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.
It’s that time of year when we can thank someone who is very special, for their support, love, and reliability. In the U.K., today is Father’s Day and my dad is my superhero. He has superhuman powers of dedication and supports my crazy dream of becoming an opera singer. Especially on days when I need reminding that the final push or the hard work is worth it and that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. The belief he has in me is magical and I swear he gives phenomenal pep talks that he could tour the country giving to people. He has the power to make anyone feel great and always finds the positive in any situation. He is proud of the smallest achievements and always reminds me that when they are all added together these tiny tasks come together to make a huge accomplishment. What seemed insurmountable at the beginning, broken down into smaller tasks is suddenly not so bad and the sense of accomplishment on completion can be breathtaking. I love my dad so much and I’m so thankful that he is my dad.
He is also courageous and he has a fighting spirit that encourages him to never give up. He has taken many risks in his lifetime through business and life choices. Sometimes they pay off and other times they don’t, but he would never regret trying something and once started would never give up. It reminds me of when we all (my dad, my brothers and I) went to karate and we were training for fighting and he got kicked in his side and broke a rib, but he stayed for the whole session because me and my brothers were having so much fun and were learning new skills, he just got on with it and always encourages us to do the same.
My Dad and Me on my graduation day
He has the strong moral code of a superhero and will help people in need, he has taught me right and wrong in life. He also had a keen sense of motivation and a sense of responsibility in which he wants to provide for his loved ones so that we can do anything we dream of as long as we all work hard for it. He is extremely intelligent and honest, even though I joke that this was soaked up by my elder brother Matthew who is incredibly smart. My dad loves Manchester City Football Club and this love and dedication continue in my younger brother Thomas. My dad’s undying love for my mum is also something from a fairy tale, and did I mention he makes the most amazing mash!! (Mash potato)
This week I had the pleasure of performing at the Britten Theatre alongside my friends in a set of Opera Scenes produced by the Royal College of Music, London. The scenes were directed by James Bonas, conducted by Christopher Middletonand accompanied on piano by Ian Tindale.
I had a wonderful time performing the role of Aminta alongside the talented Yiwen Su as Elisa. We performed the opening scene from “Il re Pastore” by Mozart. For the performance, I had to wear a period wig, this was a completely new experience for me and I really enjoyed learning about the process and watching Shauna, the talented makeup and hair professional as she managed to hide all my hair under a cap ready for the powdered wig. To help me feel even more like a character from the 18th century, Shauna applied a layer of white foundation to my face which made me look quite pale. This was because in the 18th century both men and women would wear cosmetics to show social status. However, I wasn’t allowed to wear the fashionable bright pink rouge and lip colour as this would have been considered beyond the social ranking of my character for the scene. I found this really interesting and added another layer to my character profile and allowed me to explore how my character Aminta would react to meeting Elisa who in the first scene would have been considered higher than Aminta in social ranking. The performance was so much fun and I can’t wait to get back on a stage soon!
On Friday evening I had arranged to go and watch the RAMBERT ballet company perform “Ghost Dances” at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. Because I could not get a student ticket my brother Matthew offered to pay half as he knew how much I wanted to go which was lovely of him and appreciated by me 🙂 This performance was really special for me because I analysed Christopher Bruce’s “Ghost Dances” for my Dance A level. Whilst writing my analysis I was only able to watch video recordings of the piece but enjoyed the dance so much that I fell in love with the chilling choreography and the powerful storyline of the dance. So, when Matthew told me that it was to be performed at Sadler’s Wells I did not want to miss out on the chance to see it performed live. I enjoyed the performance thoroughly and the company used the original choreography, music, costumes, and set, so my memory of this beautiful dance was re-enacted live before my own eyes. The company takes the performance on tour very soon and if you get the opportunity to go and watch it I would recommend the show thoroughly!!
My Brother Matthew, Me and Alex
Outside The Theatre
Such A Wonderful Performance
I would also like to share with you all that I will be performing my year end recital on the 7th June in the East Parry room on the 4th floor of the Royal College of Music. My recital will be at 2:40 pm and if you are in London and able to attend it would be lovely to see you in the audience.
This week I had the pleasure to attend two musical events both of which allowed me to watch some outstanding singers.
On Wednesday I attended the semi-final for the 62nd competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards. It was held at the Wigmore Hall in London and the atmosphere felt full of energy and bursting with life thanks to the wonderful supportive audience. I attended the event with my dear friend Harvey, in which we were serenaded by 11 performances from young professional singers. They each had to prepare a varied program lasting up to 20 minutes, which included works from different periods of music. These 11 singers had been selected by audition following the preliminary round. From the 11 singers, the judges had to shortlist 6 for the final that was to take place on Friday 28th April. It was interesting to be able to observe these fine singers as I could relax and enjoy as they created beautiful music. I was thankful for the opportunity to show my support for these amazing young professionals as I know first-hand how important it is for the performers to have an enthusiastic audience in a competition such as this.
The singers selected for the final were: Eduard Mas Bacardit, tenor accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone accompanied by Gamal Khamis, piano Patrick Terry, counter-tenor accompanied by Somi Kim, piano Francesca Chiejina, soprano accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano James Way, tenor accompanied by Natalie Burch, piano Daniel Shelvey, baritone accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano
Following the final on Friday the winners were announced as:
First Prize – Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone
Second Prize – James Way, tenor
Song Prize – Patrick Terry, counter-tenor
Accompanist’s Prize – Gamal Khamis, piano
Congratulations to them on their achievements and special thank you to all of this year’s performers
Then on Thursday, I was able to get a student ticket for the performance of “The Exterminating Angel” at the Royal Opera House. This performance was part of the UK premiere of the opera written by Thomas Adès. It was especially electrifying, as Adès conducted the music himself. The piece was written and sung in English which allowed me to understand the chilling story more easily. The house was very full of excited observers and before a note was played I was bewildered and amazed to see *SPOILER ALERT* real live sheep on the stage! I have no idea why this excited me so, especially after my recent trip home to the English countryside. I was intrigued to see if they would be used whilst the live music was blaring full thrust but just before the conductor took to the podium they were guided off stage.
The opera took place in a mansion in which sophisticated guests are expected for dinner. The large star-studded cast performed the dramatic music and remained on stage for the majority of the performance. Which was wonderful for a student of opera as I could watch the singers acting and analyse their performance throughout. This helped me to see all aspects of the on-stage skills of the performers, from how to draw focus in a busy scene, prepare an audience for a solo, to providing support and ambiance to another character. It was skilfully played throughout and very enjoyable. As the run is still taking place I will not discuss the plot too thoroughly in detail just in case any of you get to see it, but I just want to say that the technical singing of the performers was outstanding. The composer had written huge dynamic and pitch variety which was demanding even for these experienced professional singers. For example, one soprano was singing all of her lines at the extreme of her range – very very high! It was such a feat and I can’t wait to work technically in the practice room so that I may one day be flexible enough to performance pieces like this in the future.
All in all, it has been a fabulous week 😊
Happy Saint George’s day to everyone 😊. It has been a lovely sunny weekend and my last week’s holiday at home for a while as I travel back to London today for the start of the Summer term at the Royal College of Music.
My Nana came to visit so we decided to make the most of the good weather and have a trip out into the countryside. Over the St George’s Day weekend there are usually several activities organised so we headed out to Beeston Castle to see if they were hosting their usual medieval celebrations.
The Entrance To Beeston Castle
There is always plenty to do at this English Heritage site and it brought back many memories from my childhood.
Me And My Nana
We then had a walk around the area surrounding the castle as it provides some beautiful views of the Cheshire countryside. Slowly making our way down to the Shropshire Union canal which passes close by the castle and has some great little Inns to stop and have a drink or enjoy afternoon tea.
Taking a Break At The Shady Oak
It was a lovely afternoon and it reminded me of the many trips that we used to go on growing up in Cheshire, a beautiful part of the English countryside.
I will get to return to Cheshire on the 5th May though as I have a recital in Chester organised by my friend Anna Cooper. We will be performing in an evening of song accompanied by Prajna Indrawati at St Werburgh’s RC Church at 7:30 pm.
This Easter Sunday we decided to get creative as the weather was too drizzly to go for a family walk. We checked in the cupboard and the fridge to see what we had in and decided to make some Easter biscuits ( cookies ). In the morning Matthew and I went down to one of the shops that were open, in order to treat ourselves to some fun cutters and extra food colouring. We had a brilliant afternoon, the hardest part was waiting around:
Waiting for the dough to prove
Waiting for the biscuits to bake
Waiting for the icing to set to add layers
But in between, we managed to distract ourselves by playing board games with our parents.
Whatever you did today I hope that you all had as much fun as we did.
I read that Kasper Holten the Danish Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, who left Covent Garden, London last month, claimed that the British are prejudiced against opera, perceiving it as elitist and not for them. The new Director Oliver Mears agrees that the perception exists. So how does my generation change and challenge this?
Lots of people I went to school and college with would never think to go to an opera, the State schools that my family attended never arranged trips to see an opera although there were trips to watch drama, dance performances, and musical theatre. It’s as though the State schools are keeping this perception going and not trying to make high art accessible to a wider audience if only to make a once in five year visit to the dress rehearsal of an opera performance so that each child has the opportunity to attend once in Primary school and once in Secondary education.
Although I’ve never been invited back to my High School to discuss training in a conservatoire, perform or undertake a demonstration with the music students I would be happy to, the classical singing teacher that taught me at the school is no longer available to the students. Jayne led to several people in her short time teaching extra-curricular singing at the school to undertake classical training, and several of her students are now either working in the crossover industry or undertaking training at prestigious Conservatoires. If she gave just ten of us this transformative experience that opened our minds and expanded our knowledge, then that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Together we are all introducing new families to classical music, people whom prior to our involvement may have had no knowledge of this beautiful music other than the occasional advertisement on the TV, or when they are used in a film score they like.
Everyone talks about wanting social mobility for all, the chance to progress on merit and talent yet so many doors are kept firmly closed that I feel need to be opened. Last summer in Scotland, Scottish Opera put on ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’ for primary school children on a tour of Scotland, I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see the children’s excitement and the smiles on their faces as they interacted with the performers. The Scottish Opera Education team also regularly put on Tours throughout Scotland, bringing pop-up operas to even the most remote areas, they are getting this right. I’m excited to be part of a creative team on a new project with them again this summer.
In England, we read that music lessons are being cut out of the school curriculum in too many State schools thanks to the new requirements and testing to the EBacc formula that the schools are judged against, there was a controversial piece that I read, written by Charlotte C Gill in the Guardian “Music education is now only for the white and the wealthy”
I saw this at my own High School, they had too few students wanting to take A level Music at the start of my sixth form preferring to take the easier BTEC Music which wouldn’t have given me the skills I required for my next step of training and would have ended my progression were it not for the Head of Music and Music teacher agreeing to allow me to undertake it by self-study within the BTEC class with some extra support from Mr. Leigh. However, I found the breadth of the course really challenging to do on my own and I was so lucky to come into contact with a music teacher outside of school, Suzanne Harvey, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, who lived close to me and helped me so much. With her help, I improved my understanding and appreciation of music plus the theory which gave me the foundation I needed to move on to a conservatoire. So, I don’t agree with the premise that the teaching of music should be dumbed down and made easier in every instance.
I would be interested to hear how the teaching of music is organised in different countries and if it encourages children to explore classical music and have a more open mind towards the beauty of opera and classical music.
It was great to catch up with one of my friends today, Katie Oswell, from my time at the RCS, Glasgow. We had a lovely afternoon together and I enjoyed finding out about what she has been up to since I finished at the RCS last summer.
This weekend I decided quite on the spur of the moment to pack up a weekend bag and travel home to see my parents. I had quite a bit of work to complete on my website, and I knew that my Mum and Dad could help me with it, so Friday night after lessons I virtually ran down to the underground station and then fought my way through the rush hour commuters, wheelie bag in hand. The train that I had booked was due to leave at 17:07 and I arrived on the platform at 17:05, just enough time to jump on the nearest carriage before the train moved off from the platform, that was too close a call even for me. I found my seat and settled down for the journey home.
It was great to see my parents at the station, and we had a lovely evening relaxing and sorting out images, text and setting the links for my website update. Having talked it through with my Dad, he suggested rather than moving my blog over to my website that I should just change the links in the menu. Which gives the impression that the site is all in one place but saves me possibly losing all my page links and archives. When I get the time to check out the process a little more, I may eventually move the blog but for now, let me know what you think. You can get through to my website using the Home Button on the menu on my blog as the page selections have been re-mapped 🙂
Anyway, enough of the technical stuff and on to the rest of my weekend. My younger Brother, Thomas was competing in a National Inter-Varsity dance competition in Blackpool. It is probably the biggest event in his competition calendar, and as my Mum and Dad were traveling up to watch him, it was a great opportunity for me to tag along, show my support for him and have a little catch-up.
We all jumped in the car and made the hour and a half journey North from my parent’s house to Blackpool on the Fylde coast in Lancashire. When we were small we used to travel up to Blackpool quite often, whether it was to visit relatives, go for a walk along the promenade, make sand castles on the beach, fly our kites or go to the Pleasure Beach, we always had a very good time. I felt a little nostalgic as we drove into the Town and I could see Blackpool Tower up ahead. The Town has changed from what I remember, the number of families taking holidays there has dropped with the advent of cheap air travel and guaranteed sunshine which has led to an unfortunate decline for the town. But the friendliness of the people is still there in abundance, and once you are in Blackpool, you don’t let a little thing like strong winds and a bit of rain stop your enjoyment.
We parked up and made our way over to The Winter Gardens, in its heyday this was the entertainment hub of the North West with many West End shows making their way there. The building is just as grand now as it ever was and the Theatre looked amazing. The Ballroom where Tom was dancing was huge, and after we had wished him luck, we made our way to the viewing gallery and settled in for the end of the morning session. In the morning, Tom was competing in the Ballroom novice two-dance and out of 170 couples who entered he came 19th which was an excellent achievement.
Tom and his partner Natalie
During the lunch time break, we walked down to the seafront to buy some chunky chips with salt and vinegar, an absolute must as you walk along the windy promenade. It would have been perfect, but a cheeky little seagull decided to air bomb us and left a lovely little present in our chip tray boohoo 🙁 I then went and bought some Blackpool rock (a hard candy dentists hate if you overdo it) for my friends at College, another tradition that you just have to share while you are visiting the Town.
Feeling windblown and refreshed in the sea air we made our way back to watch Tom in the afternoon session. He was competing in the Latin novice two-dance but unfortunately this time he only got as far as the second round, but I thought he was amazing and it made me want to take up my Latin and Ballroom again. There are just not enough hours in the day 🙂 The Glasgow University team that he dances for all danced fabulously. Saulius and his partner Heather came 3rd in the ex-student advanced 5 dance ballroom and 5th in the Latin ex-student advanced 5 dance.
Saulius, Thomas, Heather, Natalie, Hana, Antonio, Ryan and Anna
Anna, Ryan, Antonio, Hana, Natalie, Thomas, Heather and Saulius
This morning I spent some time in my Mum’s craft room making some Thank You and Birthday cards to replenish my stock, and after a lovely weekend visit I traveled back down to London and feel energized for the week ahead.
I have just had an absolutely fabulous first week at The Royal College of Music, I met some wonderfully enthusiastic students, I attended several well-structured and informative introductory lectures and sat enthralled during two masterclasses. 🙂 If this is a sample of what is yet to come then I am in for an exciting time over the next two years, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you all.
First Day Ready To Go To The Royal College of Music
On Monday I got up early and double checked that I had everything that I needed to register at the College, then off I went to catch the tube and make my way over to South Kensington. The tube was really busy and was a new experience for me, one that I’m sure I will get used to very quickly.
I walked along Exhibition Road between the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. You get a real sense of the history of the area with these grand, imposing buildings on both sides. I arrived at the Royal College of Music and after spending a few minutes just enjoying the moment I walked up the stairs and I was inside.
I had such an exciting first day, finding my way around, taking in the surroundings and meeting some of the other new students, it was so much fun. 🙂
As the week progressed, we sat language assessments in Italian, French and German, and several of the faculty members and their amazing administrative staff introduced themselves to us during our induction lectures.
On Wednesday the College hosted Dame Gwyneth Jones in the Britten Theatre who gave a vocal Masterclass and provided us with some insightful observations and useful suggestions as we started the new term.
Then on Friday I attended another Masterclass, this time, it was from an instrumentalist’s perspective, a Violin Masterclass given by Maxim Vengerov in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall. His playing was so vibrant and full of musical storytelling, quite an experience and one that I left feeling enthused, with my mind buzzing with fabulous ideas to try out in my practice sessions. I have now received my new timetable for the coming week, and I can’t wait to get started.
Pascal Barnier Kindly Created This Beautiful Image For My Album Cover
To bring to end such a memorable week for me, I am excited to share with you the release of my new album, which is a recording of Edvard Grieg’s “Haugtussa” accompanied skilfully on piano by George Todica. I have loved learning these beautiful songs and wanted to record them and share them with you. The support and encouragement that I received from you all following my first album, Canzone D’Amore, made me even more determined to press on with my dreams. The money that I raised helped me to take up my place here at the Royal College of Music and the proceeds from this my second album will allow me to continue my studies and take a few more steps towards my goal. At the moment it is only available to download on iTunes and CD Baby ( if you want FLAC files ) and as soon as it is available as a CD, I will let you know.
I have some other news to share with you, following my summer trip to Berlin, Nestor Bayona, a conductor and pianist that I performed with there, invited me to fly over to Catalonia to perform alongside him in two concerts that he has organised. We will be performing songs from the “Haugtussa” song cycle, and it will be my first concert in Spain, Olé !!
Last Sunday I travelled to Antwerp, Brussels to take part in a masterclass hosted by OASE projects in the beautiful AMUZ venue. The master class was given by W.Stephen Smith, the author of ‘The Naked Voice’, the vocal teacher of Joyce de Donato and Christine Brewer. We were told that this was his first visit to Europe to hold such a class, and I was thrilled to have been invited to participate.
W.Stephen Smith and Me
There were singers of varying ages and voice types from all over Europe. The session started with such high energy and never let up, it was so exhilarating to just sit and listen to his advice as we each singer got up to perform.
When it was my turn it all seemed to happen so quickly. He gave me some insightful advice which I found particularly helpful and I made lots of notes.
Fortunately for me, Catrin, one of the organisers, took some pictures during the event which she said I could share with you all.
Before travelling back on Tuesday I took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent some time exploring the city and loved catching up with friends from the Italian summer school from last summer, Astrid Defauw and Alexandra Franck. Alexandra showed us all around Antwerp explaining the history of her beautiful home City.
Tomorrow will be my first day at the Royal College of Music and the anticipation of starting a new stage in my training is raising my excitement levels to new heights. Though it was sad to say goodbye to my family this afternoon after we finished unpacking, it will be great to start putting into practice some the suggestions that I have received over the summer from the different projects I have been a part of.