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.
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 🙂
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:
And the following evening in Buxton’s Opera House:
Postcodes for the events are Chesterfield S41 7TX and Buxton SK17 6XN
I took part in a vocal improvisation master class yesterday ( Wednesday 1st October 2014 ) at the RCS in the Agos Opera Studio. The class was given by Anne-Liis Poll and Anto Pett two fabulous teachers from Estonia.
Anne-Liis Poll is one of the most leading improvisational singers of Estonia. She is also an eminent teacher of singing and improvisation. She has taught singing at the Estonian Institute of Humanities (theatre students), singing and improvisation since 1996 in Drama School of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (docent) and since 2001 at the University of Tartu Viljandi Cultural Academy. Anne-Liis Poll is also improvisation pedagogue at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.
Anto Pett is one of the most well-known free improvisators and improvisation teachers in Estonia. He graduated with piano studies from the Tallinn Music High School in 1978 under the guidance of Ene Metsjärv. He continued studies at the Tallinn State Conservatoire in piano class of Virve Lippus, studying also composition with Eino Tamberg and improvisation with Hugo Lepnurm, and graduated in 1983. He has developed original teaching method and introduced it in several music academies in Europe (Helsinki, Stockholm, Leipzig, Odense, Paris, Riga, Marseille, Bordeaux, Vilnius, Glasgow, Gdańsk
The main concept that I took away from the lesson was to be aware of how you can portray emotion through your consonants. Your consonants initiate your vowels so if you work on the emotion you project it will encourage a dramatic tone in your vowels too, which hopefully creates an exciting text for the audience 🙂
Here is one of the exercises that we were asked to try out. We used a Syllabic language ( made up sounds ) using a consonant followed by a vowel. You could use any consonant sound from any language that is the best thing about improvisation.
For example :
LO YA EIV QUO PEH SUH
We began by changing every syllable on a crotchet at a slow 4/4 tempo. Then we were asked to speed it up, changing every quaver, every semi-quaver and so on … This helps to improve your articulation and your speed of imagination.
When you try this exercise it sounds a little like beat boxing. We began by passing around the room sounds in a call and response manner.
We then explored the difference between unvoiced and voiced consonants
Unvoiced consonants. – unvoiced consonants are consonants which rely on the air being disturbed by the teeth, lips, tongue without using the vibration of your vocal chords
Voiced consonants –as the name suggests are consonants which require the vocal chords to play their part in the production of the sound.
Many consonant sounds come in pairs. For example, P and B are produced in the same place in the mouth with the tongue in the same position.
The only difference is that P is an unvoiced sound (no vibration of the vocal cords) while B is a voiced sound (vocal cords vibrate). Put your hand on your throat as you say the pairs below to feel the difference.
This leads us on to other partner consonants such as
F and V
T and rolled R
S and Z
K and NG (nasal)
You use similar placement of the tongue in the mouth which allows these partnered consonants swift movement between the changes. So you can produce the sounds very quickly and efficiently, which is so helpful for a singer.
For example the tip of the tongue creates the T on the top ridge of the mouth and the rolled R is rolled behind the top teeth.
It was great to see the development of these exercises as we all joined in.
Having fun with the improvisation exercises
As the lesson progressed we touched on tuned percussion, the speaking voice and then the singing voice.
The class helped me with my understanding of how vocal improvisation can be used in the development of my singing technique and help my warm ups and vocal exercises.
Sometimes on my lunch break from work, I enjoy getting crafty with my Mum and my friend Gill. So when Gill offered to show me a new technique to colour cards and paper I jumped at the chance. It was going to be fun as it involved shaving foam, card dyes and possibly getting messy. 🙂
To start, I sprayed an even layer of (bargain priced) shaving foam onto a plastic tray.
After adding the shaving foam to the messy tray I sprayed the dye on to the surface of one side.
I then added a second colour to the surface.
Then to add a little texture to the surface I used a wooden stick to create straight lines up and down the shaving foam mixing the colour on the surface of the foam.
Then take the piece of card or paper that you want to transfer the pattern to and place it gently on the surface of the shaving foam.
Once the paper is resting on the surface of the shaving foam press it gently to get an even coating of colour.
Peel back the paper or card gently and evenly lift it out of the tray.
Place the paper or card flat on your work surface.
Then gently scrape off any shaving foam that has stuck to surface with a ruler or other straight edge.
The ink dries quickly to the paper or card and you can wipe away any foam that might be left.
The swirls and patterns can make lovely backgrounds for cards or other craft projects.
It is really quick to do and the only other thing that I would recommend to you is using latex gloves to keep the dye off your fingers. You can use the shaving foam in your messy tray more than once just add a little extra dye.
If you give it go I would love to hear from you, Oh and don’t tell my Dad it was me that took his shaving foam 😉
Tonight I had intended to put up a post about my visit to the Opera National de Paris and provide a little back story for you but that has been put on hold temporarily 🙂
Why? you may ask, well as you know I find it very hard to resist a challenge, particularly one from one of my oldest friends Oscar White especially as he immersed himself in a bath full of freezing cold water for his ALS ice bucket challenge, he always was over the top lol. So when I finished my singing practise tonight and Dad finally found some ice (as everywhere was sold out!) I got changed and decided to give it a go.
The ice bucket challenge, social media’s latest craze, is designed to raise money and awareness for the neurodegenerative illness ALS. In an official letter this week, the ALS Association said: “Never before have been in a better position to fuel our fight against this disease. Increased awareness and unprecedented financial support will enable us to think outside the box.”
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons degenerate and die which makes it increasingly difficult to move muscles.
When muscles aren’t used enough, they stop working. Sufferers begin to feel weak, especially in their arms, legs, and during speech, swallowing and breathing. As muscle tissue atrophies, limbs start to get smaller. In the later stages of the illness, patients may become totally paralysed.
There is no known cause of ALS, though there is a proven hereditary factor in some cases. In about 90 per cent of cases, nobody knows how or why the illness struck. There is also no known cure, though the millions being raised by the ALS association will go towards researching these great unknowns.
In the US it is sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, named after the all-time great baseball player from the early 20th Century whose time at the top ended when he was stricken with the illness in 1939.
Tonight’s post is only a short one as my brother Matt is coming home tonight as it is his birthday later this week and I am looking forward to spending some time with him.:)
Here is a video of my performance of “Wishing You were Somehow Here Again” from “The Phantom Of The Opera” which I hope will give you a flavour of the concert.
I had such a wonderful time last Sunday performing with the Tideswell Male Voice Choir at Gawsworth Hall. It was great to perform again with the choir who always make me feel so welcome, especially Dennis Kay ( the musical director ) who makes this all possible The Tudor house and gardens provided an incredible setting for the concert and I want to say a big thank you to Christopher Ellis ( keyboards ) and Derrick McGill ( percussion ) for the truly atmospheric accompaniment.
“One Voice” – the opening song from the concert
I found out that we had a professional photographer in the audience last Sunday who has kindly allowed us to use some of the pictures that he took.
Here is a picture of Matthew Mellor performing “Master Of The House” from “Les Miserables”. It was great fun to join in with the rest of the choir to help set the scene
Christopher Gillett writes in Sinfinimusic: “Now, it’s not unusual for singers to spend as many as eight or nine years closeted as a student, during which time they become saddled with staggering amounts of debt.
After that, if they are well-developed, lucky, or happen to tick the right boxes, the young singer may get taken by an opera house into its ‘studio’ or young artist programme (YAP), doing a lot of understudying and singing minor roles. Those that don’t can find it very difficult to get noticed, some even resorting to paying small companies to allow them to sing principal roles”
Yikes! However there was a bit of good news:
“Opera Holland Park has come up with a brilliant and heart-warming solution. For one of its productions – this year it was The Turn of the Screw – it has a proper, public performance specifically for the young artists who have covered the rest of the shows. There are no half measures, no compromises. They get to do one performance and the public pays to see it. They even get their own dress rehearsal. I think that’s just brilliant. I take my hat off to Holland Park.”
Which leads me on nicely to tell you about my fabulous opportunity on Wednesday night to see Bellini’s ‘Norma’ at Opera Holland Park (OHP), my first live outdoor opera, absolutely sublime, with Dane Lam conducting the City of London Sinfonia orchestra and I was also pleased to see two singers I knew; Huw Montague Rendall from the Royal College of Music (a finalist whom I met at the Ferrier competition) and Luke Sinclair from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the chorus. Dane Lam was the first conductor that I ever worked with at JRNCM and has always inspired me to work hard to achieve my dreams. He has just been appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of China’s Xi’an Symphony Orchestra He is due to take on the challenge in October this year ( 2014 ) and I do wish him every success.
I had one hiccup when I walked out of the wrong exit of OHP grounds and followed a group of people to the wrong tube line, everyone I asked for advice on how to get to the Circle Line were tourists and my phone was nearly dead so I didn’t want to use up too much 3G trying to Google Map myself. I had a very small amount of cash and asked a black cab if it was enough to get me to the nearest circle line tube station, he was very friendly and helpful and got me to the right connection. My Mum said she’d have booked me a cab if she’d have known I’d be walking around London on my own but I’d got an Oyster Card for the Tube (underground) and my brother Matt had taken me after work to make sure I knew my Tube connections.
We Finished Off Saturday Night With A Family Meal Out. This Is Me With My Younger Brother Tom.
We Had A Quick Look Around Seven Dials Near Covent Garden Before Leaving The City Centre To Find My Student Digs For The Week.
I Would Like To Say A Big Thank You To The Hope Scott Trust Whose Generosity Made It Possible For Me To Rent This Lovely Room During My Stay In London To Attend The BYO Summer SchoolI But You Know Me I Just Had To Brighten Up My Room For The Coming Week With A Few Home Comforts
I Decided To Treat Myself To A Manicure To Start Off My Week Away, Can You Guess What Colour I Had My Toe Nails Done ? Just Click On The Picture To See 🙂
I missed putting a post out on Sunday as I was cherishing a little family time and catching up with my Mum and Dad. My parents always tell me that they can tell when I’m back home, as the laundry has a pink wash 🙂
I soon got back into my routine as I returned to work on Monday and managed to sort out my evening schedule to fit in my singing practice, yoga and make some time to catch up with all my friends on my blog and social media to relax.
Today I had arranged to take a couple of hours off work to meet with Christopher Ellis, the principal accompanist and assistant Director of Music for the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, to go over some of my songs for the concert at Gawsworth Hall on Sunday 10th August. Following the success of their concert at Gawsworth Hall last year the choir is to perform their medley of songs from the musical “Les Miserables” in the second half in which I will be singing Eponine’s songs.
Christopher Ellis and Me
The concert is also to include some new songs from the choir and solo performances from Madeleine Osborne, Erin Alexander, Kieron-Connor Valentine, Matthew Mellor, Phil Rigley and myself. I will be performing two songs from “The Phantom Of The Opera” “Think Of Me” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”. To add a little more atmosphere to the concert this year percussionist Derrick McGill will be joining us and I am looking forward to listening to his suggestions and working with him and Chris on the musical arrangements.
My Good Friend Erin Alexander, Christopher Ellis and Me
The rehearsal went brilliantly and it was great to catch up with Chris. He is a fabulous pianist and I appreciate his creative and imaginative input whilst rehearsing, as it enables me to add a little sparkle to the songs ready for the performance. The time flew by and it was not long before I had to return to work. I hope the choir rehearsal in the evening went well also. I can’t wait to see all the choir and soloists again, I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone in the pre-show rehearsals at Gawsworth Hall 🙂
Last weekend I was offered a chance to try my hand at archery and in the spirit of the commonwealth games I jumped at the chance to give a go. The only archery I had ever seen was either in cartoons or when watching Robin Hood so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had the impression that maybe there would be a nice round target in a very, very big field, after all would you want to stand anywhere near a complete beginner 🙂
We arrived at a secluded wooded area and there were no colourful targets in sight! Instead there were large plastic bottles on sticks which we were to try and hit. But having watched my friends have a go the competitor in me took over and I was determined to give it my very best.
I shot the first arrow, it was not as easy as I had imagined but I was not going to let it get the better of me. I listened to the advice and my shots were getting closer to hitting the bottle. I just could not find the strength to pull the bow back far enough to match my more experienced friends, but I was improving.
Then finally I hit the bottle, the bottle moved on the stick and the arrow hit the ground behind it 🙂 I was over the moon and really pleased with my efforts, it was such good fun to try a new sport and though all you field archers out there won’t have any serious competition from me any time soon it is something that I would love to try again.
So though I wont be in Glasgow for the start of the 2014 Commonwealth Games today I will be there in spirit. I believe that the opening ceremony at 2100 BST is expected to be fabulous so I will have to catch it on the BBC website when I get home. I hope that the games are a great success and that the competitors enjoy the experience and my new home City. Good luck to everyone involved 🙂
Here is a link to a little test that the BBC have put on their website to see what Commonwealth Games sport may suit you 🙂 Why not give it a go and let me know what it suggests. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28062001