Over the summer I was lucky enough to record the songs that I had been working on over the past couple of years. I wanted to have something to look back on to remind me of the fabulous time that I have had at the RCS and the wonderful people that I have worked with on improving my vocal technique.
I was excited with the results and shared them with my family. I never really thought about trying to sell them as these recordings were intended to be a personal record of my training but my dad convinced me to burn a few CDs to sell at my recitals and concerts next year as I am often asked if I have any.
But now looking to the future I wonder if it would be possible to try and raise some funds for my future training by trying to sell these tracks on iTunes. I have no idea how they will be received but whatever funds I can generate will help me towards achieving my dreams so I have nothing to lose by giving it a try.
I would love to hear any suggestions that you may have to help me with this project as this is all new to me 🙂
If you are interested in checking them out here are the links :
Special thanks go to George Todica for his beautiful piano playing on these recordings and to Pascal Barnier for his fabulous images used for the cover art. It has been a tremendous treat to work with such good friends.
It would be a great if you could share these links and I would really appreciate 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 )
Well we dropped Tom off at Glasgow University he’s studying Geography and the university was in the top 5 in the UK for Geography in the 2014 guide he used, he is also taking archaeology and philosophy as extra modules in his first year. Then we dusted and vacuumed my flat ready for me to move back in next week. The weekend was a little emotional for me as this was my little brother venturing out into the world and as his big sister I felt just a little protective of him 🙂
Inside the quadrangle which house the Geography department.
Glasgow University As Night Draws In
“Did you pack every item of clothing in your wardrobe!” Mum said on the Friday evening as Tom’s student wardrobe was bulging. “Nearly” said Tom “then I don’t have to wash and iron clothes for a couple of weeks!” he added. The student village houses about 1000 students and we’d just done the car parking dance where there are about five spaces per block of flats and twelve cars vying for each of them, with abandoned cars blocking the roads. “Why on earth do they give everyone a 5pm start time!” Mum cried, she thought that was just his slot, but it seemed it was everyone’s. But once we managed to get the car unloaded it all seemed a little more relaxed and the number of people frantically running around started to dwindle.
The Murano Street student village in Glasgow
I thought my older brother Matt and I had given Tom all of our six years of collective University advice but we still forgot to tell him to take a padlock for the kitchen cupboard and a mat for the floor near his sink in the bedroom. We’d remembered plasters, headache tablets, Andrews Salts in case he gave himself an upset tummy, an extension cable and all of his clothes hangers (all essential 🙂 ) along with a long list of items you just cant live without as a student.
We lined his new Stabilo colour markers, pens, pencils, lever arch files, refill pads and notebooks on his desk shelves, I don’t know why but I love new stationery. Everything else was found a place to live for the next year and in the end it looked a lot more homely. The one thing we had to do once we had his new address was buy his TV licence £145 so that he could watch his football on his iPad (sadly no actual TV ). I think he’d want to come home if he couldn’t watch his beloved Manchester City.
Tom stood with the Capital One Cup and the Premiership Trophy on his last visit to watch Manchester City at the Etihad stadium.
I’m proud of my little brother today; he text us to say he’d walked to Tesco and checked the prices, OK he was buying unhealthy Pepsi Max but six cans for £3.49 and eight cans for £2.00 really was a no brainer but at least he noticed! He added three pasta meals for £6.00, bread and a bag of apples all for under a £10 so he was happy.
He just had to share his great find with us 🙂
The best thing is that I am only 30 minutes away if he wants to visit and chill out or pop around for his Sunday dinner. We are also invited to some of the Freshers’ activities and I’ve been invited to a fancy dress party with friends as a character I just love, all will be revealed next week he he.
I will let you know what next year has in store for me at College after I am all settled in on Sunday.
Finally, if you missed it I added my end of Second Year Rusalka’s Song to the Moon onto my Soundcloud page if you’d like to take a listen.
Well my second year at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has finished and I’ve learnt so much that at least I have the summer now to digest it.
One of the units I took this year was in gamelan music, it was a four week immersion into the music and culture of Indonesia and formed part of the practical musicianship module which ran throughout the school year. Gamelan is an orchestra of percussion instruments. I had never heard of gamelan before taking this class and it was a great way to experience music from the Indonesian culture and explore the sounds and vibrations.
Balinese ladies playing Gamelan music during a Hindu festival.
The Indonesians use the music in many of their traditional dances and during their festivals. My favourite instrument was the ceng-ceng ( pronounced cheng-cheng ) which I loved to use in the practice sessions.
Ceng Ceng ( Cheng Cheng )
Ceng-Ceng consist of a set of four small cymbals mounted inverted on a wooden frame, which are struck with a pair of small cymbals held by the fingers to create crashing and shimmering punctuation along with the drummer – the Ceng-ceng player is often the drummer’s apprentice. The ceng-ceng is a deceptively difficult instrument to play well.
Dr J Simon van der Walt taught us the module and lead the ensemble into different tempo relationships a bit like a conductor. We played whilst sat cross-legged on the floor with shoes off, there were 30 of us on the course.
Dr J Simon Van Der Walt
He made the group sessions entertaining and interesting for us all. We began by learning different chants which we would then perform on instruments. So each word referred to an instrument. It was a lot if fun but the chants were fast and like tongue twisters it was so hard to keep up with at times.
In the last session I got to lead the Ceng-Ceng which I enjoyed tremendously and it was a fabulous way to end the course.
Sadly I didn’t think to get a photograph of our group but if you take part in a gamelan music group then I would love to see your photographs of an actual active group of gamelan musicians.
The RCS will be running a summer short course from the 8th to 12th September 2014 and if you are interested you can find further details on their website
I found this video on YouTube of a Gabor ( welcome ) dance which uses gamelan music and Balinese dancers which I hope gives you the flavour of the music and how it’s used.
When my Mum and Dad offered to write a short review of La Rondine I must admit I was a little nervous, after following my performances for the past 14 years asking for their opinion reminds me of the line from “Pirates of The Caribbean” – “Wake… the Kraken” as you never quite know what they are going to say……
We were pleasantly surprised that there was such a lovely theatre nestled inside the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it was beautifully laid out and very well organised, around 300 seats on three tiers, with a large stage area and an orchestra pit. The doors opened at 7:05pm and everyone was in their seats by 7:15pm.
We’d guess there were about 40 musicians in the orchestra who were hidden from view bar the first couple of rows and the upper galleries. Their friends and family must have really enjoyed watching them too, the music was stunning.
There was a wide age range in the audience, it seemed like a near to full house. This was the fourth and final performance. We had a free typed program which was a nice souvenir to take away. A hush descended as the curtain rose on a salon/changing room setting, like a split scene with a clever use of perspective by the set designer. In fact for a student production the sets in Acts I and II were very professional.
Act One – The Opening Scene ( Reproduced By Kind Permission Of The RCS / KK Dundas )
We’re not opera goers so we struggled at first with the whole production being sung in Italian until we realised there were subtitles high above us near the roof. With hindsight we would have been better sat in the upper tiers.
Act One – The Story Develops ( Reproduced By Kind Permission Of The RCS / KK Dundas )
The singing, colours and opulent costumes on the stage, brought the show to life. We knew a bit about the plot from the program and Charlotte’s blog post. The scene change between Acts I and II were very quick and well done and we were transported to a night club setting, full of life and movement.
Act Two – Bullier’s ( Reproduced By Kind Permission Of The RCS / KK Dundas )
Charlotte had prepared us for her flirty ‘party girl’ character which her Dad felt she was rather too good at! Our eyes followed Charlotte around the stage, dancing, flirting, playing cards, getting her bottom smacked by a sailor and waltzing the night away. The principals developed the story beautifully and the director made good use of the chorus. We’ve watched Charlotte on the stage regularly since she was about six and she always makes us so proud when she comes to life in this environment.
Act Two – The Leap ( Reproduced By Kind Permission Of The RCS / KK Dundas )
Our favourite bit had to be when Charlotte climbed up on a table and leapt off into the up stretched arms of two muscular guys, cycling her legs in the air, this was amongst so much cast activity and wild abandon it made you feel happy just to watch them obviously enjoying themselves so much as the two main characters fell in love.
Act Two – Romance Is In The Air ( Reproduced By Kind Permission Of The RCS / KK Dundas )
As everyone left the stage in groups of friends and couples you did get a sense that the opera was coming to an end with the two main characters leaving to begin their new life together as the curtain dropped.
After a break Act III commenced with a minimal set of a beach and a chaise long. The act was skilfully carried out with just four main characters. The story felt to us like it required another ten minutes to resolve itself with Ruggero perhaps following Magda back to Paris to plead with her to make a go of it with him which he would have done if he truly loved her. But who are we to criticise Puccini whose operas are still being staged nearly 100 years after he wrote it. As an audience member we went from a real happy high feeling to a rapid deterioration, which not being used to the tragedy of opera was strange. Lisette the maid had her dreams of stardom crushed, and Magda the courtesan was reminded of her place and went back to her rich benefactor with her tail between her legs. Bring back the party!
Seriously the singing and music was wonderful all without stage microphones that you usually see taped to people’s heads. The staging was sumptuous and we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Well done Charlotte for opening our eyes to a new form of entertainment, you make us very happy 😉
My Dad is always sending me little snippets of positivity, articles that he reads and thinks may help me to focus on a particular task or perk me up when I have preparation to complete for a concert or recital. Today was no different he knows that I have three important projects on the go at the moment and wanted to give me something to think about.
The article was from a blog (www.sunilbali.com) and dealt with positive attitude and overcoming obstacles placed in our way. I read the article based on the training techniques adopted by swimmer Michael Phelps and how under the guidance of his trainer Bob Bowman he went on to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. During his time competing he won 22 Olympic medals which included 18 gold.
The method used by Phelps and his mentor to achieve his successes was based around the idea that no matter what obstacle you face it is your response to that determines the outcome. (Event + Response = Outcome)
I have entered 100s of competitions, festivals and auditions during my training and although I was successful in many of them it was the ones that I missed out on that sometimes helped me the most. The critique and guidance that I received from the adjudicators and judges gave me things to work on, improvements to aim for.
I actually enjoy finding things that I need to improve and the new challenges that brings. At first it’s hard to swallow but I’m working on something right now with my singing and it’s hard and I know it will take a while but I know that it is going to be worth it in the end and make me a better musician.
When I was studying at the Junior RNCM a conductor, Dane Lam, who taught us as an ensemble recommended the British Youth Opera as a great way to improve our understanding of an Opera Company and get some invaluable training. So back in January I decided to audition for the British Youth Opera when they came to the RCS. I had been working on the performance element of my singing and wanted to see how I held up under the pressure of an audition. Can you imagine my excitement when I received a call back to attend a second audition in London?
That is why I was down in London last weekend staying with my brother 🙂 The audition was a fantastic experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. Last week I received an email to tell me that I had been successful and could I attend a week’s workshop in the summer. This will be a wonderful opportunity I’m very excited.
Update on the Artist Signal Competition:
I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU 🙂 to everyone who supported me in the Artist Signal competition during February. My page went live on the 7th February and I posted five classical tracks on the site and entered the fray at position #1684 .
So what did I learn from the event?
Preparation is key. I entered the competition without fully understanding how it operated and how to get my songs heard by the people who visited the site. I had to learn quickly and think on my feet or face the possibility of getting lost in the crowd. I had no rewards to encourage people to vote multiple times for me and I loaded all of my tracks free to download which I was advised was not a smart thing to do by the winner of the competition.
What was my response?
My response was to communicate with other artists and voters and try and put over my interests and goals in as positive a way as possible. I tried to encourage people to listen to my songs and let me know what they thought of them.
During the competition I received many messages of encouragement from friends both old and new and I was excited to see my position change as I climbed through the chart. By the closing date I managed to make position #25 with over 11,000 votes and over 30,000 individual Facebook likes. In their classical chart my five songs took the top 5 places and in their overall chart they were all in the top 9 ‘Top Songs’ for the month.
I uploaded five music tracks onto ArtistSignal,com on Friday 7th February. Most of my blog friends will have heard all the tracks before because they’re in the side panel of my blog, but I thought I’d let you know how I’m progressing with this new experiment.
The site describes itself: “ArtistSignal is a free social media platform, it allows listeners to vote for a ‘Top Artist’ each month and they give the ‘Top Artist’ $10,000 which allows the listeners to propel talented artists to the top of our platform and gives artists an entirely new avenue to grow their fan base. Another $5000 is split between all remaining artists based on the amount of votes they receive during the month (excluding the #1 artist).”
When I joined the site I was listed as number 1688 and the current #1 artist was already on 13000 votes and adding around 2000 votes each day. However, it has been quite exciting as I have worked my way up from a rank outsider to #88, I currently have 4350 votes.
All five of my songs are in ‘Discover’ , under the title ‘Top Songs’ that have been listened to this month. It is great as all five of my songs are currently in the top 20 listened to 🙂 8th Amor Commanda 14thDo Not Go My Love 17thO Waly Waly 19thPer La Gloria D’Adoravi 20thWidmung
Not bad to have all 5 of my classical/opera songs in the top 20 across all genres on the site 🙂 so even if you can’t vote as you have no Facebook account you could drop by and listen to my tracks and help propel me to the top of the ‘Top Songs’ league. My brother did the maths when I asked him to vote for me and he said that it was impossible for me to win this month but I have been happy introducing many more people to my music. You have to find different ways to catch people’s attention and help them rediscover the beauty of classical/opera music.
These are all songs I worked on in my first year at the conservatoire; they were recorded in one short session in June 2013 at the RCS, with the help of my piano accompanist and friend Danielle DiDonato on the grand piano and studio technician Tim Cooper.
Amor Commanda is an aria from the baroque period opera called: Floridante Act 3 Sc5 by George Handel in Italian.
Do Not Go My Love by Richard Hageman, a child prodigy; he was a concert pianist by the age of 6. Hageman was born in the Netherlands but moved to America and eventually became an American citizen. Do not go my Love is an ‘art song’.
O Waly Waly is also sometimes called The Water is Wide, it is a folk song of English origin, based on lyrics that date to the 1600s. If you want to sing along here is my sing along version 😉
Per La Gloria D’Adoravi by Giovanni Bononcini, is from an Italian opera called Griselda. This is probably the most famous song from the opera and was written for a Tenor called Ernesto.
Widmung (in English ‘Dedication’) by Robert Schumann opens his song cycle Myrthen (Myrtles) which features the setting of a poem in German by Friedrich Ruckert.
To help raise awareness of what I was doing I put a post on Facebook in the evening of 7th February and got 5,391 people to “like” the post. But then I figured out you are supposed to share a “link” so that the two sites could talk to each other.
My first link went on 11th February and achieved a further 3,221 “likes” but the likes don’t convert to votes sadly, so on the 15th February I posted another link to thank everyone for helping me reach #126 with 2251 votes in just one week 😉 . I’ve figured out that as voters can vote more than once, but only once per hour, there are groups of dedicated fans promoting other professional artists who are currently working across the industry; my target was to get into the top 100 which I’ve achieved in just four days which is brilliant. I got a further 2,370 Facebook “likes” too on that post.
Hopefully I have encouraged a few more people not to write off classical/opera but to give it a chance and discover, as I have, the true beauty of the songs and the enchantment that they can create.
What do you think about this idea? Do you think it is a good platform for a trainee classical/opera singer to promote classical music ? Does anyone have any ideas for me on how to get my vote out, my own parents can’t vote for me because they don’t have Facebook 🙁 lol otherwise I’d have racked up another 300 votes by now 😉 so they have to persuade my family and friends. Have you got any reservations about the concept? if so you can leave your comments here, direct message me on twitter or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE – here is an update on final outcome after just three weeks 🙂
During the competition I received many messages of encouragement from friends both old and new and I was excited to see my position change as I climbed through the chart. By the closing date I managed to make position #25 with over 11,000 votes and over 30,000 individual Facebook likes.
In their classical chart my five songs took the top 5 places and in their overall chart they were all in the top 9 ‘Top Songs’ for the month. So a big thank you to everyone that got behind me 🙂
When we arrived in Southport my first thought was to find the Church that I was going to perform in that afternoon and make sure there was somewhere to park 🙂
The weather was a typical example of a blustery day at a British seaside town in the middle of Winter. You have to take your chances with the weather in order to take a look around and as the weather broke and the rain stopped we decide to explore 🙂
Southport has a lovely wide main road running through it’s centre called Lord Street. It has large paved areas, gardens and squares running adjacent to the road. I am sure this must be a truly lovely place to visit in the Spring or the Summer.
Across from the Church and to our left we could see the Town Gardens, a beautifully paved square with a cafe at either end. I could imagine it looking completely different in the Summer with the sun beating down and the place bustling with people.
We walked quickly along as the wind started to pick up, I wanted to try and have a look inside one of the cafes and maybe get a drink.
But we were out of luck as there was no sign of life inside. We crossed the square and grabbed a couple of pictures of the Town Hall and the beautiful Arts Centre.
Southport Arts Centre
Outside the Town Hall
But as the weather worsened we had to turn back along the street towards the Church. We spotted a very curious looking arcade in between the Arts Centre and Town Hall but we could not go in as the wind was really picking up so we thought it best to make a dash for the Church.
Once back in the Church we quickly warmed up helped by the hot drinks, Gill who was with me tucked in to a mouth watering “cheese toastie” but as I was due to sing I had to wait 🙁
They did however prepare a lovely light lunch for afterwards 🙂
Russell Lomas ( Piano ) Elizabeth Lawton ( Flute ) and Charlotte Hoather ( Soprano )
I will post more about the recital and the one in Bury tomorrow ( 14th February ) when I have time to look over the video 🙂
Yesterday on my way back to Glasgow the train was delayed for a couple of hours as we waited for a broken down train which blocked the track to be removed, which made for a long and tiring journey.
Today I decided to take in an afternoon concert to make up for yesterday, so I went along to City Halls to watch the Scottish Opera Emerging Artists performance. It started at 3 pm and featured Erin Pritchard ( Soprano ) and Michel de Souza ( Baritone ) along with vocal students form the Alexander Gibson Opera Studio. The music for the performance was delivered magnificently by the Orchestra of the Scottish Opera conducted by Stuart Stratford.
The programme was inspired by the works of Sir Walter Scott and as we settled in our seats listening to the overture by Hamish MacCun, which I think was the “Land of the Mountain and the Flood” this set the scene detailing a heroic picture of the Scottish landscape. It was a beautiful and excited piece to open the concert which developed with the well-articulated explanations of John Wallace.
The performance was an interesting presentation of individual opera scenes and it gave me food for thought to see how the concert was structured and allowed the individual performances to link together.
The singers were all dressed immaculately with the musicians in the orchestra not being left out in their dinner jackets and bow ties.
I have quite a bit of traveling coming up next week with my Southport recital on Wednesday the 12th Feb followed with another recital in Bury on Friday 14th. I have not quite finished the poster for the Bury recital but as Martin asked for the address, here it is:
Bury Parish Church,St Mary the Virgin, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0LA. The concert begins at 12:30 pm and will run through to 13:30 pm. Admission is £5.00.
Thanks Pascal for sending me this lovely poster for my Bury recital t 🙂
Lastly, I have found a website called ArtistSignal which allows performers to compete for a prize each month based on the number of votes they receive. From this Summer I will have to find and fund courses abroad and I thought that this may be a way to generate some income. So if you have a Facebook account or know anyone who does I need all the votes I can muster. You can vote by clicking on the green button after following the link below and using your Facebook account, I know it is a lot to ask but it would be a huge help to my training fund if I could win 🙂 Though I am new to this site it would appear that many of the voters vote several times a day which means I have a lot of catching up to do 🙂