Archives For Beryl Foster

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Day three began with a practice slot in room 209 from 9 o’clock to 10 o’clock. We performed four of the songs that we prepared for the trip yesterday in our lesson with Solveig, so today we decided to work on a new piece from the Haugtussa cycle, Møte.  I had previously worked on the translation and pronunciation with my dear friend Martina whilst in Glasgow, so George and I decided to explore the musical ideas conjured up by the piece after yesterday’s inspiring open lessons.

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Then at 10 o’clock we then went to the opening of the conferences and lectures held by musicologists interested in Grieg’s works.  The Grieg Society started in 1996 and they held conferences by annually.  The Society now hold the conference sessions every four years with little projects and workshops in between. This conference was the first time that workshop and lectures had been combined.

This resulted in bringing musicologists and performing musicians together in close contact to discuss ideas and create a web of information which we can all draw from. This was the goal of the society and I believe they have succeeded.

The conference represents over 20 different countries. The theme for the conference was the vocal production of Grieg music, there are 180 different songs that Grieg wrote.  Einar Røttigen, a fabulous pianist and leader of the workshop, explained that his hopes for the conference were that we could all take away what we had learned from our experiences and share them with others.  His hope is that the conference will create a network of Grieg enthusiasts, who in turn will inspire people to learn,listen and perform these beautiful Norwegian songs.
Beryl Foster from the UK was the keynote speaker, and she led the very interesting lecture ‘Grieg The Dramatist.’   She went into great depth that about his music and his compositions for the voice. She explained that he was a master of subtle difference shifting the Bar line and the inclusion of the tritone to represent dramatic ideas. He also wanted to feature ideas brought from Norwegian folk music to give a flavour of this fabulous culture within his works.

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Then at 11 o’clock Jorma Daniel Lünenbürger, from Germany, gave a lecture on Grieg songs using German words, in context to German lieder. This was a very interesting talk, as he explained that Grieg went to Leipzig Conservatoire to study. Grieg decided that he wanted to compose in the German language and in the German manner. The basis of the lecture was to compare how the different famous composers such as Grieg, Schubert, Wolf, Franz and Reinecke ( Grieg’s teacher) all set poetry to music. However it was the ending quote that I found the most interesting! this lead me to wonder whether I can show the different nationalities more when I sing in different languages and whether this can colour my text and interpretation.

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At 12 o’clock George and I had a lesson with Turid Bakke Braut. We performed for her and worked in great depth on Møte. Together we explored the different options for phrasing the musical line in order to achieve a flowing thought. This was a very rewarding process as we delved into the musical depth of the peace. This resulted in a truly close connection to the poem and musical ideas.

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After a well-deserved lunch break we had an open panel discussion about performing Grieg songs with singers Njål Sparbo, Solveig Kringlebotn and pianists Einar Røttingen and Signe Bakke. This was especially interesting as the speakers explained their views on performing Grieg’s songs. The pianists recommended that the text must always have a sense of direction to enable the pianist to move and express the emotion of a harmonic progression.  Solveig explained her views in depth and they were so absorbing. She explained that Grieg wanted to write music that was sympathetic to the original intention of the poet . Njål encouraged us to take what had been discussed and incorporate it into our own performances. Einar recommended never to play different composers from the same era in the same way. This is because they should all be seen as sensitive and individual human beings who have their own stories to tell.
At 4 o’clock George and I then signed up to perform in the open masterclass, which was to be held in front of the musicologists and musicians together. There were seven participants overall and we performed fourth. Originally we decided to sing Ved Gjætle Bekken, but after connecting so strongly with Møte during the day we decided to take the risk of performing it because we wanted to gain as much insight and advice as possible. We performed the song in full and then we received great advice and input from multiple teachers and musicologists. This was brilliant as it allowed me to think about all the different options and alternatives that are available to a performer and it also gave me the confidence to make my own decisions on how I think the piece should be performed.

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After a quick bite to eat we met back up at 7 o’clock at Bergen public library it was here that we got the chance to see and touch Grieg’s original scores. This is a very exciting process is we could get a sense of the actual beginnings of the works, to experience the seed from which the music and ideas grew from.

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The Haugtussa Manuscript had a beautiful painting on it’s the front cover, sadly the artist is unknown. I went on to looking through the scores and I found that Grieg wrote the music in pen but the bar lines in pencil. Although it may seem like a simplistic thing to discover but it really spoke to me especially after all that I had learned today in the lectures. I wondered as I read through Grieg’s scores was this use of pencil intentional? Was there some glorious purpose behind it or maybe had his pen just run out of ink. We may never know.

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Then as the evening drew on we became enthralled as the library transformed into a bar as loads of people started to come in to meet and socialise. It was very different to our University library and created a fabulous atmosphere. Perhaps we don’t need to be quiet and libraries in the evening? It was lovely to spend some time with my fellow participants, share stories and discuss musical ideas.

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Tomorrow the conference is to be hosted by the musicologists and will be dominated by the Haugtussa cycle. I’m very excited to hear their ideas and take on their advice and information which I hope will help my performance of the work.

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