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.
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.
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:
To add to existing knowledge of women’s work in music in history I decided back in September 2017 to take a programme in my Master’s studies called ‘Women in Music’. Women are stepping forward more into the spotlight and news, just now I read that the American Conductor Marin Alsop has been appointed the first female artistic director of the Vienna orchestra. I just hope that at some point in the future this isn’t front page news, why is it so rare? She was also the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms and the first woman to lead a major US orchestra, let’s hope she’s not the only woman able to break through. Read this article:
It’s quite shocking that a female harpist spent 26 years in the orchestra but was never acknowledged and only her hands were shown on tv broadcasts.
I was assigned a professional female mentor after submitting a list of people I would like to work with to get a better understanding of what a professional career in Music looks like and to gain an awareness of issues and experiences female musical professionals may encounter whilst studying an introduction to current gender theory. This project will be coming to fruition over the next two months with a project I’m submitting mid-February and a performance lecture-recital I will be presenting at the RCM on 8th March 2018 based on one female figure breaking through a glass ceiling in music – I chose Kaija Saariaho, a Finnish composer based in Paris, France.
I’m hoping that I can share my slides with you all after the event and if you’re in London as part of this project I will also be performing at the Royal Academy of Arts on the 9th March , which I am really excited about, as you know I like to see art and music combined.
During my research I studied female composers through the ages one thing stood out to me and that was I don’t sing any of their music in all of my years training their songs did not form part of the exam syllabus or the A-level music I studied, then I looked at the wider music industry as women forged ahead in some areas more than others. I tried to find parallels and I asked my family and friends back at home who their top female musicians were and when, how and what influences did they use to break through in their genre: from Dolly Parton (unique, trailblazer), Madonna (revolutionary), Kate Bush (ahead of her time, original, innovative, arti), to Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross and current big-name stars like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Katie Perry.
Then I wondered do people outside of the classical music world know the celebrated female stars of opera – if so why did Maria Callas have to be played by Meryl Streep when there are so many superb actress/singers in the world of Modern Opera such as: Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Joyce DiDonato, Jessye Norman when you google search ‘top female British Opera singers’ we get Lesley Garrett and Sarah Brightman followed by Dame Janet Baker, what do you think? Who would you put at the top of a list of female singers still alive today that could be counted as role models for today’s students? Can you tell me who your choice of a female musician that has broken through and is a household name in the Classical music world?
It has been fabulous this week to perform in three separate events which were the culmination of several weeks of hard work and preparation.
On Wednesday afternoon I sang and gave a tribute to Gary Waller’s memorial service at St Stephen’s Church, Westminster, it was a beautiful and touching ceremony. As a friend of Gary it was lovely to see so many lovely people gather to remember and speak fondly about his lifelong achievements, passion for music and support for his colleagues in politics. It was also a pleasure to perform alongside the talented pianist Waka Hasegawa, and I hope that we find the opportunity to work together again in the future.
After meeting some of Gary’s family and sharing memories with them, I then traveled to the Lancaster Hall Hotel in order to prepare for the evening concert. Soon after I arrived, I had a rehearsal with Dr. Leslie Howard, he is the very talented and renowned pianist who specialises in music composed by Franz Liszt and I believe is the only pianist to have recorded all of Franz Liszt’s music for solo piano, which in itself is a huge achievement. The event began at 6:30pm and it was so lovely to perform alongside the talented Michelle Alexander, Andrew Yiangou, Dr. Leslie Howard, Simon Wallfisch, and Nigel Foster. We each represented a different music society, Wagner, Alkan, Mahler, Liszt, and Schubert. I represented the Gustav Mahler Society and really enjoyed telling the stories within the poetry and making music with Dr. Howard. The songs are truly beautiful and delicate and it was a great challenge to work on them. I look forward to performing them again. After the performance, we were invited to join the societies members for a meal and relax in each other’s company. At the end of the recital, we were presented with a gift of London Honey, which is a tradition of the event and one that I appreciated as locally sourced honey is a boon to a singer.
A Big Thank You To Catherine Who Helped Organise The Event
The Whole Cast Of Our Opera Scenes
A few days later, I presented my opera scene along with my accomplished colleagues at the Royal College of Music. On Friday we had a technical rehearsal at 10:00 am, which involves plotting the lights, practicing the scene in Costume and using any props/scenery. It was very useful especially because my costume isn’t usual daily attire, I had to practice moving, kneeling and hearing with my full habit on. It was very interesting and added another layer to the drama. At 14:15 we had a dress rehearsal in front of a few friends and teachers. Then we opened to the audience at 17:30. I performed alongside Glen Cunningham, who some of you may recognise from previous projects I have done with Scottish Opera Education. It was wonderful to work together again and build on our relationship on stage. It was also a great opportunity to be on stage with Davidona Pittock who I went to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with, she was Mother Marie.
Glen and Me On Stage In Our Scene From Dialogues des Carmélites
Photo credit of Stage scene provided by Laura Pearse who also designed and selected the costumes for this year’s scenes, thanks, Laura.
This week is going to be full of mixed emotions. On Wednesday afternoon I will be singing two songs at the memorial service for Gary Waller, a friend and supporter who many of you that regularly read my posts know, I met a couple of years ago through my blog. It will be an emotional event for me and I have chosen to sing two songs that I know were dear to his heart, Gersang (An Sylvia) by Franz Schubert, and Frühlingsmorgen by Gustav Mahler. I wanted my contribution to be a celebration of his life, to remember him as I knew him, as a happy man, an encouraging and supportive friend who had a passion for music. I will be accompanied on piano for the service by the very talented Waka Hasegawa who very kindly agreed to play for me.
In the same evening I have been asked to represent the Gustav Mahler Society here in London at the Combined Music Societies Dinner which is to be held at the Lancaster Hall Hotel, 35 Craven Terrace, London W2 3EL. This is great honour for me, and a privilege to sing alongside accomplished performers for such an appreciative audience. My programme for the evening comprises of four songs by Gustav Mahler, Frühlingsmorgen; Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder; Ich atmet‘ einen Linden Duft; and Liebst du um Schönheit. For the performance, Dr. Leslie Howard has agreed to accompany me on piano and it’s a fantastic opportunity and privilege for me to work with him. The evening will also include works by Schubert, Wagner, Liszt, and Alkan, I’ll tell you all about it next week.
On Friday 19th January 2018 at 17:30 pm I will be performing in my first opera scene of 2018 here at the RCM in the Britten Theatre, performing the role of Blanche de la Force from Poulenc’s Opera ‘Dialogue Des Carmélites’ if you didn’t see my post from last week. Tickets for the events are free and can be booked in advance on the RCM website.
2018 will be a formative year for me after I graduate from the RCM this summer I will be making a huge leap of faith from student to freelance artist, a bit like a Barnacle gosling ( please watch the whole video if you haven’t seen it before ).
That means taking on the daunting task of trying to seek out performance opportunities, finding work with Opera companies, setting schedules, and working privately with coaches. If any conductors, concert organisers, opera producers, or agents are reading this and need an enthusiastic, hardworking and talented soprano or have any ideas, projects or schemes for me to look at please get in touch!! ( email me at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Me with Prajna Idrawati
I will also be looking to expand on my work as part of Lieder duos and if you hear of any venues that put-on concerts for a Lieder duo then please let me know or pass on my contact e-mail details. I currently perform with either of my good friend’s Prajna Idrawati or George Todica who are both looking to establish a career for themselves here in the UK, Europe and eventually Worldwide.
Whilst researching the role of Blanche de la Force from Poulenc’s Opera ‘Dialogue Des Carmélites’, I found an opportunity to embark on a little adventure. My character is the daughter of a French Noble family who joins the Carmélite order of nuns against her families wishes during the period of the French Revolution.
At College, as part of a trio, we were doing some short improvisation exercises led by our Director Stuart Barker during our first staging rehearsal last Thursday. The objective of these tasks was to see how your character would react in circumstances prior to our actual scene. For example, Glen and I improvised a meeting between Blanche and her Brother at home with the objective of organising a birthday party for their father. In the second exercise with Davidona, we improvised that our characters were completing the daily tasks that a nun might participate in. It soon became apparent to me that because I don’t have a Catholic upbringing, there were areas of my character development that I had no way of imagining. I wanted to deepen my understanding of what Blanche may have been going through emotionally and the mechanics of her daily life within a Carmélite Monastery.
In order to do this, on Friday afternoon I decided to research on the internet about the Carmélite Order some of which I have added to the end of my post. To my amazement, I discovered that there was a Carmélite Monastery in London, within 45 minutes travelling by bus from my home. I emailed via their contact form on the website, and I was very grateful to Sister Patricia who said that I could join them for Mass on Saturday morning at 8am. Luckily, I’m an early bird so I set my alarm and planned to start my day with this experience.
I arrived at the Monastery around 7:40am, all was quiet and the morning sun was just starting to colour the sky blue. Not knowing what to expect I was a little apprehensive at first as I was alone and the Monastery was completely enclosed. Ahead of me in the courtyard was a simple sign ‘Chapel’, I climbed the stairs and after a little wait I was greeted silently by one of the sisters and guided into the chapel for Mass.
Shortly after I sat down, the regular congregation began to slowly arrive. The sister turned on the electric lights to reveal the beautiful intricacies of the chapel. Somebody then came to light the candles and prepare the altar for the mass. One very interesting observation, even though I could barely see, was watching the sisters in the separate room prepare for Mass as well. The grille was in place, and heavy curtains were opened. Then one sister unlocked half of the grille and it opened in folds like a concertina to create a private opening to the altar. Then the Priest entered the chapel through a private door and began the Mass. It was so wonderful and humbling to watch the mass. I felt very relaxed and reflective. Deep in thought about what I had seen and experienced whilst sharing this short time with the Sisters, I left full of energy for the day ahead. I have the utmost respect for their dedication and commitment and I will try my very best to show that when developing the character that I am to portray in my performance on January 19th at the Royal College of Music.
The Nuns live a cloistered life, in 2010 they allowed a documentary film director a rare glimpse into their world after he asked them for permission over a ten year period, this film is called ‘No Greater Love’.
You can read more about the Carmelite order on their website here and if you have a minute please take a look at their shop as they have some lovely items for sale.
More Information On The Carmelite Order
The Postulancy is the initial stage of formation and is generally an 8-month experience.
The first and last months of the Postulancy are spent at the Motherhouse, and the other six months are spent at one of the Homes served by the Congregation. The Postulant is given the opportunity to work with the elderly in the facility and to participate in the prayer life of the Sisters.
A Certified Nurses Aide training program and other pertinent services are provided for a postulant with no previous experience working with the elderly.
Classes are given on the following: Spiritual life, Community history, Carmelite Spirituality, Catechesis, Community life.
The Postulant Director meets at least weekly with the Postulant to discuss her progress and difficulties, and to offer guidance.
If readiness for the Novitiate is ascertained, the Postulant receives her name in religion and prepares for the next phase of formation: the Novitiate.
The Novitiate is a two-year period of time during which the Novice explores on a deeper level what it means to be a member of our Carmelite Congregation. The resolve and suitability of the Novice is further discerned. There is concentration on developing a solid spiritual foundation.
The First, or Canonical Year
The Novice receives the Habit of Carmel (Brown tunic, brown scapular, and a white veil.)
The Sister becomes more fully acquainted with the many facets of religious life.
Classes are given on the Rule and Constitutions, the Vows of Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty, Scripture, Prayer, Liturgy, Christian Doctrine, Vatican documents, spiritual growth, and development.
These classes are given by the Novice Director, experienced priests, and other qualified speakers.
The Second Year
The Novice continues to learn and live the spiritual and religious aspects of the Carmelite life.
She learns more about the apostolate through a course on the Organization and Operation of the Long Term Care Facility and by spending time in two homes of the Congregation.
If readiness and suitability of the Novice are ascertained, Sister then goes on to the next step of her religious formation “Profession of First Vows” and receives a black veil that distinguishes the Professed Sister from the Novice.
The Temporary Profession of Vows
The Temporary Profession of Vows is the stage in religious formation during which the newly Professed Sister is assigned to one of our mission houses, where she will gain further experience in integrating the spiritual and apostolic aspect of our lives as Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.
The Religious Vows are renewed annually before perpetual profession.
The Sister continues in the active ministry of the Congregation and resides with a local community of Carmelite Sisters.
The Sister continues to attend formal spiritual programs held at the Motherhouse twice a year.
She strives to grow in union with God and in her gift of self to the Community and the apostolate.
The Perpetual Profession of Vows
After completing the five to seven year period of temporary vows, the Sister may request to make perpetual profession.
A gold ring is given at the time of perpetual profession.
The Sister becomes a permanent member of the Congregation.
By her final profession of vows, she gives herself forever to God, her Community and the Church.
Thanks to everyone for all your encouragement and support over the past five years, 2017 brought with it some amazing experiences for me and I think 2018 is going to be a real rollercoaster, so climb aboard, hang on to your hats, and let’s enjoy the thrill of the ride.
Whatever 2018 brings you I hope that you all have a fabulous year, with opportunities to take, decisions to make, and plenty of happy events along the way.
2017 has been an eventful year for me, with so many new things for me to experience and learn, thank you to my wonderful teachers this year for sharing your knowledge and friendship. I started the year performing “La Dolce Speranza”with the RCM classical orchestra, conducted by Ben Palmer. The summer brought with it the opportunity to be involved with the premiere of BambinO at the Manchester International Festival, followed by a tour around the North West of England and then on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, finishing in the Autumn with performances in Glasgow. This was such an exhilarating show to be involved with and I loved every minute of it. My year ended with two performances of Handel’s Messiah, one with Chamber Orchestra and the other with a Baroque Orchestra. In between the performances, I sang my first cantata, Handel Psalm 112 ‘Laudate Pueri Dominum’ with the Thames Philharmonic and Choir.
Christmas Festivities start tomorrow and I’m going to enjoy a well-earned holiday. To close off the year, I wanted to share with you one of the arias that I have been working on over the last few months which I hope you enjoy. It is Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen, Ännchen’s aria from Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber. I have also included the original lyrics and a translation by Robert Glaubitz. Thank you to George Todica for his wonderful accompaniment on this recording.
Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen,
Blond von Locken oder braun,
Hell von Aug’ und rot von Wangen,
Ei, nach dem kann man wohl schauen
Zwar schlägt man das Aug’ aufs Mieder
Nach verschämter Mädchen Art;
Doch verstohlen hebt man’s wieder,
Wenn’s das Bürschchen nicht gewahrt.
Sollten ja sich Blicke finden,
Nun, was hat das auch für Not?
Man wird drum nicht gleich erblinden,
Wird man auch ein wenig rot.
Blickchen hin und Blick herüber,
Bis der Mund sich auch was traut!
Er seufzt: Schönste!
Sie spricht: Lieber!
Bald heißt’s Bräutigam und Braut.
Immer näher, liebe Leuchten!
Wollt ihr mich im Kranze sehn?
Gelt, das ist ein nettes Bräutchen,
And the youth isn’t any less beautiful?
When a slim youth walks by,
Blond of hair or brown,
Bright of eye and red of cheeks,
Indeed, you can definitely look at him.
Of course, you lay your eyes on your bosom
After the manner of a modest maiden;
But by stealth you raise them again
If the boy doesn’t notice.
If you should catch his glance,
Then, what’s that matter?
You will not be blinded,
You become just a little red.
A little glance here and a glance over there,
Until the mouth is also as bold!
He sighs : beautiful one!
She says : beloved!
Soon, they will be Bride and Bridegroom.
Always nearer, beloved glow!
Do you want to see me in a (bridal) wreath?
Don’t you think, she is a nice bride,
And the youth isn’t any less beautiful?
Wherever you are I hope that you have a wonderful time over the Christmas Holidays and that as 2017 draws to a close that you have a fabulous New Year in 2018.
It is wonderful to be back home preparing for Christmas, a time to relax with family and friends, eat lots of tasty homemade treats and dress the tree 🎄. It’s also a real treat to be able to calmly sit with a warm cup of tea and a delicious mince pie, whilst I begin to make plans for next term at College.
Last Saturday was particularly a lovely day, as my parents, grandparents, and my supportive friends including Gill and Terry came to the Royal Northern College of Music to watch my final Messiah of the season and celebrate my Dads birthday. It was very special to return to the RNCM, which I haven’t had the opportunity to visit since leaving their junior department, nearly six years ago to start my undergraduate degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. I could not believe how much this area of Manchester had changed. So many new homes and buildings, a great sign of regeneration, bringing new life to this area of the city. Inside the RNCM, the familiar layout brought back memories of my introduction to the fabulous world of classical singing. However, like outside, there were some exciting new improvements to the internal layout of the Conservatoire.
Alex Grainger, Tom Newall,, Matthew Mannion, Emma Stannard, and Me
I arrived in the afternoon for the rehearsal the Salford Choral Society was running through their pieces and it was magical to hear them in full voice. I was thrilled to have been asked to join the mixed voice choir this year alongside fellow soloists Emma Stannard, Alex Grainger, and Matthew Mannion. We were accompanied by the fantastic Northern Baroque Sinfonia, with Tom Newall doing an excellent job conducting. The concert hall had a wonderful acoustic and I hope that the audience enjoyed the performance as much as we did.
RNCM Concert Hall
At the end of the evening, I was able to see my wonderful family and friends for lots of cuddles, snuggles, and kisses. The best part of visiting home!
I really hope that if you get the opportunity to support an event such as this in your local community or nearest city that you jump in and take a chance on it. Because my Nana and Grandad had never been to an event like this before in over 70 years and both of them found it really uplifting and nothing at all like what they expected.
It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas! This week I was celebrating the holiday cheer by catching up with friends, colleagues, and teachers to celebrate the end of the academic year (almost 🤫). The Royal College of Music was decorated with Christmas trees and my Student Village was adorned with lots of tinsel, Christmas ornaments, and lights.
John Bate, Beth Moxon, Steve Mills, Me, and Dan D’Souza
To add to all this cheer and merriment, I was invited to perform Purcell’s O Sing unto the Lord and Pergolesi’s Magnificat alongside my talented peers, Dan D’Souza, Steve Mills, and Beth Moxon at the Thames Philharmonic Choir Winter Concert conducted by the wonderful John Bate. I arrived at the beautiful All Saints Church in the heart of Kingston on Thames at 13:45 ready for afternoon rehearsals beginning at 14:00. It was the first time I would sing through the prepared pieces with the choir and orchestra. It was very exciting and spirits were high. The rehearsal went really well and it was exciting to hear all the hard work come together by the joining forces of so many talented musicians.
This concert was particularly exciting for me as I was able to sing my first cantata, Handel Psalm 112 ‘Laudate Pueri Dominum’. A cantata is a work for solo voice, choir, and orchestra. This form of vocal music was particularly popular in the Baroque period. This particular cantata was written by Handel when he was 22 years old during his stay in Italy. It’s a truly beautiful piece and I thoroughly enjoyed working on the challenging vocal writing with one of my coaches, the wonderful Andrew Robinson.
My parents came down for the performance which made it extra special and we were able to enjoy a lovely walk around Kingston where we were able to admire the festive Christmas Markets in light snowfall.
Late this afternoon Timothy Connor contacted me to tell me that Fiona Maddocks, a classical music critic in The Guardian newspaper included BambinO in her top ten performances of 2017. It was such a wonderful early Christmas present for everyone involved in the production.