Following my visit to Seonjeongneung – The Royal Tombs I waited to visit the Changdeokgung Palace Complex with my brother Matt and his husband Alex as they were flying out to join me for a short holiday in Seoul.
The palace complex of Changdeokgung is situated north of where
we were staying in Gangnam and across the Han river. We decided to include a
visit to the Gwangjang Market in the morning on our way to the palace to make
the most of the day!
The journey took around 40 minutes on the tube, which was so
easy to use with the T-Money cards that you can use all over Seoul, on
different modes of transport, (bus, tube, coach and taxi). What made the travel
cards even better is they come with all sorts of colourful designs, using
cartoons from popular culture. If travelling in Seoul, I recommend two apps Naver Map and my preferred choice City Mapper, both apps provide visuals
of your route and the ability to track your location. The reason I prefer City
Mapper is that I could type in English characters and save the journeys to my
phone using the Wi-Fi at the hotel. This meant that when I was exploring, I
could use the GPS location and map guides on airplane mode – saving some extra
The Market is the oldest in the City and was an easy stroll
from Euljiro 4(sa)-ga station, there was a huge collection of items available
on sale from fabrics and clothes to dried fish and culinary delicacies. The
atmosphere was already buzzing at 10:00am, which I was surprised at because my
Guide book wrote that it is well known for providing an authentic night market
When we arrived at the Changdeokgung Palace the first impression was the splendour and size of the complex. I tried to imagine how it must have appeared to those who visited back in the 15th Century when it was built. The site was considered the secondary palace to one at Gyeongbokgung and was differentiated by the size of the grounds. It was such a treat to walk around the well-cared for public areas and take it all in. Each Hall was beautifully ornate with painted, sculpted wooden Roofs and rich vibrant interiors. One room had mother of pearl decorated furniture which glowed in the sunlight of modern day.
We wanted to visit the Secret Garden and so we waited for
the English tour as you could not walk around unescorted. The best part was that whilst we were waiting,
I found out that if you hire traditional dress, (Hanbok) you are able to enter
the complex for free, so off I went to hire a costume.
I visited Hanbok Rental, a shop just across the main road opposite the Grand Main Entrance and Ticket Office. The staff were so efficient and friendly, guiding me through the many colours and layers to the traditional gown. I really recommend this shop, as they had lockers on site for your larger belongings, and little handbags, hair ornaments, and parasols were included in the rental price. I am so glad that I rented the Hanbok as I felt transformed to another time and enabled me to pretend that I was attending a royal palace event.
As my stay here in Seoul draws to an end, I must thank
everyone involved with the Seoul International Music Competition for making me
feel so welcome. This has been an amazing experience which has allowed me to
briefly sample the culture, both historic and current, of this wonderful
On one of my trips out around the Gangnam district I set out to visit the historic site of Seonjeongneung with Yurie Takano, a Japanese Soprano and fellow competitor. The site houses the Royal Tombs Seolleung ( The Royal Tomb of King Seongjong – 1495 and Queen Jeonnhyeon 1530 ) and Jeongneung ( The Royal Tomb of King Jungjong – moved to this site in 1562 ). The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, enhancing its status and preserving the location for future generations.
The cost to enter the site is only ₩ 1,000.00 which is very
reasonable when you consider a cup of tea or coffee can cost ₩ 4,500.00.
Walking around the site I found the place very serene and tranquil which was
quite unexpected in such a large bustling city. To me the Tombs were quite phantasmagorical,
an beautiful and picturesque resting place guarded by huge statues resembling humble
servants and protectors in the shape of man and beast.
This mystical place made me think of the way the homes of
the Hobbits were described in the Lord Of The Rings, a story that my Dad read
to me as a child, and in my imagination I was immediately transported to
another place in time.
I was fascinated that the grounds in the park leading to the
tombs at the top of the hill were split into two different paths. One for
visitors and the second a spirit road leading to decorative steps of the
The Tomb Guardians were on hand to make sure that visitors
respected these special stone paved pathways as they weren’t for the living and
that we used the right path to explore this peaceful location.
I hope that you will enjoy sharing a little more of my trip
to Seoul over the next couple of weeks.
To close tonight I wanted to let you know that I will be
performing in Waterperry Opera Festival’s Fundraising Gala on the 11th
April. The event will aim to raise funds
for its charitable activities and to celebrate the launch of their 2019
programme. I believe that it will be a fun evening with some fabulous
performances and if you can make it I am sure you will enjoy the evening.
It has been such an honour to be selected for this year’s
Seoul International Music competition and I’m having a magical time here in
Seoul, such a beautiful place and the people are so friendly and
welcoming. I have met so many fabulous singers and had the opportunity to
spend time with them and build new friendships; Yurie Takano from Japan,
Yemonja Stanley from the USA, Maarri Ernits from Estonia, and the super Menna
Cazel from the UK.
This year the standard has been exceptionally high, and I
have not envied the job of the judges who have to try and mark our performances
and pick the finalists. I have learned
so much from the experience and though I did not progress through to the final
round the feedback from the judges has been very constructive and it was a
privilege to meet them to seek their advice.
Exploring the city of Seoul has been a real treat as the
public transport system is easy to use and very comprehensive once you get to
grips with the map 😊 So far I have visited
the Olympic village which was about an hour on the train, it was quite
inspiring to walk around and try and imagine what it must have been like full
of competitors and cheering crowds.
We have walked all over the Gangnam area which is where we have been staying and sampled the Korean cuisine in several of the local restaurants.
The staff at tourist centre have been so helpful and suggested several places to visit whilst we are here. It was fun to walk along the K-Star road and check out the iconic Gangnam Dolls.
I also visited the Starfield Library in Gangnam which had
some amazing larger than life illustrations constructed with books, quite an
The Arts centre where we performed was amazing, it houses
the Opera House, Music Hall, the Hangaram Art Museum, the Hangaram Design
Museum and the Seoul Calligraphy Museum.
The campus was huge and reminded me of Lincoln Centre in New York and so
convenient to have such fabulous performance spaces all in the one place.
brother Matt and his husband Alex flew out yesterday to come and support me and
to take a short holiday. It will be a
treat to spend some time here with them and share some quality time exploring
the culture and heritage of this amazing City and the surrounding areas
I have some exciting news that I would like to share with you, I will be flying out to Seoul, South Korea this week to take part in the 15th Seoul International Music Competition 2019. The competition is held annually and alternatively covers three musical disciplines, piano, violin, and voice; meaning that the competition for voice only comes around every third year. There were 235 applicants, from 17 countries considered during the preliminary video submission round and from the applicants 69 singers were selected to progress to the live rounds. I am so honoured and thrilled to be one of the competitors chosen which also includes singers from Iran, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Serbia, USA, and the United Kingdom. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to visit a new country, experience their culture, meet new friends, and sample South Korean cuisine. I hope to make the most of my time there and if I am chosen to progress through the competition, I will be given the opportunity to sing a Korean Art song.
Danbi Heo and MinJee Kim
I have really enjoyed preparing the piece called Gopunguisang and have been helped here in London by two of my Korean friends Danbi Heo, who is a concert pianist, and MinJee Kim who is a soprano. They have helped me with the pronunciation of the lyrics and also talked about Seoul and invited me to join them for some Korean food so that I would know what to order during my stay. The food was really enjoyable, a little like the Chinese food I have eaten here in the UK but with far more vegetables😊
The song I chose to learn was Gopunguisang by Isang Yun:
한국어 노랫말 / Korean Lyrics
하늘로 날을 듯이 길게 뽑은 부연 끝 풍경이 운다
처마 끝 곱게 느리운 주렴에 반월이 숨어
아른아른 봄밤이 두견이 소리처럼 깊어 가는 밤
곱아라 고와라 진정 아름다운지고
호장 저고리 하얀 동정이 화안히 밝도소이다
열두 폭 긴 치마가 사르르르 물결을 친다
그대는 어느 나라의 고전을 말하는 한 마리 호접
호접인 양 사뿌시 춤추라 아미를 숙이고
나는 이 밤에 옛날에 살아
눈 감고 거문곳줄 골라 보리니
가는 버들인 양 가락에 맞춰
흰 손을 흔들어지다
영문의역/ English Translation
The wind-bell chimes from the tip of a skyward eave.
The half moon hides itself behind a bead screen hung elegantly from the eave-tip.
Glimmering Spring evening, evening deepening like the cuckoo’s call
Fine, elegant, true beauty supreme,
The white collar of a colorfully striped jeogori shines bright.
A twelve pok long skirt glides in waves.
You dance lightly as if a butterfly, a butterfly reciting an ancient tale of some country.
You lower your arched eyebrows
I close my eyes to live as we did long ago.
I’ll pluck the geomungo so
You may wave your white hand to tune,
As if a slender willow.
A jeorgori is a traditional Korean dress. The geomungo is a traditional stringed musical instrument of the zither family with both bridges and frets. I researched the composer whose life story was most interesting and will tell you more about him soon.
On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) collaborative event with Royal College of Music (RCM) entitled ‘In Tune with Feminist Time’ held in The Benjamin West Lecture Theatre, at Burlington Gardens. It was a wonderful use of this space as the musicians transformed what is normally an intellectual venue into a room full of colour, texture and emotive sounds. Behind the performers were projected self-portraits from renown RA academicians, one that struck me in particular was the artist Angelica Kauffman. She was a prominent English Artist of the 18th century, one of only two founding female members of the Royal Academy of Arts and the last woman to be admitted until 1922.
In her self-portrait ‘Hesitating Between The Arts of Music
and Painting’ it revealed that she was a talented opera singer, struggling
between devoting herself to a career in music or art. I found this fascinating
and thought it was a wonderful link to International Women’s Day as women
are capable of possessing many talents and with the right opportunities can
achieve success and explore their abilities to the fullest.
All the performers in this event were fantastic and revealed
new music, tales of history and interesting poetry inspired from the female
hand. The composers that were represented were: Barbara Strozzi, Judith Weir,
Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger, Maria Rodrigo, and a premiere by living
composer Hayat Selim.
I particularly enjoyed the event as it continued the theme
created by the inaugural event last year that I performed in: ‘In Touch with
Feminist Futures’ which was created as a platform for myself and my fellow
colleagues to present our research and performances from our Women in Music
module led by the charismatic and formidable duo Diana Roberts and Natasha
This weekend the weather has been unseasonably warm with clear blue skies over London and I decided to take a break from my practice schedule to spend some time with my parents who were down in London for the weekend.
When working alone you have to find ways to focus and keep motivated and one of my coaches suggested reading some poetry for inspiration, it was suggested that I take a look at Thomas Hardy as one such writer. I read through some of his pieces and this one, in particular, struck a chord with me.
Regret Not Me
By Thomas Hardy
Regret not me;
Beneath the sunny tree
I lie uncaring, slumbering peacefully.
Swift as the light
I flew my faery flight;
Ecstatically I moved and feared no night.
I did not know
That heydays fade and go,
But deemed that what was would be always so.
I skipped at morn
Between the yellowing corn,
Thinking it good and glorious to be born.
I ran at eves
Among the piled-up sheaves,
Dreaming, ‘I grieve not, therefore nothing’s grieves.’
Now soon will come
The apple, pear, and plum,
And hinds will sing, and autumn insects hum.
Again you will fare
To cider-makings rare,
And junketings; but I shall not be there.
Yet gaily sing
Until the pewter ring
Those songs we sang when we went gipsying.
And lightly dance
Some triple-timed romance
In coupled figures, and forget mischance;
And mourn not me
Beneath the yellowing tree;
For I shall mind not, slumbering peacefully.
So today, along with my parents, we set off to find The Hardy Tree, this is living, evolving memorial, created by Thomas Hardy following the building of St Pancras station in the 1860s. Hardy at the time was employed by the firm of architects charged with exhuming the bodies on the site and moving them to another place of rest so that the station could be completed.
Having finished this task Hardy had hundreds of headstones that were now disconnected from their owners and he decided to create a memorial to commemorate them. He arranged the headstones in a circular pattern around the base of an ash tree in the grounds surrounding St Pancras Old Church which was to be left undisturbed by the construction work. The memorial stands to this day and has become an ever-changing memorial as the living tree and its roots have grown and become entwined with the headstones. It was quite moving to see this memorial amongst the hustle and bustle of this busy area of London.
Whilst visiting the site we were quite taken by the church and Dad decided to go inside and ask about its history. Apparently, it is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in London dating back to around 313 to 314 AD. The location on a small hill is thought to have once been used by the Romans during their occupation as an encampment following which the location became a place of worship. It is amazing to think that over the centuries this site will have been the center of hope for so many people who came here to give praise and find peace. I do enjoy finding these little gems scattered so randomly amongst the modern architecture that has become synonymous with a busy metropolis such as London.
I was also amazed to see the redevelopment in the area where they have made flats out of old gas storage towers, we had a gas storage tower in Winsford in Cheshire, the town I grew up in but it was dismantled and a college now stands in the space. I’d have never have thought an ugly structure could be turned into reinvigorated living space. With shops built on the old cold dumps and the canals cleaned up with walkways that we enjoyed exploring the area seems to be getting its heart and soul back.
I was thrilled this week to be asked to help launch the search for this year’s Pendine International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. Ceidiog Hughes contacted me on behalf of Llangollen International Eisteddfod to find out how winning the prize had helped me.
Below is a copy of the press release which I wanted to share with you and I would encourage any young singers out there to put in an entry, it is an amazing competition and one that I have been honoured to be associated with since 2014.
As part of this year’s Eisteddfod, I have been invited to sing two ten minute performances as a guest of Rolando Villazón in a Classical Gala on the 2nd July 2019 which I am very excited about as it will be great to catch up with everyone involved with the festival. If you have ever wanted to visit North Wales this a lovely time of year with so much to do at this festival.
New search launched for singing stars of future
A “supremely talented soprano” has launched a search to find the world’s most talented young singers.
According to Charlotte Hoather, 24, winning the prestigious Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod last year catapulted her career to a new level on the global stage.
Organisers say entries are already flooding in for the prestigious competition this year which has a first prize of £5,000, along with a £2,000 cheque for the runner up.
Every year the picturesque town of Llangollen in the Dee Valley welcomes around 4,000 international performers and around 50,000 visitors to the week-long festival of music and dance.
Among the highlights of the week is the prestigious Pendine International Voice of the Future competition, which showcases young talent alongside other gifted global performers.
Once again this year the arts-loving care organisation, Pendine Park, is contributing £5,000 to the prize fund and a beautiful silver salver via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust, with the balance coming from Sir Bryn’s Terfel’s foundation and Llangollen Eisteddfod.
Following her “life-changing” experience last year, Charlotte, from Winsford, in Cheshire, is urging other young soloists not to miss the deadline for entries on March 1st.
The format will be slightly different this year, with the preliminary rounds being held at Llangollen Town Hall on Tuesday, July 2nd. The semi-final will then be held on the pavilion stage the following day with two finalists going head to head during the live televised concert in the evening.
Charlotte, who trained at the Royal College of Music, said: “The competition gave me a massive boost. It’s been huge for my confidence and helped me push the boundaries of where I could go and what I can do. And the prize money gave me such a massive opportunity to further my career.
“Having the money available meant I could fly to New York to audition for Pittsburgh Opera and attend an event at the Metropolitan Opera House and I’m also jetting off to Seoul, South Korea at the end of March for another competition which is very exciting.”
Charlotte, who previously gained a First Class Honours Degree in Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, added: “I’d encourage any young singer to give it a go.
“Winning the competition is life-changing. It’s helped me to take more risks and travel internationally for opportunities as a professional singer.”
“The year has been amazing. I toured the role of Uccelina in Paris organised by the Théâtre du Châtelet and appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in the same role later touring the Scottish Highlands performing in Bambino for Scottish Opera.”
“I also performed at the inaugural Waterperry Opera Festival whose Patron is Jonathan Dove, the composer of Mansfield Park and I will reprising the role again this coming July.”
“I was also a guest soloist at Tideswell Remembrance concert and sang in the Rachmaninov recital at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury, London. More recently I reached the quarterfinals of an International Singing competition in Dublin, It was certainly a busy year!”
Charlotte’s success was music to the years of Pendine Park proprietors Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill.
Mr. Kreft said: “This is the third year of the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition and the standard just seems to go up and up. Last year’s winner, Charlotte Hoather, was exceptional and a very deserving winner.”
“She is a supremely talented soprano and the competition has helped unlock the door to a hugely bright future.”
“Our aim in supporting the competition in conjunction with the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation is to provide a springboard for brilliant young singers from around the world to achieve their dreams of establishing a career on the global stage.”
“Sir Bryn is living proof that supreme talent can take you a long way and we are delighted to doing our bit to help gifted young singers attain new heights.”
“The competition chimes perfectly with our ethos at Pendine Park because the arts in general and music, in particular, provide the golden thread running through everything we do to enrich the lives of our residents and staff alike.”
The festival’s musical director, Edward-Rhys Harry, said: “We are so grateful to Pendine Arts and Community Trust for their continued support for this truly international competition.”
“I know how much the competition has accelerated the career of Charlotte Hoather, last year’s winner and how she used her prize money to help further her career.”
“It’s a massive opportunity to perform before a big live audience and live on TV. My advice is very simple, if you are a young singer aged between 19 and 28 and think you may be good enough, then go for it.”
“Approach the competition with courage and conviction and even if you don’t make the final it will still be an invaluable lesson and a wonderful experience.”
“This major competition is something that we need to nurture and thanks to the support of Pendine Arts and Community Trust young artists are getting an opportunity to further their careers.”
“It’s certainly a competition I’m really looking forward to and it promises to be one of the major highlights of this year’s International Music Eisteddfod. And another new aspect of the competition is that the winner will be offered additional performances at other venues. The competition really is going on to another level.”
To find out more about the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod and for competition details please visit here:
As someone at the very start of my professional career with so much to learn it always surprises me from where I can draw inspiration. As with everything in life when faced with something that is new to us it is important to draw on the experience from those around us, from Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and our peers. But sometimes inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.
During an audition or when performing on stage getting my makeup just right can be a bit of a hit or miss affair and can have a huge impact on how I feel on stage. As singers, we spend hours and hours practicing the many technical aspects of our craft but often when it comes to our stage appearances the way we present our selves can be a little daunting without the help of the many talented makeup artists that help out with an Opera production. So, when faced with this challenge on my own I can sometimes lack the skills to make the best of my appearance when attending an audition.
Over Christmas whilst at home with my parents and brothers we watched some episodes of a programme called Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It is a competition in which Drag Queens take on a series of challenges to demonstrate a range of skills that will ultimately make them the winner of the competition and enhance their performing careers. I loved watching the way the competitors rose to each challenge, gaining self-confidence and improving their stage presence with each round. What I never expected to discover however were makeup tips for stage performances, but that was exactly what I found.
Many of the performers recorded their makeup routines on YouTube which I have found so helpful. Their make up tips are brilliant for my job, they spill their secrets for how to hide unwanted blemishes and how to make it last for a full performance which can often be a problem as I found out in the heat of the Summer performances of Candide at the Minack Theatre. So, fingers crossed this is another skill I can continue to develop and with it give myself the extra confidence that is sometimes needed for an audition or competition.
Have you ever found inspiration in an unexpected way? If so, I would love to hear about it 🙂
I have some other good news to share with you, following the success of Waterperry Opera’s ‘Mansfield Park’ last Summer, Jonathan Dove has agreed to become an Honorary Patron for the festival and I can’t wait to reprise the role again this July. Last year the tickets sold out within weeks of going on sale so this year there will be two extra days. Once the tickets go on sale I will let you know in case you want to come along to Waterperry House in Oxford and join in the spectacle.
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.
“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.”
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!
Wigmore Hall, London
The Natioanl Concert Hall
Inside The NCH
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.
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 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!
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.