Archives For Royal College Of Music

Autumn Term

September 24, 2017 — 45 Comments

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This week has been Induction week at the Royal College of Music, also known as ‘Freshers Week’ by many students. This involves meeting the heads of departments, the helpful and delightful Vocal Faculty, matriculating, group lectures and introductions to the different and many wonderful things the Royal College of Music (RCM) has to offer.

The other side of Induction week involves many social activities organised by the Students’ Union to help introduce and encourage new friendships between students. This year they held events such as a Jazz night; Pub quizzes; a Boat Party and Post-Graduate Speed-dating, (which despite the title is more like speed-friendshiping), you go around and have a short burst of time to meet new people and is a fantastic way to mingle.

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It is a great week to introduce you to the RCM and to experience living in London. One of my favourite activities of the week was watching some of my colleagues perform in a public masterclass with Malcolm Martineau, a wonderful piano accompanist who has worked all over the world with many distinguished Singers, in the Britten Theatre at the RCM. The session started at 14:00 and lasted until 16:30, there were four singers who took part, each prepared two songs. It’s really wonderful to be able to participate and watch these masterclasses as you can learn so much from observing your peers and how the Guest Artist shapes the musical pieces. You can come away with new tasks to try and implement into your own practise and insight into pronunciation and the craftsmanship of storytelling.

They are also very interesting to anyone who has a love for music and would like some more insight into the technical demands of singing, as it is like watching a lesson and can give you an idea into what we have to work on in order to stand up there and give a live performance. If this interests you the next masterclass at the RCM in London will be with Sir Thomas Allen on the 11th October 2017.

Here is a video of a masterclass he has done before at the RCM in 2014.

It will be lovely to watch him work live again as I saw him a couple of years ago in Glasgow and I’m really looking forward to that.

It has also been so wonderful to catch up with all my friends and hear about their summers and share stories of our experiences.

Next week our lessons commence, along with autumn, and I can’t wait to hit the floor running and make the most of my second year of Masters of performance training here.  The nights are drawing in and daylight hours shorten and you can definitely feel the nip in the air so cardigans out from under the bed!

Save The Dates !!

July 30, 2017 — 68 Comments

[ This is a new promotional video from Scottish Opera for BambinO ]

With August, almost upon us and preparations for the ‘BambinO’ performances at the Edinburgh Festival about to start, I am busy working on my rehearsal schedules for the coming months.  One of the most important things that I have found whilst studying music is the need for good forward planning.  If you don’t sit down and spend quality time working out rehearsal schedules you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed quite quickly.  I try not to put things off, it is better to know what needs to be accomplished and set time aside to achieve the goals that you have set to complete.

I try and work through my diary and schedule my time as accurately as possible.  I set myself tasks for each day and then again for each week.  This allows me to be realistic about what I can achieve in the time available to me.  Knowing what concert and College commitments I have over the horizon is so important as these need to be introduced into my schedule with enough lead time to complete them.

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Back in December 2016 I received an e-mail quite out of the blue from Gary Waller, the chairman of the Gustav Mahler Society. Having read my blog and listened to my recording of Strauss’s ‘Zueignung’ he invited me to perform at a recital as part of their 2017 programme of events.  I was quite taken aback at the time and was thrilled to have been asked, the fact that the enquiry had come after reading my blog was just ‘the cherry on the top’.

Following the initial enquiry, we exchanged several e-mails, met on a number of occasions, and a date and location for the concert were agreed.  Over the months Gary has been wonderful, supporting my recitals, enthusiastic with his encouragement, and understanding of my work and college commitments. I am hoping to perform a mixed programme with a little something for everyone.  With pieces by Mahler, Strauss, Schubert, Wolf, Liszt, Grieg, Quilter, and Dvorak.  The date is Tuesday 10 October 2017 at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Church Hall, Bishopsgate, EC2M 3TL Tickets are available from The Gustav Mahler Society.

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To prepare a rehearsal schedule for an event such as this, there are several areas that I need to factor in and work on. For each new song, I have to translate the lyrics, both literally and poetically, trying to visualise in my mind what I think the composer or poet wanted to achieve with the song. I then learn the music and how this interacts with the accompaniment.  I then bring the lyrics and the music together working on the alignment and clarity of vowels and then concentrate on how to articulate each consonant so that the text can be understood, whilst making sure the legato line is not disturbed. Finally, it all comes together so that I have my interpretation of the song which I hope reflects a little of my own personality too.

To close tonight I just want to thank everyone who downloaded a copy of ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’ and I hope that you enjoyed it and that it made you smile.

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Update: Monday 31st July 2017, I’ve just received the very sad and quite shocking news that my friend Gary Waller died suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend. We had only spoken recently when Gary asked me to learn Schubert’s ‘An Sylvia’ for the concert as it was one of his favourites and I’ve been singing it today. I will remember him every time I sing it. Even though I’d only met Gary this past year in London, I feel we knew each other really well as he read my blog religiously and always sent me a supportive message to encourage me. Our concert has been postponed whilst the Mahler Society come to terms with his immense loss. We shall miss him, I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

This week I had the pleasure of performing at the Britten Theatre alongside my friends in a set of Opera Scenes produced by the Royal College of Music, London. The scenes were directed by James Bonasconducted by Christopher Middleton and accompanied on piano by Ian Tindale.

I had a wonderful time performing the role of Aminta alongside the talented Yiwen Su as Elisa. We performed the opening scene from “Il re Pastore” by Mozart. For the performance, I had to wear a period wig, this was a completely new experience for me and I really enjoyed learning about the process and watching Shauna, the talented makeup and hair professional as she managed to hide all my hair under a cap ready for the powdered wig. To help me feel even more like a character from the 18th century, Shauna applied a layer of white foundation to my face which made me look quite pale. This was because in the 18th century both men and women would wear cosmetics to show social status. However, I wasn’t allowed to wear the fashionable bright pink rouge and lip colour as this would have been considered beyond the social ranking of my character for the scene. I found this really interesting and added another layer to my character profile and allowed me to explore how my character Aminta would react to meeting Elisa who in the first scene would have been considered higher than Aminta in social ranking. The performance was so much fun and I can’t wait to get back on a stage soon!

 

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On Friday evening I had arranged to go and watch the RAMBERT ballet company perform “Ghost Dances” at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. Because I could not get a student ticket my brother Matthew offered to pay half as he knew how much I wanted to go which was lovely of him and appreciated by me 🙂  This performance was really special for me because I analysed Christopher Bruce’s “Ghost Dances” for my Dance A level. Whilst writing my analysis I was only able to watch video recordings of the piece but enjoyed the dance so much that I fell in love with the chilling choreography and the powerful storyline of the dance. So, when Matthew told me that it was to be performed at Sadler’s Wells I did not want to miss out on the chance to see it performed live. I enjoyed the performance thoroughly and the company used the original choreography, music, costumes, and set, so my memory of this beautiful dance was re-enacted live before my own eyes. The company takes the performance on tour very soon and if you get the opportunity to go and watch it I would recommend the show thoroughly!!

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I would also like to share with you all that I will be performing my year end recital on the 7th June in the East Parry room on the 4th floor of the Royal College of Music.  My recital will be at 2:40 pm and if you are in London and able to attend it would be lovely to see you in the audience.

Connections

May 14, 2017 — 51 Comments

I’ve been thinking all day about making connections with others and how important it is for people, and about pioneers, people that leave their homes and Countries to look for a new life.  My Dad purchased the film “Passengers” and this weekend I got to watch it on my iPad.

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Without giving too much away if you’ve not seen it, the adventure story is about a man called Jim (Chris Pratt) onboard a spaceship transporting him to a new planet to begin a new life.  The journey takes a bad turn when his hibernation pod malfunctions and he wakes up 90 years before the spaceship is expected to reach its destination.  The spaceship is in danger and the 5000 hibernating passengers on board are all in peril.  He is the only human awake on the vessel and he only has a low-class security pass on the ship which limits what he can eat and drink.  His only companions are the robot cleaners, waiters and a charming and witty android bar-steward.

How long do you think you could last without any other human contact at all? The computer message that he sends will take over two decades to reach earth, and another 30 years for the reply to reach him, he was 30 years into a 120-year voyage with no way of going back into hibernation.  Would you be pleased or sad if other hibernation pods malfunctioned?

In a way, it was a little like when I first moved down to London, so many people milling around but not knowing any of them. I am quite a confident person but I could see how for some that it could be quite a daunting situation, to feel alone and unconnected.  I had the added advantage of connecting with like-minded people in a similar situation to me but I have the utmost respect for people who move away from home and the familiarity that it brings to make a new life for themselves and establish new friendships.

For me, I regularly started asking lots of people how they were, even people who I didn’t know, it might have been someone at an exercise class, or when visiting the adjoining university, or even in a shop.  I just love to engage in conversation, it doesn’t need to be long or thought provoking just something inclusive. I also take the time to call loved ones on the phone, FaceTime, or Skype. Bringing ‘Home’ to my new home. I also have a lot of international friends that I keep in contact with regularly on WhatsApp and Facebook and I always try and make time for my blogging friends on WordPress, some of whom I have even had the pleasure of meeting in person. The world is a big place but we can use the amazing technology that is around us to connect with those we know, but sometimes taking the time to talk to a stranger can be just as rewarding.

With the story and the dilemmas that it raised on my mind I was pleased that I’d planned to take a group yoga session at 10:30 am this morning and that I’d arranged to meet with two singer friends for lunch and a walk out in the sunshine, it’s been a beautiful day here in London and I’d spent most of yesterday practicing.

 

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Ida, Me and Sam

 

Sam Dewese is an American from Chicago on his first year Masters, his voice type is Baritone. Ida Ränslöv is a Mezzo-Soprano hailing from Sweden in her first year in the Opera School, she’s doing phenomenally well having just got through to the final of the Lies Askonas competition.

I’m sure you’ll hear their names again in later posts or in big bright lights in the future.

 

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We Found This Lovely Mews Street As We Walked Around

 

 

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Me, Ida and Sam

 

It is our penultimate rehearsals tomorrow for the performance in the RCM Opera scenes on Tuesday at 5:30pm in the Britten Theatre, my last chance to make a good impression in Opera scenes this year, I’m hoping I can get someone to take a couple of photos for you to see next week from the dress rehearsal.  I’m also busy preparing for my final examined performance singing recital for the first year, I’m learning a completely new program of music so that’s challenging.

 

Friday Concert 5th May 2017

Anna Cooper, Prajna Indrawati and Me

 

On Friday I had a wonderful opportunity to perform near home in Chester with my talented peers Anna Cooper (Mezzo-Soprano) and Prajna Indrawati (Piano). We have all become great friends over this past year whilst we have been studying at the Royal College of Music in London. It was a delight to work on this recital programme with them both.

The concert took place in the beautiful St. Werburgh’s RC Church. The church had recently invested in a wonderful grand piano, which had a brilliant tone to support the voice. We arrived in the early evening after driving up from London during the afternoon and we immediately began rehearsing and preparing for the concert. We tested the acoustics both for singing and speaking and adapted our performances to reflect this. In the concert, I performed a range of songs from my personal journey through the world of classical music, featuring songs that I felt represented key moments of my training and other personal favourites.

We had an absolute blast and I would love to go back. The audience were very friendly and welcoming, which is always a nice feeling for a performer! It means you can take risks and experiment with ideas that you have so that music is alive with spontaneity and imagination. I was especially pleased to see my parents and my good friends Gill and Terry Howard in the audience who had driven to Chester after work to catch the performance.

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On the 16th May, I will be participating in another set of Opera Scenes at the Royal College of Music under the baton of Christopher Middleton and the direction of James Bonas. We began rehearsals from the 24th April meeting twice a week for 90 minutes. I will be performing the opening scene from “Il Re Pastore” by Mozart as the character Aminta. The opera was first performed on 23 April 1775 in Salzburg, at the Palace of the Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo when Mozart was just 19.

Aminta is a young and impoverished shepherd boy who is in love with a shepherdess, Elisa. But as in all good operas, nothing is quite that straightforward. Alessandro the mighty King and ruler of Macedonia had just fought and defeated an evil tyrant, Stratone of Sidon.  Alessandro was determined to find the rightful heir to the throne of Sidon and sets out on a mission to bring order back to the city-state.

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You guessed it, Aminta is the rightful heir but initially, wants no part of it.  He is happy living the simple life of a shepherd and plans to marry his true love Elisa at the earliest opportunity. Aminta is convinced by Alessandro to return to Sidon to take up the throne and put aside his love of Elisa for his duty to his people.

Alessandro believes that it would be good for Aminta, and for Sidon, if he marries Tamiri the daughter of the deposed tyrant, Stratone.  But she loves another and Aminta’s heart lies with Elisa.  Elisa and Tamiri plead with Alessandro to change his mind and allow them to marry for love.  Realising how unjust his original proclamation would be he relents and allows Aminta to marry Elisa.  The story ends with Aminta being crowned King of all Sidon.

This performance will be a first for me, as Aminta is a pants role, which means I will have to play a boy. The reason for this is because the role was originally written for a ‘castratto’, a male singer who has the range of a soprano or mezzo-soprano. From the middle of the 16th Century through to 1870 when it became illegal in Italy, young pre-pubescent boys would be castrated so that their larynx would not develop into that of an adult male.  This meant that they retained a childlike quality to their voices with an extended range.  Their bodies without the influence of testosterone developed in a unique way, their joints did not harden the same as an adult male and their bones would grow unusually long.  This often gave them a tremendous lung capacity coupled with a youthful-sounding voice.  As the practice fell out of favour the roles that had originally been written for their voices would then be performed by women.

 

Spring Term Exams

March 19, 2017 — 67 Comments

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I have had a fabulous day today, both productive and entertaining.  It is Spring term exams next week and everyone is busy preparing repertoire for assessment.  I was up early to get some rehearsal time in with my very talented friend, Prajna Indrawati. Prajna is from Indonesia and is currently studying for her Masters in Piano at the RCM and kindly agreed to accompany me in my exam.

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Prajna and Me

It was a lovely bright spring morning and the RCM looked very majestic in the sunshine.  I enjoyed the rehearsal and it helped me to get a feel for how the pieces are developing. My exam slot is 10:00 am on Wednesday but on Tuesday I will be singing an aria with Prajna as part of her assessment, and also singing two Lieder with another student Laura Ayoub as part of her accompaniment assessment. It is going to be a busy couple of days.

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The Royal College Of Music

This afternoon we were offered the opportunity to watch the dress rehearsal of ‘Faramondo’ which the RCM is staging in conjunction with the London Handel Festival. The Festival runs from March 18th through to April 24th and also hosts a number of amazing concerts and recitals.  You can watch  ‘Faramondo’ on Monday 20th March, Tuesday 21 March, Thursday 23 March and Saturday 25 March, in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.

It was wonderful to watch the dress rehearsal and see my fellow students from the RCM and the RCM International Opera School perform this fabulous opera.  They brought the story to life in a dynamic interpretation under the watchful eye of the conductor Laurence Cummings and accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon 🙂

 

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the magical moment of receiving an email inviting me to attend a special event on the 7th March 2017 at the Royal College of Music. His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, would be visiting the R.C.M. in his capacity as President of the Royal College of Music. During the annual President’s visit, HRH confers honorary awards for services to music and the Royal College.

In the email, we were asked to keep the information confidential which as you can imagine was incredibly hard for me, especially when I felt like Cinderella being invited to the ball!! I was practically bursting at the seams to discuss it with you.

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Before the event, we had to collect our invitations in person having first produced a form of photographic I.D, and then send an email to confirm our attendance. We were told that when attending the event, we would need to present our invitations and student I.D.s otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed onto the premises.

Having collected my invitation, I then put it away in a safe place, usually one so safe that I can’t remember, but I was so excited and so determined not to forget where it was, that I told my Mum where I put ‘the letter’ (a.k.a secret invitation) in my room. She seemed a little bewildered as to why I would need to keep a letter safe, but I guess she is used to my silly antics and went along with me.

The night before the event I was planning which outfit to choose, enjoying deciding what to wear, and what I was going to do with my hair, etc. I finally decided to go for a colourful light blue dress with flower bursts all over it, since spring was just around the corner! In the letter with the invitation we were told that we had to swap our invitation for a ticket and that this would be available from 9:15 on the day, so this meant an early start. With everything laid out ready, I settled down and tried to get some sleep.

 

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Claire Swale, Katie Thompson, Hannah Crear, Me, Davidona Pittock, and Samuel Dewese

 

On the morning of the big day, I traveled into College with two of my friends, we felt so glamorous and eager to collect our tickets. We were met by security guards at school who asked for our ID, we exchanged our invitations for our tickets surrounded everywhere by beautiful flower arrangements. Every one of us was full of excitement and smiles. It was such a wonderful atmosphere, and a joy to be part of. I took my seat in the Amaryllis Hall at 9:45 ready for the ceremony to begin at 10:00.

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It was slick and well organised with everything running to schedule. When HRH entered the Hall, I was desperate to catch a glimpse and wished that he would come close enough so that maybe I would catch his eye. I managed to see him and smile and then I watched the procession take to their positions. The RCM brass ensemble began to play the National Anthem, and we were all invited to join in. I found it quite overwhelming to sing the National Anthem in the presence of HRH, and it felt quite a surreal moment for me, I loved every second. Then followed the presentation of the awards, medals, fellowships and doctorates, which were all handed out. With musical performances decorating the event.

I have decided that I will have to work even harder and wish on even bigger stars so that one day I can curtsy and shake the hand of one of the Royal Family! Now what an experience that would be!

If you want to read more about the event click through to the Royal College of Music website [click here]

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