On the train back to our London home via Paddington this evening after performing my first concert of 2019 with George Todica. What a thrilling way to start our musical performances for the year.
We performed as part of the Stonevale Recital series, near Swindon an intimate venue where we were warmly welcomed by the concert organiser Lynette and later by the generous and kind-hearted audience of the local village. The audience was made up of all ages and it was lovely to see everyone engage with our performance as we traveled throughout Europe with our musical program.
At the venue, we had the luxury of picking between two pianos for the concert, and George was in a little torment as both pianos were exquisite to the touch and being mindful of the repertoire we were performing he decided to play the Steinway because of its crisp colours and position within the room. Although the Yamaha was a very strong contender with its vibrancy of sound.
It was lovely to travel outside of London bringing our practice to performance level and having fun in the joy of creating live music. We performed a few new pieces and took lots of risks and shaped the stories told by our music based on the reactions of our audience. I also sang a great number of arias which put my stamina to the test! We were really happy and can’t wait to perform more concerts and recitals in this new year!
Earlier in the week, we took inspiration from Diana Damrau and Helmut Deutsch’s Lieder concert at the Barbican this week. The duo looked like they had so much fun on stage seamlessly crafting the music and the poetry. We both thoroughly enjoyed their interpretation along with the rest of the audience who encouraged Damrau and Deutsch’s to perform three encores! Which in turn left George and me with two sets of very red yet enthusiastic hands!
We both wanted to take this joy and energy and try to share it with those who came this afternoon and we hope that in some small way we were able to achieve this.
Last Wednesday, 12th October, at the Royal College of Music, London, the vocal department organised a Masterclass with Brindley Sherratt that took place at the Britten Theatre. It was fabulous to see the auditorium packed with an audience of students of all ages. I use the word student as I am often reminded during my studies that we never stop learning so perhaps even those members of the public who attended the event for entertainment, a little diversity or just plain curiosity will all have taken something away from the presentation that they probably had not thought about before.
For me, the main points of interest that stood out and that I can’t wait to explore further were:
To gain a beautiful legato line, one should carry the voice so that all the vowels are given enough time to sound.
Try not to push the voice and demand it to project. Simply let the voice out of the body.
To relax and sing into your whole voice whether at pianissimo (very quiet) and at forte (loud).
I particularly found these points interesting because they were not necessarily strict rules but ideas from which I could build my foundations, on which I can strive to improve my vocal technique. Learning how to sing in an operatic style can be very challenging as you often have to unpick someone else’s interpretation of how they achieve proper singing technique. The process can often seem frustrating when all you want to do is to try to fix a mistake or bad habit. But patience in itself is a skill that you need to develop and which enables you to become a better problem solver, allowing you to try out different methods inspired by what you observe. By experimenting and applying these various techniques, it is possible to find a solution which allows you to progress and ultimately become a better singer and performer. Often it can feel like swings and roundabouts, but when you are successful it is very fulfilling, you get an immense sense of satisfaction and personal understanding that perhaps you can pass on to someone else for them to explore.
It is always thought provoking to listen to other Artists and having moved to London I have found that there are many opportunities to learn from those professionals who live and perform in this vast and diverse City. On Friday evening I went to a talk at the Royal Opera House called SILENCED! Art against Authority. It was the first ever Student Insight event held at the Royal Opera House which is an event open strictly for students (of any academic focus). The evening took on the form of a debate chaired by John Hutnyk who along with a panel of six artists discussed their personal perspectives around the suppression and censorship of art around the world.
They began by using videos and a recitation from one of the artist’s works, then flowing seamlessly into discussions and then questions from the audience. Each member of the panel relayed their experiences of how they had used their art to highlight what to them were problematic areas of modern society. It was enlightening to see so much individualism and self-expression, I found the evening stimulating and it encouraged me to be true to myself and to present the stories and poetry that are important to me.
On Tuesday 5th July at my Graduation ceremony the four years studying here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland came to an end with my award of a Bachelor of Music (Performance) with honours of the First Class. I have met some wonderful and inspirational teachers, shared my dreams with new friends and learnt so much during my time here. I have been truly fortunate to study what I love and I know that the skills that I have been taught here will stay with me as I continue my studies. I’m thrilled to have studied at an Institution with graduates that come from no less than 65 countries all across the world. It was also quite unique and wonderful to be presented to our friends and family by walking on stage following Ross Miller on Bagpipes.
We heard inspirational advice from our Principal Professor Jeffrey Sharkey and an encouraging commencement speech from Texas-born cellist Ralph Kirshbaum from his experiences in a long and fulfilling music career, who had been honoured with a Doctor of Music Degree (honoris causa).
Unfortunately Stephen Robertson, the head of vocals could not be with us for graduation as his presence would have made the day perfect. He has been a constant source of inspiration for me during my four years here at the RCS, always there to provide support and encouragement to overcome what at first may have seemed insurmountable. For all his help and guidance I must say a big thank you and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.
To all of you that have followed my training progress over the past four years, I want you to know that you have been a very important part of my development and I hope you stay with me for the next stage of my adventure. I have several exciting projects over the summer to share with you soon, keep in touch.
With My Mum And Dad Getting Ready To Go To The Ceremony
My Brother Matt and Me
The Start Of The Graduation Ceremony
Collecting My Degree
A Fabulous Ceremony, I Was So Happy
Norman Beedie, A Wonderful Teacher
Helen McVey, Very Inspirational
Alistair MacDonald, Helped Me Explore Music
Isobel Anderson, Our Alexander Technique Lecturer
Celebrating With My Nana and Grandad
Flowers From My Brother Thomas And His Girlfriend Anna
Claire Rucket, Davidona Pittock, Maria Sappho and Me
Leila Marshall And Me
George Todica And Me On The Steps Outside The RCS
With Alex McFadzen
Back: Nathan Jenkins, Next Line: Tim Edmundson, Robert Forrest and Alex McFadzen, On My Line: Susannah Bedford, Jessica Hurst, Me and Claire Rucket, Front: Beth Taylor
In Front Of The RCS Entrance At The End Of The Day
Last Wednesday, 30th March I was invited to take part in a concert at Walton Hall in their beautiful recital room, hosted by the Friends Walton Hall, Warrington. It brought together past winners of the “Warrington Competition for Young Musicians”. The competition is held every two years and brings together young musicians from across all disciplines to compete in a friendly and supportive environment. Russell Lomas who was my accompanist when I took part in 2012 was there to support us again and it was great to perform with him again. Since 2012 I have been fortunate enough to sing alongside Russell at many events and he has been both an encouraging and supportive friend and mentor throughout my undergraduate studies.
To start the evening off the very talented Meera Maharaj, who studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, played the flute beautifully. For her programme she played “Soliloquy for Solo Flute” by Libermann and “Ballade” by Martin in the first half and “Sonata for Flute and Piano” by Carl Vine after the interval. She was ably accompanied by Jeremy So on the piano.
The other instrumentalist was Elliot Gresty, he studies at the Royal College of Music in London and brought the pieces that he played on his clarinet to life beautifully as he performed for us. I have performed alongside Elliot before several times it was great to meet up with him again. For his programme Elliot played “Concerto in A Major KV 622 ( 2nd Movement )” by Mozart and “Fantasiestucke Opus 73” by Schumann in the first half of the concert and to close the second half he played “Rigoletto-Fantasia da Concerto” by Luigi Bassi.
Me, Russell Lomas and Elliott Gresty
It was a fabulous evening and the time just flew by, the audience were so appreciative of our performances and it was lovely to meet up, chat and answer questions after the concert.
I am going to try posting this using the timer function today as I will be travelling back up to Glasgow tonight and won’t be back until quite late, fingers crossed that it works.
Update: got back home safely after a long, tiring drive, happy my post timer worked this week ☺️ thanks for reading, have a fabulous week.
My First Glimpse Of Paris At Night From The Top Of The Eiffel Tower
As lots of you know my first visit to watch an opera was for my 18th birthday at The Lowry Theatre in Salford near Greater Manchester. Well my parents have topped that this year; they bought me tickets to watch ‘Tosca’ at ‘The Opera Bastille’ in Paris on a two night break for my 21st birthday.
The main auditorium has 2,745 seats and my Dad said it was nearly sold out when he booked a couple of weeks ago.
I reviewed the story by Giacomo Puccini, because I guess the Italian opera will have French surtitles. Tosca is a story of political instability and menace, there are three principal roles.
The sadistic Chief of Police of Rome – Scarpia (sung by a baritone) – is one of the wickedest villains in opera. The story is set in June 1800 in Rome, with the Kingdom of Naples control of Rome threatened by Naploean’s invasion of Italy. Scarpia ruthlessly searches for and tortures enemies of the state. I’m hoping for some vocal firepower here.
Sebastian Catana Performs The Role Of Scarpia This Evening
Mario Cavaradossi (a tenor role) agrees to help a convict escape and sets in motion a series of unfortunate events that will lead to disaster for him and his lover Floria Tosca (Tosca is a soprano role) I’m looking to see how she conveys the melodrama, passion and impulsiveness that is usually associated with this role.
Béatrice Uria Monzon Performs The Role Of Floria Tosca This Evening
Tosca and Cavardossi have very passionate lyrical arias, the most famous aria is ‘Vissi d’arte’ Tosca is also one of the most frequently performed operas.
Massimo Giordano Performs The Role Of Mario Cavaradossi In This Evenings Performance
The play has three acts – melodrama en trios actes. This is the write up from the Opera Bastille:
“A singer in love, passionate, jealous and impulsive; a romantic painter, an idealist and a defender of liberty; a police chief with a lust for flesh, power and blood, ready to do anything to achieve his ends. Puccini artfully combines the ingredients of a melodrama written for Sarah Bernhardt and comes up with what might be called the opera of operas, a spectacle at once primitive and decadent. In a mythical yet real Rome, from the shadows of the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle to the terrace of Castello Sant’ Angelo, passions collide and tear all apart, mingling the erotic with the sacred, love with possession, theatre with life. Nothing is what it seems in Tosca: beautiful women who come to pray are conspirators, defeats are victories and mock executions are real. A spectacular work which captures the essence of opera as few others do. Pierre Audi signs a new production of this violent and passionate work for the Paris Opera.”
I can’t wait to hear this production and see the sets and costume.
Evelino Pidò ( Conductor ), Pierre Audi ( Stage Director ), Christof Hetzer ( Sets ), Robby Duiveman ( Costumes ), Jean Kalman ( Lighting ), Klaus Bertisch ( Dramaturgy ) and José Luis Basso ( Chorus Master ).
I have had a whirlwind of a week which has been a wonderful experience and tonight I know will be a great finale for me. Thank you all for your fabulous comments and well wishes. I hope that you understand why I have not had time to answer everyone, but once I get home I will catch up with you all 🙂
• As part of my course this year I have elected to take part in a Critical Writing course, where I am taught how to analyse performances and offer my opinion in a critical way.
• The teachers are very enthusiastic which makes the course seem very exciting.
• We discuss and write about dance, acting and music.
Samantha Quillish And Me after the concert
On Friday 17th October, I went to watch a concert with my friends Samantha Quillish and Chelsea Plaskitt and I thought I would use the opportunity to try and see if I could have a go at writing a piece for my module. This is my first attempt so I would love any feedback that you could give me :).
Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) : Haydn & Mahler
Glasgow City Halls
The evening started with the powerful and emotional performance of Howokawa’s Meditation. An incredible interpretation and dedication to the victims of the Tsunami on 11th March 2011, focusing on the children lost in the disaster. It included a ferocious duet from violins who appeared to embody demons, their bows striking and hair whipping, which created a visual element to the piece. However the energetic music was interrupted by deathly silent pauses and animalistic sounds created using modern playing techniques. These sounds made me imagine the shrieking cries and the wailing of the school walls crashing into the ground. Then this sound world was disturbed aggressively by thunder claps from percussion which made your ears ring, and your heart race. Waves of music and a sense of destruction filled the pauses after each three consequential hits. ROBIN TICCIATI allowed the sound to reverberate around the hall and die into terrible nothingness. A dynamically active and emotionally hard hitting opening to a Friday evening.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) then welcomed KAREN CARGILL to the stage to perform ‘Kindertotenlieder’ by Mahler, continuing the theme of mourning of lost children. From the opening Cargill captured the solemn landscape of this music honestly and gripped the audience’s attention. Standing tall and free from physical tension she displayed with clear consonants and richly dark vocal tone the suffering a parent encounters after losing a child. The cycle continued to develop and an unsolvable pain resonated through the interpretation, through to the last song where Cargill gripped her hands into fists during the introduction. The first sign of physical embodiment of the text. This arriving at the end of the cycle left the audience spellbound and overtaken.
After the interval the SCO performed Mahler’s ‘Blumine’ which caused me to imagine a Disney scene of a park in the spring, surrounded in flowers, where two loves meet to celebrate their love with a first kiss. With a regal tone setting the mood this delicate piece painted a sweet and enjoyable scene, a great contrast after a deeply moving first half.
The concert ended with the rich and sonorous performance of Haydn’s London Symphony. Ticciati had a creative control over the orchestra and executed echoes and the shape of the piece with enthusiasm and excitement. The music was very merry and triumphant. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how the piece could be interpreted to represent modern London. With all the characters and experiences it has to offer now. But it was a magnificent way to finish the concert. But for me the opening piece of the evening was outstanding and really got my blood pumping!
Outside The Theatre This Evening With My Friends Nathan Jenkins And Jessica Hurst Just Before The Opera This Evening
I walked past the Theatre Royal extension this morning on my way in to college excited at the prospect of my visit to watch the opera being shown there this evening. It has been amazing to watch the building change over the months into what will be a beautiful addition to Glasgow’s architecture.
The Theatre Royal, Glasgow Before The Construction Started.
In 1974 the theatre was purchased by Scottish Opera from STV to become the first national opera house in Scotland and also became the home of Scottish Ballet. Over the years that followed the theatre was updated and refurbished creating a fabulous environment to watch live entertainment and one that I would love to perform in one day.
The Plans For The New Entrance And Foyer
In 2011 Scottish Opera had plans drawn up to build an new signature entrance on Cowcaddens Road which was described as “a gilded splendour” incorporating the “sculptural shape of the main theatre into the new foyers in a contemporary manner”. The project is expected to cost about £ 14,000,000.00 and is considered very ambitious and when finished will create a new foyer on four levels with a feature staircase. So when it opens in December I cant wait to have a look around, if the new entrance is as stunning on the inside as it looks on the outside then it will be worth the wait.
Nearly Finished – The Entrance Takes Shape
Here are some of the productions on the program for the next few weeks, which as you can see are varied and full of things for everyone 🙂 from Scottish Opera’s La Cenerentola; J B Priestley’s Dangerous Corner; Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee; Richard Alston Dance Company; Beyond the Barricade; An Evening of Burlesque to The Magic of Motown.
La Cenerentola – Rossini
Scottish Opera – “Cinderella is the ultimate rags to riches tale. Featuring a host of colourful characters, this new production is a highly entertaining take on one of Rossini’s most popular comedies. With music that’s bright, breathless and full of energy, it’s a Cinderella story…but not quite as you may know it.”
When I first started singing I had no idea where my love for this beautiful art would take me, I only knew that the sheer joy that I felt when I sang was a feeling that I never wanted to lose. I discovered Disney Sing-Along-Songs when I was two or three and would dance and sing as I watched them, gradually during my time at school my musical awareness widened as I was introduced to different musical genres.
I loved to perform and found the work involved in learning more demanding pieces very exhilarating, constantly seeking help to improve my technique and challenging myself to explore new songs. Eventually in my early teens I remember being told that my voice would probably develop into that of a “Soprano” although several competition adjudicators thought I may fall between “Mezzo-Soprano” and a “Soprano” and though I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that all meant I was very excited at the prospect.:)
Since then I’ve heard my voice develop and though I know that it will constantly change over my career at the moment I am considered a “Lyric Soprano”. So for a young aspiring opera singer just how important is your voice type.?
Well to answer this question you have to go back to the end of the 19th Century when the Germans developed a method of categorising a singer’s voice, this was then used to improve the auditioning process in German opera houses. It allowed for the pre-selection of a group of singers prior to auditions based on a range of their vocal characteristics.
range – the notes your body can produce weight – light voices, bright and agile; heavy voices, powerful, rich, and darker size – the amount of sound you can produce and your voice’s dramatic effect tessitura – part of the range which is most comfortable to sing timbre or colour – unique voice quality and texture transition points – points where you change from chest, to middle, to head register vocal registers – how extended each register is speech level – speaking range physical characteristics – height and build age and experience
I’m sure that many composers had a particular voice type in mind for the roles they created in their operas. They were artists who painted with sound and created beautiful stories using a range of characters to bring their work to life.
The Ring Cycle – Wagner
When a Director or Conductor is set the task of re-creating the story so imaginatively created by the composer they know that selecting the right singer for each role is so important. The Fach system can help in this selection process, allowing the Directors and Conductors to audition singers on a role by role basis using a very strict set of vocal characteristics. They can then use the audition to look for that little something extra that the singer can bring to the role safe in the knowledge that the vocal requirements of the part can be undertaken by each auditionee.
The system starts with three female voice types and three male voice type. They are Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano and Contralto for the female and Tenor, Baritone and Bass for the male.
Each of the voice types are then broken down into more specific groups of characteristics, for the Soprano for example we have :
If opera is a new art form to you and you still need persuading of its purity and beauty then over the coming months I will try and convince you by writing about these different vocal characteristics and the roles associated with them, the great singers who have performed them and the beautiful operas that they come from.
On the other hand if you adore the art form then please feel free to join in with your comments and help me to persuade as many new people as possible to come and watch. After all one day I hope that it will be me on the stage, singing with all the emotion and colour that my heart will allow and I would love to see you all in the audience.
To close this post I can only say that I find this whole process so exciting, not quite knowing what characteristics my voice will take on makes my training so much more interesting. Working on my technique with experienced and supportive teachers helps me to understand the processes involved with my singing and I hope that it will allow me to improve my performances and paint with vocal colour. As to what voice type I will enter my professional career with, I still do not know but I can tell you whatever it is I intend to enjoy every second of it 🙂
La Rondine – Puccini ( my first chorus role in an opera )
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.
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 🙂