Archives For Classical Singing

IMG_5713

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.

IMG_9068

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.

IMG_2710

IMG_2724IMG_2708

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.

IMG_2725

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.

Bingham-Jolly-Boatmen

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.

flatboat

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. ”

Ohio_River

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

Charlotte-and-Jessica

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.

O-Waly-Waly-Header-Blog

This is a folk song of Scottish origin of which there are innumerable versions. The modern lyrics ‘the Water is Wide’ was named by Cecil Sharp in 1906 from multiple other sources in Southern England, following English lyrics with a different story.

Britten

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten used the melody and verses of The Water is Wide for his version in 1948 which doesn’t have the O Waly Waly verse yet is still called O Waly Waly.

Kathleen-Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier

The modern version of the song was sung by Pete Seeger in the folk revival. It has also been recorded by Sarah Brightman, Janet Baker, Sir Thomas Allen whose masterclass at the RCS I attended last week, and Kathleen Ferrier to name just a few.

Sir-Thomas-Allen

Meeting Sir Thomas Allen Following A Masterclass At The RCS

Here is a performance that I recorded back in August 2013 whilst performing at a recital in Lytham St Annes accompanied by Russell Lomas.

I have really enjoyed publishing these posts on the songs from my album and if you want to check them out again you can find them by selecting Discography on the menu bar. I do hope that you have enjoyed reading about them.

Freundliche-Vision-Blog

I have written previously about Richard Strauss on my blog as I find many of his songs to be full of romance and the beauty to be found within loving relationships. With Valentine’s Day approaching this Saturday I thought I would take the opportunity to share another of Strauss’s songs with you.

“Freundliche Vision” (a welcome vision or a friendly vision)

This was recorded last year on Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2014 in Bury Parish church accompanied by Russell Lomas.

The inspiration for this song came from a poem written by Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865 – 1910). The poem was one of five works by Bierbaum that Richard Strauss set to music in 1918 for his song cycle Opus 48.

The poems/songs were:

Freundliche Vision
Ich Schwebe
Kling!
Winterweihe
Winterliebe

Richard_Strauss

Richard Strauss

 

The songs were testaments to love; the emotions, feelings, sensations and excitement that you experience when you share your life with someone special to you.

These were the words from the original poem:

Nicht im Schlafe hab’ ich das geträumt,
Hell am Tage sah ich’s schön vor mir:
Eine Wiese voller Margeritten;
Tief ein weißes Haus in grünen Büschen;
Götterbilder leuchten aus dem Laube.
Und ich geh’ mit Einer, die mich lieb hat,
Ruhigen Gemütes in die Kühle
Dieses weißen Hauses, in den Frieden,
Der voll Schönheit wartet, daß wir kommen.

Otto Bierbaum

I found this beautiful translation of the poem into English by Constance Bache (1846 – 1903) which I hope will give you an idea of the emotion to be found in the original text.

cottage

Not in slumber did the dream arise,
But in day’s broad light I saw it all:
Just a meadow full of budding daisies,
And a sunny house half hid in foliage;
Forms divine are lurking in the thicket.
And I walk with her whose love I cherish;
Tranquillity we enjoy the coolness
Of this sheltered cottage, full of beauty,
Full of peace that waiteth on our coming.
And I go with her whom I cherish
To the peace and the beauty

Constance Bache

Constance Bache was herself a pianist and composer who studied at the Munich Conservatoire in Germany but following an injury to her right hand she returned to England and along with her teaching she translated many German and Russian songs into English.

Constance-Bache

Other Examples Of Songs Translated Into English By Constance Bache

 

These beautiful songs and their sentiments are a great way to lift your spirits especially as Valentine’s Day approaches. These poems paint emotive images of love between kindred spirits.

 

The Little Horses

February 8, 2015 — 81 Comments

The-Little-Horses-Blog

This past ‘reading week’ at the Conservatoire I have been putting the final touches to my essay on Wagner and just wanted to relax and chill out for a couple of days so I took the opportunity to go home for the weekend.

I arrived back in Glasgow about 8:30 pm so tonight’s post will only be a short one but nevertheless I hope that you enjoy it 😊. Following my post on Aaron Copland and the songs that I performed for my exam in January I was asked if there was any chance to record them.  During the week I was able to put some time aside and record the songs and tonight I would like to share the first of those songs with you.

“The Little Horses” is a lullaby and evokes images of the Old American West. When I told my Dad he said it reminded him of a TV programme that he watched growing up, “The Little House On The Prairie” based on the stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

Robert_Schumann_1839

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) had been regarded as brilliant pianist predicted by his teacher to become one of the finest in Europe. Unfortunately he suffered an injury to his hand which brought his dreams of pursuing a virtuoso career at the piano to an untimely end. He decided to concentrate on his composing and produced a long list of accomplished musical works for us all to enjoy.

Schumann

One such composition is “Widmung” a captivating lied which he composed in 1840 as part of a song cycle “Myrthen” (Opus 25). Schumann wanted to create the perfect gift for his wife-to-be Clara Wieck to present to her on their wedding day.

2006AL4822_jpg_ds

The title of the cycle represents the bridal wreaths which were often made out of myrtle, an evergreen shrub entwined with white flowers.

Schuman used a collection of 26 poems to complete his work from poets such as Robert Burns, Lord Byron and Friedrich Ruckert. The songs embodied all the emotions that Schumann associated with love, marriage and companionship.

robert-clara-2

“Widmung” (Dedication ) was the first song in the cycle using the lyrics from a poem by Friedrich Ruckert. The lyrics of the song provided the means for Schumann to capture the way that Clara made him feel. He expresses that Clara is his peace, angel, repose, rapture, heart, soul, grave for sorrows, better self and his heaven. A truly beautiful lied and I hope that I do it justice.

Lyrics
Du meine [Seele]1, du mein Herz,
Du meine [Wonn’, o du]2 mein Schmerz,
Du meine Welt, in der ich lebe,
Mein Himmel du, [darin]3 ich schwebe,
O du mein Grab, in das hinab
Ich ewig meinen Kummer gab!
Du bist die Ruh, du bist der Frieden,
Du bist [der]4 Himmel, mir beschieden.
Daß du mich liebst, macht mich mir wert,
Dein Blick hat mich vor mir verklärt,
Du hebst mich liebend über mich,
Mein guter Geist, mein beßres Ich!

Translation
You my soul, you my heart,
You my bliss, o you my pain,
You the world in which I live;
You my heaven, in which I float,
You my grave, into which
I eternally cast my grief.
You are rest, you are peace,
You are bestowed upon me from heaven.
That you love me makes me worthy of you;
Your gaze transfigures me;
You raise me lovingly above myself,
My good spirit, my better self!

You can see why this era was called the romantic era of music. Schumann manages to embody the excitement of being in love through the shape of the melody, it is so full of energy and makes me feel so happy when I sing it.

Thank You
I would also like to say a BIG thank you to all of you for being part of my life. I have met so many lovely people here on my blog and learnt so much from you all. Having this opportunity to meet such a wide and varied group of people from diverse backgrounds with enriching experiences has been a real highlight for me. I am humbled that I have been nominated for several blogging awards and appreciate each and every one. The problem I have is that it would be impossible for me to pick my favourite ten or fifteen bloggers, I tend to read and comment on the blogs that I follow whenever I have the time but I cannot get around as often as I would like. If it were up to me I would give every single one of you “Blog Of The Year”. Please, please, please keep writing and sharing your experiences, creativity and enthusiasm as it gives so much pleasure to the people that read what you write

I have previously written about one of my favourite songs: Rusalka’s “Mesicku na nebi hlubokem,” (Song to the Moon) from the Opera by Antonín Dvořák showing images of the stage sets and Renee Fleming’s beautiful version.  The song is sung by a plaintive girl longing for love calling on the moon to tell her Prince of her love.

Pascal Barnier sent me a lovely image below and I decided to do a little bit more research into the folklore behind the character.

Pascal-Rusalka-Song-To-The-Moon

In the opera Rusalka’s father is a water goblin called Vodnik and there is a witch called Jezibaba who transforms Rusalka into a human at the cost of her voice.  Rusalka’s lover the Prince, betrays her, dooming them both.  I’d love to see an Opera about the younger Rusalka before she fell for the Prince with the last Act a contracted version of the original opera to show just how much she gives up for her love.

Here is my performance of the aria from this year’s “Voice Of The Future” competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod if you haven’t had the chance to see it.

Rusalka is a water nymph a female spirit whose origins can be traced to the Slavic folklore (Eastern Europe). The name comes from the eastern Slavic русалка ( meaning red haired girl ) and has taken on the meaning mermaid in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine. In western Slavic folklore there are stories based on spirits called víla in Czech or Slovak and wiła in Polish.

water_nymph_by_AvantFae

Folklore tells us that generally, the rusalka couldn’t completely stand out of water, half woman half fish, some stories say that she could climb trees or sit on a dock with her feet/flippers in the water combing her hair, sometimes the rusalka is depicted as wood nymph usually during the summer the rusalka would join in circle dances in groups.

Vila

Some dark tales tell of rusalki who like to play games, despising other women and only showing themselves to attack or take away their men.  Her purpose was to lure young men, seduced by her looks or voice, into the depths of the water to destroy him.

hylas_and_the_water_nymphs-Henrietta-Rae

These stories are found all over the world, in Brazilian mythology Iara or Yara are sirens or mermaids.  Depicted as beautiful females who lead men to their deaths singing to them whilst combing her hair.  Once under Iara’s spell the victim would leave anything to live with her underwater forever, she is immortal but he grows old.

The-Mermaids-Rock-by-Edward-Hale,-1894

These same myths are represented in stories of mermaids going back thousands of years.  Greek sirens were first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey they were sea-nymphs who had the power to charm by song, unhappy mariners were irresistibly drawn to the depths of the sea to their doom.  Many medieval sailors claimed to have seen them.  The mermaids described by Columbus were said to be the marine creatures called manatees.In British folklore they can be bringers of bad luck causing bad storms and drowning men.  In some tales they marry and live with humans such as the Merrow from Scotland.

mermaids

 

Do you know of any other similar folk tales about these water nymphs?

My iTunes Experiment

October 29, 2014 — 53 Comments

FrontCover

Over the summer I was lucky enough to record the songs that I had been working on over the past couple of years. I wanted to have something to look back on to remind me of the fabulous time that I have had at the RCS and the wonderful people that I have worked with on improving my vocal technique.

I was excited with the results and shared them with my family. I never really thought about trying to sell them as these recordings were intended to be a personal record of my training but my dad convinced me to burn a few CDs to sell at my recitals and concerts next year as I am often asked if I have any.

But now looking to the future I wonder if it would be possible to try and raise some funds for my future training by trying to sell these tracks on iTunes. I have no idea how they will be received but whatever funds I can generate will help me towards achieving my dreams so I have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I would love to hear any suggestions that you may have to help me with this project as this is all new to me 🙂

If you are interested in checking them out here are the links :

Download-on-iTunes

 

AmazonMusic_Logo_275x150._V352105024_

Special thanks go to George Todica for his beautiful piano playing on these recordings and to Pascal Barnier for his fabulous images used for the cover art. It has been a tremendous treat to work with such good friends.
It would be a great if you could share these links and I would really appreciate it 🙂

BackCover

November Shows

October 22, 2014 — 38 Comments

Wednesday-22nd-Oct-2014

It has been a hectic four weeks since the start of term and I’m enjoying being back at the Conservatoire and trying to plan the year ahead. I would like to thank everyone for your comments and contributions to my first piece of “Critical Writing”. It was really helpful to be able to read through your suggestions and I will try really hard to incorporate them when I have to write my next draft, I will keep you all posted :).  It’s a challenging time deciding how to plan out my year and fit in all of the new repertoire and skills I need to learn.

This November I have been asked to join the Tideswell Male Voice Choir to sing in their ‘Never Forget’ remembrance concert, under the musical direction of Dennis Kay along with Christopher Ellis on piano and Des McGill on percussion. The evening will also feature Corus Brass, renowned poet F. Philip Holland and vocal soloists Matthew Mellor, Erin Alexander, Madeleine Osborne, Philip Rigley and Kieron-Connor Valentine.

This year, 2014 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war and there have been a large number of events to help remember those who sacrificed so much during the four year conflict.

The ‘Never Forget’ evening will unfold through dance, visual effects and poetry and offer the audience a feast of delight. The show will pay tribute not only to the heroes of Flanders Fields but also to all those who have made sacrifices in other theatres of conflict down the years and throughout the world.

After practising my songs, all I have to do now is decide which dress to wear for the evening, decisions decisions 🙂

The first of the two concerts will take place in Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre:

Rememberance2014Chesterfield

And the following evening in Buxton’s Opera House:

Remberance-2014-Buxton

Postcodes for the events are Chesterfield S41 7TX and Buxton SK17 6XN
 

 

Opera-Singer

When I first started singing I had no idea where my love for this beautiful art would take me, I only knew that the sheer joy that I felt when I sang was a feeling that I never wanted to lose.   I discovered Disney Sing-Along-Songs when I was two or three and would dance and sing as I watched them, gradually during my time at school my musical awareness widened as I was introduced to different musical genres.

Ariel

I loved to perform and found the work involved in learning more demanding pieces very exhilarating, constantly seeking help to improve my technique and challenging myself to explore new songs.  Eventually in my early teens I remember being told that my voice would probably develop into that of a “Soprano” although several competition adjudicators thought I may fall between “Mezzo-Soprano” and a “Soprano” and though I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that all meant I was very excited at the prospect.:)

Since then I’ve heard my voice develop and though I know that it will constantly change over my career at the moment I am considered a “Lyric Soprano”.   So for a young aspiring opera singer just how important is your voice type.?

Well to answer this question you have to go back to the end of the 19th Century when the Germans developed a method of categorising a singer’s voice, this was then used to improve the auditioning process in German opera houses.  It allowed for the pre-selection of a group of singers prior to auditions based on a range of their vocal characteristics.

range – the notes your body can produce
weight – light voices, bright and agile; heavy voices, powerful, rich, and darker
size – the amount of sound you can produce and your voice’s dramatic effect
tessitura – part of the range which is most comfortable to sing
timbre or colour – unique voice quality and texture
transition points – points where you change from chest, to middle, to head register
vocal registers – how extended each register is
speech level – speaking range
physical characteristics – height and build age and experience

I’m sure that many composers had a particular voice type in mind for the roles they created in their operas.  They were artists who painted with sound and created beautiful stories using a range of characters to bring their work to life.

Wagner - The Ring Cycle

The Ring Cycle – Wagner

When a Director or Conductor is set the task of re-creating the story so imaginatively created by the composer they know that selecting the right singer for each role is so important. The Fach system can help in this selection process, allowing the Directors and Conductors to audition singers on a role by role basis using a very strict set of vocal characteristics. They can then use the audition to look for that little something extra that the singer can bring to the role safe in the knowledge that the vocal requirements of the part can be undertaken by each auditionee.

VocalRange

The system starts with three female voice types and three male voice type. They are Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano and Contralto for the female and Tenor, Baritone and Bass for the male.

Each of the voice types are then broken down into more specific groups of characteristics, for the Soprano for example we have :

Soubrette – Young, light, bright
Lyric Coloratura Soprano – High, bright, flexible
Dramatic Coloratura Soprano – High, dark, flexible
Lyric Soprano – Warm, legatto, full
Character Soprano – Bright, metallic, theatrical
Spinto /Young Dramatic Soprano – Powerful, young, full
Dramatic Soprano – Powerful, dark, rich

Mozart - The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute – Mozart

If opera is a new art form to you and you still need persuading of its purity and beauty then over the coming months I will try and convince you by writing about these different vocal characteristics and the roles associated with them, the great singers who have performed them and the beautiful operas that they come from.

On the other hand if you adore the art form then please feel free to join in with your comments and help me to persuade as many new people as possible to come and watch. After all one day I hope that it will be me on the stage, singing with all the emotion and colour that my heart will allow and I would love to see you all in the audience.

To close this post I can only say that I find this whole process so exciting, not quite knowing what characteristics my voice will take on makes my training so much more interesting. Working on my technique with experienced and supportive teachers helps me to understand the processes involved with my singing and I hope that it will allow me to improve my performances and paint with vocal colour. As to what voice type I will enter my professional career with, I still do not know but I can tell you whatever it is I intend to enjoy every second of it 🙂

Charlotte_Close_Up_01

La Rondine – Puccini ( my first chorus role in an opera )