Archives For George Todica

Entirely Bonkers

September 11, 2016 — 76 Comments

Today I have been enjoying the September sunshine and preparing for a short trip to Antwerp, Brussels to take part in a masterclass tomorrow morning.

I’m getting quite excited at the proposition of moving to London next week and the new challenges and opportunities that await for me when I get there.  I have had so many wonderful experiences and amazing adventures during my four years at the RCS and have enjoyed sharing them with you all.  It has been such a treat to read your feedback and to see my world through your eyes. Your support and encouragement have helped me to reach this new fork in the road and though I don’t know what is down the path I have chosen to follow I do hope that you will all be there with me every step of the way.

 

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Pascal Barnier created this beautiful picture for the cover of the album

Before I left Glasgow, there were a couple of projects that I have been working on throughout the year that I wanted to finish off.  The first was to record the “Haugtussa” song cycle by Edvard Grieg for release this month, and the second was something totally different, you could almost say that it is entirely bonkers.

Earlier this year I took part in an English Song competition which required me to perform both songs and spoken words.  One quote in the prospectus caught my eye and got me thinking:

“to encourage the communication of English words, in singing and in speech, with clarity, understanding and imagination”.

What if you took the text from a famous piece of literature and tried to mingle in some English song to help enhance the telling of the story.  I found what in my mind was just the perfect story, one from my childhood that always conjured up vivid images which danced through my imagination.

So I got to work reading through the text to find passages that I thought worked well with songs that I had in mind.  With the work complete I sent off my application and following an audition in London, I was delighted to be chosen to perform in the final.  Though I did not make the final three, as I had enjoyed the project so much I decided that rather than leave it there I would record the pieces and release them on a separate album, just in case there was anyone as crazy as me out there who wanted to listen to it.

On both projects, I was accompanied by George Todica, who over the past three years has helped me immensely by accompanying me in competitions, auditions, and my exams.  He even went the extra mile and agreed to take part in an impromptu photo shoot at the Glasgow Botanical Gardens.  It was great fun hunting down the costumes and then dressing up for the photos.  It was as if a childhood ambition had come true, walking through the gardens we were both stopped by passers-by who wanted photographs with us, I was finally living the dream, it felt like being a Disney Princess for an afternoon.

I am sure that you have guessed by now which story I picked.

Before I sign off there is one more huge thank you that I must pass on, I have been given an  award by the Kathleen Trust towards the cost of my first year studies at the Royal College of Music.  Without such an award and the generous support from all of you who bought copies of my first album, it would be impossible for me to continue on my magical journey.

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

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Jane Froehlich, Me and George Todica

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

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

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

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

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Last Sunday 3rd April I was invited along with George Todica to attend the Leeds Lieder Festival hosted at the Leeds College of Music. The Leeds Lieder festival is an amazing opportunity for anyone interested in Art song to immerse themselves in this fabulous art form through performances, master-classes and pre –concert talks.

The master class on the Sunday was on between 10:00 am to 13:00 pm, presented by Roderick Williams, a baritone and the Artistic Director of the festival. It featured four duos from UK conservatoires and I thoroughly enjoyed their programmes and the insight provided by Roderick to each of the pieces. The master-class was very thought provoking and left me with plenty to think about for my own performances.

In the afternoon George and I performed alongside four other duos in the Master-class Fringe Concert held in the recital room. It was great opportunity to perform with other students from all over the country in this fabulous festival.

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The other duos were :
Andrew Henley ( tenor ) and Conal Bembridge-Sayers ( piano ) from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Emily Gray ( mezzo soprano ) and Francesca Fierro ( piano ) from Trinity Laban.
Adam Gouldin ( baritone ) and Marcus Bingham ( piano ) from Leeds College of Music
Michael Vickers ( baritone ) and Ljubica Stojanovic ( piano ) from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

During conversations with members of audience after the concert I got a real sense of the enthusiasm and passion that they had for the event and I was so pleased to have taken part.

If you are in the Leeds area next year between the 21st and the 23rd April then I would encourage you to drop in and listen to what is on offer I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

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On Thursday alongside my fellow 4th year undergraduate students we performed in a scene from “Cosi fan Tutte”.  It was the finale from Act 1 and I performed the part of Fiordiligi  with Inkeri Kallio as Doribella. The other performers were :

Don Alfonso – Jack Sandison
Ferrando – Robert Forrest
Guglielmo – Timothy Edmundson
Despina – Xinhui Lai

In the opera Don Alfonso makes bet with two younger men, Ferrando and Guglielmo that all women are fickle and are easily tempted.  As the two men believe their fiancés, Fiordiligi and Doribella, are loyal and faithful they see this as an easy bet to win and decide to play along. Pretending to have been called up to go to war the two men agree to return in disguise and attempt to tempt the others fiancé.  Will the deception work? Will the two sisters succumb to the advances of their new suitors?

In the scene that we performed Despina the maid had been persuaded by Don Alfonso to help him win his bet.  She works with the two men who are now disguised as two Albanians to tempt the two sisters to stray.  As part of the deception the two men threaten to poison themselves if Fiordiligi and Doribella do not accept their amorous advances. After refusing their efforts Ferrando and Guglielmo pretend to take the poison and Despina (now disguised as a doctor) saves them from dying.

Pretending to be under the effects of the poison the two men demand a kiss form the sisters who adamantly refuse.  Fearing the bet will be lost both Don Alfonso and the disguised Despina encourage the two sisters to agree to the amorous demands as the Act draws to a close.

I had a great time with everyone 🙂

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Then after school I packed up for the weekend as we had to travel to Reading in Berkshire for a concert which was on Friday, 18th March.

George Todica was both accompanying me in the concert and also playing three piano pieces by Franz Liszt, Maurice Ravel and George Enescu.  We arrived in the afternoon and after being shown the recital room we warmed up before getting changed for the performance. During the afternoon we had a look around the beautiful arts centre which was buzzing with life and a fantastic credit to the community.

During our performance we were made to feel so welcome by the enthusiastic audience and the evening just flew by.  We met so many lovely people and enjoyed chatting with them after the concert about the music that we performed.  I would like to say a special thank you to Penny and Brian for their hospitality.

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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.

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Jess And Me On Our First Day In Italy

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Going To See Aida with Natalie

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Just Before Going On Stage At A Concert In Italy

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My Final Week With The Opera Performance Studio

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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.

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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)?’

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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.

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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.

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Ready To Go On Stage At The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

 

My Musical Review Of 2015 – Part 1

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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.

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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.

Translation :

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 🙂

Edvard Grieg – Composer
Soprano Packing!
Just Arrived In Bergen
Day 2 – Welcome To The Grieg Academy
Day 3 In Bergen – So Inspiring
Enthralling Lectures, Inspirational Performances and Great Company
Bergen – The Final Concert

Edinburgh Recital

November 22, 2015 — 79 Comments

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.

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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

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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.

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Charlotte Hoather                                                   George Todica

I had a very musical day on Friday 30th of October. At lunchtime I was able to grab a sandwich and listen to a concert held in the Jubilee Hall at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, where two of my close friends George Todica and Daniel Ciobanu performed.

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George Todica                                                             Daniel Petrica Ciobanu

The exciting and very musical program involved works by Scriabin, Ravel, Liszt and Trofin. I particularly enjoyed George’s interpretation of Valses Nobles et Sentimales. Before playing he explained in his introduction that the climax takes place on the seventh piece of this cycle and that the eighth acts as an epilogue and compared it to the way an older person recollects memories of their past. The concert ended with a bang with two piano four hand pieces in which the two performers were practically dancing around the piano performing a wild duet of Romanian folk music.

After this I ran back to the Royal Conservatoire of  Scotland to observe some of the Opera school students receiving coaching from Kathryn Harries in the AGOS studio. Kathryn Harries is the Director of the National Opera Studio, which is based in London, after having a very successful performing career as an operatic soprano. She has an exuberant personality and successfully commanded the space for continuous four hour block.

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Kathryn Harries

It was interesting to carefully and attentively watch this event as I was able to receive a lot of information and ideas that I can put towards my own practise. The main idea I have taken away is that subconscious body movements performed whilst singing can sometimes give an insight into what is happening. For example some students would throw a shoulder forward (slightly) at the start of phrases. Demonstrating their eagerness to begin the phrase well however it made for an aggressive sound. And another student held their arm in tight against them with their hand forming in a fist which was linked to the tight vocal line. However gestures can also unlock and aid a singer’s ability to improve a weakness. She explained that because we can’t see our instrument when we play we must use the tools of imagination. An example of her technique was to involve swinging arm movements which would mirror the action of expanding ribs to reinforce the engagement of the support and to keep the ribs out wide whilst singing. This aided most of the singers on stage and definitely an exercise I will try. She gave us lots of tips and encouraged our practise to be specific rather than general.

However one thing that I think is a transferable piece of advice when learning, improving a skill or completing a task at work  is to treat yourself consistently like a little puppy, don’t ever kick it because it’s not doing it right or give up on it because it can’t do it the first, fifth or the tenth time. Instead be patient and loving.

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The cherry on the cake was going to the Sunday coffee concert today at the Royal Conservatoire at 11:30. The programme was a great selection from German composers involving pupils and professors performing together. It was wonderful to see such a high standard of musical interpretation. A personal highlight were the Schubert pieces performed by Julia Daramy-Williams and Julian Tovey in which two rich voices superbly conveyed poems by Goethe.

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Sadly I could not record the singers today but here is my performance of Schubert’s  “Gretchen am Spinnrade” from 2014.  I really must try and get the opportunity to record this again next year, for those of you who have not seen it I hope that you enjoy it.

 

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.

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Click On The Picture To See The Full Panorama

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.