This week I flew to New York City to participate in the live auditions for a Young Artist Program. I was elated to receive the invitation, during the application season I have to send out applications to Opera companies all over Europe and North America. This is a lengthy process requiring references, audition repertoire to […]Continue Reading...
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
To add to existing knowledge of women’s work in music in history I decided back in September 2017 to take a programme in my Master’s studies called ‘Women in Music’. Women are stepping forward more into the spotlight and news, just now I read that the American Conductor Marin Alsop has been appointed the first female artistic director of the Vienna orchestra. I just hope that at some point in the future this isn’t front page news, why is it so rare? She was also the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms and the first woman to lead a major US orchestra, let’s hope she’s not the only woman able to break through. Read this article:
It’s quite shocking that a female harpist spent 26 years in the orchestra but was never acknowledged and only her hands were shown on tv broadcasts.
I was assigned a professional female mentor after submitting a list of people I would like to work with to get a better understanding of what a professional career in Music looks like and to gain an awareness of issues and experiences female musical professionals may encounter whilst studying an introduction to current gender theory. This project will be coming to fruition over the next two months with a project I’m submitting mid-February and a performance lecture-recital I will be presenting at the RCM on 8th March 2018 based on one female figure breaking through a glass ceiling in music – I chose Kaija Saariaho, a Finnish composer based in Paris, France.
I’m hoping that I can share my slides with you all after the event and if you’re in London as part of this project I will also be performing at the Royal Academy of Arts on the 9th March , which I am really excited about, as you know I like to see art and music combined.
During my research I studied female composers through the ages one thing stood out to me and that was I don’t sing any of their music in all of my years training their songs did not form part of the exam syllabus or the A-level music I studied, then I looked at the wider music industry as women forged ahead in some areas more than others. I tried to find parallels and I asked my family and friends back at home who their top female musicians were and when, how and what influences did they use to break through in their genre: from Dolly Parton (unique, trailblazer), Madonna (revolutionary), Kate Bush (ahead of her time, original, innovative, arti), to Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross and current big-name stars like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Katie Perry.
Then I wondered do people outside of the classical music world know the celebrated female stars of opera – if so why did Maria Callas have to be played by Meryl Streep when there are so many superb actress/singers in the world of Modern Opera such as: Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Joyce DiDonato, Jessye Norman when you google search ‘top female British Opera singers’ we get Lesley Garrett and Sarah Brightman followed by Dame Janet Baker, what do you think? Who would you put at the top of a list of female singers still alive today that could be counted as role models for today’s students? Can you tell me who your choice of a female musician that has broken through and is a household name in the Classical music world?
It has been fabulous this week to perform in three separate events which were the culmination of several weeks of hard work and preparation.
On Wednesday afternoon I sang and gave a tribute to Gary Waller’s memorial service at St Stephen’s Church, Westminster, it was a beautiful and touching ceremony. As a friend of Gary it was lovely to see so many lovely people gather to remember and speak fondly about his lifelong achievements, passion for music and support for his colleagues in politics. It was also a pleasure to perform alongside the talented pianist Waka Hasegawa, and I hope that we find the opportunity to work together again in the future.
After meeting some of Gary’s family and sharing memories with them, I then traveled to the Lancaster Hall Hotel in order to prepare for the evening concert. Soon after I arrived, I had a rehearsal with Dr. Leslie Howard, he is the very talented and renowned pianist who specialises in music composed by Franz Liszt and I believe is the only pianist to have recorded all of Franz Liszt’s music for solo piano, which in itself is a huge achievement. The event began at 6:30pm and it was so lovely to perform alongside the talented Michelle Alexander, Andrew Yiangou, Dr. Leslie Howard, Simon Wallfisch, and Nigel Foster. We each represented a different music society, Wagner, Alkan, Mahler, Liszt, and Schubert. I represented the Gustav Mahler Society and really enjoyed telling the stories within the poetry and making music with Dr. Howard. The songs are truly beautiful and delicate and it was a great challenge to work on them. I look forward to performing them again. After the performance, we were invited to join the societies members for a meal and relax in each other’s company. At the end of the recital, we were presented with a gift of London Honey, which is a tradition of the event and one that I appreciated as locally sourced honey is a boon to a singer.
A few days later, I presented my opera scene along with my accomplished colleagues at the Royal College of Music. On Friday we had a technical rehearsal at 10:00 am, which involves plotting the lights, practicing the scene in Costume and using any props/scenery. It was very useful especially because my costume isn’t usual daily attire, I had to practice moving, kneeling and hearing with my full habit on. It was very interesting and added another layer to the drama. At 14:15 we had a dress rehearsal in front of a few friends and teachers. Then we opened to the audience at 17:30. I performed alongside Glen Cunningham, who some of you may recognise from previous projects I have done with Scottish Opera Education. It was wonderful to work together again and build on our relationship on stage. It was also a great opportunity to be on stage with Davidona Pittock who I went to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with, she was Mother Marie.
Photo credit of Stage scene provided by Laura Pearse who also designed and selected the costumes for this year’s scenes, thanks, Laura.
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 )
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’.
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.