Archives For Classical Singing

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.

This week’s post is in celebration of the marriage of my dear friend Ellie to her kind-hearted Husband Rory. The ceremony took place yesterday, 18th May 2019 in Criccieth, which is a beautiful part of North Wales.

Criccieth, North Wales

For me the day started with a mad dash mammoth drive all the way down to the venue, it was like a scene from a romcom, I literally abandoned my car in the car park and ran across the lawn to where the ceremony was taking place arriving with only minutes to spare.   But I wasn’t going to miss it for anything and was so proud to be a part of her big day.  It was an honour to sing as part of their wedding celebrations and I wish them both many happy years to come.

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I’ve known Ellie from childhood when we used to be sparring partners at Karate together. Over the years we entered and won national Karate competitions together and completed both our 1st and 2nd Dan Black Belts before I had to leave to take up my training at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It took over ten years of hard work, determination, and perseverance to complete all of our gradings (exams) but we had lots of fun along the way.

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She was my rock, in and outside of the dojo. A friend to turn to at times in need and continues to be! She has time for everyone and always thinks of others before herself as her father said in his heart-warming speech during the celebrations.

To close tonight I would like to ask if you have any words of wisdom or sound advice that the happy couple may like to read here on my blog post?

On the train back to our London home via Paddington this evening after performing my first concert of 2019 with George Todica. What a thrilling way to start our musical performances for the year.

We performed as part of the Stonevale Recital series, near Swindon an intimate venue where we were warmly welcomed by the concert organiser Lynette and later by the generous and kind-hearted audience of the local village. The audience was made up of all ages and it was lovely to see everyone engage with our performance as we traveled throughout Europe with our musical program.

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At the venue, we had the luxury of picking between two pianos for the concert, and George was in a little torment as both pianos were exquisite to the touch and being mindful of the repertoire we were performing he decided to play the Steinway because of its crisp colours and position within the room. Although the Yamaha was a very strong contender with its vibrancy of sound.

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It was lovely to travel outside of London bringing our practice to performance level and having fun in the joy of creating live music. We performed a few new pieces and took lots of risks and shaped the stories told by our music based on the reactions of our audience. I also sang a great number of arias which put my stamina to the test! We were really happy and can’t wait to perform more concerts and recitals in this new year!

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Earlier in the week, we took inspiration from Diana Damrau and Helmut Deutsch’s Lieder concert at the Barbican this week. The duo looked like they had so much fun on stage seamlessly crafting the music and the poetry. We both thoroughly enjoyed their interpretation along with the rest of the audience who encouraged Damrau and Deutsch’s to perform three encores! Which in turn left George and me with two sets of very red yet enthusiastic hands!

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We both wanted to take this joy and energy and try to share it with those who came this afternoon and we hope that in some small way we were able to achieve this.

Last week, I invited my blog friends to ask me a question about my involvement in the world of opera that I could expand into an article for my weekly blog. I have set myself the challenge to try and answer these questions in the comments or allow them to inspire me to create a full article. So here it goes!

John W. Howell asked me: “How do I keep my voice in shape for a demanding performance schedule?”

My initial answer to John’s question was: “Years and years of the best vocal training by classically trained teachers, vocal warm-ups and cooldowns, lots of water to drink, honey and lemon and specialist teas. I don’t often drink alcohol, I’ve never smoked and I rest my voice when I need to.”

I would love to take the time today to expand on my answer and provide a more detailed response, so here goes!

As an opera singer, I can’t sing all day long. I seem to have been saying this on repeat recently to potential landlords and letting agents when they ask me about my job. I promise I am not noisy 24/7 and that I am conscious of my neighbours!  I have to plan my practice and use of my voice in the rehearsal room, the amount that I can sing in a day does fluctuate but most days I actively sing for 2- 3 hours.

In order to sing operatic music, like an athlete, I need to warm up the muscles that become engaged when I am singing. I usually begin most days with a 20-30 minute warm up. This includes some gentle humming exercises, scales, and arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises to maintain flexibility in my vocal range. This allows my voice to work at its best. However, sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow for a generous warm-up time, because of available space at the rehearsal venue or the time of the rehearsal/lesson. So, if I know in advance that I will have limited time to warm up my voice before I leave home I will try to do a simple yoga routine or gentle stretches so that my body is better prepared. I personally love using “Yoga with Adrienne” on youtube. She has had a channel for many years now and has built up a great selection of videos for beginners and regulars. In the rehearsal room, there may be occasions when you have to mark your vocal line, this can mean singing quieter, down the octave [the melody but an octave lower – closer to speaking pitch] or even speaking. The important thing is that you don’t lower your energy level or enunciation of the text as this can cause issues for your colleagues.

So what is my experience of a demanding performance schedule?

This summer I experienced a busy period working with professional companies. I performed in three Operas spreading over July, August, and September. Each brought with it its own individual challenges.

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Candide involved a regular rehearsal period over four weeks. The positive outcome for this style of schedule allowed me to create the role of Cunegonde in great detail. I had time to learn and grow with the character, experiment with different reactions to the same series of unfortunate events, and her relationships towards the other characters in the Opera. [slipping in the title of one my favourite childhood book series there written by Lemony Snicket ]. However, my commute to the rehearsal venue was long and often I would return home very late in the evening.  In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and my vocal stamina, I would try to unwind on my commute home, listening to music or downloading a TV program on my phone for the journey, this enabled me to relax so that when I got home I could still manage to get straight off to sleep. I would always try to bring a packed lunch and a prepared dinner if I was away from home all day. I would try to eat this at a similar time each day so that my body kept up a digestive routine. I found that this resulted in me feeling less fatigue and my voice was still supple for evening rehearsals, I didn’t feel restless because I knew that I would have access to a balanced diet. I could use my rest time on my dinner break to actually relax, rather than use the limited time desperately trying to find a place to eat, which was close to the rehearsal venue, that wasn’t too expensive, and which offered healthy food.

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After the performances of Candide were over I went straight onto working on Mansfield Park production. Thankfully before we traveled to the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, I had a week of rest, [with no rehearsals scheduled by Surrey Opera]. Knowing that once we finished the performances I would have only one week before the rehearsals begin for Mansfield Park. I decided to get a head start on learning quite a difficult score by using my week off before the Candide performances to start my preparations for Mansfield Park. I recorded the libretto with two friends, both fantastic Mezzo Sopranos, Brigette and Hannah on an app.  The app was recommended to me by my wonderful friend Frances Thorburn, who I worked with on The Little White Town Of Never Weary and who now plays Kim Monroe on River City, a very popular Scottish Soap Opera.

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Frances has to learn a huge amount of lines each day for filming, she encouraged me to try this method because you can practise the whole script by yourself. It provides you with options to listen to scenes on repeat, isolate your lines or provide timed gaps so that you can speak your lines in. This style of memorising is very useful to me as an artist as I can learn the text, without having to sing too much. This allows me to use my singing time on specific musical goals and technically tricky areas. What I didn’t expect to learn from this, was that because I broke up the learning and began it earlier, most of what I learned had settled and made the week revising it musically before rehearsals so much more relaxed. It was still stressful, and I needed to work hard to learn the whole score off copy, but I felt positive and that I could achieve it because of the groundwork I put in. This kind of positive mental attitude and a relaxed mindset allows me to stay in top physical condition. If I become too stressed I know that my body is more susceptible to picking up a virus or other illness. I now always try to plan in break times and aim to finish my work for the day no later than 9:00pm, unless a rehearsal schedule goes over this.

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Once the performances for Mansfield Park came to a close, I was then able to move onto preparation for BambinO. The benefit of having this opera at the end of a busy run was that I knew the music and the staging inside out, although the new team had changes that I had to adjust to quickly. I had a recording from a previous performance that I would use to run through the staging and I practised my part musically at the piano. During the week I managed to squeeze in a coaching session with Christopher Middleton where we worked on my current aria package, he is so insightful and I appreciate all his help and advice. This meant that I had a little extra breathing space to begin planning my next projects as I also needed to move out of my room at Student Halls and find somewhere new to live in London. I was so grateful that I knew this opera because I found moving lodgings quite stressful.   I like to plan ahead of time, but the rental market in London moves very fast and I didn’t sign a contract for a new place until the morning before my flight to Aberdeen! Knowing that I knew the music allowed me to feel calm and in control. I hope that in the future I will be able to bear this in mind when planning work and projects.

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I have had a great summer and feel energised for the upcoming months. I have learned how to multi-task projects better and I am thankful that I have been able to maintain my vocal health and stamina. What I didn’t expect to learn from this, was that because I kept up my vocal practise, i.e. singing for 6 days a week that my recovery time after taking a long weekend off was much quicker which allowed me to perform challenging coloratura arias with the fast runs sounding smoother, in fewer practise days, allowing me to work on my personal targets sooner. Whilst touring Scotland I took the advantage of meeting up with Judith Howarth, my singing teacher from my time at the RCS.  She helped me with my bel canto phrasing and floating and after my time with her, I left feeling re-energised and motivated for the months ahead.

Connections

May 14, 2017 — 53 Comments

I’ve been thinking all day about making connections with others and how important it is for people, and about pioneers, people that leave their homes and Countries to look for a new life.  My Dad purchased the film “Passengers” and this weekend I got to watch it on my iPad.

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Without giving too much away if you’ve not seen it, the adventure story is about a man called Jim (Chris Pratt) onboard a spaceship transporting him to a new planet to begin a new life.  The journey takes a bad turn when his hibernation pod malfunctions and he wakes up 90 years before the spaceship is expected to reach its destination.  The spaceship is in danger and the 5000 hibernating passengers on board are all in peril.  He is the only human awake on the vessel and he only has a low-class security pass on the ship which limits what he can eat and drink.  His only companions are the robot cleaners, waiters and a charming and witty android bar-steward.

How long do you think you could last without any other human contact at all? The computer message that he sends will take over two decades to reach earth, and another 30 years for the reply to reach him, he was 30 years into a 120-year voyage with no way of going back into hibernation.  Would you be pleased or sad if other hibernation pods malfunctioned?

In a way, it was a little like when I first moved down to London, so many people milling around but not knowing any of them. I am quite a confident person but I could see how for some that it could be quite a daunting situation, to feel alone and unconnected.  I had the added advantage of connecting with like-minded people in a similar situation to me but I have the utmost respect for people who move away from home and the familiarity that it brings to make a new life for themselves and establish new friendships.

For me, I regularly started asking lots of people how they were, even people who I didn’t know, it might have been someone at an exercise class, or when visiting the adjoining university, or even in a shop.  I just love to engage in conversation, it doesn’t need to be long or thought provoking just something inclusive. I also take the time to call loved ones on the phone, FaceTime, or Skype. Bringing ‘Home’ to my new home. I also have a lot of international friends that I keep in contact with regularly on WhatsApp and Facebook and I always try and make time for my blogging friends on WordPress, some of whom I have even had the pleasure of meeting in person. The world is a big place but we can use the amazing technology that is around us to connect with those we know, but sometimes taking the time to talk to a stranger can be just as rewarding.

With the story and the dilemmas that it raised on my mind I was pleased that I’d planned to take a group yoga session at 10:30 am this morning and that I’d arranged to meet with two singer friends for lunch and a walk out in the sunshine, it’s been a beautiful day here in London and I’d spent most of yesterday practicing.

 

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Ida, Me and Sam

 

Sam Dewese is an American from Chicago on his first year Masters, his voice type is Baritone. Ida Ränslöv is a Mezzo-Soprano hailing from Sweden in her first year in the Opera School, she’s doing phenomenally well having just got through to the final of the Lies Askonas competition.

I’m sure you’ll hear their names again in later posts or in big bright lights in the future.

 

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We Found This Lovely Mews Street As We Walked Around

 

 

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Me, Ida and Sam

 

It is our penultimate rehearsals tomorrow for the performance in the RCM Opera scenes on Tuesday at 5:30pm in the Britten Theatre, my last chance to make a good impression in Opera scenes this year, I’m hoping I can get someone to take a couple of photos for you to see next week from the dress rehearsal.  I’m also busy preparing for my final examined performance singing recital for the first year, I’m learning a completely new program of music so that’s challenging.

Last Saturday, the 2nd July George Todica and I were asked if we could perform a recital in support of the Pendsey Trust by my friend Jane Froehlich. Lucy Laycock, Jane’s Godchild has been raising money for the charity and Jane suggested to her that a small recital may be an excellent way to raise some money.

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Jane Froehlich, Me and George Todica

The Pendsey Trust raises money to help educate children in India who have type 1 diabetes. The cost of the insulin needed by these children is so expensive for their families that many of them do not survive into adulthood. Whilst in India in 2011 Lucy interviewed an Indian doctor, Dr Pendsey, who explained the problem and what he was doing to help. Dr Pendesy, believed that by providing financial scholarships to educate the children they could find better jobs, which in turn would help them to fund their own medication and go on to have a healthy and happier future. On her return to England, Lucy along with three others established the charitable trust and through the trust continue to raise awareness of the problem along with well needed funds.

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Both George and I were happy to be able to help out and had a lovely evening. It was a real treat to meet everyone and chat during the interval and after the performance. Jane felt that the evening was a real success and has already been asked if she intends to host another recital .

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Following my post about my graduation I received so many lovely comments, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your tireless support and heart felt encouragement. I cannot tell you how much it means to me, knowing that so many of you are willing me on, it is such a huge boost.

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I have several projects on the go at the moment and I can’t wait to share them with you over the summer. My Dad has managed to prepare a couple of the videos from my recent performance of Zerlina in Don Giovanni which I wanted to share with you. The first is “Giovinette Che Fate All’Amore” and the second is “Vedrai Carino”, these were fun to perform and I hope that you enjoy them.

My Final Week

June 6, 2016 — 69 Comments

This is my final week at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and performing in ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’. I have six days; three days in Aberdeen and three in Glenrothes up to and including Saturday 11th June 2016 where we have two public performances.

It’s been an amazing experience, the work is very collaborative which I love and relies on us working closely together and engaging with the audience of very enthusiastic young children. Whilst at the Royal Conservative of Scotland I’ve had access to working with a cross-discipline network of people and this was excellent preparation for me. The company is made up of myself, two very multi-talented actors John Kielty and Frances Thorburn and a brilliant percussionist/drummer Stuart Semple. We are so lucky to be supported by a great team from Scottish Opera who have made this all possible.

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The production has had some lovely reviews and at one of the performances I was assessed as part of my performance portfolio for my degree so fingers crossed 🙂

Reviews:
http://www.southsideadvertiser.biz/scottish-opera-the-little-white-town-of-never-weary.htm

https://mumbletheatre.net/2016/06/02/the-little-white-town-of-never-weary/

Last night ( Sunday 5th June ) we travelled together to Aberdeen and I am looking forward to our dates in this beautiful city.

Then on to Glenrothes culminating with our final public performances on Saturday 11th June at Auchmuty High School, Dovecot Road, Glenrothes KY7 5JL.

Coming up next is Don Giovanni on 25th June 2016 and I get to perform the role of Zerlina whose costumes are inspired by the film “Grease” so I get to dress up like Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy 🙂

Don Giovanni

 

Last Wednesday, 30th March I was invited to take part in a concert at Walton Hall in their beautiful recital room, hosted by the Friends Walton Hall, Warrington. It brought together past winners of the “Warrington Competition for Young Musicians”. The competition is held every two years and brings together young musicians from across all disciplines to compete in a friendly and supportive environment. Russell Lomas who was my accompanist when I took part in 2012 was there to support us again and it was great to perform with him again. Since 2012 I have been fortunate enough to sing alongside Russell at many events and he has been both an encouraging and supportive friend and mentor throughout my undergraduate studies.

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Meera Maharaj

To start the evening off  the very talented Meera Maharaj, who studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, played the flute beautifully. For her programme she played “Soliloquy for Solo Flute” by Libermann and “Ballade” by Martin in the first half and “Sonata for Flute and Piano” by Carl Vine after the interval. She was ably accompanied by Jeremy So on the piano.

The other instrumentalist was Elliot Gresty, he studies at the Royal College of Music in London and brought the pieces that he played on his clarinet to life beautifully as he performed for us. I have performed alongside Elliot before several times  it was great to meet up with him again. For his programme Elliot played “Concerto in A Major KV 622 ( 2nd Movement )” by Mozart and “Fantasiestucke Opus 73” by Schumann in the first half of the concert and to close the second half he played “Rigoletto-Fantasia da Concerto” by Luigi Bassi.

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Me, Russell Lomas and Elliott Gresty

It was a fabulous evening and the time just flew by, the audience were so appreciative of our performances and it was lovely to meet up, chat and answer questions after the concert.

I am going to try posting this using the timer function today as I will be travelling back up to Glasgow tonight and won’t be back until quite late, fingers crossed that it works.

Update: got back home safely after a long, tiring drive, happy my post timer worked this week ☺️ thanks for reading, have a fabulous week.

A Very Musical Weekend

February 21, 2016 — 49 Comments

I’ve had a very musical end to my week.

On Friday I went to the lunchtime concert at the RCS which featured ‘Mr McFalls Chamber’ group performing ‘All of the Above’. The programme was an energetic and innovative collection from jazz to rock and tango to contemporary classical.  The ensemble performed a commissioned piece by Paul Harrison who works in the RCS teaching jazz piano. They also performed arrangements of Frank Zappa’s songs and a piece by Tim Garland, Martin Kershaw, Joe Zawinul and Raymond Scott.  A little extra fairy dust was created by a very colourful lighting design that really lifted my Friday to new exciting heights. It was a real treat as often this isn’t paired with classical concert scene. Providing lots of food for thought!

Maximiliano Martín, clarinet
Cyril Garac and Robert McFall, violins
Brian Schiele, viola
Su-a Lee, cello
Rick Standley, double bass
Paul Harrison, keys
Iain Sandilands, percussion
Stuart Brown, drums

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Mr McFalls Chamber’


In the same evening, I went to the RCS symphony concert conducted by Alpesh Chauhan. It was lovely to see and support my friends as they continue through their training especially with graduation exams looming. The ensemble did a great job of performing this top tier concert repertoire, creating beautiful images and persuasive colours with sound.

The orchestra performed: 

Hector Berlioz ‘Grande Overture du Roi Lear, Op. 4. 

This composition was created after a dramatic moment in Berlioz’s life. Whilst living in Rome, Berlioz heard that his fiancée had married someone else. In a reaction of fury he purchased two revolvers and a measure of laudanum and strychnine and vowed revenge as he began his journey back to France. (Perhaps this story needs to be evolved into an opera libretto!) However he got as far as Nice, and then abandoned his plans. Berlioz then spent three weeks in the Mediterranean to recover and was enraptured by Shakespeare’s King Lear and decided to compose in his bout of enthusiasm.

Claude Debussy, La Mer 

These symphonic sketches were inspired by Debussy’s vivid memories from his childhood summers spent overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Cannes. He wrote ‘I love the sea and I have listened to it passionately’ and he thought that music provided the ability to evoke the constant mutability of the sea that painters could not but often strived for.  This work was stunning and if you like paintings by Turner well worth a listen!

Berlioz,  Symphonie Fantastique 

In my first year I wrote about this piece and it was wonderful to hear it performed in my final year of my degree. The piece itself is programmatic and depicts an artist who is heartbroken from unrequited love, (Berlioz himself), who then tries to end their suffering by taking an opium overdose. However the drug sends him into a hallucinatory dream that creates a series of episodes.

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Then yesterday, Saturday 20th February I was thrilled to go and watch Scottish Opera’s ‘Ariodante’ by Handel. This was a superb production and possibly one of the best I have seen them put on. It was set in modern Scotland, depicted successfully through the stage design which reminded me of a contemporary home design featuring a wall of glass, metal spiral stairs and Edison style light bulbs in triangle cages. The singing was very classy and often sounded effortless. The cast did a wonderful job of sustaining my attention through the 3 hour performance by their romantic and expressively dramatic performance.

Each character went on a clear journey ending with a happy ending, (except for Polinesso who fell at the strike of a sword).

It was personally wonderful to see Jennifer France sing “Dalinda” because in my first year I saw her perform in a very sparkly long dress some Benjamin Britten in a cross Conservatoire competition held at the RCS. She still sounds amazing and her performance was particularly inspiring.

To finish off what has been a fabulous weekend I was able to enjoy some more Opera at the “Ye Cronies Opera Award” at the RCS. Where 16 students from the postgraduate Opera course competed for the annual prize. Everyone performed really well and the pianists were all supportive and brilliant too!

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Ye Cronies Opera Award at the RCS

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Each performance was of a high standard and I did not envy Neal Davies (who performed the role of The King in Ariodante) job of coming to a decision. Charlie Drummond came second and Euros Campbell came first. Congrats to all who competed and a big thank you to the audience for their support.

On Wednesday it was my friend Les Hughes’s landmark 50th birthday. He is a keen Liverpool FC fan so I recorded this song for him as part of his celebrations, I hope that he enjoyed it 🙂

To close I hope that  you all have a fabulous week 🙂

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Today was a very exciting day indeed. From 9 o’clock till 1 o’clock we attended lectures held by guest speakers. The first lecture at 9 o’clock was taken by Arne Torp, a Norwegian professor from the University of Oslo. He spoke about the Norwegian language revival as artistic inspiration for Edvard Grieg. To begin with he pointed out the connection between the Scandinavian countries Norway Sweden and Denmark. He explained that for some time Denmark and Norway had a union, in which Denmark was the mothering country. This was because the higher classes spoke Danish. People learnt how to write in this language but often they spoke Bokmål, Norwegian Danish. Then when Norway became independent in 1814, the people of Norway wanted to speak a language connected to their own nationality, hence they began to speak Nynorsk, (Landsmål). In 1944 it reached its popularity peak as the language was then taught on the school curriculum. Torp continued his lecture on the subject of music as an element for building national identity. He explained Grieg’s involvement in these projects and how he chose poems in the new language Nynorsk in order to promote this change and support Norway’s identity. An example of this is his setting of Arne Garbourg’s Haugtussa.

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At 10 o’clock the lecture was led by Cheryl Christensen from the USA. The theme of the lecture was Grieg in the “world of unborn music” and his creative journey through the use of language in Haugtussa. This was a brilliant lecture because she incorporated live performances with musical examples from her research through the help of two American workshop participants. She spoke about the structural dissonances in Grieg’s Haugtussa. For example he only chose to set eight songs from the overall collection which spans over two volumes. In the story that Grieg chose to create the audience experience her transforming from a scared and fragile girl to a courageous young woman due to the experience of heartbreak.

Markéta Štefková a professor from Slovakia furthered this discussion through an in depth analysis of the musical motifs that occurred in Haugtussa. Sharon Lavery from the Juilliard School gave a lecture on the marriage of music and poetry in Grieg’s Haugtussa. She spoke about how as a singer we can choose how to modify and project the vowels and consonants in order to portray the meaning of the text. This was very interesting and tied in with the work that we were doing with the Norwegian specialists in the workshops hosted by the Grieg Academy.

Gregory Martin, gave a lecture on the midnight sun that occurs in Norway and how this affected Grieg’s desire to present a sense of timelessness in his music. Avrid Vollsnes a Norwegian professor ended the morning session by explaining about the old culture and society at the time when the poems were written. This was great to hear as it gave insight into how the character of Haugtussa was affected by her relationship to other townsmen and to nature around her.

In the afternoon George and I had a lesson with Audun Kayser, who is a very talented pianist. He worked on quite a few pieces with us and provoked us to question how we performed the music by offering a little guidance in juxtaposition whilst encouraging us to take risks and liberate ourselves within the music. It was a fabulous session and one that I will remember for a long time.

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At 5 o’clock we caught the coach to Troldhaugen.  It was here that we got to visit Grieg’s villa. It was his first permanent home after starting his married life with Nina Grieg. It was brilliant to see where he forged his ideas and created this magnificent pieces such as Haugtussa. We then went to a concert performed by the professors who led our vocal workshops at the Academy. This was both outstanding and at the same time very inspirational. Both duos had a real sense of connection and kept you engaged for the whole time you were there. Even though I do not speak Norwegian, Danish nor German I was able to follow the stories that they told through their fabulous performances. I hope that one day I can perform to a similar high standard it was truly breath-taking.

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To finish a wonderful day we had a delicious dinner at Spisestedet Troldhaugen and we chatted and told stories and anecdotes into the late evening. I’ll be very sad knowing that it will be my last workshop day here tomorrow. But I will make the most of time here by absorbing as much of the culture, knowledge and experiences as possible.