Thursday 30 November 2023

A distinctive voice & a richly rewarding sound-world: songs by Franco Alfano from Anna Pirozzi & Emma Abbate

Franco Alfano: Songs; Anna Pirozzi, Emma Abbate, Bozidar Vukotic; Resonus Classics
Franco Alfano: Songs; Anna Pirozzi, Emma Abbate, Bozidar Vukotic; Resonus Classics
Reviewed 28 November 2023

Alfano's rather dim reputation as a 20th century opera composer does not prepare you for the surprisingly rich and rewarding sound-world of his songs

You cannot help but feel that the Italian composer Franco Alfano (1876-1954) has received a poor deal from musical history. Despite his 1904 opera, Risurrezione, retaining a toe-hold in the repertoire, Alfano remains best known as the man who completed Puccini's Turandot, yet the completion of the opera that we commonly hear today was heavily revised by the conductor Arturo Toscanini, and Alfano's original rarely gets an outing.

This disc from soprano Anna Pirozzi and pianist Emma Abbate with cellist Bozidar Vukotic on Resonus Classics takes a different look at Alfano, featuring a programme of his songs, from his Cinq mélodies, written when he was a 21-year-old student at the Leipzig Conservatoire right through to Due liriche per canto, violoncello e pianoforte from 1949.

Emma Abbate seems to be making something of a project of reviving unjustly neglected 20th century Italian song and previous on Resonus she has released discs of Ildebrando Pizzetti's songs with Hanna Hipp [see my review] and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's settings of Shakespeare's sonnets with Ashley Riches [see my review]. This disc reveals another, rather striking Italian 20th-century voice.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

There's still time to apply for The Benedetti Foundation’s Ambassador cohort for 2024

The Benedetti Foundation's Ambassador Programme (Photo: Chris J Parker)
The Benedetti Foundation's Ambassador Programme (Photo: Chris J Parker)

The Benedetti Foundation's Ambassador Programme runs annually from February to December and is a training scheme for young professionals (age around 19 to 35) dedicated to developing their practical, instrumental teaching and workshop leading skills, as well as growing their love for performance. The programme is open to instrumentalists, singers, creatives and workshop leaders. 

Peer learning and support is a crucial part of the programme. All Ambassadors join a small mentor group, led by a Tutor Mentor and more experienced Lead Ambassador, which provides the opportunity to work together and to prepare and practice teaching activities, expand their knowledge and understanding of instruments other than their own, explore the use of social media in music education and performance, discuss, debate and reflect on questions surrounding music education and their role as advocates, and form a close, supportive network with their fellow ambassadors

The aim of this programme is to create a legacy of world leading and innovative musicians and educators. The time the Ambassadors spend with the Foundation is transformational in shaping their careers and in turn the experiences of the next generation of learners. 

Approximately 100 students and graduates are offered places on the Ambassador Programme each year, with the programme open to participants both in the UK and studying abroad. There are two concurrent cohorts each year, dividing the musicians into their best-suited category - Instrumental Ambassadors or Creative Learning Ambassadors,

Applications close at 9am tomorrow (30 November 2023), details from the foundation website.

Handel by candle-light & a gig on Jimi Hendrix's bed: Handel Hendrix After Dark

Intesa Duo at Handel Hendrix House
Intesa Duo at Handel Hendrix House

Handel Hendrix House After Dark; Intesa Duo, Maya Delilah
25 November 2023

Two contrasting gigs in Handel's dining room and Jimi Hendrix's bedroom as Handel Hendrix House welcomes visitors to its evocative, candle-lit historic interiors

Handel lived at 25 Brook Street from 1723 until his death in 1759, whilst Jimi Hendrix moved into a flat next door at 23 Brook Street in 1968, and his time there would be the longest period that he spent in one place. Since 2000, when the Handel House Trust took over, the presentation of the buildings has expanded. Initially, only the first and second floors of 25 Brook Street were restored and open to the public, then Jimi Hendrix's flat at 23 Brook Street was restored, helped by the fact that no. 23 had had no major structural work since then, and the most recent expansion has seen the ground floor of Handel's house restored to something like the state that Handel would have known. 

Both no. 23 and no. 25 have display spaces alongside the restored interiors so that both Handel's house and Hendrix flat are displayed in as close a state to what would have existed. This means that Handel's rooms now feature a significant selection of paintings that emulate the collection as known in Handel's day. Rather than functioning as a museum about Handel, it is a house intended to evoke the period of Handel's occupancy and introduce the work the he created there.

During November 2023, Handel Hendrix House started a series of Handel Hendrix After Dark where the house was open in the evening, with the 18th century house lit only by candles (electric, but very effective) and with live music both in Handel's dining room, where he rehearsed with singers, and in Hendrix's bedroom. We went along on Friday 24 November 2023 for an evening that celebrated Jimi Hendrix' birthday (he would have been 81 on 27 November 2023). 

In Handel's dining room we heard the Intesa Duo, which consists of Lucine Musaelian and Nathan Giorgietti, both playing bass viols and Musaelian singing, then in Hendrix' bedroom there was a set from the young singer/songwriter Maya Delilah.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with a musical twist from Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with a musical twist from Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is ubiquitous at Christmas, indeed it could be argued that with this book and his other writings Dickens effectively invented the modern Christmas. This year, the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) is bringing a musical twist to the tale. 

The BPO Brass Quintet is joining forces with actor Pip Torrens for a version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol narrated by Torrens with music from the BPO Brass Quintet featuring brass arrangements of Ding Dong Merrily on High, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In, Coventry Carol, O Come O Come Emmanuel and more, with BPO's artistic director at the piano, and the who show directed by Richard Williams.

There are two performances in Brighton at St George's Kemptown on 15 December 2023 [further details] and a performance at the World Heartbeat Academy in London on 14 December [further details]. And seasonal refreshments will be available.

If that isn't your thing, then this Sunday (3 December 2023), the full Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra has a Winter Solstice programme conducted by Sian Edwards at Brighton Dome, with Arvo Pärt's Lamentate, his dramatic ritual for piano (Joanna McGregor) and orchestra written for a collaboration with Anish Kapoor at the opening of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2002, and Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 [further details]

What is existence all about? London Youth Opera relaunches with ambitious new opera, Pandora's Box from Stuart Hancock and Donald Sturrock

London Youth Opera: Pandora's Box from Stuart Hancock and Donald Sturrock.

W11 Opera has relaunched as London Youth Opera, the name change reflecting on the way the company's remit has expanded well beyond the W11 postcode. For their first production under the new name, LYO is presenting Pandora's Box by composer Stuart Hancock and librettist Donald Sturrock at the Royal Academy of Music's Susie Sainsbury Theatre on 16 and 17 December 2023.

The opera is a comic fusion of blues, pop, and classical opera that uses ancient Greek mythology as a starting point. This contemporary satire on 21st century family life asks the big question:

What is existence all about? 

In Hancock and Sturrock's version of the myth, when Pandora Woakes receives the gift from Prometheus, salesman at Olympus Enterprises, on the eve of her 18thbirthday, she is unaware of the mayhem that will befall her well-meaning family.  Opening it, she unwittingly releases Greed, Vanity, and Envy into the mortal world. Friendships break, selfishness rules, and chaos ensues over the course of one turbulent day in the quaint English village of Middle Demos. 

There is resolution, but there are no easy answers.

This will be Stuart Hancock's third opera collaboration with Donald Sturrock for W11 Opera, following the successes of Rain Dance (2010) and the pirate romp Cutlass Crew (2017), which is received its US premiere in Boston in spring 2023. Stuart Hancock is a composer of film, TV and concert music, and his latest film music includes Hiroshima: 75 Years Later (a feature documentary for the History Channel) and the British animated feature film Kensuke’s Kingdom, adapted from the popular Michael Morpurgo book of the same name, which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2024. [Read my 2020 interview with Stuart]

Full details of Pandora's Box from London Youth Opera's website.

Captivating & fascinating: Goldberg from Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise, bringing together Western classical, Arabic music and Bach

Goldberg: Syriab Trio, Trio d'Iroise; SOLAIRE RECORDS
Goldberg: Syriab Trio, Trio d'Iroise; SOLAIRE RECORDS
Reviewed 27 November 2023

A fascinating disc as two ensembles, one Western classical and one Arabic, journey through Bach's Goldberg Variations exploring what it means to play together, to base music on Bach yet synthesise with Arabic music. 

Some years ago, the Syriab Trio (Abdalhade Deb, oud/singing, Ibrahim Bajo, kanun, Amjad Sukar, percussion) did a project with Ensemble Reflektor, a North German chamber orchestra that included the cellist Johann Caspar Wedell. Wedell and the men of the Syriab Trio had lots of discussions, about music and about the mens' personal stories of war and displacement. The result was a wish to work together after that project ended.

The end result is this disc, Goldberg from Solaire Records, where the combined forces of the Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise (Sophie Pantzier, violin, Francois Lefevre, viola, Johann Caspar Wedell, cello) explore Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Goldberg - Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise
Goldberg - Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise

Sophia Lambton introduces her new book, The Callas Imprint: A Centennial Biography

Sophia Lambton introduces her new book, The Callas Imprint: A Centennial Biography
Novelist and music critic Sophia Lambton's new book, The Callas Imprint: A Centennial Biography, will be published by The Crepuscular Press on 2 December  2023, the singer's 100th birthday. Lambton has mined extensive sources, some 3395 spanning 80 years and 21 countries, to present an in-depth picture of the singer. Here, Sophie Lambton introduces the book, the project and herself.

What made you want to write the book?

I was thirteen when my father introduced me to Maria Callas through her Carmen. Infatuation with the voice soon followed but I had no interest in her as a person – even as I grew intrigued by other greats that had defined her era: Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Herbert von Karajan. Back then a Google search or mere glimpse at her Wikipedia page suggested she was one of those erratic divas capable of coming off the spool.

For this reason I was stunned to stumble upon somebody entirely unknown to me at eighteen. When YouTube searches led me down a rabbit hole of interviews I found that I identified with her – especially in all discussions on the need for consummate perfectionism in the opera world. She very much appeared both a consistent and coherent personality: nothing to do with this bête noire that figures in the Callas literature and fictionalised versions of her life.

I was aghast and at a loss to think that millions of adorers of her art did not know such a person. I was also horrified at how dismissively a portion of them wrote her off: I remember being at La Scala’s museum in 2012 and witnessing a group of German tourists eye a portrait of her on the wall. My German’s pretty limited and was quite non-existent then, but I distinctly heard one of them say something along the lines of: “What was his name…? Oh, yes – Onassis.” The moment you begin to research her you find too many scribes and filmmakers want to know nothing more than information about him. Sometimes it’s as if that giant Callas art never existed.

The Callas Imprint is the first biography to guide the reader through her life through her eyes. My mission is to let her fans (and, for that matter, her detractors) live through her experiences onstage and off- through her perceptions; let them share her soul.

How are you qualified to write about Callas?

I became an opera critic aged seventeen. The first reason I fell in love with Callas as a person was a shared sensibility on the criteria for operatic gold: a strong technique sustained by never-faltering legato; manipulation of the voice to mould a character; engagement of the body; a well-crafted set design. Most biographers who’ve written about Callas either shove aside her contribution to the world of opera altogether, or extend fusty analyses of roles that lack in empathy.

As a fellow artist – I’m primarily a novelist – I wanted to convey this woman as a single entity. I don’t divide the artist from the person: that’s not life. I juxtapose her glorious – and sometimes, short-of-glorious – achievements on the stage and in the studio and the rehearsal hall with banal moments like her play with poodles, marital disputes, shopping excursions. I seek to prove that genius is not a lightbulb moment: Callas’ great apexes were worked toward obsessively and furiously and not always attained. As every other life, it is a journey weaving in and out of shoddy days and hazy headiness; euphoria and uproar.

My discovery of crucial documents – primarily Callas’ correspondence with her manager Sander Gorlinsky, as well as letters to her legal separation lawyer, Augusto Caldi-Scalcini, directors Luchino Visconti and Alexis Minotis and many others – offered me insight into Callas’ dizzying rollercoaster of a life. That and a heap of 3395 sources spanning twenty-one countries made over eighty years add up to make a narrative rich in real dialogues and vivid exhibitions of the episodes in her career and in her private life. It feels like a novel but nothing is made up.

What is different about this biography?

I would say that most Callas biographies up to the present day have been obsessed with pushing authors’ concepts about her. Of course, like other scribes I have my thoughts – nobody can be neutral about Callas – but The Callas Imprint is so saturated with her quotes combined with others', with her renditions beside miscellaneous ones; with Callas’ own contradictions that I leave the reader space to make up their own mind.

She is a complex personality who puzzles many. I could set forth an agenda implore the reader to believe my version, but I won’t. The mix of excerpts I’ve derived from letters and interviews both by her and her peers; from quotations from books that had a single print run maybe fifty, sixty years ago and since then haven’t seen the light of day; from my own interviews with those who knew her and a horde of other sources will permit the reader to know Callas very well. After that they can determine who she was.

What do you want a music lover to get out of it?

This sounds hard to believe but I still think most fans don’t understand the sheer enormity that is the Callas art. I want music lovers to detect that Callas was not just a strong performer, but a true creator: that she sculpted characters through an extraordinary (and sometimes dangerous) manipulation of the voice; that her vast impact on the opera stage was not confined to her soprano role alone. She helped construct her colleagues’ craftmanship – including that of Franco Corelli, Alexis Minotis and Tito Gobbi. She had a hand in choosing costumes, wigs and set design and choreography. She argued about tempi and encores with maestri. Her art was not just the supreme extension of her Violetta, Gilda, Norma, Tosca. It was the ultimate rendition any given opera could become. It’s Apollonian idealism. There hasn’t been another artist of this calibre on stage or film. There likely won’t be for at least a century to come.

What does Callas mean to you?

A rare artist who was able to examine the whole picture of an art of which she only formed a part. We don’t like to admit this, but most actors know when they play in a bad movie. A lot of opera singers contribute to paltry stagings knowing full well they’re in scenic dregs. But compromise is understandable: artists go hungry and they need to pay their rents and feed their kids.

Callas was born not like that. From her teenage years she had a vision that she craved to execute. I can’t think of any other textual or musical interpreter who cared so much about the output as a whole, not just their incarnation. She made me look at art from an entirely panoramic standpoint – thus inspiring me to learn about aesthetics not just from my fellow writers but the theatre, film and music. She made me realise art’s creation is the finding of a new world. I feel as though the world she found is very much alive. But people, maybe just subconsciously, don’t realise she’s behind it. 

Further details of The Callas Imprint from the The Crepuscular Press.
The Callas Imprint on Amazon.

Monday 27 November 2023

There's music in all things: Bath Festival Orchestra marks the Berlioz 220 and Poulenc 125 anniversaries with a début performance at Southbank's Queen Elizabeth Hall

Bath Festival Orchestra
Bath Festival Orchestra
Peter Manning, principal conductor/artistic director of Bath Festival Orchestra (BFO), had this to say about their forthcoming concert marking the Berlioz 220 and Poulenc 125 anniversaries. 'Our January programme considers a vast timeline spanning the troubadour influences of Poulenc’s neo-classical works. The three works we shall perform are distinct but each paints a vivid narrative through live music and each is crafted to evoke emotion. Therefore, by incorporating Byron’s influence on Berlioz, the programme will embrace the twin joys of literature and music thereby echoing Byron's words: "There's music in all things".'  

The concert (Sunday, 14 January 2024, 7.30pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall) opens with Louise Farrenc’s Overture in E minor, Op. 23. An extraordinary pianist, teacher and composer of the Romantic period - three symphonies, a few choral works, numerous chamber pieces and a wide variety of piano music - her ‘magical musical palette’ was much admired by Berlioz while the sensational young violist, Dana Zemtsov, makes her South Bank début fresh from the release of her stunning new album, Fathers & Daughters (Channel Classics Records) joining forces with BFO in bringing a new focus to the music of Berlioz in his masterpiece, Harold in Italy, inspired by the composer's Italian travels and Lord Byron's famous autobiographical poem, Childe Harold, written in four parts and published between 1812 and 1818. The dedicatee was ‘Ianthe’ (Lady Charlotte Harley) a young beautiful girl that Byron knew well. 

The narrative describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who’s disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry and looks for distraction in foreign lands. In a wider sense, it’s an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term ‘childe’, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood. 

Bringing the concert to a close, Poulenc's Sinfonietta, offers the audience a neoclassical palette cleanser! The composer’s only symphonic work, it’s light and full of dance rhythms while witty and satirical at the same time. The first movement begins expressively, the second is scherzo-like in character reminiscent of the last movement of Les biches, the third’s gentle with an expansive melodic theme while the finale recalls Haydn with folksy themes that scurry along to a breathless and excited conclusion. 

A pre-concert talk will be given by Royal Society of Literature Fellow, Fiona Sampson, MBE, and BFO's artistic director, Peter Manning, hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Donald Macleod. The trio will explore the 'romantic' hero in the work of Berlioz and Lord Byron while examining the female voice in 19th-century music and literature.  

An ensemble of brilliant, early career orchestral players, Bath Festival Orchestra is united by the desire to create joyful, entertaining, enriching and relevant experiences for and with people whether in concert halls, churches, community spaces, educational settings or any other location where there are people who want to engage with music. 

Under the leadership of Peter Manning, BFO aspires to be an orchestra for the 21st century: inclusive, collaborative, accessible and responsible for its impact on the world. As such, the orchestra - who extends its reach beyond Bath and London offering performances across the UK particularly in under-served communities while through its ‘orchestrate’ programme supports the next generation of music enthusiasts - welcomes players of diverse nationalities and performs a broad repertoire by composers of all backgrounds.  

As a soloist, Dana Zemtsov (who has released to critical acclaim five albums on Channel Classics Records with the latest just released) has performed with orchestras the world over working under the baton of Leif Segerstam, Otto Tausk and Daniel Raiskin.  

Interestingly, too, pianists Anna Fedorova/Borys Fedorov and violists Dana Zemtsov/Mikhail Zemtsov are embarking on a journey through generations of their respected families. And throughout years of their friendship Dana Zemtsov and Anna Fedorova have discovered many similarities in their upbringing. For instance, both of their parents met in Moscow's conservatory. Dana’s parents (Julia Dinerstein and Mikhail Zemtsov) are renowned violists and professors while Anna’s parents (Tatiana Abayeva and Borys Fedorov) are renowned pianists and professors.  

With their album Fathers & Daughters they journey through the generations performing works with daughter and father respectively, fathers together, daughters together and, finally, daughters and their fathers.  

Therefore, the Fedorova dynasty of pianists joins forces with the Zemtsov dynasty of violists performing music on Fathers & Daughters by Yevgeni Zemtsov, Frédéric Chopin, Nikolay Roslavets, Alexander Glazunov, Alexander Scriabin, Michael Kugel and Mikhail Zemtsov while Borys Fedorov has written a piece especially for the album - a perfect nostalgic portrayal of the atmosphere Dana and Anna’s ancestors grew up in. A nice story! 

Tony Cooper

Further information from the orchestra's website.

Pegasus Opera pays tribute to Keel Watson

Keel Watson as Falstaff with Regents Opera in 2015
Keel Watson as Falstaff with Regents Opera in 2015

Pegasus Opera will be paying tribute to Keel Watson as part of the Pegasus Caribbean Christmas Concert on 21 December 2023 at St John the Divine Church, SW9 6JA. The company is inviting any singers who knew him and are available to come and join them in a rousing chorus of Oh Lawd I'm on my way from Gerswhin's Porgy and Bess. (contact for details).

Keel Watson was a friend of Pegasus Opera from the beginning. He was instrumental in the company's inaugural concerts and operas, including performing a stellar Falstaff in 1997. He also served as a mentor in every year of Pegasus' Mentorship Programme, including this year.

Masimba Ushe, bass, and Keel Watson's most recent mentee said of him, "I first met Keel on a train late one evening. He was on his way home after a performance. We were sitting in the same carriage, I recognised him and went to speak to him. A general chat about singing and performance turned into an impromptu lesson when Keel asked me to sing part of an aria for him outside the station. His willingness to help me and to make the most out of every teaching opportunity was truly inspirational. His advice and encouragement really helped me on my journey as a singer. 

I had more lessons with him through the Pegasus Mentoring Programme. He was a straight to the point, no nonsense teacher and his confidence helped me to find the confidence within myself. He inspired me to really put my all into my work and helped me to understand what it really means to be a performer. His enthusiasm for singing and teaching was infectious and made me want to dive deeper and understand more. The warmth and passion exhibited by Keel, was a privilege to experience. His honesty and passion in his teaching was truly something amazing to have experienced, and for that I am truly grateful."

Further information about Pegasus Caribbean Christmas Concert from EventBrite.

A remarkable sense of energy & engagement: Wagner's Die Walküre from the London Opera Company at St John's Smith Square

Wagner's Die Walküre - The London Opera Company
Wagner's Die Walküre - The London Opera Company

Wagner's Die Walküre; Ben Thapa, Philippa Boyle, Simon Wilding, Simon Thorpe, Harriet Williams, Cara McHardy, conductor Peter Selwyn; the London Opera Company at St John's Smith Square
Reviewed 25 November 2023

A full scale performance of Wagner's opera projected with remarkable energy, commitment and engagement by a strong cast with an orchestra mixing professionals, students and amateurs. A remarkable achievement

The London Opera Company was formed in 2020 by singers to give opportunities to performers who had lost work in the pandemic. Starting from relatively small beginnings, with chamber versions of Wagner's operas, the company founded its own orchestra last year and presented a full version of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at St John's Smith Square. The company returned to St John's for Wagner's Die Walküre this year and plans to perform Wagner's Siegfried next year.

The London Opera Company performed Wagner's Die Walküre at St John's Smith Square on Saturday 25 November 2023. Peter Selwyn conducted the London Opera Company Orchestra with Ben Thapa as Siegmund, Philippa Boyle as Sieglinde, Simon Wilding as Hunding, Simon Thorpe as Wotan, Harriet Williams as Fricka and Cara McHardy as Brünnhilde.

This was a concert performance, scores and music stands were in use, but a lot of thought had gone into the presentation and all the singers were very responsive, reacting to others and making it far more than stand and sing. As Brünnhilde, Cara McHardy was off the book for long stretches of the performance, and many of the other soloists similarly managed to make their performances go far beyond singing to their score. The result had a sense of dramatic engagement which carried the performance along.

Saturday 25 November 2023

Dependent Arising: American violinist Rachel Barton Pine on combining classical and Heavy Metal on her latest concerto album

Rachel Barton Pine  (Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)
Rachel Barton Pine (Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)

American violinist Rachel Barton Pine's most recent disc, on the Cedille Records label, Dependent Arising, pairs Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 with a new concerto, Dependent Arising, written especially for Rachel, by Earl Maneein, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conductor Tito Muñoz. The pairing very much encapsulates Rachel's freewheeling and eclectic approach to violin playing. In parallel to her career as a classical violin virtuoso she spent some years, from 2009 to 2014, playing electric violin in the Doom/Thrash Metal band Earthen Grave and has enthusiastically embraced a variety of styles and genres. With Dependent Arising she really leans into her enduring love of Heavy Metal. Earl Maneein is a trained classical violinist but also played electric violin in the Metalcore band, Resolution15, and his music embraces both camps.

There are only around half a dozen players of the electric violin in Metal bands in the USA, Earl Maneein is one and Rachel is another. She knew of Earl and his music, and that he was conservatory-trained so in 2014 she asked him to write a piece for her. It was to be unaccompanied, as this was the most useful thing to tour and she felt that it would be cool to perform Earl Maneein's music in an acoustic event. The result was Metal Organic Framework, which Rachel premiered in 2014. At a later performance of the work in New York, Tito Muñoz, the music director of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, heard Rachel playing Metal Organic Framework. Now Tito Muñoz is not a Metalhead, but he found Earl Maneein to be a unique and compelling voice. Tito Muñoz commissioned a concerto from Maneein for Rachel, which became Dependent Arising which Rachel premiered with Tito Muñoz and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in April 2017 [see article on the orchestra's website].

Dependent Arising recording sessions - Tito Muñoz, Rachel Barton Pine, Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Photo: Sally Jubb Photography)
Dependent Arising recording sessions - Tito Muñoz, Rachel Barton Pine, Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Photo: Sally Jubb Photography)

Rachel feels that people who like Heavy Metal will hear the work's links to the style, but contemporary music lovers simply hear an intriguing new classical work. For Heavy Metal lovers, Maneein has incorporated references to different bands' styles. Certainly, the concerto has been a success and she wanted to record it. For Rachel, the only possible composer for a pairing was Shostakovich, whose music is popular with Heavy Metal fans. Rachel finds his music very dark and loves the way it fearlessly explores the human condition.

Friday 24 November 2023

Joanna Forbes L'Estrange's Drop, Drop Slow Tears

Joanna Forbes L'Estrange's Drop, Drop Slow Tears was commissioned in memory of countertenor James Bowman who died earlier this year. This performance by London Voices, conducted by Ben Parry, comes from a new disc of  Forbes L'Estrange's singable, accessible, sacred choral music choral music, Heaven to Earth, to be released on the Signum Classics label in January 2024. 

Further details from the Signum Classics website.

Magical textures & supple lines: Fauré's La bonne chanson, Ravel & Canteloube from Louise Alder & eleven friends at Wigmore Hall

Emma Bardac in 1931
Emma Bardac in 1931

Fauré: La bonne chanson, Berlioz: La captive, Ravel: Shéhérazade, Canteloube: Songs of the Auvergne; Louise Alder, Doric String Quartet,  Joseph Middleton; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed 23 November 2023

Suppleness and flexibility were the watchwords in this lovely evening of French song for voice and instrumental ensemble as part of Louise Alder's residency

Louise Alder continued her residency at Wigmore Hall on Thursday 23 November 2023 with an evening of French song for voice and instrumental ensemble. Joined by pianist Joseph Middleton, the Doric String Quartet (Tim Crawford, Ying Xue, Hélène Clément, John Myerscough), Laurène Durantel - double bass, Amina Hussain - flute, Rachael Clegg - oboe, Max Welford - clarinet, Guylaine Eckersley - bassoon, and Mark Alder Bennett horn for Fauré's piano and string quintet version of La bonne chanson, and George Striven's chamber versions of Ravel's Shéhérazade and Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne.

Behind Fauré's La bonne chanson lies the fascinating figure of Emma Bardac, singer, wife of a banker and Fauré's mistress. During the 1890s Fauré wrote La bonne chanson for Emma and the Dolly Suite for Emma's daughter. Fauré's relationship with Emma Bardac would last around a decade, but she would go on to divorce her husband and marry Debussy in 1905, who would write Children's Corner for his and Emma's daughter. And Emma was the dedicatee of the final song in Ravel's cycle.

Thursday 23 November 2023

New appointments at Royal Liverpool Philharmonic & Royal Academy of Music

Nicholas Chalmers
Nicholas Chalmers
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has appointed a former Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company musician as Principal Second Trumpet, whilst the Royal Academy of Music has appointed a new Fernside Chair of Choral Conducting, leading the Academy’s postgraduate Choral Conducting programme.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has announced the appointment of Hannah Mackenzie as Principal Second Trumpet. Her first performance in the role will be Thursday 30 November 2023. Hannah Mackenzie was raised on the Wirral and joined the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company when she was 16. The Youth Company is the largest community of young musicians in the North West created to develop young musical talent. During her time in Youth Company, Hannah won the Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and performed as a soloist.

Hannah Mackenzie
Hannah Mackenzie
She graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in 2016, where she studied for her Master’s Degree. She is also a passionate educator, teaching in several schools across Merseyside. She has recently set up a thriving youth group, Wirral Youth Brass, alongside Simon Cowen who is the Principal Trombone of the orchestra.
[further details]

The Royal Academy of Music has announced the appointment of Nicholas Chalmers as its new Fernside Chair of Choral Conducting. From September 2024, Nicholas will lead the Academy’s postgraduate Choral Conducting programme, the UK’s longest-established specialist course in conducting for choirs.

Nicholas Chalmers is Principal Conductor of the National Youth Choir 18-25 and Associate Conductor, Learning for the BBC Singers. He is also a Senior Associate Artist of the Royal Opera House, where he will make his conducting debut in A Quiet Place by Leonard Bernstein in October 2024. 

In 2012, Nicholas Chalmers founded Nevill Holt Opera and established an award-winning education and associate artists programme. I chatted to Nicholas about the company back in 2019 [see my interview]. The company has introduced countless young people to opera in the East Midlands and its year-round education programme works with schools across the region. With Nevill Holt Opera, operas he has conducted include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cosí fan tutte [see my review] and La traviata [see my review].
[further details]

Taking its energy from the youth of the performers: Olivia Fuchs' new production of Handel's Ariodante at Royal Academy Opera

Handel: Ariodante - Angharad Rowlands - Royal Academy Opera (Photo: Craig Fuller)
Handel: Ariodante - Angharad Rowlands - Royal Academy Opera (Photo: Craig Fuller)

Handel: Ariodante; Royal Academy Opera, director: Olivia Fuchs, conductor: David Bates; Royal Academy of Music
Reviewed 21 November 2023

Stylishly modern and exploring gender boundaries, this was a production that took its energy from the sheer youth of the performers

At the start of Olivia Fuchs' new production of Handel's Ariodante for Royal Academy Opera, the cast started writing The Rules on a large display board. The first one, 'The King rules by divine right', then continuing with affirmations of male succession, gender being binary, and so on. These neatly summarised that male-centric, patriarchal world of Handel's libretto, yet still they come over as somewhat shocking when seen all written down together.

Yet, part of the attraction of Ariodante is the immense sympathy Handel brings to the heroine Ginevra and her plight. Yes, the ending is the easy lieto fine that was expected but along the way, particularly at the end of Act Two, the composer really explores Ginevra's feelings. Add to this the complex layering of gender roles that a modern performance can bring (all Royal Academy Opera's performances feature women playing both Ariodante and Polinesso) and you have an intriguing set of challenges.

Handel: Ariodante - Charles Cunliffe, Clara Orif - Royal Academy Opera (Photo: Craig Fuller)
Handel: Ariodante - Charles Cunliffe, Clara Orif - Royal Academy Opera (Photo: Craig Fuller)

Fuchs' new production was in many ways playful, that is treating the piece with a light touch whilst taking the subject matter seriously, using an edition that was significantly cut yet the music treated with stylistic care, and the resulting version whilst being true to Handel's longer original also had a more democratic element. Handel's original aria distribution significantly favours the two leading players, but here the balance was shifted towards a more modern dramaturgical concept.

We caught the opening night of Olivia Fuchs' new production of Handel's Ariodanteat the Royal Academy of Music's Susie Sainsbury Theatre on Tuesday 21 November 2023. David Bates conducted the Royal Academy Sinfonia, with Angharad Rowlands as Ariodante, Clara Orif as Ginevra, Erin O'Rourke as Dalinda, Rebecca Hart as Polinesso, Henry Ross as Lurcanio, Charles Cunliffe as the King of Scotland and Samuel Stopford as Odoardo. Designs were by Yannis Thavoris with lighting by Jake Wiltshire and movement by Monica Nicolaides.

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Rachmaninoff Variations: Fyodor Biryuchev & friends at the National Liberal Club

Rachmaninoff Variations: Fyodor Biryuchev & friends at the National Liberal Club
The David Lloyd George Room in the National Liberal Club is a place where Sergei Rachmaninoff gave his last concert in the UK in 1939. 

Now composer and pianist Fyodor Biryuchev is being joined by cellist Gabriella Swallow, violinist Roman Lytwyniw and vocalist Alexandra Kenenova for Rachmaninoff Variations at the National Liberal Club on 28 November 2023.

The concert will in fact be celebrating multiple anniversaries. Not only does 2023 mark the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff's birth and 85th of his passion, but the concert coincides with Fyodor Biryuchev's 30th birthday! Following the performance on 28 November, Rachmaninoff Variations is being taken on tour, see Fyodor Biryuchev's website.

The evening will present a blend of Rachmaninoff's works and modern narratives as the musicians are joined by actors from Moscow's Theatre.doc, now residing in London, who will perform readings from Rachmaninoff's diaries and his peers' messages. These pieces, drawn from historical archives and modern digital platforms, resonate with the theme of disconnection from one's cultural roots.

The concert is part of the R.A.C.H. (Real Artistic Charity House) project, dedicated to supporting artists displaced by conflict. Proceeds from the concert will support R.A.C.H., a charity founded in 2023 by Fyodor and his associates to aid musicians and composers from conflict-affected regions, honouring Rachmaninoff's legacy as a humanitarian and artist.

Tickets for Rachmaninoff Variations at the National Liberal Club from EventBrite.

The other Tchaikowsky violin concerto: as Polish composer André Tchaikowsky's concerto gets its UK premiere we look at the work's intriguing history.

André Tchaikowsky in 1975
André Tchaikowsky in 1975

If you glance quickly at the concert information for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's performances on 8 and 9 December 2023, you could easily come away with the idea that both evenings are devoted to Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker conducted by Andrey Boreyko. You would not be entirely wrong, but the concert also includes the Scottish premieres of Nova by Victoria Poleva and the Violin Concerto "Classico" by André Tchaikowsky.

The Violin Concerto is, I think, the work's UK premiere and only its third ever performance, all with soloist Ilya Gringolts. But the work is not a recent one, and in fact dates from the 1960s. André Tchaikowsky met the violinist Sylvia Rosenberg in March 1962, they became friends and formed piano-violin duo, giving concerts together. André Tchaikowsky wrote a violin concerto for her, they got as far as playing it through and she made comments. But then relations between the two became strained and the concerto was put to one side. A reconciliation brought the work back into the mix, but by then it was too late and André Tchaikowsky died in 1982. The original manuscript, which in the Josef Weinberger archives, was found after André Tchaikowsky's death at the bottom of a laundry basket, and the work was only first performed in 2021 in Warsaw.

Born in Poland in 1935 as Robert Andrzej Krauthammer, André Tchaikowsky took that name as false identity when he was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto in 1942. Talented young, in both piano and composition, he returned to Poland after the war to continue his studies, winning the 8th prize in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1955 and gaining the support of Artur Rubenstein. From 1956 he studied piano in Brussels and then composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, finally moving to London, where he divided his career between playing and composing. His music has never gained the traction it really deserves, perhaps partly through the confusion of name. There is more information at the website devoted to the composer.

You can catch the Berlin recording of the Violin Concerto with Andrey Boreyko conducting the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and soloist Ilya Gringolts on YouTube.

Andrey Boreyko conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with violinist Ilya Gringolts in Victoria Poleva' s Nova, André Tchaikowsky's Violin Concerto "Classico" and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker at Usher Hall, Edinburgh (8/12/2023) and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (9/12/2023), further information from the RSNO website.

Epic re-imagining of Miles Davis’ legendary album 'Bitches Brew' in the first ever performance from super group London Brew

London Brew - EFG London Jazz Festival at the Barbican Centre (Photo:  Mark Allan /
London Brew - EFG London Jazz Festival at the Barbican Centre (Photo:  Mark Allan)

London Brew: EFG London Jazz Festival at the Barbican Centre
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders, 18 November 2023

A veritable tsunami of electric jazz from a supergroup of London-based players

Back in the heady days of 1969, a Woodstock-inspired Miles Davis brought together eight leading jazz musicians in an epic three day long, freely improvised, recording session. The result was the monumental double LP Bitches Brew, recognised almost universally as one of the most influential jazz records of all time. 

In 2020 music publisher Bruce Lampcov, as a tribute to this landmark session, gathered a dozen members of the contemporary London jazz scene - not to recreate the original, but to collectively create something new in the same free, improvisatory spirit. The recorded result of these sessions was released as London Brew in 2020 to great critical acclaim. Three years later, this concert, given as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival in a sold out Barbican Hall on 18 November 2023, was the first live performance together of the concept, and being freely created, in the moment music making, was as different to the 2020 recording as it in turn was to its 1970 inspiration.

London Brew - EFG London Jazz Festival at the Barbican Centre (Photo:  Mark Allan)
London Brew - EFG London Jazz Festival at the Barbican Centre (Photo:  Mark Allan)

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Fifth edition of ORA Singers' Young Composers' Scheme and new Graduate Composers' Showcase

ORA Singers at the Cutty Sark (Photo: Nick Rutter)
ORA Singers at the Cutty Sark (Photo: Nick Rutter)

2019 saw ORA Singers introduce its Young Composers' Scheme, providing free mentoring in choral composition to students from non fee-paying schools across the UK. Now as the Young Composers' Scheme returns for its fifth edition, ORA Singers is introducing a new complementary Graduate Composers' Showcase. 

The Young Composers' Scheme has so far successfully mentored 140 students, and has partnered with the Three Choirs Festival and Scala Radio. This season the fifth edition welcomes another 50 students from non fee-paying schools across the UK, to receive free coaching in choral composition with professional composers. 10 Young Composers will have one-to-one mentoring with professional composers, who will develop their skills whilst helping them write a new choral piece. The Young Composers will join ORA for a workshop, where they will have their sketches sung and receive feedback from ORA and a guest composer. The scheme ends on 2nd August 2024 with the Final Concert, where ORA Singers will perform and record the 10 new works in front of a live audience and a panel of adjudicators at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester. 

A further 40 Apprentices will receive a series of free, online workshops in choral composition, led by composer Rory Wainwright Johnston. The Apprentice strand introduces key elements of choral composition and its techniques, and gives an insight into the world of professional composition with opportunities to meet with leading industry figures.

With the success of the Young Composers and Commissioning programmes, ORA Singers recognised a major gap in support between the young students and professional composers, and has introduced their Graduate Composers' Showcase  For this, ORA Singers is looking for five graduates who are seeking to pursue a career in composition. 

They will each receive a commission of £1,000 to write a 4 minute piece for ORA's full complement of 18 professional singers. ORA Singers will premiere these works in concert at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on 28 September 2024, where industry guests will be invited to hear the music. During the composition process, Graduate Composers will receive consultation sessions with Suzi Digby and the ORA Singers team, and they will receive a video recording of their piece to add to their portfolios. 

Full details of the Graduate Composers' Showcase from ORA Singers website (due to go live 21 November)

Songs for Our Times: songs by Stuart MacRae & Bernard Hughes based on texts by Chinwe D. John

Stuart MacRae: Kingdoms, Bernard Hughes: Metropolis; Isabelle Haile, Nick Pritchard, Christopher Glynn; Divine Art
Stuart MacRae: Kingdoms, Bernard Hughes: Metropolis; Isabelle Haile, Nick Pritchard, Christopher Glynn; Divine Art
Reviewed 20 November 2023

A project initiated by poet Chinwe D. John, this disc presents two satisfyingly different contemporary settings of her work in intelligent performances

This remarkable project features two song cycles, Stuart MacRae's Kingdoms and Bernard Hughes' Metropolis, both featuring the words of Nigerian-American poet (and practising medical doctor) Chinwe D. John. This disc, Songs for Our Times on the Divine Art label, includes MacRae's cycle performed pianist Christopher Glynn and tenor Nick Pritchard, and Hughes' cycle performed by Glynn and soprano Isabelle Haile.

The project is very much Chinwe D John's own. Feeling passionately about the need for classical music to expand its base, and also seeing the need to respond to the challenges facing UK-based musicians during the 2020, John was responsible for involving both composers and performers in creating the project. As a poet writing texts for songs John has a very clear, direct voice, with the ability to craft memorable, evocative phrases and use short bursts of lyricism. Rarely to her texts feel too wordy or two over-written, there is space for the music.

Challenging and exciting: Marius Neset joins London Sinfonietta for a performance his Geyser

Marius Neset: Geyser - Marius Neset, The London Sinfonietta (Photo: Sisi Burn)
Marius Neset: Geyser - Marius Neset, London Sinfonietta (Photo: Sisi Burn)

Marius Neset: Geyser; Marius Neset, London Sinfonietta, Geoffrey Paterson; EFG London Jazz Festival at Queen Elizabeth Hall 
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders (17 November 2023)

One enormous sweep of wildly contrasting sounds, the Norwegian saxophonist and London Sinfonietta return to their third large-scale collaboration, premiered at last year's BBC Proms

The remarkable musicians of the London Sinfonietta are no strangers to collaborative work, and Geyser marks the third large-scale piece that Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset has written for them. Following the critical and artistic successes of Snowmelt (2015) and Viaduct (2019) this composition was even more ambitious, taking the form of an extended eight movement, 75 minute work for jazz quintet and chamber orchestra. As part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, Neset was joined at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 17 November 2023 by the London Sinfonietta, Conor Chaplin (bass), Ivo Neame (piano), Anton Eger (drums), Jim Hart (percussion) and conductor Geoffrey Paterson.

Neset and the London Sinfonietta premiered Geyser as part of the BBC Proms 2022, and the work was a BBC Commission. At the time, Neset said of the work, ''In the beginning of the composing process Geyser, as a title for the composition, came to me as I found it was a great metaphor for the music that I was writing; melodic and rhythmic motifs that evolve, creating ever bigger tension and pressure with regularly repeating eruptions, just like the water shooting out from an Icelandic Geyser fountain. During the compositional process the world around us changed though within one day! It was impossible not to be affected by the terrible war in Ukraine. From that day onwards the music changed direction. I also started to re-write some of the earlier parts. And now the title gave even more meaning to me as it reflects how fast life can change from one day to another."

Monday 20 November 2023

Violin Teacher Rachel Cooper chosen by Nicola Benedetti for Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Emerging Artist Award at its 5th Annual Women in Classical Music Symposium

Nicola Benedetti, Rachel Cooper (Photos: Franz Galo, The Shannons Photography)
Nicola Benedetti, Rachel Cooper
(Photos: Franz Galo, The Shannons Photography)
Amazingly, Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Women in Classical Music Symposium is the only formal gathering to discuss issues specific to women in the field of classical music. Since its launch in 2019, the symposium has featured panel discussions and presentations from leading women in the industry, including conductors, composers, performers, educators and administrators.

The fifth annual symposium took place from 12 to 15 November 2023 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas. Central to the symposium is the Award of Excellence, presented to a woman in the field who has paved the way for others and is investing in the future of the industry. This year's awardee was violinist Nicola Benedetti. 

As part of the symposium, the Award of Excellence honouree chooses a recipient for the Emerging Artist Award, which comes with a cash award. Nicola Benedetti chose Rachel Cooper, a violin teacher dedicated to creating fun and meaningful ways to teach young people core technical and musical foundations. 

Since graduating with her Masters from the Royal College of Music in 2014, Rachel has built up a varied portfolio of teaching. Rachel is a trained Suzuki Violin teacher working as a Violin/Viola and Chamber Music Coach at Junior Guildhall, a violin teacher for London based charity Music Masters and a violin tutor, mentor and teacher trainer for The Benedetti Foundation, Nicola Benedetti’s music education charity.

Further information from the symposium website.

From 'Under the Little Red Moon' to 'The Great Stink' - ETO's operas for children

Russell Hepplewhite: Under the Little Red Moon - Rachel Speirs, Bradley Travis - English Touring Opera
Russell Hepplewhite: Under the Little Red Moon - Rachel Speirs, Bradley Travis - English Touring Opera

As well as touring its new productions of Rossini's La Cenerentola and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, English Touring Opera (ETO) has been touring a new opera for babies, Under the Little Red Moon by composer written and directed by Tim Yealland and composed by Russell Hepplewhite. This has just finished its three-month tour, with six performers and eight members of the production and creative teams. They travelled some 910 miles and gave 56 performances in 34 venues to over 2200 audience members with over 960 babies!

Looking ahead, the company returns in the Spring with The Great Stink, a newly commissioned opera for children aged 7-11 written by composer Omar Shahryar and librettist Hannah Khalil. This will be performed to over 6000 children on tour next Spring. Set on the banks of the River Thames in 19th Century London and brought to life by singers, musicians and puppets, The Great Stink will explore the impact of pollution on our waterways and other environmental issues.

Omar Shahryar: The Great Stink - English Touring Opera

Between 28 November and 5 December, ETO is taking part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, which will raise funds to support The Great Stink. The Big Give Christmas Challenge is a match-funding campaign, championed by The Reed Foundation, which will see every donation doubled.  

To find out more see the ETO website.

Singing in the rain: London Song Festival celebrates the bi-centenary of the Mackintosh

A gentleman's Mackintosh, from an 1893 catalogue
A gentleman's Mackintosh
from an 1893 catalogue
Rain in City and Country: Clara Schumann, Samuel Barber, Margaret Bonds, Gerald Finzi, Debussy, Brahms, Schubert, John Ireland, Elizabeth Maconchy, Schumann, Chausson, Albert Roussel, Herbert Hughes, Michael Head, Roger Quilter, Noah Max, David Ward; Ella Taylor, James Atkinson, David Mildon, Nigel Foster; London Song Festival at Hinde Street Methodist Church

A delightful and engaging programme exploring highways and byways of rain in the lied and song repertoire, featuring two works specially written for the evening

This year is the bicentenary of the invention of the Mackintosh; in June 1823, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh was granted a patent for a new waterproof fabric that sandwiched an impermeable layer of rubber between two layers of cloth. In celebration of this, Nigel Foster's London Song Festival presented a celebration of the Mackintosh with Rain in City and Country on Friday 17 November 2023 at Hinde Street Methodist Church. Foster was joined by soprano Ella Taylor, baritone James Atkinson and speaker David Mildon for a programme of songs by Clara Schumann, Samuel Barber, Margaret Bonds, Gerald Finzi, Debussy, Brahms, Schubert, John Ireland, Elizabeth Maconchy, Schumann, Chausson, Albert Roussel, Herbert Hughes, Michael Head and Roger Quilter, plus the premieres of two songs written for the concert by Noah Max and David Ward. Soprano Ella Taylor had stood in at very short notice to replace an ailing Claire Booth.

Things began with the sound of rain and the cast appeared in rain gear and launched into a lively account of Singing in the Rain. Foster had organised the programme thematically, mixing songs with readings from David Mildon featuring both poems and witty one-liners, and first off it was Love in the Rain. Ella Taylor gave an urgent account of Clara Schumann's Er ist gekommen, bringing great contrast between fierce passion and mellow tenderness. James Atkinson made Samuel Barber's Rain has fallen rather slow and considered, the voice surrounded by a delicate web of piano, but then things got really passionate. Margaret Bonds' setting of Langston Hughes, April Rain Song, was almost folk like, with Ella Taylor's bright vocals over a flowing piano.

Saturday 18 November 2023

20 years of frustration gave rise to soprano Juliet Fraser's VOICEBOX initiative for advanced singers specialising in contemporary vocal performance

VOICEBOX, September 2023 hosted by Britten Pears Arts  (Photo: Patrick Young / Britten Pears Arts)
VOICEBOX, September 2023 hosted by Britten Pears Arts  (Photo: Patrick Young / Britten Pears Arts)

Soprano Juliet Fraser describes her VOICEBOX initiative as arising from 20 years of frustration that something like it did not exist already. VOICEBOX, which took in its first cohort of singers in September 2023, is a new initiative offering a bespoke curriculum for advanced singers specialising in contemporary vocal performance. This year’s cohort of singers are Patricia Auchterlonie, Hester Dart, Tara Lily Klein, Oskar McCarthy, Sarah Parkin, and Pascal Zurek

VOICEBOX is for singers who want to explore contemporary repertoire, and the programme offers them time and support, along with practical help, to develop their skills using a multi-faceted, holistic approach encompassing the elements of what doing the job actually requires, way beyond singing, way beyond the body. The programme will introduce them to experienced practitioners of various sorts, including a whole family of amazing vocalists with specialisms in different repertoires and performing practices, as well as covering programming, funding, movement, technology and much more.

Juliet Fraser (Photo: Dimitri Djuric)
Juliet Fraser (Photo: Dimitri Djuric)
Juliet explains that the programme is essentially about having conversations, bringing the singers into contact with people who have made this sort of contemporary performance happen and aiming to bust the myth that there is only one way to be a singer, that everything is a secret.

It is a year-long programme consisting of four intensive residencies, each in partnership with an arts organisation. This means that the singers have exposure to four different organisations, helping to explode the myth that there is only one way of doing things. The singers have just had a residency hosted by Britten Pears Arts, then in January 2024 there is one hosted by City, University of London, and in May 2024 hosted by Sound Festival in Aberdeen. The final residency was planned to be at Dartington in August 2024, but with future plans for the festival and Summer school tragically on hold owing to funding issues, this part of the programme is up in the air.

The programme presents the sort of course that you cannot do at a music college. Surprisingly, the UK has no specialist contemporary music training for singers. Composers largely exist in a silo at college, there is no provision for contemporary training for singers though some do exist in the rest of Europe. This means that often, conversations about being a singer in the UK do not include contemporary music.

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