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Destinations

February 4, 2018 — 60 Comments
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Allie and Me At Olympia

During the week I was invited to join my blog friend Cate McDermott and her sister, Allie on a trip to Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show at Olympia London in West Kensington. So, I agreed to meet them outside the exhibition centre today as I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take a break from my studies and musical preparations and spend a couple of hours in the company of friends exploring all the exotic destinations on offer at the show. Unfortunately, Cate was taken ill and was not able to make the trip to London but Allie explained that she would still be coming in so we made arrangements on where to meet.

We had a wonderful time walking around the different stalls soaking up the worldwide culture, whilst sharing our dream travel destinations. We also discussed how visiting and researching different towns, cities, and countries influence our work, myself as singer and Allie as a writer and chef. This was really fascinating to me as I love to hear about people’s working methods and how fine details from History, architecture, personal memories, art can influence creativity.

The exhibition is a brilliant opportunity for people to get great deals on trips. Expert speakers were on site to inspire, some of these were Best Selling Travel authors such as Rick Stein, Katie Bowman, Mark Brownlow (producer of Blue Planet II) and many more. If you are set on embarking upon a backpacking trip, cruise or you have an ideal destination in mind, this is the place to go and the exhibition takes place every year, so keep an eye out for the next one.

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Inside Olympia

As well as informative talks, the Destination show had street food stalls, travel health advice, and Experience The World Stages (Europe/Asia/The Americas) where we tried Isikate – South American Natural Energy drink, Soju Rice Wine, Mead and Low & Slow BBQ Pulled Pork.  Allie had booked herself on the Travel Photography Masterclass where Steve Davey and Paul Goldstein were giving advice on how to improve your pictures whilst on holiday, which I hope she found thought-provoking and inspiring. I can’t wait to discuss what she learned when I next see her.

I am now filled with excitement and I will begin saving for a holiday getaway. I am still undecided on what would be my dream destination as there are so many beautiful and inspiring places to visit but any recommendations would be gratefully received. Let me know what you think.

I have always enjoyed reading and sharing the experiences and travels of friends I have met through their blogs, here are a few that you may want to check out:

https://toffeefee.wordpress.com/

https://walesforever.cymru/

https://bespoketraveler.com/

https://cindyknoke.com/

https://retireediary.wordpress.com/

https://badfish2.com/

https://coastingnz.wordpress.com/

I hope that Cate is feeling better soon and I am looking forward to catching up with her and Allie again soon.

The Role Of Observer

April 30, 2017 — 22 Comments

This week I had the pleasure to attend two musical events both of which allowed me to watch some outstanding singers.

On Wednesday I attended the semi-final for the 62nd competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards. It was held at the Wigmore Hall in London and the atmosphere felt full of energy and bursting with life thanks to the wonderful supportive audience. I attended the event with my dear friend Harvey, in which we were serenaded by 11 performances from young professional singers. They each had to prepare a varied program lasting up to 20 minutes, which included works from different periods of music. These 11 singers had been selected by audition following the preliminary round. From the 11 singers, the judges had to shortlist 6 for the final that was to take place on Friday 28th April. It was interesting to be able to observe these fine singers as I could relax and enjoy as they created beautiful music. I was thankful for the opportunity to show my support for these amazing young professionals as I know first-hand how important it is for the performers to have an enthusiastic audience in a competition such as this.

The singers selected for the final were:
Eduard Mas Bacardit, tenor accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano
Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone accompanied by Gamal Khamis, piano
Patrick Terry, counter-tenor accompanied by Somi Kim, piano
Francesca Chiejina, soprano accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano
James Way, tenor accompanied by Natalie Burch, piano
Daniel Shelvey, baritone accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano

Following the final on Friday the winners were announced as:
First Prize – Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone
Second Prize – James Way, tenor
Song Prize – Patrick Terry, counter-tenor
Accompanist’s Prize – Gamal Khamis, piano

Congratulations to them on their achievements and special thank you to all of this year’s performers

Exterminating Angel ROH April 2017

Then on Thursday, I was able to get a student ticket for the performance of “The Exterminating Angel” at the Royal Opera House. This performance was part of the UK premiere of the opera written by Thomas Adès. It was especially electrifying, as Adès conducted the music himself. The piece was written and sung in English which allowed me to understand the chilling story more easily. The house was very full of excited observers and before a note was played I was bewildered and amazed to see *SPOILER ALERT* real live sheep on the stage! I have no idea why this excited me so, especially after my recent trip home to the English countryside. I was intrigued to see if they would be used whilst the live music was blaring full thrust but just before the conductor took to the podium they were guided off stage.

The opera took place in a mansion in which sophisticated guests are expected for dinner. The large star-studded cast performed the dramatic music and remained on stage for the majority of the performance. Which was wonderful for a student of opera as I could watch the singers acting and analyse their performance throughout. This helped me to see all aspects of the on-stage skills of the performers, from how to draw focus in a busy scene, prepare an audience for a solo, to providing support and ambiance to another character. It was skilfully played throughout and very enjoyable. As the run is still taking place I will not discuss the plot too thoroughly in detail just in case any of you get to see it, but I just want to say that the technical singing of the performers was outstanding. The composer had written huge dynamic and pitch variety which was demanding even for these experienced professional singers. For example, one soprano was singing all of her lines at the extreme of her range – very very high! It was such a feat and I can’t wait to work technically in the practice room so that I may one day be flexible enough to performance pieces like this in the future.
All in all, it has been a fabulous week 😊

I read that Kasper Holten the Danish Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, who left Covent Garden, London last month, claimed that the British are prejudiced against opera, perceiving it as elitist and not for them.  The new Director Oliver Mears agrees that the perception exists.  So how does my generation change and challenge this?

Lots of people I went to school and college with would never think to go to an opera, the State schools that my family attended never arranged trips to see an opera although there were trips to watch drama, dance performances, and musical theatre. It’s as though the State schools are keeping this perception going and not trying to make high art accessible to a wider audience if only to make a once in five year visit to the dress rehearsal of an opera performance so that each child has the opportunity to attend once in Primary school and once in Secondary education.

Although I’ve never been invited back to my High School to discuss training in a conservatoire, perform or undertake a demonstration with the music students I would be happy to,  the classical singing teacher that taught me at the school is no longer available to the students. Jayne led to several people in her short time teaching extra-curricular singing at the school to undertake classical training, and several of her students are now either working in the crossover industry or undertaking training at prestigious Conservatoires.  If she gave just ten of us this transformative experience that opened our minds and expanded our knowledge, then that’s a good thing, isn’t it?  Together we are all introducing new families to classical music, people whom prior to our involvement may have had no knowledge of this beautiful music other than the occasional advertisement on the TV, or when they are used in a film score they like.

Everyone talks about wanting social mobility for all, the chance to progress on merit and talent yet so many doors are kept firmly closed that I feel need to be opened.  Last summer in Scotland, Scottish Opera put on ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’ for primary school children on a tour of Scotland, I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see the children’s excitement and the smiles on their faces as they interacted with the performers. The Scottish Opera Education team also regularly put on Tours throughout Scotland, bringing pop-up operas to even the most remote areas, they are getting this right.  I’m excited to be part of a creative team on a new project with them again this summer.

In England, we read that music lessons are being cut out of the school curriculum in too many State schools thanks to the new requirements and testing to the EBacc formula that the schools are judged against, there was a controversial piece that I read, written by Charlotte C Gill in the Guardian “Music education is now only for the white and the wealthy”

I saw this at my own High School, they had too few students wanting to take A level Music at the start of my sixth form preferring to take the easier BTEC Music which wouldn’t have given me the skills I required for my next step of training and would have ended my progression were it not for the Head of Music and Music teacher agreeing to allow me to undertake it by self-study within the BTEC class with some extra support from Mr. Leigh. However, I found the breadth of the course really challenging to do on my own and I was so lucky to come into contact with a music teacher outside of school, Suzanne Harvey, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, who lived close to me and helped me so much.  With her help, I improved my understanding and appreciation of music plus the theory which gave me the foundation I needed to move on to a conservatoire. So, I don’t agree with the premise that the teaching of music should be dumbed down and made easier in every instance.

I would be interested to hear how the teaching of music is organised in different countries and if it encourages children to explore classical music and have a more open mind towards the beauty of opera and classical music.

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It was great to catch up with one of my friends today, Katie Oswell, from my time at the RCS, Glasgow. We had a lovely afternoon together and I enjoyed finding out about what she has been up to since I finished at the RCS last summer.

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Katie Oswell and Me

Spring Term Exams

March 19, 2017 — 67 Comments

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I have had a fabulous day today, both productive and entertaining.  It is Spring term exams next week and everyone is busy preparing repertoire for assessment.  I was up early to get some rehearsal time in with my very talented friend, Prajna Indrawati. Prajna is from Indonesia and is currently studying for her Masters in Piano at the RCM and kindly agreed to accompany me in my exam.

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Prajna and Me

It was a lovely bright spring morning and the RCM looked very majestic in the sunshine.  I enjoyed the rehearsal and it helped me to get a feel for how the pieces are developing. My exam slot is 10:00 am on Wednesday but on Tuesday I will be singing an aria with Prajna as part of her assessment, and also singing two Lieder with another student Laura Ayoub as part of her accompaniment assessment. It is going to be a busy couple of days.

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The Royal College Of Music

This afternoon we were offered the opportunity to watch the dress rehearsal of ‘Faramondo’ which the RCM is staging in conjunction with the London Handel Festival. The Festival runs from March 18th through to April 24th and also hosts a number of amazing concerts and recitals.  You can watch  ‘Faramondo’ on Monday 20th March, Tuesday 21 March, Thursday 23 March and Saturday 25 March, in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.

It was wonderful to watch the dress rehearsal and see my fellow students from the RCM and the RCM International Opera School perform this fabulous opera.  They brought the story to life in a dynamic interpretation under the watchful eye of the conductor Laurence Cummings and accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon 🙂

 

After several weeks of rehearsals and performances, it was nice to have a little time this week to recharge and become inspired by new repertoire and watch other performers on stage including supporting my friends watching their scenes.

Also last week I had the pleasure of going to watch “Adriana Lecouvreur” at the Royal Opera House. Whilst I’m living in London, I’m trying to see and hear as much as I can and make the most of the student deals that are available. The production was breathtaking and I was able to see one of my singing inspirations, Angela Gheorghiu, who gave an exciting and thrilling performance, but I must say the whole cast was phenomenal. Everybody had such beautiful voices with incredible projection.

roh-friday-17-02-17As a student of Opera, I was interested in how much the set design of this production shaped and aided the story. On stage, there was a working baroque theatre, which allowed for multiple scenes to be portrayed such as a backstage area with dressing rooms, the wings of the theatre, a palace, the actual performing stage and many others. As the story unfolded on stage, our imaginations were entranced by these transformations as the characters glided from one setting to another seamlessly and very naturally.

There was a particularly beautiful moment when there was a ballet depicting a performance of ‘The Judgment of Paris’ within the opera during the palace scene. It created so many dimensions, and it was interesting as the dancers had comedic moments when they made mistakes due to the ‘onstage audience’ diverting their attention as the love rivalry between the Princess and Adriana created a frosty atmosphere. As a performer, I couldn’t help but want to watch the ballerinas while at the same time trying desperately to take it all in. It was such detailed direction I wish I could afford to go and see it all over again.

I have tried to write a brief synopsis of the story which I hope gives you an idea of what was happening on stage:

This tragic story centers around an actress, Adriana Lecouvreur and the men who fall in love with her. Michonnet, the stage manager of the company that she performs for, is one of her admirers. He tells Adriana of his feelings for her, but she tells him that her heart belongs to a soldier, Maurizio, who is in the service of the Count of Saxony. But like all good operas Maurizio is no soldier; instead, we find out that he is actually the Count of Saxony.

Maurizio has another, more important admirer, the Princess of Bouillon. During a party thrown by the Prince de Bouillon, the plot thickens as the Princess tells Maurizio that her heart belongs to him, but he tells her that he does not feel the same way. She guesses that he has taken a lover and though he will not reveal her name the Princess is desperate to find out who her rival is. As the Prince arrives at the party, the Princess is left having to escape so as not to be found out. In the darkness, she is helped to escape by Adriana, and the Princess grows ever more suspicious of her.

The Princess is even more determined to find out the truth, and her suspicions deepen as the story continues to unfold. Adriana is told by the Princess that Maurizio has been injured in a duel and Adriana gives away her true feelings for him when he later joins the group uninjured. The Princess concludes that Adriana is her love rival and decides to have her revenge.

As the story comes to its tragic end, Adriana receives what she believes is an unwanted gift returned by her lover, Maurizio. She kisses the flowers, hurt by the thought that Maurizio no longer loves her and throws them away. But Maurizio finds her and tells her that she is the one for him and asks her to marry him. As the couple embrace, Maurizio fears for her as she trembles in his arms. The flowers had been poisoned by the Princess who gets her revenge as Adriana dies in the arms of her lover.

Here are some of the pictures from the Royal Opera House Flickr website.

Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Gerald Finley and Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Gerald Finley, Angela Gheorghiu and Bálint Szabó in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Production Photo of Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Ksenia Dudnikova, Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Seasons Greetings

December 4, 2016 — 53 Comments

This is my first Christmas living in London and the festive spirit is everywhere you go, lots of lovely carol singing everywhere from the shopping streets to the tube stations.  It is quite magical to walk around the city after dark and admire the beautiful Christmas lights and to soak up the atmosphere.  I am such a child at heart and have put up a Christmas garland in my room to get into the spirit, but I can’t wait to go home once we break up from College in a couple of weeks time as I know my Mum and Dad will have the tree’s dressed and the lights twinkling.

It was such fun last weekend, while Caitlin was staying with me I took her along to Portobello Road market to have a rummage around and explore some of the shops and stalls.  Then as the sun set we traveled back into the City center so that I could share with Caitlin some of my favourite places to view the lights and enjoy the buzz. I managed to grab a few pictures to share with you as we walked around.

I would love to know what your favourite part of the holidays are and what you are most looking forward to. Mine are meeting up with family and friends, with no cooking, cleaning and laundry for a couple of weeks!

Yesterday I went to watch the Royal College of Music’s production of Mozart’s opera “La Finta Giardiniera”.  The students from the opera school really embraced their characters and it was exciting to watch them perform their roles with such enthusiasm and skill, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some very funny moments which were well adapted to the modern era in which it was set.  One of my favourites was during the first act which was set in a large gazebo for a wedding, similar to the marquee that they use in the Great British Bake Off.  The singers showed their diversity as they multi-tasked, rolling out tables and organising place settings whilst singing.  I think I need to start practicing whilst I am mopping the floor or using the vacuum 🙂

 

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Me and Caitlin Redding ( she performed the role of Carmen this summer with me )

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Exploring Edinburgh

September 4, 2016 — 51 Comments

Last weekend I spent most of Saturday trying to decide what essentials I needed to pack to take down to London when I move there on the 17th September and what to box up to leave at my parents.  It was a daunting task 🙂 but helped by my Mum, who managed to thin out my wardrobe and reminded me of everything else that I will need to take with me to quite a small room, we eventually got the job done!

As I am away in Antwerp next weekend (more about that to come) it was important to get myself organised and not leave everything until the last minute.

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With the packing sorted out we decided last minute to spend Sunday over in Edinburgh, it was the last weekend of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and we knew it would be a great time to visit.  We arrived mid-morning and though the sun was out you could still feel a chill in the air which isn’t too unusual for Scotland this time of year.

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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes part in Scotland’s Capital every August and has run each year since 1947.  It is billed as the largest Arts Festival on earth and from the number of venues and street performers around that could well be the case.  This year the festival hosted 50,266 performances, 3,269 shows across 294 separate venues.

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We walked around the streets and soaked up the atmosphere, and as the morning turned into early afternoon, the temperature started to rise.  We made our way up to Edinburgh Castle which hosts the Edinburgh Military Tattoo each August during the festival, a great spectacle hosted by the British Military which has raised over £8 million pounds for charity.

We made our way back down the winding staircases to Grassmarket Square where several street performers were sharing their talent with an enthusiastic crowd.  After a quick stop for refreshments in one of the many quirky cafes around this side of Edinburgh, we made our way back towards the Princess Street Gardens. It was quite impressive to sit in the gardens in front of the Ross Fountain and take in the splendour of the castle high above us on the craggy outcrop which is the visual centre of Edinburgh.

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After a wonderful day walking around the city, listening to music, playing crazy golf and enjoying the wonders available to watch at the Festival, we found a great Chinese restaurant just off Rose Street and sampled some amazing dishes which were so well prepared. So with smiles on our faces and full bellies we headed back to Glasgow to put our feet up and reflect on a fantastic day out.

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The Little Horses

February 8, 2015 — 81 Comments

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This past ‘reading week’ at the Conservatoire I have been putting the final touches to my essay on Wagner and just wanted to relax and chill out for a couple of days so I took the opportunity to go home for the weekend.

I arrived back in Glasgow about 8:30 pm so tonight’s post will only be a short one but nevertheless I hope that you enjoy it 😊. Following my post on Aaron Copland and the songs that I performed for my exam in January I was asked if there was any chance to record them.  During the week I was able to put some time aside and record the songs and tonight I would like to share the first of those songs with you.

“The Little Horses” is a lullaby and evokes images of the Old American West. When I told my Dad he said it reminded him of a TV programme that he watched growing up, “The Little House On The Prairie” based on the stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

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The rehearsals for the Scottish Opera Connect production of “The Walk from the Garden” are gathering pace.  Glen Cunningham (Adam) and I were there this afternoon.

Scottish Opera through their strong community links have developed a great education programme that sets out to introduce the beauty and artistry of opera to a wider and younger audience. These include visiting schools with touring productions aimed at primary aged children, their “Opera Unwrapped” events providing a sneaky peak into the world behind the scenes of an opera production and finally Scottish Opera’s Connect Company for aspiring 14 to 21 year olds helping through workshops and coaching sessions to improve performing skills and develop a love of this wonderful art form.

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Scottish Opera Head Quaters

Our rehearsals today were in the impressive headquarters for the Scottish Opera in Glasgow which was originally owned by the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders and the beautiful stained glass windows around the building have a strong maritime theme.

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The Lusitania Window In The Rankine Hall

 

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The Rehearsal Room

 

I’m enjoying every minute of the preparation and as April approaches and the performance dates get closer my excitement surrounding the production grows.  There are two operas being presented in the same program, “The Walk From The Garden” and “Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow”.  This will be the third full production of Jonathan Dove’s opera “The Walk from the Garden” since it was first commissioned by Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival.

To see the production listed in the Scottish Opera “What’s On” list is quite a thrill.  There are to be three performances, two on Saturday 18th April at 15:30 pm and 19:00 pm and one on Sunday 19th April at 15:30 pm.  Tickets are available through the Scottish Opera website.

I cannot believe that the auditions were back in September 2014 as the time has just flown by and there are ten weeks to go which seems like a long time away but I’m sure it will be here in a flash.

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Robert Schumann (1810-1856) had been regarded as brilliant pianist predicted by his teacher to become one of the finest in Europe. Unfortunately he suffered an injury to his hand which brought his dreams of pursuing a virtuoso career at the piano to an untimely end. He decided to concentrate on his composing and produced a long list of accomplished musical works for us all to enjoy.

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One such composition is “Widmung” a captivating lied which he composed in 1840 as part of a song cycle “Myrthen” (Opus 25). Schumann wanted to create the perfect gift for his wife-to-be Clara Wieck to present to her on their wedding day.

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The title of the cycle represents the bridal wreaths which were often made out of myrtle, an evergreen shrub entwined with white flowers.

Schuman used a collection of 26 poems to complete his work from poets such as Robert Burns, Lord Byron and Friedrich Ruckert. The songs embodied all the emotions that Schumann associated with love, marriage and companionship.

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“Widmung” (Dedication ) was the first song in the cycle using the lyrics from a poem by Friedrich Ruckert. The lyrics of the song provided the means for Schumann to capture the way that Clara made him feel. He expresses that Clara is his peace, angel, repose, rapture, heart, soul, grave for sorrows, better self and his heaven. A truly beautiful lied and I hope that I do it justice.

Lyrics
Du meine [Seele]1, du mein Herz,
Du meine [Wonn’, o du]2 mein Schmerz,
Du meine Welt, in der ich lebe,
Mein Himmel du, [darin]3 ich schwebe,
O du mein Grab, in das hinab
Ich ewig meinen Kummer gab!
Du bist die Ruh, du bist der Frieden,
Du bist [der]4 Himmel, mir beschieden.
Daß du mich liebst, macht mich mir wert,
Dein Blick hat mich vor mir verklärt,
Du hebst mich liebend über mich,
Mein guter Geist, mein beßres Ich!

Translation
You my soul, you my heart,
You my bliss, o you my pain,
You the world in which I live;
You my heaven, in which I float,
You my grave, into which
I eternally cast my grief.
You are rest, you are peace,
You are bestowed upon me from heaven.
That you love me makes me worthy of you;
Your gaze transfigures me;
You raise me lovingly above myself,
My good spirit, my better self!

You can see why this era was called the romantic era of music. Schumann manages to embody the excitement of being in love through the shape of the melody, it is so full of energy and makes me feel so happy when I sing it.

Thank You
I would also like to say a BIG thank you to all of you for being part of my life. I have met so many lovely people here on my blog and learnt so much from you all. Having this opportunity to meet such a wide and varied group of people from diverse backgrounds with enriching experiences has been a real highlight for me. I am humbled that I have been nominated for several blogging awards and appreciate each and every one. The problem I have is that it would be impossible for me to pick my favourite ten or fifteen bloggers, I tend to read and comment on the blogs that I follow whenever I have the time but I cannot get around as often as I would like. If it were up to me I would give every single one of you “Blog Of The Year”. Please, please, please keep writing and sharing your experiences, creativity and enthusiasm as it gives so much pleasure to the people that read what you write