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?
Last Wednesday I took part in my first concert at The Royal College of Music, titled “Songs My Mother Taught Me”. New Students were asked to choose a song from the country of their birth to demonstrate the wide variety of countries represented here at the Royal College of Music, I chose for my song “Dream Valley” by Roger Quilter. It was lovely to meet the other students and faculty members after the performance and I had a lovely evening.
This weekend I decided to have a bit of chill out and explore the local area. Having already timed the best routes to and from the Tube stations and finding the best shops to buy food and essentials I now wanted to see what little gems were close at hand when you want to escape the bustle of London life.
On Saturday I took advantage of the weather and decided to visit Holland Park, which I had been told was a beautiful and tranquil place to visit. It was lovely to walk through the gardens and admire the designs, especially the Japanese inspired ‘Kyoto Garden.’
The Park also has several sporting facilities, woodland areas, and a café if you fancy a drink or a snack. But for me, it was just nice to walk amongst the greenery, see the beautiful Koi carp and take in the splendour of the peacocks.
In London, I have been keen to keep up with my dance as it is a great way to keep fit and helps with my movement on stage. I discovered that we could join the Imperial College Students Union and become members of their societies, I knew I had to give it a go. So this morning ( Sunday ) I went along to a taster session for Jazz Dance and had a great time, and I would love to go back next week. I am also going to take part in a trial advanced ballet session which I am excited to do.
Then to bring an end to a perfect weekend my Brother invited me to his flat for Sunday lunch, so no cooking for me today 🙂
I would like to end tonight by thanking everyone who has downloaded my album “Haugtussa” and wanted to let you know that I have added a little write up about each track ( Here )For those of you waiting for the CDs I am hoping they will be here in a couple of weeks 🙂
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 !!
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.
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.
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.
It has been a frantic weekend getting prepared for the start of my final year as school opens again tomorrow, all the new fresher’s will be there, lots of excitement and nerves. It will be exciting to catch up with everyone after the summer break and finalise my timetable. I have a module audition too so keep your fingers crossed for me.
It is such an important year for all us fourth year students, with our auditions coming up over the coming months for entry on to Master’s courses next year or alternate paths we need to prepare for. So lots to do and plenty of repertoire to prepare ready for the challenge.
We have fabulous teachers here at the Conservatoire who just love to help bring the best out of us. Which is why I am so excited about the start of term and can’t wait to see what the year ahead has in store for me.
I have been asked by the Edinburgh Society of Musicians to perform for them at a concert to be held at their recital room at 3 Belford Road, Edinburgh at 19:30 pm on Saturday 21st November 2015 and if any of you are in the area I would love to see you there, I’m hoping to do the full Haugtussa cycle of eight songs in the first half of the program with a few surprises in the second half.
I was amazed when I spoke to George and he said that he was only taking hand-carry to the Grieg workshop. I’d already booked a hold bag and was worried about fitting everything in my case that I want to take 😄.
I looked up some travel guides and one of the first tips is to check the weather forecast.
So sunny with lots of rain showers 7 degrees C to 9 degrees C. So an umbrella, rain mac, scarf.
I’m not sure there will be WiFi but I’ll take my IPad and charger (I must try to scan all of my scores for my exam repertoire onto my iPad) but I will still take my Haugtussa book, travel plug, mobile phone. But I’ll keep all this in my backpack.
Clothes (5 days)
I like to travel in leggings, t-shirt, pullover and wear trainers to travel in.
Then I thought I’d take two pairs of smart trousers, a couple of t-shirts, a couple of blouses one long sleeve, one short sleeve, a skirt, a cardigan, a jumper and maybe a day dress or two.
PJs it’s quite cold at night, underwear, socks, tights.
There’s a final performance so I’ll have to pack a long dress, one that doesn’t crease too much. I think I’ll take evening shoes.The list is getter longer 🙂
I always put my clothes in my cases flat and with as few folds as possible but I have been told that they may be better rolled as that helps to stop creases. Do any of you more seasoned travelers have any tips for me ? I am only going for 5 days this trip but in the summer I have to pack for FIVE WEEKS !! in the same size case so no room for an iron 🙁