To help celebrate International Women’s Day the Royal Academy of Arts approached the Royal College of music to suggest a collaborative performance entitled “In Tune with Feminist Futures” inspired by revered female artists, including Royal Academicians Gillian Wearing, Sonia Boyce, and Phyllida Barlow.
This was an ideal opportunity for me and my friends on the Women In Music module to perform some of the pieces that we have researched and prepared for our recital lectures on the 8th March.
It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to work with accompanist Leanne Singh-Levett who has helped me to shape my songs, one of which is quite a difficult and quirky contemporary piece by Kaija Saariaho called “Il Pleut”. Leanne will also be accompanying my friends Katy Thomson and Esme Hurlburt with their contributions to the evening.
There will also be performances by the Maconchy Quartet, Maren Bosma violin, Eloise MacDonald violin, Joanna Patrick viola, and Lily Hope cello.
The programme for the evening will consist of:
Lisa J Burgess Clouds Judith Weir Lady Isobel and the Elf-Knight N Boulanger Soir d’hiver A Mahler Fünf Lieder: In meines Vaters Garden; Laue Sommernacht Maconchy Allegro feroce from String Quartet no 1 Beach Take, O, Take Those Lips Away Beach The Year’s at the Spring
The recital is to be held in The Reynolds Room, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly and starts at 6:30 pm. So if you are in London on the 9th March and want to come along and join us you can get tickets from the Royal Academy of Arts website.
On Thursday I had the opportunity of going to see ‘Hamilton’ at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. I went with my brother and his friends to the Matinee viewing at 14:30. It was exciting as I was a jump-in for the ticket, so I didn’t know much about the show other than it had been well received in the media.
This musical theatre show is about one of the founding fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, whose drive and ambition lead him to become an American war hero and George Washington’s right-hand man. It was quite an empowering story to watch because it demonstrated what successes can be achieved if you keep working hard and persevere. However, the show also demonstrates the personal costs that this lifestyle can incur. The Hip-Hop musical highlights explain that he was born out of wedlock, then orphaned as a child, and despite these challenges sought higher education when he was in New York beginning to make his connections to the American Revolutionary War.
As a student of Opera, I was keen to see what parallels there were in this piece, especially because it attracted such a large audience, I wanted to see what I could take from the production and apply myself to my own work or future collaborations with composers and producers. It was interesting to see that the story was told mainly through rap, instead of spoken dialogue and then further developed through songs, duets and ensemble pieces. This is very similar to the common structure of opera. Instead of the rap, Opera uses recitative, semi-sung music that allows the progression of the story. The songs could be directly compared to arias because they were sung by a soloist, they enhanced the narrative by focusing on the key emotions felt by the character at that moment in the story. Creating empathy between the audience and the players. I would be very interested to hear from people whether this kind of musical storytelling is easier to connect with than opera? Is it because there is a more modern beat and rhythm behind the rap. (If you are interested you can access the album on Spotify)
I was very impressed by the high energy level of the performers and their ability to rap, sing and some of them dance. It was also brilliant to see a truly diverse and talented cast.
Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of performing at the Royal College of Music as part of a fund-raising event on behalf of the College Library, along with fellow soprano Yiwen Su and my friend Addy Stoiber who accompanied us both on piano. Through the event, titled ‘Restore A Score’, the RCM wanted to raise awareness of the important work that they do in safeguarding musical works for future generations of musicians and enthusiasts to enjoy.
Just Before The Performance
The two arias that I performed were both by Carl Maria von Weber, the first was “La Dolce Speranza” and the second was Ännchen’s aria from Der Freischütz “Kommt ein schlanker Bursch Gegangen”. It was a real privilege for me to actually to be able to see on display a manuscript ( full score ) of Der Freischütz which was used for the first English production in 1824.
I read on the RCM website that: “The Library at the RCM contains a wealth of material, over 500,000 items in all, ranging from rare, early 16th-century printed music to contemporary manuscripts, from standard orchestral repertoire to band arrangements, from scholarly collected editions to single songs, from early libretti to journals, e-resources and modern textbooks, and from 78rpm records to compact discs and DVDs .”
The museum at the RCM in London’s South Kensington is undergoing an exciting redevelopment. It will be fully accessible to the public when it reopens in 2019. During this period the museum will be recruiting volunteers to help carry out conservation, digitisation, outreach, learning, and engagement so if you’re at a loose end you can join the mailing list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org .
People debate about funding the arts, especially from taxation as there are ‘more important things to spend taxes on’ but if we turn our back on art what distinguishes us from the other animals just surviving to eat and breed. Read this excellent article by Rupert Christiansen [Here]
This morning I took advantage of the beautiful spring sunshine and decided to take a walk through the park before heading into South Kensington. Over the weekend there has been a piano festival on at the Institut Français, which is opposite the Natural History museum in South Kensington. I went along to support my friend George Todica who was performing a four-handed piece with Daniel Hart who also is studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with George. I enjoyed the concert immensely, which took place in the library recital room within the institute, and it was great to catch up with them both after the performance. Both George and Daniel also performed solo recitals during the festival which came to a close this evening.
This week has been another interesting and exciting week for me. With lots of challenges to overcome, starting with a tube strike by the London Underground on Monday. It could not have come on a worse day for me as at Midday I had an audition on the other side of London to get to. The trip using the tube connections would have taken me about 50 minutes normally. So when I heard about the tube strike I gave myself an extra hour and half to use the buses with the goal to get there 30 minutes before my warm up time. A Northerner’s ignorance! I also thought it would be a great idea to take my trusty pink wheelie trolley bag with all my belongings rather than just a back-pack. [Which turned out to be a blessing as I’ll tell you later.]
It started well as the first part of the journey was OK, my bus stop is relatively near the beginning of the bus route so I was able to get a seat with my bag. For the first 5 minutes I thought, goodness this tube stress is just malarkey, I have a seat and the bus is moving! HOWEVER at the next stop next to what would have normally been a busy tube station the amount of people waiting for the bus was just insane. The only thing I can compare it to is leaving the Manchester City Football stadium at the end of match and everybody trying to get on the same bus. The bus was packed both upstairs and down within minutes, bodies against bodies with very little wriggle room. People were pushing, desperate to get on, they seemed willing to risk getting their limbs trapped in doors, with families not being able to board together they had to agree to separate and travel on separate buses. The risk assessor inside of me was wishing I had a seat belt but I was quickly reassured because we were moving at a snail’s pace.
We were making very slow progress and the minutes were slowly ticking by. I was conscious of the time but kept telling myself “You left with plenty of time, you will make it”. Then suddenly it was announced that due to the long delay the bus was now having to change route and proceeded to kick off all the passengers a mile from the stop it was supposed to take me to. My adrenaline kicked in and I managed to walk to the next connection which was a mile away in about 10 minutes. But the bus stop I had planned to use was queuing around the block. Remembering the crush that I saw earlier I decided to walk back along the route and find a quieter stop. Every road was jammed solid, the buses, taxis, cars weren’t making progress even the bikes were finding it difficult! Success! I found the terminus for the bus route and managed to board the bus and soon we started moving along side streets towards my next destination, but when we joined Oxford street again we ground to a halt.
I only traveled 800 yards in 30 minutes, with my audition time looming, I worked out it would take me about 35 minutes to walk the remaining 2.5 miles, and that If I stayed on the bus I would probably miss my slot. So I asked the bus driver to let me off and luckily he was a very nice man and he let me off at the next stop. I then zoomed and jogged like nothing before. Friends of mine will laugh as I am a terrible runner and would have been better off doing jetés down the pavement. So I weaved through the crowds with my four wheel wheelie bag (which has now had a very good review based on its mobility skills!) And to be honest, I must have had the look of fearless determination as people began to move out of my way as I flew towards them.
My Trusty Wheelie Bag
You’ll be relieved to know I made it just in time, to get changed fast and warm up before singing. Phew!!
Now I’ve been kicking myself for not getting a picture of the crowds for my blog, but here are a few I have found online. I must admit I did try to take a picture but people look at you very funny and I didn’t want to advantage of other people’s misfortune.
Picture From The Evening Standard – Tube Strike 2017
Then following the Audition I had to return to Royal College of Music for a rehearsal and I had the bright idea to walk back along the bus route rather than wait for the next bus. The traffic was moving so slowly I just kept walking from stop to stop. It started raining and after 2 miles but still no bus had caught me up. I kept going down the Strand, then walked down the Mall, past Buckingham Palace and then up Constitution Hill. I was started to tire now, but still no bus had passed me so I decided to refill with cheeseburger and a coke because my city mapper app had told me that I had burnt off the equivalent calories to this from the walk of my first half alone. So why not make the most of it. When I got to the Hard Rock Café it looked shut from the front door and I couldn’t see much life inside. I was panicking because there wasn’t much I could afford in the area, Kensington darling! I was starving and in need of a burger, so I searched for a possible way in. Luckily! It was under refurbishment so they were seating customers’ downstairs in the original part of the restaurant. Which was super cool! Sadly, I had not walked far enough for an Oreo cheesecake. After a quick recharge I walked the rest of the journey and made it to school on time for my rehearsals which were fab!
It’s been a massive change moving to London, far more even than when I moved to Glasgow City Centre from my rural town home in Cheshire.
I am thoroughly enjoying myself and I feel like I have just got used to travelling via the tube rather than just by car, bus or walking. I even quite like the contactless payment that is prevalent down here. Even though it’s a nightmare to keep track of every penny that I’ve spent here and there . There are hundreds and thousands of people of all nationalities in my new home. It’s a very enriching environment. I thought it was going to be daunting but it has taught me to be really aware of each other.
I enjoyed observing a grown man (security officer might I add) kick a bunch of leaves with great childish gusto the other day, only to miss them all except one. Our eyes met and we shared a giggle. I would have joined in but I was being the stereotypical busy local marching along the pavement as fast as my little legs could take me to class because the district line tube was held at a red light for ages. (I’m improving my patience too!).
I still can’t believe that when I leave school I can always see the glorious Albert Hall and beautiful Hyde Park is just behind and lovely to explore.
It is nice to do so much walking, and be a tourist sometimes. So whilst I’m busy with my studies and working hard I would love to hear about moments that have made you smile this week, or perhaps challenge you to be mindful, to make time to enjoy the little moments that cross your path in this coming week.
In my yoga class this morning my teacher asked us all to think of one moment this week that has made us smile. He said it didn’t need to be a huge achievement or lifestyle change. His was the feeling of holding a freshly brewed cup of tea and enjoying the heat flow into his hands and body. So as I drink my tea I wish you all a merry week and I hope exciting things are to come for you all, even if it’s only something that puts a smile on your face. After all, Christmas and the festive season is nearly here as the shops so kindly remind us and the super ice rink by the Natural History Museum allows people to have a bit of joy as the winter weather chills them, I loved listening to all of the laughter and people having fun. Glitz and glamour to come!!
The Ice rink At The Natural History Museum
The Albert Memorial
Kensington Gardens – Behind The Sunken Garden
On The Edge Of Hyde Park – Kensington Gardens
These pictures were from a recent visit to Kensington Gardens adjacent to Hyde Park after a busy morning’s practice.
Since I started blogging I have met so many supportive and helpful people, people who have inspired me to be myself and pursue my dreams. One of them is Pascal Barnier, a French artist, and a good friend. When he listens to my singing he uses his illustrations to share with me what he sees in his imagination. I find the results absolutely fabulous and have loved sharing them with you all over the last three years.
When he found out that I was to release the “Haugtussa” as an album he decided to produce a video of his images set to my music. When I sing I have in my mind the images of the characters and the story that I am trying to tell, it helps me to find the right emotions to accompany the melodic music and expressive poetry. So to be able to see what someone else imagines when listening to my singing to me is quite fascinating.
Here is the video and I would love to hear what you think of it. If you have listened to the Haugtussa, is this how you imagined the story?
As British Summer time draws to a close here in London and the prospect of darker evenings and shorter days looms closer I have some good news that I would like to share with you, I was selected as one of several students from the Royal College of Music to audition for the prestigious “Josephine Baker Trust”. For the audition, I had to select three pieces of contrasting repertoire, an aria, an oratorio, and a Lied. Each year they audition prospective candidates from both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music in order to produce a list of singers which they can then promote to venues and organisations around the Capital. These performance opportunities help the students on the list obtain much-needed funding towards their education in a very proactive way. So I was thrilled to hear that I had been selected and will become one of the singers on the “Josephine Baker Trust List”.
My “Haugtussa” CDs have finally arrived from the manufacturers. I have had several people ask me over the last few weeks when they would be available to purchase as they prefer to listen to a CD. So if anyone is interested in ordering one here is the link to my shop page 🙂
I had a great start to the week as there was a student evening on Monday at the Royal Opera House, so I went to watch a performance of Shostakovich’s opera “The Nose” It was a piece that I was not familiar with so the opportunity to go along and watch was too good to pass up.
The Royal Opera House provided a little background about the opera which can be seen below:
“Shostakovich was only 20 when he began writing The Nose, his operatic debut. He turned to a tiny short story by Gogol: an absurdist satire, where a civil servant’s errant nose launches its owner on a ludicrous battle against both nose and the authorities, as bureaucratic processes break down in the face of so unusual a problem. Gogol’s surrealist fable fired Shostakovich’s imagination, and he responded with a work of exuberant energy, full of musical jokes and grotesque parody – from the famed Act I entr’acte for percussion ensemble to plaintive laments, careening counterpoint, folksong (accompanied by balalaika) and rambunctious polkas.
Shostakovich finished the work in about a year, and in the following months gave successful performances of extracts from the opera. But it was to be another two years, in 1930, before The Nose was staged in full, by which time Soviet cultural climate had turned sternly against works of such perceived frivolity. The opera was quickly dropped from the repertory; but since its rediscovery in the 1960s it has steadily gained recognition for Shostakovich’s baffling, brilliant wit. This new production is The Royal Opera’s first. Artistic Director of Berlin’s Komische Oper Barrie Kosky directs, fresh from his triumphant production of Saul for Glyndebourne Festival.”
The story was very surreal and for once I was glad of the excellent translation provided by David Pountney, as this production was performed in English. The enthusiasm and energy brought to the production by the cast who were fully invested in their characters brought the bizarre story to life.
Last Wednesday I took part in my first concert at The Royal College of Music, titled “Songs My Mother Taught Me”. New Students were asked to choose a song from the country of their birth to demonstrate the wide variety of countries represented here at the Royal College of Music, I chose for my song “Dream Valley” by Roger Quilter. It was lovely to meet the other students and faculty members after the performance and I had a lovely evening.
This weekend I decided to have a bit of chill out and explore the local area. Having already timed the best routes to and from the Tube stations and finding the best shops to buy food and essentials I now wanted to see what little gems were close at hand when you want to escape the bustle of London life.
On Saturday I took advantage of the weather and decided to visit Holland Park, which I had been told was a beautiful and tranquil place to visit. It was lovely to walk through the gardens and admire the designs, especially the Japanese inspired ‘Kyoto Garden.’
The Park also has several sporting facilities, woodland areas, and a café if you fancy a drink or a snack. But for me, it was just nice to walk amongst the greenery, see the beautiful Koi carp and take in the splendour of the peacocks.
In London, I have been keen to keep up with my dance as it is a great way to keep fit and helps with my movement on stage. I discovered that we could join the Imperial College Students Union and become members of their societies, I knew I had to give it a go. So this morning ( Sunday ) I went along to a taster session for Jazz Dance and had a great time, and I would love to go back next week. I am also going to take part in a trial advanced ballet session which I am excited to do.
Then to bring an end to a perfect weekend my Brother invited me to his flat for Sunday lunch, so no cooking for me today 🙂
I would like to end tonight by thanking everyone who has downloaded my album “Haugtussa” and wanted to let you know that I have added a little write up about each track ( Here )For those of you waiting for the CDs I am hoping they will be here in a couple of weeks 🙂
What a wonderful experience! Over 20 shows completed across various venues in Scotland, reaching out to different primary schools and families from even further afield. It has really been a joy.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the company and all the team at Scottish Opera Education. I have learnt so many wonderful things that I can take with me and use throughout my training and in any future productions that I participate in.
Performing for children aged 5-8 has been a real treat, even though it feels like I have exhausted all my smiling muscles, and yet the experience has left me with my batteries feeling fully recharged and I now feel so full of life.
Every Time a new group came to watch we had to tell the story as if it was our first performance, to keep the magic alive and our energies high. It was interesting to see how each group interacted with the story and it was so rewarding to see their reactions, gleeful laughter and imaginative ideas on how to help us fix up the town. I have smelt shoes, broken baguettes, folded paper fortune tellers, banged sweeties and eventually solved the problem with my trusty glue stick.
This experience has also helped me to think on my feet and answer questions from the audience very fast. It reinforced how much I love performing and how important it is to make opera and classical music accessible and enjoyable for children and hopefully foster a love of these beautiful works. I think this is so important because we need to keep the art form fresh and inviting to new audiences and encourage them to become regular visitors to opera productions in the future.
I do hope that I can work more on opera for children and collaborate with other talented performers in order to tell these imaginative stories through spoken word, music, singing and actions.
I am looking forward to starting the rehearsals next week for Opera Britain’s production of Don Giovanni and I get to explore my vampish side for the role of Zerlina. This is such a contrast to the last few weeks and should also prove to be great fun. Next Saturday the 18th June the whole cast is putting on a fund raiser and we all get to perform some of our favourite songs, it should prove to be a fun evening.
This is my final week at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and performing in ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’. I have six days; three days in Aberdeen and three in Glenrothes up to and including Saturday 11th June 2016 where we have two public performances.
It’s been an amazing experience, the work is very collaborative which I love and relies on us working closely together and engaging with the audience of very enthusiastic young children. Whilst at the Royal Conservative of Scotland I’ve had access to working with a cross-discipline network of people and this was excellent preparation for me. The company is made up of myself, two very multi-talented actors John Kielty and Frances Thorburn and a brilliant percussionist/drummer Stuart Semple. We are so lucky to be supported by a great team from Scottish Opera who have made this all possible.
Last night ( Sunday 5th June ) we travelled together to Aberdeen and I am looking forward to our dates in this beautiful city.
Then on to Glenrothes culminating with our final public performances on Saturday 11th June at Auchmuty High School, Dovecot Road, Glenrothes KY7 5JL.
Coming up next is Don Giovanni on 25th June 2016 and I get to perform the role of Zerlina whose costumes are inspired by the film “Grease” so I get to dress up like Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy 🙂