BBC Performing Arts Fund: Music Funding Launch

BBC Performing Arts Fund: Music Funding Launch

The BBC Performing Arts Fund  is a charity funded through revenue from the voting lines of BBC One entertainment programmes such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘Over the Rainbow’ and this year ‘The Voice’ will be raising money through their voting lines.  The fund has been running since 2003 and has already awarded over £3.8m worth of grants – seeking out and supporting aspiring performing arts individuals and community groups to enable them to achieve their greatest potential through the fund.

This week marks the start of  ‘The Voice’ live shows.  The artists compete against each other during several live shows on BBC One.  Ultimately just one competitor will be named “The Voice” – and will win a recording contract.  You can start voting for your favourite singer this week on ‘The Voice’ and from each vote, a minimum of 10p per call will go to the BBC Performing Arts Fund!

Kathryn and Reggie Yates, presenter of the The Voice UK, BBC One. Image courtesy of the BBC Performing Arts Fund.

On 19th March 2012 I performed at BBC Broadcasting House in a showcase event for the BBC Performing Arts Fund. It was a great evening celebrating the work of the fund and  showcasing the talent of past recipients.  The BBC PAF were also delighted to announce that this year they will be giving £450,000 towards the development of new music and new musicians through two new schemes:   Community Musicians and Music Fellowships.

There were also performances from Brukout, Cardboard Citz, and the Royal Academy of Music’s Musical Theatre Company. The showcase was presented by Reggie Yates – follow Reggie’s ‘The Voice’ Blog here.  It was a great experience performing as part of such a diverse programme and the cheers from the audience for all of the performances really conveyed the spirit and sense of celebration.

I was awarded a BBC Performing Arts Fund music education bursary in 2007 during my studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. I was delighted to be selected from hundreds of applications for an audition and I remember travelling to London for the audition which was headed by the Director of the Fund Miriam O’Keefe.

I’ll never forget receiving the phone call from Miriam to say that I had been successful in being awarded a bursary… I was just at the end of one of my singing lessons and  I was so excited to receive such amazing news!  At that time I was approaching the final year of my undergraduate studies and it gave me a renewed sense of direction to have the financial support from such a great organisation –  the timing was perfect to assist with the funding I needed for my postgraduate studies.

The Community Music scheme will support music groups from across the UK and launches in May. The Music fellowships scheme will open for applications in August 2012 – keep checking their website for details.

I will always be so grateful to the BBC PAF for their generosity and support during my studies to the present day. I have met some wonderful people who really care about the future of young performers.    It was so uplifting to be a part of the event which marks the launch of brand new music funding opportunities for the new upcoming musicians and music communities.

Go for it!

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Kathleen Ferrier Bridgewater Hall Centenary Recital

Kathleen Ferrier Bridgewater Hall Centenary Recital


This year the Kathleen Ferrier Society are celebrating the centenary of the life and work of Kathleen who was born at Higher Walton, near Blackburn,  on 22nd April 1912.    Kathleen became a singer of international renown but never lost contact with her roots in the North West of England which both shaped her personality and provided many formative musical experiences.

My first contact with the Kathleen Ferrier Society was as a second year postgraduate student in 2005 when I was selected to represent the RNCM at the Kathleen Ferrier Young Singer’s Bursary Competition.  It was my first experience of an external vocal  competition and  I can remember the apprehension I felt wondering what to expect from the day and how I would cope with a competitive public recital.      It was a very special day and I was so thrilled to be awarded the Joyce Budd Bursary Prize.    I have very happy memories of the competition day and the members of the Kathleen Ferrier Society (KFS) made me feel very welcome and were so supportive throughout the event.    I have been so honoured to be associated with the KFS – through the memory of Kathleen Ferrier they genuinely care and support young singers. There is a lovely pride and enthusiasm as they follow singers at the beginning of their singing careers.

Kathleen Ferrier is one of ten Britons of Distinction honoured by Royal Mail in the stamps issued on 23rd February 2012. The image is from the 1947 Glyndebourne production of Orfeo.

I was, therefore, delighted to be invited to perform at a recital at Bridgewater Hall as part of the KFS’ Centenary celebrations.

The ‘sell out’ concert took place in Bridgewater Hall’s Barbirolli Room. The day prior to the recital Dr. Christopher Fifield, Kathleen’s Biographer, and I were invited to BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour to talk to Jenni Murray about Kathleen’s life and career.  Here is a clip of the broadcast. A revised and enlarged edition of the ‘The Letters and Diaries of Kathleen Ferrier’ edited by Dr. Christopher Fifield has been published to mark Kathleen’s centenary year – it is a great read!

It was a great pleasure to perform with pianist James Baillieu for such an enthusiastic audience. The programme included some pieces from Kathleen’s repertoire  – ‘The Stuttering Lover’s’ is one of my favourite recordings by Kathleen.   Peter Davison, Artistic Director at Bridgewater chaired the event.  A special mention must go to Sylvia Alexander who works tirelessly as co-chairman of the Ferrier Society and to Kath Hopcroft , Kathleen’s God Daughter,  who has been such a wonderful support  and has attended many of my concerts and opera performances.

On being awarded the Joyce Budd prize in 2004 I was introduced to Joyce Budd’s sister Dorothy Ford, a very special and inspirational lady. Dorothy is sadly no longer with us, but to have met her and to have spoken with her regularly in the early stages of my singing was the most wonderful gift to have been given that day.

For more information about The Kathleen Ferrier Society’s and their wonderful programme of Centenary Events this year please visit

Special thanks to everyone involved in making the concert at Bridgewater Hall a great event!


Crosby Hall Educational Trust Recital

Crosby Hall Educational Trust Recital

Crosby Hall Educational Trust Sunday Recital Series

The Crosby Hall Educational Trust (CHET) was founded in 1988 to establish a residential educational centre through the conversion of the historic stables and farm buildings at Crosby Hall. After a period of fund-raising during which generous contributions were received from a wide variety of sources, the building work commenced at the end of 1989 and was finally completed in March 1991. The Centre was opened by HRH The Princess Margaret on 8th May 1991.   CHET runs residential courses that focus on the social and educational development of children that participate.  The courses take place at the Crosby Hall centre with its  beautiful surrounding countryside.Crosby Hall Educational Trust (CHET) is a charity which aims to provide bursary assistance to children who otherwise would not be able to afford such a valuable educational experience. The CHET Bursary Fund is sustained through a number of fundraising activities throughout the year – including the Annual Art Fair, Coffee Mornings, Carol Concert, Crosby Hall Garden.

It was lovely to perform  a recital with pianist Daniel Browell as part of the Sunday Concert Series on 18th March 2012.  It is a beautiful venue and there was a very friendly enthusiastic audience.

…and I think I have found a new friend! 🙂


Thanks to everyone who helped to organise the event!

For information on forthcoming CHET events click here.

‘Giulio Cesare’ on tour with Opera North

‘Giulio Cesare’ on tour with Opera North

Robin Hood in Nottingham!

Following the ‘Giulio Cesare’ performances that took place at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, it was a brand new experience for me to be part of a tour with Opera North.  It was the first time I had performed an opera in a variety of theatres and it was a fantastic experience.     What great theatres they were too!

Our first visit was to Nottingham and to the lovely setting of the Theatre Royal.  It was built in 1865 and is a luxurious theatre.   It initially provided opulent surroundings during the popularity of music hall and a variety of events, including light opera and touring opera.  In 1952 the theatre made history with the world premiere of  ‘The Mousetrap’ (as part of the pre-West End tour).  It is a Grade 1 listed building with an audience capacity 1294 on four levels.  It was lovely to see the historical buildings in Nottingham and I also grabbed the chance to meet Robin Hood while I wandered through the city!

The Lowry, Manchester

Our next ‘Giulio Cesare’ performance was in The Lowry Lyric Theatre in Salford Quays Manchester. Built in 2000, The Lowry is a spectacular waterside building housing three theatres, galleries and restaurants.   The art gallery holds a vast collection by the artist L S  Lowry.     It was wonderful to be back in Manchester where I spent my time studying at the Royal Northern College of Music. There was great support in the audience from friends and colleagues and it was a really memorable evening.

Theatre Royal, Newcastle

We then travelled up to Newcastle to the Grade 1 listed building; Theatre Royal. The theatre was celebrating its 175th year (opened in 1837). Following a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a fire destroyed the interior of the building in 1899 and its interior was redesigned. Celebratory events are taking place throughout the year to mark the theatre’s 175th Birthday.

The final venue for the tour was the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (formely known as the Grand Canal Theatre) in Dublin which opened in 2010. It was Opera North’s first visit to the theatre and my first trip to Dublin. The Theatre is a stunning new building and is the largest theatre in Ireland and it was officially opened with a performance of Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet with Stars from the Bolshoi.

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin

The Opera North team travelled to Dublin taking not only the Cesare production but also their successful production of Madame Butterfly.     What a warm welcome we all received!    I took part in several radio interviews prior to our arrival in Dublin to talk about ‘Giulio Cesare’ and I also had the pleasure of joining  Marty Whelen on his Lyric FM morning show.

It was also a great opportunity to soak up the atmosphere as the City prepared to celebrate St Patrick’s week-end and also to be able to visit some of the Dublin’s tourist attractions from the stunningly beautiful Book of Kells at Trinity College to the Guinness Storehouse experience!

Thanks to everyone who made the tour a wonderful experience and to the audiences who gave us such warm receptions.  It was a very special way to finish a very special tour!

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Handel’s Giulio Cesare at Opera North

Handel’s Giulio Cesare at Opera North

Giulio Cesare at Opera North © Tristram Kenton

I began rehearsals for Giulio Cesare at Opera North in November 2011, one week after the completion of English National Opera’s production of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’.   I had originally been engaged to cover the role of Sesto in the production and was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to perform in the principal role.  It was certainly a great transition from my role as Mozart’s cheeky Cherubino into Handel’s serious character of Sesto – a young boy to a young man.

The experienced cast, crew and team at Opera North were wonderful to work with.  Under the direction of Tim Albery and the musical guidance of Conductor Robert Howarth the production made great progress and I learned so much.  I loved exploring the musical style and the dramatic journey of Sesto through his will to avenge the perpetrators of his father’s murder .   The set and costume for the production were designed by Leslie Travers  and in the first week we gained a great insight into the production plans through a model showing and talk with Tim Albery.  It was really exciting to learn about the ideas for each character and to see Sesto’s military style costume for the first time.

There is a great blog by Technical Manager Peter Restall on the design of Giulio Cesare which gives a real insight into the set,

“The main set represents Egypt; it is a pyramid box that is annexed by tall Roman concrete walls. The Romans invented concrete and their civilisation was very structured, in contrast to the decadence and corruption of the Egyptians, inhabiting this gold inlaid pyramid. The pyramid was based on a jewel box seen at the British Museum, and interpreted here as one that is breaking down and rotting, reflecting elements of their society. The movement and rotation of the set by ‘slaves’ also allows for the opera to flow fluidly from one scene to the next: it opens up, reveals a warren of passageways and beautiful gold, mirrored walls and floors.”

We were able to utilise the set throughout rehearsals and get to grips with sliding doors and steps. We had a wonderful team of people moving the heavy structure of the set from one scene to the next which made for magical transitions. This was my first time working on a production that would be going on tour and it was really interesting to see how this would be taken into consideration throughout all of the staging.  It was a real pleasure to be a part of such a lovely cast and when I wasn’t needed on stage it was such a treat to watch the drama unfold and listen to the beautiful music.

Our sitzprobe rehearsals commenced in January and following this we continued rehearsals on The Grand Theatre stage – I had made sure that I didn’t overdo the Christmas festivities in order that I would still fit into Sesto’s uniform!   As soon as rehearsals began in costume it was great to see how the character would look and the wig was a wonderful addition to becoming Sesto!

We had  five wonderful evenings of Guilio Cesare in The Grand Theatre in Leeds before going on tour with the production.   The theatre was built in 1878 in a backlash to the music hall tradition. With 1,500+ seats over five levels, it is one of the most beautiful  theatres  in Britain.   It was such a pleasure to perform there to full houses and to very enthusiastic audiences  – I take away such fond memories from having made my debut with Opera North in the role of Sesto and a big thank you to everyone who made it such an amazing experience.

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