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 😊

Happy Saint George’s day to everyone 😊. It has been a lovely sunny weekend and my last week’s holiday at home for a while as I travel back to London today for the start of the Summer term at the Royal College of Music.

My Nana came to visit so we decided to make the most of the good weather and have a trip out into the countryside. Over the St George’s Day weekend there are usually several activities organised so we headed out to Beeston Castle to see if they were hosting their usual medieval celebrations.

Beeston-Castle

The Entrance To Beeston Castle

Beeston-Castle-Main-Gate

Medieval Celebrations

There is always plenty to do at this English Heritage site and it brought back many memories from my childhood.

Beeston-Castle-Entrance

Beeston-Castle-Show-Areas

Beeston-Castle-Show-Areas-02

 

Nana-and-Me

Me And My Nana

 

We then had a walk around the area surrounding the castle as it provides some beautiful views of the Cheshire countryside.  Slowly making our way down to the Shropshire Union canal which passes close by the castle and has some great little Inns to stop and have a drink or enjoy afternoon tea.

Back-Of-Beeston-Castle

Beeston Castle

Walking-Away-From-Beeston-Castle

Walking-In-The-Cheshire-Country-Side

Wishing-Well

 

Down-By-The-Canal-With-My-Nana

Taking a Break At The Shady Oak

 

Down-By-The-Canal-2

Down-By-The-Canal-1

It was a lovely afternoon and it reminded me of the many trips that we used to go on growing up in Cheshire, a beautiful part of the English countryside.

I will get to return to Cheshire on the 5th May though as I have a recital in Chester organised by my friend Anna Cooper.  We will be performing in an evening of song accompanied by Prajna Indrawati at St Werburgh’s RC Church at 7:30 pm.

17903769_633102106889333_2811092151704833762_n

A Cracking Good Easter

April 16, 2017 — 51 Comments

This Easter Sunday we decided to get creative as the weather was too drizzly to go for a family walk.  We checked in the cupboard and the fridge to see what we had in and decided to make some Easter biscuits ( cookies ).  In the morning Matthew and I went down to one of the shops that were open, in order to treat ourselves to some fun cutters and extra food colouring.  We had a brilliant afternoon, the hardest part was waiting around:

Waiting for the dough to prove
Waiting for the biscuits to bake
Waiting for the icing to set to add layers

But in between, we managed to distract ourselves by playing board games with our parents.

Whatever you did today  I hope that you all had as much fun as we did.

 

Mixing-The-Dough

Should we play catch ?

 

 

Dont-Drop-The-Dough.jpg

Matt disapproving of my juggling  

 

 

The-First-Biscuits

My first bunny

 

 

Putting-Out-On-The-Baking-Trays

On to the tray and ready for the oven

 

 

Out-Of-The-Oven-02

Out of the oven and too hot to handle !

 

 

Cool-and-Ready-to-Decoarate

Art attack

 

Time-To-Decorate-02

Time-To-Decorate-01

Time-To-Decorate

 

Caught-Red-Handed

Guilty as charged ( caught in the act )

 

 

Finished-And-Ready-To-Eat

Our finished biscuits

 

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.

scroll

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.

Header_Post _09042017a

Katie Oswell and Me

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.

 

Charlotte - Restore A Score

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.

Der Freischütz

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 erin.mchugh@rcm.ac.uk .

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]

scroll

Charlotte Today

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.

George-Todica-and-Daniel-Hart

George Todica and Daniel Hart

In-The-Library

The Library at the Institut Français

 

Carnoustie-Church

On the 29th April, I will be returning to Scotland to perform with the Angus Choral Society at Carnoustie Church, Carnoustie at 7:30 pm.  The Musical Director, Norman Beedie asked me to join them for the evening to perform the soprano solos in the “Harmonie Messe” by Haydn.

The other singers joining me to perform the other solo parts of the mass are Thomas Kinch- Tenor, Stephanie Maitland- Mezzo Soprano, and Will Frost – Bass. The organist for the evening will be Graeme Stevenson and the Tayside Symphony Orchestra Winds & Friends will be providing the orchestral accompaniment.

The piece was written in 1802 and was Haydn’s last major work. The title of the mass “Harmonie” comes from German terminology due to the prominence of the wind ensemble in the mass.

I am looking forward to performing alongside the members of the Angus Choral Society and my old friends and colleagues from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in what should be a wonderful evening.

If you are in the area on the 29th April why not come along and join us, the tickets cost £10.00 and will be available on the door..

IMG_0398

IMG_0232A

scroll

I would also like to pass on my thanks to all the people who asked about me following the awful attack on Westminster Bridge last Wednesday, 22nd April.  I am safe and well but my thoughts go out to all those that were touched by the day’s events, those that lost a loved one, or who are comforting those who were injured.

scroll

Finally, I would like to wish my Mum a happy Mother’s Day. I couldn’t be with her today due to rehearsal commitments but thankfully with the help of my iPad I managed to FaceTime her and spend a little time with her online.  I can’t wait to see her in a couple of weeks when I will get to travel home for a short break.

Spring Term Exams

March 19, 2017 — 67 Comments

Rehearsal Picture 01

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.

Rehearsal-Picture-02

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.

Rehearsal-Picture-03

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 🙂