We hope that you enjoy our balcony concert this week, it has different moods inspired by memorable visits that George and I made together to Bergen, Norway and Paris, France, and the time that I have spent in Germany.
We start with a joyful French aria Frère Voyez! Le Beau Bouquet! From the opera Werther by Massenet ”everyone is joyous; happiness is in the air!” One of my favourites.
Then two French songs: S’il Est Un Charmant Gazon – Liszt, a love song with visions of the lovely places his true love may walk ‘if there is a charming lawn’ a dream of love; the second Chanson Triste – Duparc, a ‘song of sadness’ but very beautiful.
Next Three are Grieg songs from the Haugtussa cycle you can read more about these songs (HERE) and listen to the full album that we recorded when we returned from Norway (On Most Streaming Services) this album is also available to download at Amazon, iTunes etc.
Finally, a German aria Durch Zartlichkeit Und Schmeicheln by Mozart from the Opera ‘Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail’. This aria is sung by Blonde, she was captured with her Mistress and sold to Osmin a mean man. She is betrothed and remains loyal to him but Osmin has his eye on her and forces himself on her, she refuses him and fights his advances. In this aria she tells him she can only be won over by kindness, tenderness, and flattery but Osmin isn’t convinced.
With the outlook for live performances looking pretty bleak for the months ahead we are looking for outlets to record and sell mini-concerts or small operas that we are hoping to put together with a few friends. If any of you have any ideas of where to put these on-line with a pay to view element I’d be very grateful if you could e-mail me at enquiries@charlotte-Hoather.com. We’re going to have to get inventive and find new ways of earning an income from our music as several of George’s online tuition lessons cease next week and government SEISS stops soon if necessary we could try to pick up more office work hours but six months without music work wouldn’t be good.
Since I started blogging I have met so many supportive and helpful people, people who have inspired me to be myself and pursue my dreams. One of them is Pascal Barnier, a French artist, and a good friend. When he listens to my singing he uses his illustrations to share with me what he sees in his imagination. I find the results absolutely fabulous and have loved sharing them with you all over the last three years.
When he found out that I was to release the “Haugtussa” as an album he decided to produce a video of his images set to my music. When I sing I have in my mind the images of the characters and the story that I am trying to tell, it helps me to find the right emotions to accompany the melodic music and expressive poetry. So to be able to see what someone else imagines when listening to my singing to me is quite fascinating.
Here is the video and I would love to hear what you think of it. If you have listened to the Haugtussa, is this how you imagined the story?
After a very busy first week of lessons at the Royal College of Music, London, I excitedly hopped on a plane on Friday to Barcelona for a weekend of music, great food, fantastic company, and joyfulness.
Upon my arrival at Barcelona, I was greeted at the airport by the Néstor Bayona, a conductor, and pianist that I met in Berlin, who kindly took me to his family home, which was about a two-hour drive away in Lleida where he introduced me to his parents and the rest of the ensemble. His wonderful parents Albert and Marina made me very welcome and soon made me feel like part of the family. It was a joy to stay with them. However before I could hit the hay, I had a rehearsal in the evening with Néstor on the Haugtussa cycle by Grieg, which he had invited me to Catalonia to perform. It was wonderful to keep the music alive and develop new ideas to continue the creative spontaneity of telling the stories of the pieces. We then concluded the evening in true Spanish style with snacks and nibbles outside in the beautiful Mediterranean evening.
Nestor’s Family Home, Lleida
On Saturday we had another rehearsal at Néstor’s home around lunchtime, and I was able to hear Frans van Schoonhoven, violin and Malena Pflock, cello rehearse their Shostakovich Piano Trio number 2 in E minor, op. 67, which was very emotionally demanding and very challenging. Once we were all happy with our pieces, we had a fantastic three-course Spanish meal at a fabulous restaurant, with enough paella to make one’s stomach explode! It was very delicious, and I enjoyed every bite.
Auditori Municipal Enric Grandos, Lleida
Rehearsing For The Mozart Quartet
After lunch we continued our day by travelling to the venue, Auditori Municipal Enric Granados, it was a beautiful concert hall in the heart of Lleida, and it was every exciting to perform here, mainly due to the capacity of the venue and the fantastic resonance of the hall. The programme was very varied and included a surprise appearance by an actor, Marc Cartanyà presenting monologues to link the pieces and to set the mood. I began the cycle offstage and then walked on during my first piece to create an eerie atmosphere and to suggest the sound of the mystical voice from the mountains. It was thrilling to try the performance in a different staging which enabled me to use skills that I had learnt in Berlin to control and shape the atmosphere to tell the story. I enjoyed it immensely and would love to go back. My performance concluded the first half which meant I was able to enjoy the second half as a spectator and support my friends. The second half was brought to a close with a beautiful rendition of Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor, KV.478. In which Nestor, Frans and Malena were joined by Jordi Roure on Viola.
Me With Nestor Boyana Before The Concert
Frans van Schoonhoven , Marc Cartanyà, Me, Jordi Roure, Malena Pflock and Nestor Boyana
Once the show finished, the night was not yet over! That evening in Lleida, there was a celebration and the community gathered to watch a concert and to dance the night away. We stayed for a while, and I loved the happy atmosphere. Especially when they began to sing Disney songs in Spanish! Just how I like to party! 🙂
Then after a very pleasant sleep, I woke up early this morning to travel to Barcelona to perform the same program there. We left quite early as it was a lunchtime performance and we passed the time on the road trip with great music and lots of jokes. We found the venue, Musitekton, and arrived an hour before the concert; this meant we had to be very efficient with or time management to ensure that all the players were able to warm up and to test the acoustics.
The venue was very intimate, and the walls were lined with string instruments as the owner also builds and repairs string instruments, so it was a unique and individual place to perform. Music was most certainly in the air! The concert went very well, and we all enjoyed ourselves connecting with the very attentive audience.
Jordi Roure, Me, Frans van Schoonhoven , Malena Pflock and Nestor Boyana
I concluded my trip with yet another huge Spanish meal with my colleagues and new friends where I tried black rice (black from squid ink) and many different styles of seafood. While I was there, I also tried the local delicacy snails Catalan style and they were surprisingly delicious. However, I don’t think I would be brave enough to cook them at home.
I had the most fantastic time, and it was great to spend two days immersed in the Spanish culture and to experience my first professional international recital in Spain. I would love to go back and perhaps next time sing in Spanish!
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 !!
As you’ll be aware if you’ve been following my blog for the past three years, my musical passion lies in the Opera world, in July I flew to Italy to participate in the Trentino Music Festival Summer School. When preparing the songs for my audition for this summer school in January, my ambition about such an experience was initially to get more opera performance opportunities and to improve my Italian language skills over the five weeks duration. Whilst in Italy I made friends in all the local shops, bakery and cafes and practised my Italian on my willing victims every day. I attended and performed in master-classes, one by the amazing Deborah Voigt, and undertook the roles of ‘Gretel’ in Hansel and Gretel (under the skilful baton of David Gately), ‘2nd Knabe’ and chorus in Die Zauberflute by Mozart and as ‘The Novice’ and chorus in Suor Angelica by Puccini.
Jess And Me On Our First Day In Italy
Going To See Aida with Natalie
Just Before Going On Stage At A Concert In Italy
My Final Week With The Opera Performance Studio
The Final Performance Of Hansel And Gretel
I was guest soloist at a Fyfe Creative Arts Hub Recital the day after I returned from my summer holiday and in October I performed a selection of arias at a gala fundraising evening hosted by the Bowdon Festival Opera, they are raising funds to put the Opera ‘Don Giovanni’ this year and I’ve been offered the role of ‘Zerlina’ which is very exciting.
Tim Edmundson, Beth Jerem, Robert Forrest, Me And Michael Gibson
Last November George Todica and I utilised our Grieg Haugtussa song cycle coaching from our Norwegian master-classes in a one hour long concert in Edinburgh. I sang the full eight song cycle in the first half in the original Norwegian. I have been analysing if songs sound better in the language they were originally written in and one comparison I thought: ‘Does Shakespeare have such a profound effect and impact when translated into other languages?’ Or indeed ‘Would Robert Burns give the depth and feeling if spoken or sung in standard English rather than Scottish dialect, his poem and song ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is often sung at Hogmanay (New Years Eve)?’
At the close of the year I enjoyed participating in the RCS choir at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral undertaking Handel’s Dixit Dominus, I also got to listen to friends performing Spem and Purcell.
Beth Taylor, Me and Susannah Bedford Ready For Handel’s Dixit Dominus
And finally singing in the Christmas Cracker with Jessica Hurst at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
Ready To Go On Stage At The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
This weekend I’ve had the chance to sit down with a cup of tea and reflect on my first performance of Grieg’s ‘Haugtussa’ as a complete song cycle. My Dad was able to come to watch when I performed in Edinburgh and I was so grateful to him as he stood at the back of the room and held his video camera over his head for the entirety of the evening so that I could listen back. Hopefully, next time he’ll bring a stand so he can relax and enjoy it. (Perhaps Santa will leave him one under the Christmas tree 🙂 )
Normally I struggle to watch myself as often I can be very critical. However, I read a book recently whilst I was preparing for my auditions and it recommended to list what you did well first and then rather than say “I did that terribly”, immediately start thinking how you can improve it.
For example in this video one of the things I would like to improve is my ability to keep my vibrato spinning at the ends of phrases to create a better line.
But for this blog post I am sharing this video with you as a work in progress as I would love to continue with my research into these pieces and work hard to improve my performance of them.
The song I have chosen is “Veslemoy”, it appears second in the cycle of the eight songs. Veslemoy is the real name of the young girl, and Haugtussa is her nickname meaning ‘mountain maid’. The text in this song describes her physical appearance as being thin and slender with brown pure features. It also mentions how she appears to be touched by magic allowing her to see into other realms. The second verse goes on to explain that despite her appearing calm she is still a young beautiful girl trembling and frail.
This description in some way prepares us for what is to come, as the story develops over the remaining six songs Haugtussa meets a boy and she feels her emotions blossom into a first love but sadly she is left waiting for him in the cold. He never returns.
Me with George Todica in Troldhaugen where we performed in Grieg’s house during our stay in Bergen, Norway.
I’m very excited to work on this cycle as it is rarely performed in the UK in its original Norwegian and yet the music and poetry are so touching and beautiful. I hope to record the whole cycle next year and would love to share them with you. George and I have been working with these songs for over six months now and they’re still a work in progress, I hope that you enjoy them on first listening and that they can grow on you to become favourites as they have done with me. This gives me an opportunity to really listen and appreciate George’s sensitive interpretation and emotional connection to these beautiful songs.
She is thin, dark and slender with brown, pure features and her eyes are deep and grey and she has a soft dreamy manner. It is as if it, half and half, lay a spell over the whole of her. In movement, speech and everything she has a muted calm. She has a muted calm. Beneath her lovely forehead, Her eyes shine as if behind a mist, It is as if they staring, saw far into another world. Only her breast goes tight and heavy And her pale mouth quivers. She is trembling, frail and weak At the same time she is beautiful and young. She is beautiful and young.
Here are some links to the posts that I wrote about my time in Bergen 🙂
What a wonderful weekend! On Saturday I had the privilege to perform alongside George Todica for the Edinburgh Society of Musicians. It was a very welcoming society and a relaxing atmosphere to perform my first hour long solo evening recital that I had organised, designed and performed alone with piano accompaniment without any other soloists in the programme.
Pascal Barnier Sent Me This Beautiful Image That He Created For Our Recital
The evening’s programme comprised of:
“Haugtussa” the full cycle by Grieg
Four of Aaron Copland’s American Folk Songs
Four Scottish Folk Songs
‘Quando M’en Vo’ – Puccini
‘Wo Bin Ich?’ – Humperdink
‘Song To The Moon’ – Dvorak
The Edinburgh Society Of Musicians – The Performance Area
Before starting the concert I was a bit nervous as it was the longest I was going to sing by myself. This brings challenges of vocal stamina as the voice is produced by muscles activating and relaxing. Similarly to a long distance athlete you need endurance, fuel and energy to last the entire event.
Leading up to the concert I was practising my words regularly and I think in the future I will keep working on this so that I can relax a little more mentally in the concert, but I think that because my attention was highly activated I could create and spontaneously react to ideas George created on the piano.
I am excited to be performing the Haugtussa again in March 2016 and can’t wait to see the progression the piece will make over time.
The program was well received and we were commended for a professional performance.
For me the highlight of the evening was meeting everyone after the event including fellow musicians along with a pianist who knew the ‘Haugtussa’ cycle as he had performed it before, and we received some great advice and feedback.
Last night at the gala fundraising evening hosted by Bowdon Festival Opera I had a fabulous time catching up with friends, spending time with my family and performing alongside a group of singers brought together for the event from around the UK and Ireland.
To open the evening’s performance, I was accompanied by the festival chorus and performed two of Gretel’s arias from Englebert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel”: Ein Männlein steht im Walde and Abendsegen (Evening Prayer).
It was great fun to perform these arias again especially with the chorus providing an English translation of ‘The Evening Prayer’. In a packed program I also enjoyed performing in the second half of the evening along with vocalists singing excerpts from Dido and Aeneas; Macbeth; Don Giovanni and many more.
The evening was a great success and I am so pleased that I could play a part in it. It’s so expensive to put on an opera production that without the support provided by these fundraisers it would be impossible to do, so I must pass on a big thank you to everyone that came along and especially to all the people who organised the evening. As Jayne explained during her final speech, many festivals and music groups don’t get the financial support from Lottery funds or Art Grants so it was great to see the local community support the event, it was also wonderful to see so many new students participating in the evening and the progress they are making.
Today after a few hours with my Mum and Dad I have the long drive back up to Glasgow, so I can only manage a short post tonight. Thank goodness the clocks went back last night and I gained an extra hour.
After a few busy days I’m very excited to tell the tale of my last day in Bergen. Sunday 31st May began with a masterclass in the morning, we all performed the two songs that we were going to be singing later that evening in the concert. It was fantastic to receive advice from the teachers and scholars which helped us all to bring the songs to life. I was delighted to receive the compliment of good Norwegian pronunciation from specialist Wencke Ophaug during the masterclass. Watching the other workshop participants was lovely as I got to see the improvements made by the others over the past few days. It was delightful to work with such positive and hard-working people.
Click On The Picture To See The Full Panorama
We then had a break to re-energise ourselves and gather our things for the evening. I took my gold sparkly dress and George brought his DJ. We met the rest of the group at 4:15 pm outside the Grieg Hall and together we caught a coach to Troldhaugen. We arrived with the sun shining and at 5 o’clock a final rehearsal took place. But this rehearsal didn’t take place in a concert hall it took place in Grieg’s house. Now this was an extra special experience, George played Grieg’s piano and I stood where Nina would’ve sung. It felt like the music was coming home and we revelled in all the happy memories held within the walls of this beautiful house. It’s something I can’t quite explain in words, but I feel so privileged to have gained this opportunity and to take away such a marvellous memory. I also managed to press a note for myself. (A tuning ‘A’ to be precise hehe).
Sadly we could not take any pictures inside to share with you but if this means that many more generations can see and feel what I had experienced, then I don’t mind and instead I urge you to visit this fabulous home for yourselves.
After our seven minutes of rehearsal time George and I along with the other participants went downstairs to the maid’s quarters to get ready for the performance. I used some of this time to go and explore, I visited Grieg’s composition hut and it was here and at his piano, which I touched, that the music of ‘Haugtussa’ came to life. We also visited his and Nina’s graves which were carved into the mountains. It was quite spectacular and a beautiful resting place for them both, it felt quite an honour to be part of the history of this inspiring area of Bergen.
We then got changed into our performance clothes so we could take some pictures outside of the house to make the most of the sunny day. However, it was when we returned downstairs that something occurred. I poured myself a cup of berry tea, but moments later, just after being freshly brewed, in the crowded room as I turned the entire contents of the cup spilled down the front of my dress. At first I couldn’t feel it and I just panicked about the mess but then all of a sudden the hot liquid reached my leg and stuck to my tight dress soaking my thigh. People rushed to help me get to a rest room and take the dress off and finally after a painful struggle I was released from it to reveal a burnt thigh! But in the words of Freddie Mercury, (I’m a huge fan along with my Mum and Dad) “the show must go on!”, so after pouring a cold bottle of water all over my leg and rubbing some hand lotion on I put my dress back on, which was more like a wetsuit 🙂 walked back upstairs and sung my heart out. Nothing was going to ruin this experience for me. Then promptly after finishing I retired to some comfy clothes to allow my skin some time to heal.
After the performance we all mingled and took some photos and expressed our joy of such a fabulous experience. I must say that I have now left the workshop as a Grieg enthusiast and I hope to keep singing and sharing his music for a long time.
I must admit that figuring out how to dictate my notes into my iPad has been really helpful and made sharing my adventure so much easier, I can really recommend it.
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.
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.
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.
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.