10th March 2021
This seems a little overdue, but here's a little update on what's been going on since my last post:
Songs and Sounds
I'm very lucky that Gavin and I have been able to keep our project going throughout such challenging circumstances in an area which now seems to be so saturated with online performances. Registered charity, Song in the City (of which Gavin is the Artistic Director) have agreed to officially partner the project, giving me some support in creating and promoting the concerts. In between homeschooling, I've been writing and submitting lengthy funding proposals to see if some of my proposals to develop the project can be financially supported, and even if they're worth doing at all! There's something about receiving some funding that makes you feel like someone has some faith in what you do, though I know that's not always the case. Until decisions are made, I have all my fingers crossed...
Plans for the future include:
- a themed concert every 3 months featuring 4 composers
- hiring a professional engineer to record and stream the concerts
- paying all contributors (everyone so far has, very generously, donated their time for free)
- offering writing workshops for specific communities that will form the basis for composer commissions
- creating an online catalogue of works that everyone can access for free
If you like the sound of all that and have a few quid to spare, then you can donate here, which would make me very happy indeed! If you'd like to see what we do, check out Song in the City's YouTube channel.
Our next concert is on the theme of Mental Health. This is an incredibly important subject, particularly at a time when we edge closer to the anniversary of entering the very first lockdown here in England, and yet we're still not in the clear. Isolation, confinement, and financial worries are just a few of the many issues that have had a detrimental affect on many people's mental health. We shall endeavour to look at the music created by living composers that explores this crucial theme, and find out how, and why, they made it in the first place.
Society of Strays
Back in September 2020, dancer Andy Gardiner and I were very fortunate to have been offered space at Cooper Hall, Frome, by the incredibly generous Morag McClaren. We spent three days playing with ideas surrounding the themes of creation and annihilation. It was lots of fun, and brought up some interesting bits of material. It also showed that we work together really well. On the back of that, we decided to see if we could keep things going by finding more time to develop those ideas further. Morag very kindly said we could return to Cooper Hall when we needed to, so we began applying for various funding (yup, more funding applications!).
With a move to Newcastle imminent in December, Andy applied to Dance City for an Early Stage Commission. I helped a little through the 3-stage application process, and we were absolutely thrilled to discover that we had been selected!
Society of Strays is a name Andy had used for some developing projects over the past couple of years, and I'm delighted to be collaborating with him for this first, full-length stage work. We will develop the piece over the next year, including further time at Cooper Hall, then spend time putting it all together in early 2022. The piece will be a dark comedy involving movement, voice and new writing.
While it's quite a departure from classical music, my career seems to have been heading this way as I move away from opera (where I intended to be at this point) to a place where I can shape my own destiny. Of course, it might not work out, or I might suddenly be offered the opportunity of a lifetime singing on the main stage of the ROH! (Sadly unlikely). Until then, I need to take risks to indulge in my passions - creating and being a part of honest, meaningful work. Hopefully, combined with Songs and Sounds, these projects will help me forge my own path in an ever-evolving industry.
23rd July 2020
Well, hasn't the last few months been eventful? I hope you are keeping safe and well. Needless to say, any work I had has been cancelled or postponed, though I have been kept very busy looking after my children. Who knew that homeschooling could be so stressful??
Anyway, in order to keep the creative juices flowing, so to speak, myself and Gavin Roberts have been attempting to put together an online version of Songs & Sounds - a concert format whereby the composers are present and the audience have the opportunity to hear from the composers themselves about their specific pieces. Gavin and I have done a couple of these in the past, so we thought now would be a good time to have a try at an online format.
We've begun with the theme of Motherhood, as it's something I find particularly interesting (being a mother myself), especially how it's represented in music. In the vast majority of music pre-21st century, being a mother is rarely examined in all its various depths. I've found that contemporary music seems to approach the subject a little better, with honesty, and from the voices of actual mothers.
Logistically, it has been hard to get it all together. Lockdown has forced musicians to have to develop and use skills they may have never used before; audio and visual recording and editing, being the main ones. The problem here is that we've been thrown in at the deep end, knowing we have to learn these skills in order to share our art to an audience, but quickly having to adapt to a new landscape that, for me at least, feels rather intimidating.
But we've persisted, and I'm hoping that we can start releasing what we've put together very soon. I want Songs & Sounds to be a bridge from contemporary music to a wide audience as it approaches common themes and ideas that people can easily connect with. I want contemporary music to feel relevant and necessary. I want composers to use their voices to break down barriers, and use music to connect in new and exciting ways. Hopefully, this is the start of something exciting...
9th January 2020
A very happy new year to you! The last few months have, once again, been dominated by The Little Prince with Protein. We travelled all over the country, and ended with a wonderful run at The Place in London, performing right up until Christmas Eve. We had lots of lovely audiences - and some excellent reviews too - so it makes all the hard work worth it!
So, what's on the cards for this year? You guessed it - more touring with The Little Prince! So far, we have dates confirmed up until the end of March with venues around the country. We're even making a trip to Italy! The first part of the tour, however, will be part of the Rural Touring Initiative where we tour smaller, more rural locations with an adapted version of the show. Next week, we begin rehearsals to see how we can strip back all the excesses of the main show to make it work in smaller venues, which will certainly be a challenge. But it will be exciting to take it to audiences that may not normally get to see work such as this.
I'm hoping to put together another solo concert towards the middle of the year involving more contemporary classical pieces, but I will write again when things are more confirmed. Until then, I wish you all the best, and I hope to see you at a performance soon.
25th July 2019
Well, what a very busy few months it has been. The Little Prince has been touring the UK, travelling to Jersey, Cambridge, Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Poole, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Coventry. We then made the very long journey to Shanghai to perform the show twice at the incredible International Dance Center. The show is growing all the time, and I still find I'm discovering new ways to explore the roles with each performance. We have a hiatus now until October when touring begins again, including our London première. Dates will be posted here in August - if you haven't been already, I do hope you come and experience what I think is a wonderful show for kids and adults alike.
I've also had a few concerts over the past couple of months. First up, I performed a selection of the Chants d'Auvergne with the Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra. These beautiful, evocative pieces by Joseph Canteloube were written in the Auvergnat dialect, a French dialect spoken by around 80,000 people. Despite the fact these pieces were written over 80 years ago, research or literature regarding the pronunciation of the text in these pieces was very difficult to find. I was very lucky to stumble across a dissertation by Christina Lani Romich which lists all thirty songs with the IPA transliteration of each word, and an English translation too. This work, coupled with a very helpful coaching session by Florence Daguerre de Hureaux, meant that I could eventually get to grips with these remarkable pieces. They were performed in the stunning All Saints Church in Leamington Spa, and it was a lovely evening. I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to have learnt such wonderful repertoire and perform them with a very friendly, welcoming and supportive orchestra.
The next concert was with the Frodham and District Choral Society, and required me to learn more new repertoire all based around the Esterházy family and their incredible musical influence at the end of the 18th Century. They helped to support and nurture Josef Haydn, and in turn Mozart and Beethoven as well. Therefore, the entire evening was dedicated to those three composers. I sang the solo in Haydn's Little Organ Mass, along with some of his English songs, and then Beethoven's dramatic concert aria Ah! perfido!, and two Irish songs. Once again, I was greeted with such a warm welcome, and the concert was a great event. Ah! perfido! is quite the beast - 12 minutes of fire, fury, desperation and sad resolution. Here, I performed it with piano, but it would be incredible to give it another go with orchestra.
Finally, the last major concert I was involved in was a Songs and Sounds event for the St Marylebone festival. Songs and Sounds is a project I initiated with Gavin Roberts a year and a half ago with the intention of making contemporary music a little more accessible by putting it in a relaxed environment and having the composers present so you're able to ask them questions - or even just put a name to a face! For this particular concert, I let Gavin (as the Director of Music at St Marylebone) take more of the reins. The theme for the festival was to find musical links to the local environment. As the church is opposite the Royal Academy of Music, the natural course was to ask Philip Cashian, Head of Composition at RAM, to offer up some work from students past and present. We performed pieces from 5 different composers; all of whom (apart from one) were present at the concert itself. We heard them introduce their pieces, and answer a few questions from the audience. Ideally, it would've been wonderful to have had longer than the allocated hour to be able to go into greater depth, but those who attended seemed to enjoy the event and find it very interesting, which was always the aim! The pieces were very diverse and unique, and it has been a delightful challenge learning them all.
So there we have it! A busy but rewarding few months. And now, a little time with the kids over the summer holidays to relax (because that's how it works with kids, right?).
9th January 2019
Happy New Year! I hope you have had a restful Christmas. After a busy few months creating and performing The Little Prince with Protein, it was wonderful to have some time off with my family to enjoy the festive season.
2019 is looking very busy, but mostly focused on The Little Prince as our nationwide tour continues. We were thrilled to receive 4* reviews from both The Observer and The Stage, and the shows seem to be going down well with audiences, so hopefully they'll continue to be successful as we tour around the country. Dates and locations will be posted here as soon as they're confirmed. I hope to see you at one of them!
5th September 2018
It has been a relatively quiet summer, but it has been so lovely spending time with my two girls. Now that the eldest has gone back to school, however, it's time to get back to work!
Coming up, at the end of this month, are two projects that I have worked on before; Liquid History with Gestalt Arts, and Cracked Voices by Jenni Pinnock. Both are fantastic projects that have the uniquely interesting history of people and places at their cores. I'm very much looking forward to returning to them, and exploring them a little deeper than before.
In October, rehearsals will begin for Protein's production of The Little Prince. I'm very excited by this project, for many reasons. Firstly, I'll get to work with Luca Silvistrini again, whose ideas and creativity are very inspiring. Secondly, the story of The Little Prince is one I have only recently come to, thanks to this project, yet it is one that is truly wonderful and one that I wish I had known about when I was a child. It has so many heartfelt messages at its core that is resounds with children and adults alike. We've got a great team together to tell the story, and a whole host of venues we'll be touring it to. The next 9 months and beyond are going to be quite busy!
Finally, I'm delighted to have been asked by the Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra to perform a selection of Chants d'Auvergne by Canteloube in June next year. I wasn't familiar with these songs until recently, but am certainly going to relish the challenge of learning Auvergnat, and getting to grips with these beautiful, atmospheric songs.
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