I was so happy for her when earlier this year she won the accompanist prize in the Brooks-van der Pump competition.

 

Prajna

Prajna Indrawati

 

Our mutual friend Manu Brazo, a saxophonist, also performed a beautiful sonata by Fernande Decruck as part of the recital. Manu is an accomplished saxophonist with several notable achievements so far, this year.  They include winning the Saxophone competition at the Royal College of Music, the Jellinek Award in the 2017 “Guildford Symphony Orchestra Competition for Young Soloists” and he has been selected to take part in the 2017 London Sinfonietta Academy.

 

Manu Brazo

Manu Brazo

 

It was a wonderful opportunity for me to perform some of my repertoire under exam conditions ahead of my own recital on Wednesday. The exam is open to the public, and there will be an examining panel of three judges who will sit centre stage at the back of the venue with copies of the music at hand. As this will be an open performance we are expected to create programmes and perform under the rigors of strict time restrictions to prepare us for professional engagements in the future. The exam criteria are very strict which demands high technical singing and an entertaining dramatic portrayal.

Singing as with any art form is very subjective, the level of critique following an exam is very thorough and can pick up on the tiniest of details. I find comfort for this high level of critique by watching a program on BBC2 called ‘Creme de la Crème’ in which teams of patisserie chefs battle to win the grand prize. The judges are so particular, expecting high standards from the competitors, they often award very tough marks for what to the untrained eye is a beautifully presented batch of pastries.  Just like singing at this level expectations and standards are so high and we do everything that we can to be at our best on the day.  I can’t wait for my performance and I know that I will enjoy the opportunity to showcase what I have learnt during my first year here at the Royal College of Music.

As a surprise treat and quite unexpectedly I was given tickets to watch an evening performance at the Royal Albert Hall.  It was amazing to celebrate with Prajna and Manu as it was our first time visiting this magnificent venue and it was lovely to share the memory together.

Inside The Albert Hall

Albert Hall

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To close my post tonight I want to say how saddened I was last night after another terrorist attack here in London, it left seven dead and many more injured, with several still in a critical condition.  My heart goes out to the families of those who lost a loved one and to everyone who was so tragically touched by the attack last night.  I also want to express my thanks to the first responders and police for their fast response. I know that we are supposed to be strong and carry on as normal but I must admit to being a little scared and apprehensive when leaving home this morning. For me, like so many others here in London and in Manchester tomorrow will be another day and we must get on with our lives and remain as positive as possible, hoping that the end to these atrocities will not to be far away.  My prayers are with you all, stay safe wherever you are in the world.

This week I had the pleasure of performing at the Britten Theatre alongside my friends in a set of Opera Scenes produced by the Royal College of Music, London. The scenes were directed by James Bonasconducted by Christopher Middleton and accompanied on piano by Ian Tindale.

I had a wonderful time performing the role of Aminta alongside the talented Yiwen Su as Elisa. We performed the opening scene from “Il re Pastore” by Mozart. For the performance, I had to wear a period wig, this was a completely new experience for me and I really enjoyed learning about the process and watching Shauna, the talented makeup and hair professional as she managed to hide all my hair under a cap ready for the powdered wig. To help me feel even more like a character from the 18th century, Shauna applied a layer of white foundation to my face which made me look quite pale. This was because in the 18th century both men and women would wear cosmetics to show social status. However, I wasn’t allowed to wear the fashionable bright pink rouge and lip colour as this would have been considered beyond the social ranking of my character for the scene. I found this really interesting and added another layer to my character profile and allowed me to explore how my character Aminta would react to meeting Elisa who in the first scene would have been considered higher than Aminta in social ranking. The performance was so much fun and I can’t wait to get back on a stage soon!

 

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On Friday evening I had arranged to go and watch the RAMBERT ballet company perform “Ghost Dances” at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. Because I could not get a student ticket my brother Matthew offered to pay half as he knew how much I wanted to go which was lovely of him and appreciated by me 🙂  This performance was really special for me because I analysed Christopher Bruce’s “Ghost Dances” for my Dance A level. Whilst writing my analysis I was only able to watch video recordings of the piece but enjoyed the dance so much that I fell in love with the chilling choreography and the powerful storyline of the dance. So, when Matthew told me that it was to be performed at Sadler’s Wells I did not want to miss out on the chance to see it performed live. I enjoyed the performance thoroughly and the company used the original choreography, music, costumes, and set, so my memory of this beautiful dance was re-enacted live before my own eyes. The company takes the performance on tour very soon and if you get the opportunity to go and watch it I would recommend the show thoroughly!!

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I would also like to share with you all that I will be performing my year end recital on the 7th June in the East Parry room on the 4th floor of the Royal College of Music.  My recital will be at 2:40 pm and if you are in London and able to attend it would be lovely to see you in the audience.

Connections

May 14, 2017 — 51 Comments

I’ve been thinking all day about making connections with others and how important it is for people, and about pioneers, people that leave their homes and Countries to look for a new life.  My Dad purchased the film “Passengers” and this weekend I got to watch it on my iPad.

Passengers

Without giving too much away if you’ve not seen it, the adventure story is about a man called Jim (Chris Pratt) onboard a spaceship transporting him to a new planet to begin a new life.  The journey takes a bad turn when his hibernation pod malfunctions and he wakes up 90 years before the spaceship is expected to reach its destination.  The spaceship is in danger and the 5000 hibernating passengers on board are all in peril.  He is the only human awake on the vessel and he only has a low-class security pass on the ship which limits what he can eat and drink.  His only companions are the robot cleaners, waiters and a charming and witty android bar-steward.

How long do you think you could last without any other human contact at all? The computer message that he sends will take over two decades to reach earth, and another 30 years for the reply to reach him, he was 30 years into a 120-year voyage with no way of going back into hibernation.  Would you be pleased or sad if other hibernation pods malfunctioned?

In a way, it was a little like when I first moved down to London, so many people milling around but not knowing any of them. I am quite a confident person but I could see how for some that it could be quite a daunting situation, to feel alone and unconnected.  I had the added advantage of connecting with like-minded people in a similar situation to me but I have the utmost respect for people who move away from home and the familiarity that it brings to make a new life for themselves and establish new friendships.

For me, I regularly started asking lots of people how they were, even people who I didn’t know, it might have been someone at an exercise class, or when visiting the adjoining university, or even in a shop.  I just love to engage in conversation, it doesn’t need to be long or thought provoking just something inclusive. I also take the time to call loved ones on the phone, FaceTime, or Skype. Bringing ‘Home’ to my new home. I also have a lot of international friends that I keep in contact with regularly on WhatsApp and Facebook and I always try and make time for my blogging friends on WordPress, some of whom I have even had the pleasure of meeting in person. The world is a big place but we can use the amazing technology that is around us to connect with those we know, but sometimes taking the time to talk to a stranger can be just as rewarding.

With the story and the dilemmas that it raised on my mind I was pleased that I’d planned to take a group yoga session at 10:30 am this morning and that I’d arranged to meet with two singer friends for lunch and a walk out in the sunshine, it’s been a beautiful day here in London and I’d spent most of yesterday practicing.

 

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Ida, Me and Sam

 

Sam Dewese is an American from Chicago on his first year Masters, his voice type is Baritone. Ida Ränslöv is a Mezzo-Soprano hailing from Sweden in her first year in the Opera School, she’s doing phenomenally well having just got through to the final of the Lies Askonas competition.

I’m sure you’ll hear their names again in later posts or in big bright lights in the future.

 

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We Found This Lovely Mews Street As We Walked Around

 

 

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Me, Ida and Sam

 

It is our penultimate rehearsals tomorrow for the performance in the RCM Opera scenes on Tuesday at 5:30pm in the Britten Theatre, my last chance to make a good impression in Opera scenes this year, I’m hoping I can get someone to take a couple of photos for you to see next week from the dress rehearsal.  I’m also busy preparing for my final examined performance singing recital for the first year, I’m learning a completely new program of music so that’s challenging.

Happy Saint George’s day to everyone 😊. It has been a lovely sunny weekend and my last week’s holiday at home for a while as I travel back to London today for the start of the Summer term at the Royal College of Music.

My Nana came to visit so we decided to make the most of the good weather and have a trip out into the countryside. Over the St George’s Day weekend there are usually several activities organised so we headed out to Beeston Castle to see if they were hosting their usual medieval celebrations.

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The Entrance To Beeston Castle

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Medieval Celebrations

There is always plenty to do at this English Heritage site and it brought back many memories from my childhood.

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Nana-and-Me

Me And My Nana

 

We then had a walk around the area surrounding the castle as it provides some beautiful views of the Cheshire countryside.  Slowly making our way down to the Shropshire Union canal which passes close by the castle and has some great little Inns to stop and have a drink or enjoy afternoon tea.

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Beeston Castle

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Wishing-Well

 

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Taking a Break At The Shady Oak

 

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Down-By-The-Canal-1

It was a lovely afternoon and it reminded me of the many trips that we used to go on growing up in Cheshire, a beautiful part of the English countryside.

I will get to return to Cheshire on the 5th May though as I have a recital in Chester organised by my friend Anna Cooper.  We will be performing in an evening of song accompanied by Prajna Indrawati at St Werburgh’s RC Church at 7:30 pm.

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