So today is my 23rd birthday, and this month has been quite a nice one overall.
The half term is approaching, and I'm looking forward to having a week in Cornwall without any duties - it turns out I have some old school friends in the area, so I'll be taking the time to catch up with them.
My reviewing is going well (the reviews take a few weeks to appear once I've submitted, so they'll take a while to show up), and the Oxford-based group Out Of The Blue have asked me to review their new CD, "Blueprints" - I'll let you all know when I'm publishing that! It will be fairly soon (within the next week, because half term means extra free time!).
One of the highlights of my month - in addition to doing Mozart's "Requiem" in the Sheldonian - was singing in the Countertenor Masterclass with James Bowman this past weekend (see the picture opposite!) - what a great experience it was to get guidance from a singer such as James, and to get the positive exposure I did (because the New College Antechapel was pretty much full!). Singing as Oberon was a huge amount of fun, and it's an experience I hope to repeat on the operatic stage in the future It was also great fun to work with Nicholas Freestone as my accompanist again! The seminar on the countertenor voice, its 20th Century revival and Britten's relationship with it was massively interesting, particularly with having Mark Deller (the son of the legendary Alfred Deller) in the room leading the discussion!
That's it for now I think - I've got evensong in a few hours, and a few errands to run!
So, it looks like my updates will be in the form of a monthly digest, with smaller posts in between.
The day-to-day work at the cathedral is exciting, and there are plenty of concerts coming up as well as a big recording project! More details as they come...
Yesterday I went to Oxford to take part in a performance of Mozart's Requiem alongside Berkshire Youth Choir and the Amadeus Orchestra under Philip Mackenzie. I had an absolutely wonderful time, and it was a great pleasure singing with them, and with my fellow soloists (Lucy Cox, Tim Coleman and Tomos Watkins). All in all, a massively successful concert. I also managed to go to a rather lengthy gaudy after-party at Worcester College, which I enjoyed thoroughly. It was great to catch up with some good friends face-to-face and to tie up some loose ends from my last undergraduate term. The trip was well worth it, and I would happily deal with 11.5 hours of train journeys in a 36 hour period to do all of it again. A good job really, as I'll be back in Oxford for a masterclass with James Bowman in a couple of weeks!
My move into music reviewing is also progressing very well. I'm now on the staff of MusicWeb International and Audiophile Audition, as well as Classical.net, and I'm currently digging into my first set of reviews - do keep an eye out as my reviews start being published! I'm also starting up a new, independent blog for CD reviews,
I'm exhausted, so I think I'm going to tuck myself in with a cup of tea and some ER (I'm a bit of a sucker for American medical dramas).
Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll come back for the next instalment!
So a month has passed, and what a month it has been!
Unfortunately my stepfather had a stroke whilst in Portugal, but he is well and truly on the mend, and he makes lots of progress everyday.
Aside from that I had my own little vacation, taking a break for a while and getting ready for my big move.
On the work side, I've been getting up to plenty:
I joined the Merton College Chapel Choir (one last time before my move) in order to sing a concert hosted by the OUP in honour of Dr.Mack Wilberg's visit to Oxford. Dr.Wilberg is the Director of Music at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and is was great to sing some of his music, as well as a variety of great pieces (including Tallis, Sheppard and Chilcott and Lauridsen!). Chatting with him after the concert, he was a really nice chap and a pleasure to talk to! I also had a great time with the choir, and I enjoyed working with them, their conductor Ben Nicholas and organist Nicholas Freestone one last time before moving to Truro.
I have since moved to Truro and have taken up my post at the cathedral. I'm coming to the end of my first full week of term, and it has been wonderful! I was officially installed this last Sunday in front of a congregation of hundreds, and I have been welcomed into the fold very warmly by parishioners, choir colleagues, choir parents, clergy and locals alike. The repertoire has been great, including Dove's "Seek Him that maketh the seven stars" and Jackson's "Cantate Domino," and there's a lot more to come - a reconstruction of the first ever Nine Lessons and Carols (from 1880 - it was invented in Truro by the then Bishop, Edward Benson, NOT by King's, Cambridge!), a CD recording and an evensong broadcast for the BBC to name but a small fraction of what lies in store!
In addition to the renowned Cathedral Choir I have joined a couple of other choirs in Cornwall, into which I have again been very warmly received! I have joined the St.Mary's Singers (the Cathedral's voluntary choir), as well as Cornwall Youth Choir, where it is my job to support the younger singers by providing a strong alto line. The quality of music-making down here in Cornwall is very high, and I'm enjoying it massively. Let's hope it continues!
I'm also looking for some part-time employment down here in order to provide myself with some kind of financial stability. The job hunt is long and boring, but it's progressing! I've got an interview lined up next Wednesday, and I'm looking into working as a private tutor and singing teacher (both of which have provided leads!).
Outside this, I'm starting to lay the groundwork to become a classical music reviewer and a book reviewer for the British Voice Association, which should be exciting!
Right, I'm going to go and study some scores for upcoming services, and to find
So, it's been a while since I last updated the blog and I thought I'd better get myself into gear and get some writing done!
Plenty of big stuff has happened over the last month - I completed my tour of the South Coast, I went and did a residency at Southwell Minster with the Worcester College Chapel Choirs, and I went to the Historically Informed Summer School at Scarborough, hosted by the North East Early Music Forum.
So, the Tour - All in all, what a successful ten days! I sang evensongs and eucharists with some wonderful people, and I was welcomed into the various communities with which I was involved with open arms. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the South Coast and would love to go back next year. Fortunately I have been informed that people in the area would also love to have me back, so I think that might be a match made in heaven! I plan to go back next year with an even wider variety of concerts (including a number of concerts designed for families and young children, all in a Prom-like style). Watch this space - it's all going to get very exciting indeed!
My trip to Southwell with the Worcester College Chapel Choirs was the perfect way to end my tenure as a Choral Scholar. A great five days, filled with brilliant music, wonderful food, and great friends. My highlight of the trip had to be the hour or so spent in the Chapter House, where the mixed choir got together and took part in some casual consort singing - an amazing acoustic and great sound. It was just brilliant! I'm really grateful to the Chapel Choirs for their friendship, support and fellowship over the past four years, and I hope that the choirs continue to flourish in the future - I know they have big plans!
I got back from my trip to Scarborough yesterday. I met a variety of wonderful people and made some great music, including repertoire from Josquin, Ramsey, Morley and Praetorius. I also attended a spectacular session on the music of Hildegard von Bingen run by Vivien Ellis. In the evenings I enjoyed performances from musicians such as Susanna Pell, Jacob Heringman, Duo Corde, Mary Tyers and Stewart Hardy. I'm happy to say also that my short lecture on the castrati was very well received by all who attended. I also ended up being the course's Bass soloist, due to the very low number of male singers. That small detail aside, It was an absolutely wonderful five days, and it is a course I can wholeheartedly recommend. Great tutors, fun sessions and a chance to meet a lot of amazing and friendly people - what more could you want!
I found out the other day that I'll be singing in a masterclass for emerging young professionals with James Bowman as part of the Britten In Oxford centenary celebrations - massively exciting! Not only a chance to see James again (and to meet Mark Deller, a countertenor and Alfred Deller's son!), but also a chance to work with Nicholas Freestone as my accompanist again. This is going to be a great occasion, and I can't wait to get involved with it.
So now I'm planning for the next big thing - Truro. I'm packing for the big move, and getting more and more excited as I go along! I'll be living in a house with the other Choral Scholars very close to the cathedral, so I'll be living in the city centre - great!
Before I depart for Cornwall I have two final gigs - one on the 26th August in University Church in Oxford (with the choir of Merton College), and a series of services in Chester Cathedral on September 1st (with the vocal ensemble Octavo).
That's it for now, but be sure to check back soon!
So, the busy weekend of the tour is fast upon us!
I'll be singing two more concerts tomorrow, one in Brighton (poster right, orange) and one in Worthing (poster below, blue), both of which are full of fantastic music. I'll be accompanied by the fantastic Janine Willard - we have done some great work this week, and we'd both like to share the results of our work with as many of you as possible!
On Sunday, I'll be singing two services, then singing the last concert of my tour (poster bottom, green), where I'll be presenting a concert of some of the best countertenor arias from baroque dramatic works - again, more exciting music!
There are even plans afoot for me to do another recital tour around here - keep an eye on the blog for updates about that!
This is only a short post - more writing (including concert reviews etc) will be coming soon.
So, my tour in Sussex is well underway, and I must say I am very much enjoying my first visit to this part of the world! I even walked on Worthing Pier for the first time today!
The people here have been very welcoming, and I have been made to feel right at home, particularly in the church choirs where I have been singing as a guest (St.Wilfrid's, Bognor Regis, and St.Botolph's, Worthing). A lovely bunch of people, and I am very happy indeed to be joining them for services. The teaching I've been doing whilst down here has also been exciting!
I'm happy to have found out that this blog is reaching people - I was approached by a very nice gentleman on Sunday who told me more or less out of the blue that he was a regular reader of my blog - fantastic! I hope the blog's audience continues to expand, and I hope that readers will spread the word! I know I have listeners as far afield as Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and the USA, so I'm going to try and get the blog to go that far too!
My first recital was today, and the audience was very appreciative indeed. My next concert (image above!) will feature some amazing music, and I hope that as many people as possible will come. The concert is *FREE*, with a retiring collection.
That's it - short and sweet. I should be updating in the next few days when events really kick off, what with one of the busiest weekends I've had in years approaching!
There have been a couple of good things happening of late – first, I received my BA and will be graduating with full Honours this month. This means that this chapter of my life can come to its conclusion, and I can carry on with the rest of my life!
Next, my tour to Sussex is just around the corner – the first concert, “Going Continental,” is taking place on the 16th July – check out the poster opposite!
I’m also happy to announce that I’ll be joining the chapel choirs of Worcester College, Oxford for one final time as a Choral Scholar, as they undertake a residence at Southwell Minster at the end of this month. I’m really looking forward to singing with them for this! There is also some great music on the cards!
In another turn of events, I'm starting to get involved in some opera consulting - workshopping libretti (in terms of text, music and choreography), teaching and coaching musicians and providing various musical services. My first foray into the field will be in Cardiff later this month, where I'll be working on a striking (yet dark) new opera based around the human trafficking trade, set in various cities and warzones all over the world. It will explore very strong issues, such as the idea of informed consent and the politics surrounding sexploitation. Codenamed "Natasha" at the moment, the work is building up to be something exciting, unconventional, and hard-hitting. Watch this space.
Here's the bitter part - sadly, my masterclass course in Hungary has been cancelled, about which I'm gutted. The best I can do is take it on the chin, and chalk up all the wasted money to experience. An expensive one, but that's life.
Onto something more general – I saw an acupuncturist for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and had another session this past weekend. Basically, the stress of the past few months (finals, splitting with my fiancée etc) had made its way into my singing, and I thought to myself that having some deep tissue massage and acupuncture might well help. So I went for the session, and I felt the difference in my back straight away. Thanks to a fortuitous bit of foresight, I had the chance to put the treatment to the test at work, as I was due to do some depping at Manchester Cathedral later that day (Byrd Responses, Wesley in E and Britten’s “Hymn to St.Peter” – great music!). Thanks to the release of tension, my voice was on stellar form, and I’m glad I’m going for another session today! On the back of this, I’m seriously considering getting myself to see a physiotherapist on a regular basis. What with my fibromyalgia, muscular tension in the back is something that needs to be kept on top of, especially given I intend to be singing for the rest of my life! I’ll post a bit more about this when I’ve had my next session and looked into a regular physiotherapist for me to visit in Truro.
I think that’s it from me for now – until next time…
It has been far too long since I updated this blog, so I thought I would bring it back to life! It won't be a daily, but updates will now be regular.
So, my degree has ended, and I made it through finals alive (just!). Unfortunately I was unwell throughout the exams, but that won't be taken into consideration as much as I think it should. As a result, my degree won't be a true reflection, but as I was reminded by a most wonderful invigilator, "no matter the result, you're great at what you do, and you should have no regrets. That you have made it this far given your situation is an impressive achievement in itself." With that in mind, I have no regrets!
In the past few months I've had a few nice achievements:
* I was elected as a Fellow to the Guild of Musicians and Singers;
* I was elected as a Fellow to the Irish Guild of Organists and Choristers;
* The National College of Music Society admitted me as a member.
However, before I move on to the future, there are some loose ends that need seeing to...
My last week or so in Oxford was an intense, crazy blur of music-making at the highest level, in the company of some of the best musicians I have met on my insane Oxford journey. I took part in a total of eight concerts - six solo engagements, and two choral.
For most of my solo concerts I had the pleasure of working with organist and conductor Nicholas Freestone (http://njfreestone.co.uk) as my accompanist. I am so grateful for the opportunity of working with him, and he is definitely someone to watch - an immensely talented musician, and I hope to work with him again in the future!
I also have to thank my other accompanists - Ed Whitehead (Senior Organ Scholar at Hertford College), who accompanied my recital of Vivaldi's 'Stabat Mater' on the beautiful harpsichord at St.Peter's College, and Twm Watkins (Senior Organ Scholar at Pembroke College, and the Musical Director of my ensemble 'Illumina') who accompanied the concert of Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater' given by myself and soprano Elizabeth Cobb. I had a lot of fun taking part in those concerts, and they reminded me why I love my job!
Perhaps the most special day was the day in which I had a recital and a choral concert. The recital was very special (again expertly accompanied by Mr Freestone), with a huge turnout (which included distinguished musician Jonathan Williams and world-renowned academic Dr Emily Kearns, who was once my tutor in Early Greek Hexameter literature - my favourite topic!), and an amazing venue and harpsichord. Given what has happened since, it would appear Nick and I have some groupies! Added to all of this was the landmark event that was my last engagement with the chapel Choir of Worcester College - evensong in Broughton followed by a concert of great music. It was a wonderful way to end my time at Worcester, and having one last chance to sing with my fellow chapel musicians was priceless.Their gift of a copy of 'The Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems' was massively touching, and I shall certainly treasure it!
And so my Oxford chapter comes to a close, a chapter that contains some of the best and worst episodes of my life, but nonetheless a chapter that will stay with me for the rest of my days. I met a veritable cascade of wonderful people, and I am so grateful to have had the experiences I had whilst there.
Now I'm at home and looking ahead to the future - what have I been up to and what is in store for me?
I've been taking the time out to rest and to get back into the swing of family life, something I have very much enjoyed, seeing as I feel I'm getting back into some kind of relaxed normality! I've also been doing some work, mainly reading, but I've also been doing some singing of the daily office with Manchester Cathedral Choir (at St.Anne's Church nearby as the Cathedral is having building work done!), and also did some singing in London, joining the choir of St.Peter's, Hammersmith for a celebratory ordination Communion service (after which I missed the last train home and ended up spending the night in London!).
In the future, there are plenty of exciting things coming up - I'll be doing some touring and teaching in Sussex, as well as evensong at Westminster Abbey with Voces Assumptionis and my graduation! I'm looking forward to getting my BA Hons (Oxon) and my hood (beautiful, isn't it?). Then after that I'll be an artist at the Historically Informed Summer School (hosted by the North East Early Music Forum), where I'll be doing plenty of singing and giving a lecture on the Castrati! Then I'll be flying to Hungary where I'll be taking part in a Masterclass for young professionals, as well as doing some great concert duets!
That reminds me of a very exciting new avenue - as part of my masterclass repertoire I'll be singing the beautiful "White Bee" by the wonderful composer Cecilia McDowall (http://www.ceciliamcdowall.co.uk). Cecilia got in touch with me personally and asked if I'd be interested - having looked at the music I jumped at the chance to do so, and I'm looking forward to singing it in a concert! There is also the possibility of collaborating with Cecilia in a series of songs for countertenor - watch this space, and I will update you all in due course!
I think that's it from me for now. Sorry for the really long post - my regular blog entries will be much shorter from now on, I promise!
So, a stomach bug has rendered me pretty much useless today, about which I am not happy...
However, I do have some good news in that the repertoire has been pretty much confirmed for my tour!
Featuring thirteen composers from Purcell to Poulenc, I'll be delivering concerts dedicated to the music of the castrati (including music written for Guadagni, Senesino, and the most famous castrato of them all, Farinelli) as well as concerts featuring favourites of the Baroque stage, some of the best Romantic parlour music, and pieces not usually performed by countertenors, including Schubert's notoriously difficult piece 'Erlkönig', Mahler's remarkably profound 'Kindertotenlieder', and Purcell's classic 'Thy hand, Belinda' and 'When I am laid in earth' (both written for the character Dido in his musical drama 'Dido and Aeneas' both of which were written for women).
There are a number of more obscure pieces being performed too, such as 'Vedrò con mio diletto' (from Vivaldi's 'Giustino'), 'Ombra fedele anch'io' (from Broschi's 'Idaspe') and Poulenc's idiosyncratic and massively underappreciated miniature song cycle 'Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d'Orphée'.
However, there will also be some famous and well known pieces familiar to many an ear; 'He was despised' (from Handel's 'Messiah') 'Von den Stricken meiner Sünden' (from J.S.Bach's 'St.John Passion') and Brahms' 'Wiegenlied' (also known as "Brahms' Lullaby").
So, this will not be a boring set of recitals - there is a lot of music in there suited to everyone's tastes. Be sure to come along! The details of venues and ticket prices will be coming over the next few weeks, so keep a watch out!
Very exciting news! I am going on a solo tour of Sussex County this summer, accompanied by Janine Willard - a valued colleague, graduate of Chichester University and all-round awesome person.
I'll be performing 7 straight days from 15th-21st July, singing 18 recitals in a variety of venues all around the county, even spilling over into London (more details to follow!).
I'm planning programmes filled with Purcell, Porpora, Fauré, Brahms and many more, so there is sure to be something in the concert series for everyone!
Keep your eyes out for more details - the plans are still in their infancy. I will release times, venues, programmes and ticket prices when they are set in stone.
Wherever you are in the South of England, it will be well worth coming to experience an exciting programme or two (or as many as you want!) of music.
Watch this space and make some space in your diaries - I look forward to seeing you there!
Freelance countertenor, recently graduated from the University of Oxford and a Choral Scholar at Truro Cathedral. Here, there are updates on various projects and my musings on music, philosophy, and on life in general, all laid bare for your perusal, reading pleasure and comment. Enjoy!