This week is going to be full of mixed emotions. On Wednesday afternoon I will be singing two songs at the memorial service for Gary Waller, a friend and supporter who many of you that regularly read my posts know, I met a couple of years ago through my blog. It will be an emotional event for me and I have chosen to sing two songs that I know were dear to his heart, Gersang (An Sylvia) by Franz Schubert, and Frühlingsmorgen by Gustav Mahler. I wanted my contribution to be a celebration of his life, to remember him as I knew him, as a happy man, an encouraging and supportive friend who had a passion for music. I will be accompanied on piano for the service by the very talented Waka Hasegawa who very kindly agreed to play for me.
In the same evening I have been asked to represent the Gustav Mahler Society here in London at the Combined Music Societies Dinner which is to be held at the Lancaster Hall Hotel, 35 Craven Terrace, London W2 3EL. This is great honour for me, and a privilege to sing alongside accomplished performers for such an appreciative audience. My programme for the evening comprises of four songs by Gustav Mahler, Frühlingsmorgen; Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder; Ich atmet‘ einen Linden Duft; and Liebst du um Schönheit. For the performance, Dr. Leslie Howard has agreed to accompany me on piano and it’s a fantastic opportunity and privilege for me to work with him. The evening will also include works by Schubert, Wagner, Liszt, and Alkan, I’ll tell you all about it next week.
On Friday 19th January 2018 at 17:30 pm I will be performing in my first opera scene of 2018 here at the RCM in the Britten Theatre, performing the role of Blanche de la Force from Poulenc’s Opera ‘Dialogue Des Carmélites’ if you didn’t see my post from last week. Tickets for the events are free and can be booked in advance on the RCM website.
2018 will be a formative year for me after I graduate from the RCM this summer I will be making a huge leap of faith from student to freelance artist, a bit like a Barnacle gosling ( please watch the whole video if you haven’t seen it before ).
That means taking on the daunting task of trying to seek out performance opportunities, finding work with Opera companies, setting schedules, and working privately with coaches. If any conductors, concert organisers, opera producers, or agents are reading this and need an enthusiastic, hardworking and talented soprano or have any ideas, projects or schemes for me to look at please get in touch!! ( email me at email@example.com )
Me with Prajna Idrawati
I will also be looking to expand on my work as part of Lieder duos and if you hear of any venues that put-on concerts for a Lieder duo then please let me know or pass on my contact e-mail details. I currently perform with either of my good friend’s Prajna Idrawati or George Todica who are both looking to establish a career for themselves here in the UK, Europe and eventually Worldwide.
Whilst researching the role of Blanche de la Force from Poulenc’s Opera ‘Dialogue Des Carmélites’, I found an opportunity to embark on a little adventure. My character is the daughter of a French Noble family who joins the Carmélite order of nuns against her families wishes during the period of the French Revolution.
At College, as part of a trio, we were doing some short improvisation exercises led by our Director Stuart Barker during our first staging rehearsal last Thursday. The objective of these tasks was to see how your character would react in circumstances prior to our actual scene. For example, Glen and I improvised a meeting between Blanche and her Brother at home with the objective of organising a birthday party for their father. In the second exercise with Davidona, we improvised that our characters were completing the daily tasks that a nun might participate in. It soon became apparent to me that because I don’t have a Catholic upbringing, there were areas of my character development that I had no way of imagining. I wanted to deepen my understanding of what Blanche may have been going through emotionally and the mechanics of her daily life within a Carmélite Monastery.
In order to do this, on Friday afternoon I decided to research on the internet about the Carmélite Order some of which I have added to the end of my post. To my amazement, I discovered that there was a Carmélite Monastery in London, within 45 minutes travelling by bus from my home. I emailed via their contact form on the website, and I was very grateful to Sister Patricia who said that I could join them for Mass on Saturday morning at 8am. Luckily, I’m an early bird so I set my alarm and planned to start my day with this experience.
I arrived at the Monastery around 7:40am, all was quiet and the morning sun was just starting to colour the sky blue. Not knowing what to expect I was a little apprehensive at first as I was alone and the Monastery was completely enclosed. Ahead of me in the courtyard was a simple sign ‘Chapel’, I climbed the stairs and after a little wait I was greeted silently by one of the sisters and guided into the chapel for Mass.
Shortly after I sat down, the regular congregation began to slowly arrive. The sister turned on the electric lights to reveal the beautiful intricacies of the chapel. Somebody then came to light the candles and prepare the altar for the mass. One very interesting observation, even though I could barely see, was watching the sisters in the separate room prepare for Mass as well. The grille was in place, and heavy curtains were opened. Then one sister unlocked half of the grille and it opened in folds like a concertina to create a private opening to the altar. Then the Priest entered the chapel through a private door and began the Mass. It was so wonderful and humbling to watch the mass. I felt very relaxed and reflective. Deep in thought about what I had seen and experienced whilst sharing this short time with the Sisters, I left full of energy for the day ahead. I have the utmost respect for their dedication and commitment and I will try my very best to show that when developing the character that I am to portray in my performance on January 19th at the Royal College of Music.
The Nuns live a cloistered life, in 2010 they allowed a documentary film director a rare glimpse into their world after he asked them for permission over a ten year period, this film is called ‘No Greater Love’.
You can read more about the Carmelite order on their website here and if you have a minute please take a look at their shop as they have some lovely items for sale.
More Information On The Carmelite Order
The Postulancy is the initial stage of formation and is generally an 8-month experience.
The first and last months of the Postulancy are spent at the Motherhouse, and the other six months are spent at one of the Homes served by the Congregation. The Postulant is given the opportunity to work with the elderly in the facility and to participate in the prayer life of the Sisters.
A Certified Nurses Aide training program and other pertinent services are provided for a postulant with no previous experience working with the elderly.
Classes are given on the following: Spiritual life, Community history, Carmelite Spirituality, Catechesis, Community life.
The Postulant Director meets at least weekly with the Postulant to discuss her progress and difficulties, and to offer guidance.
If readiness for the Novitiate is ascertained, the Postulant receives her name in religion and prepares for the next phase of formation: the Novitiate.
The Novitiate is a two-year period of time during which the Novice explores on a deeper level what it means to be a member of our Carmelite Congregation. The resolve and suitability of the Novice is further discerned. There is concentration on developing a solid spiritual foundation.
The First, or Canonical Year
The Novice receives the Habit of Carmel (Brown tunic, brown scapular, and a white veil.)
The Sister becomes more fully acquainted with the many facets of religious life.
Classes are given on the Rule and Constitutions, the Vows of Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty, Scripture, Prayer, Liturgy, Christian Doctrine, Vatican documents, spiritual growth, and development.
These classes are given by the Novice Director, experienced priests, and other qualified speakers.
The Second Year
The Novice continues to learn and live the spiritual and religious aspects of the Carmelite life.
She learns more about the apostolate through a course on the Organization and Operation of the Long Term Care Facility and by spending time in two homes of the Congregation.
If readiness and suitability of the Novice are ascertained, Sister then goes on to the next step of her religious formation “Profession of First Vows” and receives a black veil that distinguishes the Professed Sister from the Novice.
The Temporary Profession of Vows
The Temporary Profession of Vows is the stage in religious formation during which the newly Professed Sister is assigned to one of our mission houses, where she will gain further experience in integrating the spiritual and apostolic aspect of our lives as Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.
The Religious Vows are renewed annually before perpetual profession.
The Sister continues in the active ministry of the Congregation and resides with a local community of Carmelite Sisters.
The Sister continues to attend formal spiritual programs held at the Motherhouse twice a year.
She strives to grow in union with God and in her gift of self to the Community and the apostolate.
The Perpetual Profession of Vows
After completing the five to seven year period of temporary vows, the Sister may request to make perpetual profession.
A gold ring is given at the time of perpetual profession.
The Sister becomes a permanent member of the Congregation.
By her final profession of vows, she gives herself forever to God, her Community and the Church.
Thanks to everyone for all your encouragement and support over the past five years, 2017 brought with it some amazing experiences for me and I think 2018 is going to be a real rollercoaster, so climb aboard, hang on to your hats, and let’s enjoy the thrill of the ride.
Whatever 2018 brings you I hope that you all have a fabulous year, with opportunities to take, decisions to make, and plenty of happy events along the way.
On Friday afternoon I took time out to watch my talented colleagues perform in the dress rehearsal of the Royal College of Music’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen. This wonderful opera by Janácek’s was sung in English for this particular production and tells the exciting and episodic story which constantly raises the imagined similarities and differences between humans and animals.
The costumes designed by Hannah Wolfe were flamboyant and wonderfully colourful. Every costume was personalised and each suggested a hint of different animalistic features, such as a spiked backpack worn by a hedgehog/man. It was fun as an audience member to notice these intricacies which added to the story and allowed your imagination to build on the images played out on stage.
The set was also exquisite and full of extra compartments that drew your attention as they that opened and closed the space to new scenes. My particular favourite scene that Alex Berry designed was the chicken coop which showcased a Charlie and Chocolate factory esque egg laying factory that really caught my childlike imagination.
Daniel Slater beautifully combines lustful dancing with animalistic gestures performed by the Singers in his direction of this opera. It worked brilliantly and told the story seamlessly. I particularly enjoyed the love duets performed by the dancers which continued to expand on the story during the passionate orchestral interludes, sophisticatedly lead by Michael Rosewell.
7:00pm | 27 November 2017
7:00pm | 29 November 2017
7:00pm | 01 December 2017
7:00pm | 02 December 2017
I’m really looking forward to the ‘Winter Concert’ with the Thames Philharmonic Choir and Beth Moxon (alto), Steve Mills (tenor), Dan D’Souza (bass) under the direction of conductor John Bate and Stephen Disley (organ) in Kingston upon Thames, with our thanks to The Josephine Baker Trust who match us to engagements and provide half the fees. We’ve had our first rehearsal the program is called ‘A Feast of Baroque & 5 Modern Carols’ you can get tickets at www.thamesphilchoir.org.uk or at the door, should be a great start to the Season.
I’ve also been working hard on my Handel ‘Messiah’ soloist preparations, the Messiah is an English-language oratorio from the Baroque era, composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, it premiered in Dublin in 1742 at Easter and has been performed by choirs across the United Kingdom every year since. Handel continued to work on the piece until 1754 when he arrived at the version we use today. You can read more about it here http://www.classicfm.com/composers/handel/music/george-frideric-handel-messiah/
I’m excited to start the first of two performances at Blackburn in Lancashire with the Blackburn Music Society and the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra under the baton of conductor Tom Newall and with Chamber Organist Samuel Hudson. My fellow soloists in Blackburn Cathedral are Helen Ann Gregory; Alexander Grainger and Matthew Mannion who I last performed with in Don Giovanni at Opera Britain last year. Tickets: 01254 201978 or on the door.
Mesmerising singing and acting that made me run home to get some sleep so that I could wake up early today and practice some of the ideas I have learned from watching the opera Monday evening.
The soprano Lisette Oropesa performed Lucia exquisitely and despite telling the story with determination and honesty kept the singing consistently beautiful at all times despite the deeply dramatic gothic libretto.
I didn’t know this opera very well and this evening was my first real encounter with it from start to end I felt transfixed by the story.
The direction was very interesting, I loved it and thought the concept of having two distinct rooms in which separate scenarios of the story were unveiled to us in real time was thoroughly enchanting and allowed me to really connect with the character Lucia as I watched her hatch the plan to meet Edgardo her true love and kill Arturo to whom she had been betrothed. To me, this enhanced the intricate detail of the intrigue and added to my enjoyment of the opera.
However, as a singer, I felt for some of the singers on the stage as at times it was difficult to know which of the rooms to watch on the split-screen set. Often, I was drawn to the scenes that were just acting and the performers didn’t sing, but always returning to the singers communicating the story.
For the majority of the story, I didn’t need to watch the subtitles the plot was strong and the acting really told the intricacies of Donizetti’s tragic masterpiece.
It was a brilliant production for anyone preparing the role of Lucia as you watched her live every moment and understand perhaps why she came to complete the actions that she did as a consequence of a forced marriage.
I have had a great Birthday weekend at home with my family. As a treat my Mum and Dad arranged to take me, Matt, Tom and Alex into Liverpool to watch Judith Howarth, my singing teacher and good friend from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, performing the role of Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus.
I was thrilled to be able to watch her on stage, especially on my Birthday. Judy was so encouraging and supportive to me whilst studying in Glasgow, and also during my time here in London, having the opportunity to support her from the stalls was a real treat.
We arrived in Liverpool and found the theatre quite quickly which was fortunate as it was quite chilly and the wind was picking up. Mum and Dad had booked us into the Ambassador Lounge at the theatre as a birthday treat and for anyone attending a performance here I can thoroughly recommend it. It was lovely and warm inside and the hostess brought us all a welcome drink and you could order nibbles or a snack if you wanted. It was great to be able to leave our bags and coats there and avoid the packed bars before the performance and during the two intervals. The performance was a matinee which started at 4.00 pm which allowed us all to go out for a celebratory meal afterward.
Tom, Dad, Alex, Matt, Me, Mum
Die Fledermaus is an operetta by Johann Strauss II with the original libretto in German. However, for this production, the WNO ( Welsh National Opera ) used an English translation by David Pountney and Leonard Hancock. The story is quite comedic with wonderful music and I can strongly recommend it to anyone and especially for those who want to see an opera for the first time.
WNO : “Rosalinde is looking forward to a few days carefree time with her lover, while her husband is facing time in prison. Her maid asks to be excused in order to care for a sick Aunt. In truth, all four characters are planning to spend the evening at a magnificent masquerade ball given by the Prince. As the characters are brought together in various guises, we set the scene for a hilarious story of mistaken identity full of splendour, posh frocks, and masks.”
Judy was amazing as Rosalinde with crystal clear coloratura and a legato line to die for. She gave a very believable portrayal of the character as she drew in the audience and made us laugh and giggle as the story played out. Both Paul Charles Clarke who played the lover Alfred and Mark Stone who played the husband Gabriel Eisenstein brought power and energy to their roles which complemented Judy’s beautiful vocals and wonderful characterisation. I must also mention Rhian Lois who played the role of Adele, the chambermaid, her comedic timing was excellent and she sang the role beautifully.
The orchestra under the baton of maestro James Southall brought the whole production to life and the ensemble players added a little sparkle to the party scenes in Act II.
The tour moves on to The Bristol Hippodrome on the 17th and 18th November 2017 and then finishes at the New Theatre, Oxford on 1st and 2nd December 2017.
As I sit on the train traveling down to London this evening looking through the window as we travel south watching people celebrate bonfire night with the most fabulous firework displays. It is great to reflect on our last two performances of BambinO today which like the displays I have witnessed tonight concluded in spectacular fashion.
This has been a fantastic production to be involved with and I have enjoyed every second working on stage alongside Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, and Stuart Semple. With over 70 performances this year at venues around Manchester, Edinburgh and now Glasgow David Sneddon our brilliant Stage Manager has played a huge part in allowing us to bring a little music and magic to the wonderful audiences that came to join us.
Back Line: Laura, Tim, Lliam, Rachel, Stuart Front Line: Me and Julie
With each show, our front of house colleagues have made sure everyone who comes to watch has an amazing experience and I can’t stress enough the importance they play in making each performance feel special.
From the fabulous and inspiring set and costume designed by Emma and Giuseppe Belli to the free-flowing and imaginative direction inspired by Phelim McDermott, this production has been a real joy to be a part of.
But for me the cherry on the top has been the music composed by Lliam Patterson which I have loved singing and which will stay with me forever.
To those of you who came along to watch one of the performances this year I want to thank you for joining us, it has been fantastic to meet you all and I will take away with me some very special memories. The most amazing thing about performing in this production is that each and every audience has been unique. The babies and toddlers have brought with them their individuality, interacting with us in unpredictable ways and making every show just that little bit different.
Not forgetting Scottish Opera, The Manchester International Festival and Improbable who made all of this possible sincerely thank you very much.
On Saturday it was lovely to see one of my old teachers from the RCS Helen McVey and her son Charlie who came to join in with one of the BambinO performances. I am glad that they both enjoyed the show. I would like to give a big shout out to the toddlers who came in their Halloween costumes to watch today as they were just SO CUTE. Lastly a big thank you to the family who came over from Switzerland to watch as part of a family birthday treat, happy 72nd birthday from me and all the team at Scottish Opera, it was lovely to meet you all.
Then after the last of my two performances of BambinO today David Sneddon the stage manager made sure that I had just enough time to meet some of the toddlers and their families before having to dash off to catch a train down to London. Tonight is the 21st-anniversary party of Improbable hosted by Nick Sweeting and Phelim McDermott. I was thrilled to be invited and jumped at the chance to join in the festivities as I have a couple of days off before the final week of performances starts again in Glasgow. I expect it will be a great way to have a little fun and relax for the evening.
After the performances end in Glasgow next Sunday I will be finalising my rehearsals for the three concerts that I have coming up in December. The first of which is with Blackburn Music Society, conducted by Tom Newall with Samuel Hudson on chamber organ. The concert takes place on Saturday 2nd December at Blackburn Cathedral where we are performing Handel’s Messiah accompanied by the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra. The performance starts at 7pm and details of how tickets can be purchased are available online at:
I hope that you have all had a wonderful week and if you have any exciting tales to share you must let me know. My week has been filled with music making and observing my talented peers, which I ended with a Saturday focused on Opera.
Every day when I walk to College I pass the iconic museums that are an important part of South Kensington and on occasion, I love to visit them to break up my busy timetable. I find wandering the great exhibition halls of the Victoria & Albert Museum ( V&A ) fills me with inspiration and provides context about society during the periods of history that have affected many pieces of music that I study. Across the road from the V&A is the grandeur of the Natural History Museum which I often drop in to see the butterflies.
However, on Saturday I went with my friends to an exhibition at the V&A dedicated to Opera aptly named Opera: Passion, Power , and Politics which is a collaboration between the V&A and the Royal Opera House. This wonderful exhibition aims to map out the journey of opera from its creation in Italy to the worldwide platform that exists today. For my student priced ticket, I received a high-tech audio guided tour, (with pretty awesome headphones by Bower&Wilkins) that glided seamlessly between selected pieces of operatic music beautifully handpicked to frame the amazing layout of the exhibition. It was extra special for me to hear Sir Antonio Pappano, a fantastic world-renowned conductor who holds the position of Music Director of the Royal Opera House, relate his personal interpretation of Shostakovich’s Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It felt so personal and exciting that I hung on to his every word. It was an amazing exhibition with so many pieces of beautiful art, videos of performances, librettos and manuscripts, and a working baroque stage. If I am able to, I would like to go again to really soak it all in. Each item was accompanied with a informed explanation that would both interest a new comer to Opera or add to the knowledge of an Opera aficionado. The exhibition ends on February 25th 2018 and if you are in London whilst the exhibition is on I can highly recommend.
Then on Saturday evening, I went to the London Coliseum to watch a performance of Verdi’s Aida. A collaboration between Improbable and the ENO. It was an exciting event for me to attend as my delightful director from Bambino, Phelim McDermott, directed this spellbinding interpretation. The singing was outstanding from the principal cast and the chorus performed with a beautiful blend and incredible dynamic range that kept the intensity of the piece alive. I particularly enjoyed the visually stunning, smokey and dimly lit Sacred Rite scene from Act 1 scene 2, which created a world that was far more intimate. I really believed in the magic of the High Priestess.
In act three the relationship between Aida, Latonia Moore and her father Amonasro King of Ethiopia, Musa Nggungwana, was so raw and honest that it left me guessing as to what would happen in this iconic operatic tale even though I know the story so well. For the production to command your attention in this way was an incredible thing to achieve on stage, as the story develops it draws you in and feels so real that you are there with them for each and every moment.
I want to work on this element in my own singing with the intention to communicate my feelings to the audience as if I myself don’t know how the aria ends, so that I too am in the moment and finding fresh ideas to make each performance unique in its own way.
A truly beautiful interpretation of Aida that is a must see.
Yesterday, Saturday 7th October, I went to the Indonesia Kontemporer 2017 Festival in London. This is an annual festival that celebrates Indonesian arts and cultural traditions by combining performances, stalls showcasing Art and fashion, cooking demonstrations, exhibitions, food stalls and film screenings. The festival took place at Russell Square, part of the SOAS University of London. The weather luckily stayed dry for an Autumn day, which meant that everyone could enjoy the joyful atmosphere of gathering friends and families experiencing and celebrating the wonderful Indonesian culture.
I went to the event with my wonderful friends [left to right] Stephanie Onggowinoto, Teofilia Onggowinoto, Prajna Indrawati, Prajna Dewi and Amelia Widjaja. I know Stephanie, Prajna, and Amelia from the Royal College of Music and they are all fantastic and gifted pianists. I had the pleasure of meeting their siblings Teofilia and Dewi over the past few weeks and it has been lovely getting to know them. Prajna, Dewi, Stephanie, and Teofilia are from Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia and Amelia is from Padang a city in West Sumatra.
Whilst at the festival I tried some amazing cuisine, Chicken Satay, Bakwan, Indomie, Nasi Uduk, and Bakso. I particularly enjoyed ‘Sate Padang’ which is a specialty from Amelia’s home city. The desserts were fabulous and one of my favourites was Spekkoek, Thousand Layer Cake, which I have been told is extremely difficult and time consuming to make. Pandan Chiffon cake was also delicious. This cake receives this name because the sponge is so light and similar to the material chiffon. I sadly do not have any pictures of the food as we were sharing and it was too tasty to let go cold 🙂
At the festival, I watched a musical performance from an ensemble playing the Angklung. This instrument from Indonesia is made from Bamboo and has a particular technique to make the instrument sound. Each instrument is pitched to a particular note. The ensemble performed without music and were lead by their conductor who showed the pulse with one hand like a conductor, but with his other hand presented Solfege hand signs and chord numbers to indicate which pitches should be playing. It was very interesting to watch. Here is a short video 🙂
In the afternoon I attended a story-telling exhibition lead by Felicia Siregar. She told stories from her two Bilingual, Indonesian and English, books for children called Pirok Goes to the City and Komodo wants to play Music. These stories introduce images from Indonesia: landscapes, metropolitan life, animals and musical instruments. The second story was accompanied by Gamelan music. It was wonderful to see the children excited and enthralled by the stories and the music, I too also really enjoyed the show.
My friends also took me around the fashion exhibition and explained to me about their national dress, which is very colourful and ornate. Whilst admiring the fabrics I treated myself to a scarf that was hand woven on Komodo island in Indonesia. It is very colourful and has most of the colours of the rainbow woven into it so I am very happy, especially as the colder months are drawing closer.
Having the opportunity to experience the culture, cuisine, and arts from Indonesia showed me yet again that though the world is a large and wondrous place that in the end what we all have in common far outweigh our differences. We should celebrate the things we have in common and be open and understanding of our differences.