Archives For Classical Music

On Friday I joined the Pop-Up Opera team to participate in the Borders Book Festival, which took place in the heart of Melrose, which is south of Edinburgh.

Just off St Mary’s road, Harmony Garden was home to marquees filled with events for both adults and children, a pop-up bookshop with some authors present to sign the books bought by visitors to the festival, and the ticket booth.

We were parked in a great spot between Harmony Garden and the Orchard where a delightful collection of Food and Drink trucks were situated decorated in bunting and festive twinkly lights. As well as delicious and artisanal food to nibble on, there were stretch tents and tipis for shaded cover – on what turned out to be a miraculously sunny day!

I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the festival and between shows, I took time to explore the stands and enjoying hunting for treats and oddities.

Then on Saturday and Sunday, we set up the trailer at the tranquil Archerfield Walled Garden in North Berwick. The beautiful grounds host a Garden Cafe where the chefs in the kitchen use local produce to create scrumptious dishes for all tastes. Not only was there a soup of the day, but also a scone of the day.

On Sunday it was Father’s Day (Love you Dad) and the cafe celebrated by offering a deal to Dad’s, a burger and a locally brewed beer! Yum! On-site there is also a farm shop, Knops microbrewery, and amazing trails to walk peacefully alone or with your friends, family, and dogs.

One walk that enticed the company, in particular, was the fairy walk! So we decided to treat our stage management and instrumental crew to fairy wings from the shop and prance around the grounds in our Iolanthe costumes. The setting was so beautiful and we had a great time.

Ross Stenhouse was on the bike.

Next week you can catch up with us in Callander, and the following week in Banff, Aboyne, and the Haddington Show.

I’ve got four days off work in a row which is great because I’ve got to finalise my preparations for The Llangollen International Eisteddfod Classical Gala on the 2nd July at 19:30. I’ve been offered the wonderful opportunity to be part of a Classical Gala with French/Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón as part of my prize for winning the Pendine Voice of the Future competition last July.

Rolando is one of the leading tenors of our day he is frequently seen in Europe’s leading opera houses and sings with orchestras and opera houses all around the World.

Llangollen International Eisteddfod

Good news if you’re in the North West of England you don’t have to go to London to the Royal Opera House to hear Rolando he is coming to Llangollen in North Wales for the first time, Llangollen is one hour’s drive from Liverpool, 45 minutes from Chester (one hour by train), one and a half hours for my friends and family from Manchester and Stoke on Trent they’re staying overnight in some of the lovely bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels in Llangollen, I told them they could even glamp this year.

James Hendry

We will be accompanied in the Gala by the British Sinfonietta under the baton of British conductor James Hendry. James joined the prestigious ‘Jette Parker Young Artists Programme’ for emerging talent at London’s Royal Opera House in 2016. Hendry promises his Tuesday night concert to be an ‘opera pick and mix’, offering guests an exclusive repertoire through opera, classical and even musical theatre. He adds, “It will be a passionate performance that offers an inspiring tour for opera fans and newcomers alike.”

“In recent years the orchestra has performed extensively in England, Scotland and Wales as well as visiting Western Europe. Highlights include the London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs at a sold-out Royal Albert Hall in London, a performance of Berlioz’ Requiem at Cheltenham Festival, screenings of Casablanca at the Royal Opera House in London, screenings of Home Alone in Denmark, and the televised world premiere of ‘Adiemus Colores’ by Sir Karl Jenkins at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 2014. “

I wish that you could all be there with me, got my dress ready, got my shoes, feeling prepared, can’t wait to get started.

I am looking forward to my performance at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod on Tuesday 2nd of July as a guest of the renowned International Tenor Rolando Villazón. The evening’s gala concert is to be accompanied by the British Sinfonietta Orchestra conducted by James Hendry, also starring is the famous Welsh lyric soprano, Rhian Lois. If you have never been to the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen I can heartily recommend it, whether you intend to compete in one of the many categories or just come to enjoy the beautiful singing, fabulous dancing, or the joyous multicultural atmosphere that permeates around the Pavillion and throughout the Town during the festival.

The event is best described on their website:
Every summer since 1947 Llangollen has staged one of the world’s most inspirational cultural festivals. Each year around 4,000 performers and as many as 50,000 visitors converge on this beautiful small Welsh town and its International Pavilion; to sing and dance in a unique combination of competition, performance, and international peace and friendship.

The International Pavilion, Llangollen

Llangollen’s place in world music is now immutable. Since its inaugural year in 1947 more than 300,000 competitors from over 100 nationalities have performed enthusiastically on the Llangollen stage. In 1955 a young Luciano Pavarotti sang in the choir from his home town of Modena, conducted by his father. The choir won first prize in the Male voice choir competition. Pavarotti returned for a spectacular concert in 1995.”

“Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Markova, Joan Sutherland, Angela Gheorghiu, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jehudi Menuhin, José Carreras, Lesley Garrett, Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins, Dennis O’Neil, James Galway, Nigel Kennedy, Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, and Montserrat Caballé are among the musical stars that have appeared in our concerts. Placido Domingo confesses that his first professional engagement in the United Kingdom was at the 1968 International Eisteddfod.

The River Dee and the Town’s Railway Station

If you want to come along to the Eisteddfod you can buy tickets from the
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod website.

Just to let you know that if you want to come along to watch Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Mansfield Park this year that although they have increased the number of performances the tickets are selling fast so don’t leave it too long to book or you may be disappointed.

Finally, I am thinking about changing the header picture on my FaceBook page to the one below, please let me know what you think 🙂

Pop-Up Opera Tour

April 28, 2019 — 48 Comments

This week as April draws to a close I am really happy to share with you that I will be working with Scottish Opera again on their Pop-Up Opera tour around Scotland in May and June.  This year we will be performing three separate shows aimed at audiences of all ages:

A Little Bit of Iolanthe │Gilbert & Sullivan arr. Derek Clark

“ Iolanthe is banished by the Fairy Queen for marrying a mortal. Now, 25 years later, two worlds again collide when her son announces he’s in love. Unfortunately, his beloved is a popular girl and he has some serious competition… Light-hearted satire at its best, Iolanthe is full of fun.”

A Little Bit of The Magic Flute │Mozart arr. Derek Clark

  “Tamino is in love with Pamina, the daughter of the mysterious Queen of the Night. When she is abducted, he sets off to rescue her but soon realises all is not quite as it seems. A beguiling mix of comedy, fantasy and pantomime, The Magic Flute is also a profound story of the search for love, wisdom and truth.”

Puffy McPuffer and the Crabbit Canals │Music Marion Christie Words Allan Dunn

  “A tale of the five waterways that link Scotland from the North Sea to the Atlantic. Like most families, each one is different: Caledonian – the longest; Crinan – the most beautiful; hard-working Monklands; Union – the fastest; wise old Forth & Clyde. Each one thinks they’re the best. Can an ordinary little puffer boat make them think again?”

The tour will include dates at the Perth Festival of the Arts, Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, Old Kilpatrick, Barrhead, Giffnock, Borders Book Festival, Dirleton, Callander, Cupar Arts EDEN, Aboyne & Deeside Festival, Haddington Show.  You can see the times and dates for the shows here:

For these productions, I will be performing alongside Jessica Leary ( Soprano ), Aidan Edwards ( Baritone ), Ross Stenhouse ( Storyteller ), Lizy Stirrat ( Accordion ), Sharron Griffiths ( Harp ), and Yorke Sinclair ( Harp ).

Some Of The Places We Will Visit On The Tour

If you have the time I would appreciate it if you could please check out the new Kickstarter page of my friends at Improbable who have been responsible for some really amazing and innovative projects. Watch their video and if you can spare any amount to help them to bring their imaginative plans to life I can assure you that it will be gratefully received as they only have until May the 15th to hit their target.

Taking the time to re-visit my trip to Seoul over the past few blog posts have been really fun. This post is going to focus on sharing a video from my performance in the Recital Hall at the Seoul Arts Centre and the Instagramable Food Treats Inspired by K-pop culture.

One of the verses of Muttertänderlei, is about comparing her gorgeous baby daughter to sweet traditional German baked goods such as Zuckerwechen (Sweet Bun). I think this metaphor describes the deliciousness of cute babies and how you want to gobble them up. Which as a concept can definitely transferred to Korea. Cute cartoons, bold colours and celebrations of K-Pop stars decorated public areas and in turn went on to inspire food!

Rainbow Crepe Cake

The colour palette of magical unicorns, for instance, may have inspired this rainbow cake created by Billy Angel Cake Company in Seoul. This colourful cake is created from 20 individual crepes coloured with different fruit flavours and delicately divided by layers of spread mousse.

Bedazzled Ice-cream

Bistopping ice-cream cafe was a favourite find of mine. Imagination exploded here, in the form of embellished cones (with hundreds and thousands, painted icing, colourful sugar loops), chocolate phrases and crazy cookies which could be added to your ice-cream to produce your own unique design.

Ginormous Gateau

We found a little cafe called Conversation Cake from posts of Instagram. These cakes were  gorgeously decorated with macerated fruit and indulgent layers of sponge. Our most expensive cakes of the day, and sadly on our visit a little dry, but with a glass of refreshing iced coffee they became well-balanced.

Flower Pot Mystery

Bananatree cafe was unbelievably cute from its hand-drawn menus to its quirky presentational style of its delicious food. We tried Candifloss covered coffee, Eggyffogatto and a Flower Paap. The flower pot cake was an outstandingly yummy experience. From the chocolate soil and truffle stones which deceptively hid the delectable strawberry gateau beneath – found by trusty miniature shovel shaped spoons.

Fizzing Refreshments

We delved inside the wonderful world of Line Friends at their flagship store and Cafe and tried a selection of jazzy and vibrantly colourful drinks inspired by the characters. From marshmallow white hot chocolate to a mysterious blue soda float and a popping candy strawberry slushy. Our tastebuds tingled from the experience.

Changdeokgung Palace

April 7, 2019 — 47 Comments

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 pennies!!

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 experience.

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.


Yurie Takano
and Me

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 Country.

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 spiritual shrine.

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.

Singing In Seoul

March 27, 2019 — 50 Comments

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 achievement 😊

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. My 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

Gopunguisang

March 17, 2019 — 72 Comments

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.

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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😊

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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.

Calling All Young Singers!

February 17, 2019 — 56 Comments

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.

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New search launched for singing stars of future

Ceidiog Hughes

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: