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.
Today I have been enjoying the September sunshine and preparing for a short trip to Antwerp, Brussels to take part in a masterclass tomorrow morning.
I’m getting quite excited at the proposition of moving to London next week and the new challenges and opportunities that await for me when I get there. I have had so many wonderful experiences and amazing adventures during my four years at the RCS and have enjoyed sharing them with you all. It has been such a treat to read your feedback and to see my world through your eyes. Your support and encouragement have helped me to reach this new fork in the road and though I don’t know what is down the path I have chosen to follow I do hope that you will all be there with me every step of the way.
Pascal Barnier created this beautiful picture for the cover of the album
Before I left Glasgow, there were a couple of projects that I have been working on throughout the year that I wanted to finish off. The first was to record the “Haugtussa” song cycle by Edvard Grieg for release this month, and the second was something totally different, you could almost say that it is entirely bonkers.
Earlier this year I took part in an English Song competition which required me to perform both songs and spoken words. One quote in the prospectus caught my eye and got me thinking:
“to encourage the communication of English words, in singing and in speech, with clarity, understanding and imagination”.
What if you took the text from a famous piece of literature and tried to mingle in some English song to help enhance the telling of the story. I found what in my mind was just the perfect story, one from my childhood that always conjured up vivid images which danced through my imagination.
So I got to work reading through the text to find passages that I thought worked well with songs that I had in mind. With the work complete I sent off my application and following an audition in London, I was delighted to be chosen to perform in the final. Though I did not make the final three, as I had enjoyed the project so much I decided that rather than leave it there I would record the pieces and release them on a separate album, just in case there was anyone as crazy as me out there who wanted to listen to it.
On both projects, I was accompanied by George Todica, who over the past three years has helped me immensely by accompanying me in competitions, auditions, and my exams. He even went the extra mile and agreed to take part in an impromptu photo shoot at the Glasgow Botanical Gardens. It was great fun hunting down the costumes and then dressing up for the photos. It was as if a childhood ambition had come true, walking through the gardens we were both stopped by passers-by who wanted photographs with us, I was finally living the dream, it felt like being a Disney Princess for an afternoon.
I am sure that you have guessed by now which story I picked.
Before I sign off there is one more huge thank you that I must pass on, I have been given an award by the Kathleen Trust towards the cost of my first year studies at the Royal College of Music. Without such an award and the generous support from all of you who bought copies of my first album, it would be impossible for me to continue on my magical journey.
Last weekend I spent most of Saturday trying to decide what essentials I needed to pack to take down to London when I move there on the 17th September and what to box up to leave at my parents. It was a daunting task 🙂 but helped by my Mum, who managed to thin out my wardrobe and reminded me of everything else that I will need to take with me to quite a small room, we eventually got the job done!
As I am away in Antwerp next weekend (more about that to come) it was important to get myself organised and not leave everything until the last minute.
With the packing sorted out we decided last minute to spend Sunday over in Edinburgh, it was the last weekend of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and we knew it would be a great time to visit. We arrived mid-morning and though the sun was out you could still feel a chill in the air which isn’t too unusual for Scotland this time of year.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes part in Scotland’s Capital every August and has run each year since 1947. It is billed as the largest Arts Festival on earth and from the number of venues and street performers around that could well be the case. This year the festival hosted 50,266 performances, 3,269 shows across 294 separate venues.
We walked around the streets and soaked up the atmosphere, and as the morning turned into early afternoon, the temperature started to rise. We made our way up to Edinburgh Castle which hosts the Edinburgh Military Tattoo each August during the festival, a great spectacle hosted by the British Military which has raised over £8 million pounds for charity.
We made our way back down the winding staircases to Grassmarket Square where several street performers were sharing their talent with an enthusiastic crowd. After a quick stop for refreshments in one of the many quirky cafes around this side of Edinburgh, we made our way back towards the Princess Street Gardens. It was quite impressive to sit in the gardens in front of the Ross Fountain and take in the splendour of the castle high above us on the craggy outcrop which is the visual centre of Edinburgh.
After a wonderful day walking around the city, listening to music, playing crazy golf and enjoying the wonders available to watch at the Festival, we found a great Chinese restaurant just off Rose Street and sampled some amazing dishes which were so well prepared. So with smiles on our faces and full bellies we headed back to Glasgow to put our feet up and reflect on a fantastic day out.
Following three amazing weeks of rehearsals culminating in two exhilarating performances, my time in Berlin was coming to an end. I had been so busy finding my way between language classes, coaching and the rehearsal spaces that I hadn’t really had much time to do any sightseeing.
My parents had come out to Berlin to watch my performance and to spend a few days in the City. On my last day with my travel pass in hand I met up with my Mum, Dad and brother Tom and we did a whistle stop tour of Berlin.
We started near to where I had stayed in Berlin in the area aptly called “Charlottenburg” which was an independent City until 1920 when it became part of “Groß-Berlin” Greater Berlin”. We wandered around the gardens of the “Charlottenburg Palace” and then decided to take a look inside. The palace was originally built in the 17th Century and expanded by Frederick the Great in the early 1700s. The palace had been wonderfully restored to its former beauty and each room gave you a little insight into the lives of the people who had lived there.
After leaving Charlottenburg we made our way by train and tram to Kleistpark where I had my last class of my course, following which I met up with parents again at Alexanderplatz. Tom wanted to go up to the top of the Berlin TV Tower so they went to get the tickets whilst I was in class. The trip to the top of the tower was really quick by lift and the views from the top over the city were fabulous.
We grabbed something to drink and then it was off to the “East Side Gallery” which runs along the river Spree on Mühlenstraße. It is the longest section of the original Berlin wall left standing and following the collapse of the Berlin wall the eastern facing side was converted into an open-air gallery by over 100 artists. It was quite surreal to walk along it and trying to understand what it must have been like to feel constrained by such an omnipresent construction.
The Eastern Side Of The Wall
The Western Side Of The Wall
We finished off the day at Potsdamer Platz where we stopped to eat. The area has changed beyond all recognition since the fall of the wall as the area has been reconstructed with new shopping complexes, public areas and office developments. However there is a permanent reminder of where the wall had been as a line of bricks makes its way across the square to where a small section of the wall still remains.
We ended the day walking towards the Brandenburg Gate and stopped at the Holocaust Memorial. The memorial was quite thought provoking as it has been constructed using 2711 concrete slabs of differing heights with the ground falling away as you walk between them. As you walk between the slabs you seem to just disappear to anyone watching, a very eerie experience.
Finally at the Brandenburg Gate we stopped to take few pictures but as the weather was starting to change we decided to run for the bus, as we passed the Reichstag we could see the bus we needed just pulling into the stop. We only just made it with seconds to spare and as the bus pulled away the rains started. After a little bit of shelter, I finished my evening with a great get together with the rest of the cast and company.
There is so much more to see and do, I do hope I can come back and explore a little more.
Underneath The Iconic Berlin Landmark – The Brandenburg Gate
Goodness! my time in Berlin has flown by and what a whirlwind it has been! I have loved living in Germany for three weeks and I definitely would love to go back in the future.
Singing During The Opera Gala Concert
I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work alongside so many wonderful and talented singers from all over the world. I wish them all the success for their futures and I’m sure I will see them again on the opera stage.
For myself, the most interesting piece of knowledge that I have gained is that your own artistic individuality is key to your performance, allowing you to enjoy being the person you are on and offstage. Like a wonderful piece of art some people will love you and others, whose tastes differ may not. But I know that if I sing with all my heart, demonstrating who I am as a performer with my own bells and whistles, then I know that I can be honest with the story and let my body sing from my soul.
I would like to thank all the staff at the Berlin Opera Academy for a wonderful experience and I hope to catch up with them all again in the future.
Here are some pictures which were taken during one of our rehearsals of Carmen and I hope they give you a flavour of the production.
Looking forward to my next projects and the big move to London!
I arrived in Germany on Sunday evening last week and since then I have had such a fabulous time.
Monday to Saturday my day was scheduled to begin at 10 am finishing at late evening. We work on the staging of Carmen, singing lessons, movement, and coaching. The whole experience has been so wonderful, but also very tiring, so I was relieved to have the day off today.
A traditional day at the Berlin Opera Academy begins with a movement class for an hour with Andrea Danae Kingston, who is an energetic character to ignite our energies in the mornings. At 11:00 we then move on to production rehearsal, which involves staging scenes from Carmen with Gidon Saks. His direction is feisty and full of drama. It is great to work with him as an artist as every musical phrase has a new energy and thought to provoke the flow of the storytelling. Peter Leonard, our conductor, also leads these sessions to encourage us to keep the integrity of the written music and to ensure that the music reflects the drama. The whole cast and production team are wonderful to work with, and everybody is compassionate and encouraging towards one another.
It has been an adventure living and working in Berlin as I have had to get used to the public transport system here which is very well organised and enables you to get from
A to B very efficiently. If anyone is visiting, I greatly recommend using the app BVG fahrinfo to help you get around. It has made my life much easier, especially since my average travel time from home to each of the rehearsal spaces is 45 minutes including multiple changes. I hope it has prepared me for tube life in London. Learning lessons everywhere in everyday situations!
On Saturday after a day of rehearsals we all got the opportunity to get our glad rags on and take to the stage and perform in the Opera Gala. We performed in a beautiful museum setting in the Mendelssohn-Remise, which was a very poetic setting for songs about love and loss. We all had a wonderful time, and I am excited about the lieder concert next Saturday.
Xenia Cumento, Caitlin Redding, Me, Julie Cowger, Beeth Mirahver and kneeling down Ivory Logins.
My Carmen Girls, Victoria Graves (Mercedes), Rebeca Fjallsby (Carmen) and Me (Frasquita)
Pauline Pelosi and Me
I can’t wait to get back into it tomorrow!
On my day off today, I was able to explore a little more of Berlin, and I came across an eccentric flea market, Berliner Trödelmarkt which stretches out across large boulevards near the Tiergarten in Charlottenburg. The products on sale ranged from fashion, stamps and collectibles, gifts, art, furniture, food, and ornaments. It was so wonderful to see each store holders personality in the collections of items that they sold or created by hand.
Later in the afternoon I then had a singing lesson and then chilled out at the flat with my beautiful flatmates and friends from the course.