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What an enjoyable week I’ve spent at the Veronica Dunne International Singing competition in Dublin, Ireland. I sang alongside my peers, met the most lovely generous couple, Susan and Glen, who hosted me and a fellow soprano Claire Lees from London, and I’m hoping to stay friends with them both for a long time to come.

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“Inaugurated in 1995, the Competition was created to honour the lifetime’s work of Dr. Veronica Dunne, Ireland’s Grande Dame of singing. Ireland is known throughout the world as a land of song, and in the classical and operatic field, this is in no small measure due to the unique and dedicated teaching of Dr. Dunne.”

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Dr. Veronica Dunne – Photo By Frances Marshall

To get to this stage I submitted an application with videos to get through to a live audition at one of six City locations throughout Europe and the US. 160 singers were selected from 35 Countries for live audition my location was The Wigmore Hall in London, which was a treat in itself. I was thrilled to get selected as one of the 50 competitors that got through to the live preliminary round of the competition in Dublin on Friday/Saturday, and even more so to get through to the 21 singers selected for the quarter-final on Sunday especially as I had sat in the audience and listened to the most excellent singing.

Sadly the quarter-final is where my adventure ended, I was hoping to give you all good news on Sunday evening but I discovered the result at twenty past nine Sunday evening and didn’t have time to put this post together, and you know what I’m like I was optimistic of getting through to the Semi-finals.  It was fun though and a great experience plus my first ever visit to Ireland!

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Wigmore Hall, London

Each round was held at the National Concert Hall in Dublin and was open to the public. It was a great honour to sing for such a prestigious jury: Jane Carty; Richard Bonynge AC CBE; Orla Boylan; Peter Carwell; John Gilhooly; Olga Kapanina; Andreas Massow and Evamaria Wieser read more about them here.

I’m going today for my personal feedback which is a bit nerve-wracking but on the bright side I get to hear from this star-studded jury what I need to improve on to give me a better chance in future competitions and auditions.

On the train back to our London home via Paddington this evening after performing my first concert of 2019 with George Todica. What a thrilling way to start our musical performances for the year.

We performed as part of the Stonevale Recital series, near Swindon an intimate venue where we were warmly welcomed by the concert organiser Lynette and later by the generous and kind-hearted audience of the local village. The audience was made up of all ages and it was lovely to see everyone engage with our performance as we traveled throughout Europe with our musical program.

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At the venue, we had the luxury of picking between two pianos for the concert, and George was in a little torment as both pianos were exquisite to the touch and being mindful of the repertoire we were performing he decided to play the Steinway because of its crisp colours and position within the room. Although the Yamaha was a very strong contender with its vibrancy of sound.

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It was lovely to travel outside of London bringing our practice to performance level and having fun in the joy of creating live music. We performed a few new pieces and took lots of risks and shaped the stories told by our music based on the reactions of our audience. I also sang a great number of arias which put my stamina to the test! We were really happy and can’t wait to perform more concerts and recitals in this new year!

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Earlier in the week, we took inspiration from Diana Damrau and Helmut Deutsch’s Lieder concert at the Barbican this week. The duo looked like they had so much fun on stage seamlessly crafting the music and the poetry. We both thoroughly enjoyed their interpretation along with the rest of the audience who encouraged Damrau and Deutsch’s to perform three encores! Which in turn left George and me with two sets of very red yet enthusiastic hands!

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We both wanted to take this joy and energy and try to share it with those who came this afternoon and we hope that in some small way we were able to achieve this.

Cracking Inspiration

January 13, 2019 — 41 Comments

From a young age, I have many happy and vivid memories of performing in front of audiences. I was always thrilled to know that I could tell a story through dance, music, singing, acting, or speaking to a group of people, both large and small. I felt lucky that for every performance a selection of the audience would always be my supportive family but it was always special when a stranger came up to me and commented on my performance, especially if I had a small role and they noticed my constant focus and smile. This is why on Monday I attended the LSSO (London Schools Symphony Orchestra) New Year Concert at the Barbican. The young orchestra is a collection of children aged 12-18, who have been selected following an audition process to participate in courses that culminate with a concert. On this occasion, the LSSO performed ‘Death and Transfiguration’ by Strauss. Following which the performers were joined by soprano Rachel Nichols to perform three orchestra songs by Strauss then the Brünnhilde solo’s in ‘Twilight of the Gods’ by Wagner. At the start of a new year, it was energising to watch these players because they bowed, plucked and breathed life into the music with sheer enjoyment and wild enthusiasm. Their playing enthused my practice with risk-taking and the goals of seeking fun. It is always important to remind yourself of these two aspects when making music – especially when constantly focusing on the technical aspects of my singing. I felt lucky to have seen this performance and I’m glad that I went. The LSSO is funded by the FYM ( the Foundation for Young Musicians ) which also funds the Centre for Young Musicians.

Last Friday I bought some ‘Friday Rush’ tickets from the Royal Opera House to attend their performance of the Nutcracker. Even though my ‘seat’ was standing, I was chuffed to have got the ticket as I remember watching several touring ballets as a child with my Mum. We would go for my birthday if the company came to our local hall. I loved the glitter, the extravagant tutus, and the impeccable footwork and I was not disappointed with the ROH’s performance.

The Nutcracker

The character Drosselmeyer, entered the children’s home in a vivid blue cape with gold decoration and a splash of glitter, each time he entered he would clap his hands together creating an explosion of glitter creating a golden cloud on the stage. It was so magical, the first time there was a mutual gasp of enjoyment from the audience! I loved it and now I want to enter every room with a glitter cloud! Although hoovering it up afterward could become a chore, haha. Every dancer jumped with elegance and occasionally humour across the stage. Each arm gesture flowed from shoulder to fingertip – inspiring my practice for musical phrasing. I wanted to imagine that the air danced away from my mouth like a Ballerina’s gesture and arm line. The King and Queen of Sweetie land had exquisite onstage chemistry; their movements were so in sync and slick you that they seemed conjoined!

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I took so much personal enjoyment from the performance and many new ideas for my own work. It just shows you that sometimes looking at other genres and work can help inspire you and lift you forwards closer to your goals.

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On My Way Out

After the first week of 2019, I feel energised, happy, and hungry to step closer towards my personal goals. After throwing myself at all my targets head on, I did feel a little tired today. But after eating a tasty homemade chicken, sausage, and vegetable casserole, to fight against any last germs and lingering colds that seem to be in the air. I still say, “Bring it On!”

This week I have updated my calendar and diary with work deadlines, events and fun outings with friends. I have treated myself to a weekly planner, that allows me to plot year goals and monthly goals that I can track the progress weekly and create focused to-do lists. So far it’s helped me to be prepared for my immediate goals whilst maintaining my focus on tasks for future projects. I really like it, it feels like an adult star chart that helps to keep me motivated and positive. How do you assess and manage your goals and productivity? Do you have any tips or suggestions that have helped you to achieve a personal goal?

Today I arranged to meet up with my friend Beth Taylor who I studied with at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  Beth is a fabulous mezzo-soprano and as we live at opposite ends of the country this was a great opportunity for us to catch up and just chill out together.

Beth and Charlotte

One challenge I’m tackling head on this year is learning how to run. Of course, I know how to run, but previously I found no enjoyment in it. I would occasionally sprint for a bus but would be greeted with breathlessness and possibly catching it in time. Luckily for me, I love dancing and trying out new hobbies but I have been very resistant to running even though it can be a cheap hobby to participate in. I read an article about Lisette Oropesa, a soprano working in the industry who explained that she began running to help her lose weight so that she could be more appealing for casting. But as I read the article, I realised the overall benefits of being able to run were important to an opera singer. Often opera stages are very large and directors may want you to run on from the wings before a big aria. I would hate to work so hard and get an opportunity to perform in a big opera house and then begin an aria out of breath because of poor running technique. So I download the NHS/BBC app ‘Couch to 5K’. It’s is aimed at beginners and builds up to being able to run a 5K slowly.  I chose the comedian Sarah Millican to narrate my run routines and so far I have enjoyed listening to her encouraging voice. The routine starts you off with baby steps,  including both running and walking to help build up towards the 5K goal.  I do still run like Phoebe Buffay with the occasional disco arm moves if inspired by my playlist. I’ll keep you posted with my progress. I don’t think I’ll ever be like Mo Farah but I’m glad I didn’t put it off.

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I can now run for 8 minutes and I am getting my pose ready for the Olympics ( Ha Ha )

One other task that I have set myself this year is to attempt to re-write my biography to include some of my achievements from 2018.  I find this difficult as it is a real skill to write a comprehensive yet concise biog, which can then be condensed even further for auditions and production companies who request biogs of 200, 150, or 100 words maximum. If any of you can offer any guidance or make suggestions on how best to achieve this I would be really grateful.  Here is an example of a short one I wrote recently what do you think? How could I improve it to be interesting in a program?

Soprano Charlotte Hoather completed her Master’s in Performance (Voice) at the Royal College of Music in June 2018, under the tutelage of Rosa Mannion and Simon Lepper, previously gaining a First-Class Honours Degree in Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying under Judith Howarth.

Following five-star reviews in 2017 for her performance of ‘Uccelina’ in Scottish Opera’s production of BambinO in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, Charlotte continued in the role for a tour of Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet before the production moved to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York for a series of sell-out shows in 2018. In July 2018 Charlotte won first prize in the Pendine International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.

Charlotte’s professional performances include the role of ‘Zerlina’ in Don Giovanni with Opera Britain, the role of ‘Maria Bertram’ in Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Mansfield Park, and the role of ‘Cunegonde’ in Surrey Opera’s production of Candide. In 2019 Charlotte will be performing the role of ‘Pandora’ in Radius Opera’s production of Tim Benjamin’s new opera The Fire of Olympus which will be touring the North Of England in Autumn 2019.

Happy New Year

December 31, 2018 — 44 Comments

Happy New Year 2019. Winter Celebration

Wishing you all Health, Friendship, and Happiness in 2019.

I hope that it is a great year for you.

Traveling Home for Christmas

December 23, 2018 — 72 Comments
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My Friend Victoria Thomasch and Me

Recently I met up with my friend Victoria Thomasch who was over from New York to audition in London.  We had a great time afterward as I showed her some of the sites around London.  Of course, we had to call in at the Opera House and as she is a keen Harry Potter fan we managed to get a few pictures for her scrapbook at Platform 9 ¾, Kings Cross station.  I finished the week with a  performance for Surrey Opera in their Gala Christmas Fund Raiser which I believe was a great success for them.

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Tonight, I will be sat in the living room of my family home, the winter fire dancing, and flickering whilst I’m snuggled under my blanket ready for some cosy restful days ahead over the Christmas break. We have always loved to celebrate Christmas as a time for family in our home, my parents go to such a lot of trouble to dress the house and plan fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. I love this time of year, as I get to see my family and friends, play games, and create crafty designs with my Mum.

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My older brother Matt has brought home some of his favourite board games to play. A family favourite is Telestrations, a drawing game that is similar to Chinese whispers, each player has a booklet, you have to draw a miscellaneous object from a mystery card, then pass it on around the other players, the next player has to say what they think the object is from your image. This pattern continues around the group and you have to hope that by the end of the game, the object is the same as the beginning. It’s always funny to see how a word can evolve into something entirely different, and in our family, the drawings can be quite hilarious! I really recommend it!

This afternoon my Mum and I played some Christmas songs to set a festive atmosphere. Then we created some Christmas cards ready to send to our friends next year. I love this activity as you can always use glitter and sparkle this time of year!

How do you spend your Christmas holiday?

I want to wish everyone a fabulous festive break where ever you are in the world and I hope that you have a fantastic time, filled with love, relaxation, and delicious food.

Take a Chance

December 9, 2018 — 65 Comments

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 […]

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Trial By Jury

December 2, 2018 — 51 Comments

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Tonight I wanted to write about the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan as I will be performing the role of The Plaintiff in their one-act opera ‘Trial By Jury’ for Surrey Opera on the 16th December 2018.  I will be joined by the talented Stephen Anthony Brown, the effervescent Giles Davis,  and the amazing Tim Baldwin for what I hope will be a fun-filled evening.

My first encounter with Gilbert and Sullivan was when I studied at the junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music when we performed in The Yeomen of the Guard.  Gilbert and Sullivan were both born in Victorian England, Gilbert in 1836 and Sullivan in 1842. Their partnership produced fourteen comic operas which have been performed Internationally to appreciative audiences for over one hundred years. Gilbert wrote the Libretti, the text, and Sullivan composed the music.

Trial By Jury

Trial By Jury

The story pokes fun at the common law of Breach of Promise, it was considered that if a man made a promise of engagement to marry a woman and subsequently changed his mind then his fiancé could sue him for damages. The law was repealed in England in 1970, the last prominent case to be heard in the English courts was the case brought by Eva Haraldsted against the footballer George Best in 1969.

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H. Friston’s engraving of the original production of Trial By Jury

In the opera, I play the role of The Plaintiff who is beseeching the court to award her substantial damages as she loves the man who has broken his promise of marriage. The Defendant pleads with the court to keep the award small as he is “such a very bad lot”.  There is much argument between the parties with The Jurymen recalling their misspent youth but as they are all now respectable gentlemen, they can have no sympathy with the actions of the defendant.

The Defendant eventually offers to marry both The Plaintiff and his new love, but as The Judge points out that though this would appear to be an equitable arrangement it would be a serious crime in itself.  The Defendant then goes on to explain to the court that he is, in fact, a smoker, a drunkard, and a bully (when drunk) and The Plaintiff would not have wanted to spend more than a day married to him.  The Judge suggests that The Defendant should make himself drunk to prove his point.  The rest of the court objects to this and fed up with the lack of progress the Judge offers to marry The Plaintiff himself.  The Plaintiff finds this outcome much to her liking and as such the opera ends on a happier note.

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Classical Gala With Rolando Villazón And Guests

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Rolando Villazón

I also wanted to share with you that I have been asked to perform at next year’s Llangollen International Eisteddfod as a guest of tenor Rolando Villazón who will be performing there for the first time.  Also appearing with him will be the Welsh lyric soprano Rhian Lois.  I am thrilled and honoured to have been asked to take part in the concert which takes place on the 2nd July 2019.  Tickets will go on sale on the 12th December.

Let’s Learn to Speak Opera

November 18, 2018 — 55 Comments

This week I found the inspiration for my blog post when reading back through some comments on previous blog posts. I came across a comment from my blog-friend Eric Christopher Jackson, a wonderful artist who tells stories through Photography it got me thinking. He wrote:

When you say things like “bel canto phrasing” or “arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises” I’m at a loss. However, as I continue to read your Blog, I’m learning how to speak “Opera.”

So I thought that I could perhaps create a little glossary, that I could expand upon over time, to help explain some of the details and vocabulary that I may use. Today we will be discussing Voice Types.

But first here are a couple of Buzz Words that you may be helpful:

Vocal Range: A measurement of the range of the notes/pitches that a human voice can phonate/sing.

Vocal Weight: The amount of volume the voice can naturally produce. This is important because it can dictate the size of orchestra that a soloist can comfortably perform with (without any artificial amplification )

Colour: This describes the particular sound of the singer, and is what allows a singer’s voice to be individual and unique. You can describe a voice as warm, bright, dark, light and much more. Preference depends upon the listener.

Vocal Runs: A fast succession of notes that can ascend and descend in pitch rapidly.

Coloratura: An elaborate ornamentation/decoration of a vocal melody, which will often involve runs.

The Voice Types

The initials SATB, which are often used in choirs, stand for the four main voice Types: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. These initials are to show that the choir uses the full range of the human voice, as opposed to an all-female or all-male choir.  When singing as a soloist, you will also come across the terms Mezzo-Soprano, [usually the same range as an Alto], Contralto, [the lowest female voice], Counter-Tenor, [a male voice who has the equivalent range to a mezzo-soprano] and Baritone, [the male voice lying in between Tenor and Bass].

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The Seven Main Voice Types [High to Low]

  • Soprano
  • Mezzo-Soprano
  • Contralto
  • Countertenor
  • Tenor
  • Baritone
  • Bass

In the Opera World, these main Voice Types are further categorized to facilitate casting. This system was created in Germany and is called the Fach system. These sub-categories depend upon much of what we have discussed so far one’s vocal range, vocal weight, Colour, flexibility, characters and more.

Listen to the above youtube video created by the Royal Opera House, to hear the different voice types and excerpts of them singing Opera.

I will now explain a little more about my own vocal Fach. If you find it interesting and want to know more, please comment below and I will expand in later weeks.

The Soprano voice:

  • Soubrette
  • Character Soprano
  • Lyric Coloratura
  • Full Lyric Soprano
  • Spinto Soprano
  • Dramatic Soprano

At the moment, I am categorized as a Lyric Coloratura. This means that I have an extended upper range. Personally, I can sing up to an F#, which is needed for roles such as the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte by Mozart and The Controller in Flight by Jonathan Dove. My voice is quite flexible and I can sing a variety of vocal runs. The characters that Lyric Coloraturas would sing are generally young women, who are charming, sometimes short-tempered, coquettish, cheeky and stubborn. In theory, audition songs I select should enable casting directors to see which roles I could be appropriate for and possibly be cast for within their operatic season. This is similar to typecasting for actors in the Movie and Theatre World.

Well known examples of my current voice type: Beverly Sills, Kathleen Battle, Diana Damrau and Natalie Dessay.

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To end this evening I have included a link to my live recording of Danny Boy which I performed last week at the Tideswell Male Voice Choir’s Remembrance concert.  I was asked if I could share the video of my performance but unfortunately, my Dad was a little too wobbly with the video camera so I hope you enjoy the audio recording instead.

Remembrance Concert

November 11, 2018 — 61 Comments

 

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I have had a wonderful weekend of song, gathering with friends to remember the lives of those lost during the conflicts of the last Century.

I sang alongside the terrific Tideswell Male Voice Choir in Tideswell’s Armistice Concert on Saturday 10th November. Malcolm Bennison, the choirs’ Chairman, created an interesting and thoughtful program dedicated to telling the stories of the young men and women who fought for their freedom and their country. The concert picked out the tales of six young men who volunteered to fight in the First World War from the Tideswell area. Sadly they were amongst the many men from this local area who perished in the Great War. Their letters, stories, and family history were shared by three members of the Tideswell living History Group, Gill Adams, Ruth Wilson, and Janyce Ashley. These readings were introduced by Charles Foster, a successful voice-over artist best known for being the voice in the courtroom for Judge Rinder. Charles Foster also provided a narration for the evening bringing the memories to life for everyone present.

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The Choir Surprised Me With An Impromptu “Happy Birthday Song” At The End Of The Evening.

 

I performed a selection of songs suggested by Nick Montague, the Musical Director for the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, accompanied by the lovely Alison Wheeldon. These included:  “We’ll Meet Again”, “Danny Boy”, “Roses of Picardy”, “We’ll Gather Lilacs” and “Jerusalem” and I have included links to two of the recordings from the evening.

Roses of Picardy

We’ll Meet Again