Archives For Classical Singing

Connections

May 14, 2017 — 51 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.

Pendsey Trust

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.

The Boatmen’s Dance

February 22, 2015 — 55 Comments

When I found out that I needed to select and perform four folk songs this year as part of my course I knew that I wanted to tackle something new and different. I decided as you know to perform songs from Aaron Copland’s series of American Folk Songs which he composed in the early 1950s.

One of the hardest parts was choosing which four songs to sing, “The Boatmen’s Dance” became the third of my selections and one that I thoroughly enjoyed performing.

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The Jolly Boatmen – George Caleb Bingham. Circa 1877.

 

The original version was credited to Dan Emmett in 1843 and was considered to be a celebration of the lives and exploits of the Ohio River boatmen. As immigration from Europe to the USA soared in the early 1800s the Ohio / Mississippi rivers became busier and busier as one of the primary routes for safe and secure travel for the Europeans searching for a new and better life for their families.

As people travelled down the river they often kept diaries or journals and there are many references to the jovial nature of the boatmen and their expertise on the fiddle.

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Boatmen On The River

 

In an issue of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, called “Folk Music on the Midwestern Frontier 1788-1825’, by Harry R. Stevens, Duke University one traveller (Timothy Flint, 1826) wrote “almost every boat, while it lies in the harbour, has one or more fiddlers scraping continually aboard, to which you often see the boatmen dancing.”

Another observed: “As the boats were laid to for the night in an eddy, a part of the crew could give them headway on starting in the morning, while the others struck up a tune on their fiddles…The boatmen, as a class, were masters of the fiddle, and the music, heard through the distance from these boats, was more sweet and animating than any I have ever heard since. When the boats stopped for the night at or near a settlement, a dance was got up, if possible, which all the boatmen would attend. ”

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The Ohio River

 

The Boatmen’s Dance

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

The boatmen dance, the boatmen sing,
The boatmen up to ev’rything,
And when the boatman gets on shore
He spends his cash and works for more.
Then dance the boatmen dance,
O dance the boatmen dance.
O dance all night ’til broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

I went on board the other day
To see what the boatmen had to say.
There I let my passion loose
An’ they cram me in the callaboose.
O dance the boatmen dance,
O dance the boatmen dance.
O dance all night ’til broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

The boatman is a thrifty man,
There’s none can do as the boatman can.
I never see a pretty gal in my life
But that she was a boatman’s wife.
O dance the boatmen dance,
O dance the boatmen dance.
O dance all night ’til broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

I hope that you are all singing along with me on these songs

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Jessica Hurst and Me

 

I have been asked along with my best friend Jessica Hurst to perform our folk songs during the judging interval at this year’s Bruce Millar Gulliver singing competition. There will be a surprise for those that can make it, Jess and I will be also be performing a duet but I wonder if you can guess which one ? I will reveal all next week after the event. I am posting a bit earlier than usual tonight because I am going to try and get an early night and a get a good long sleep.