Uppermill, Music Festival
I was so glad to be able to return to the Uppermill Summer Music Festival in July 2018 – I had a great afternoon (giving a ‘masterclass’ (never like that title!)) meeting two young students Caroline and Mia students from Junior Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. (I attended Junior RNCM on Saturdays (2002-04) such a great place to learn so many aspects of music and prepare for big college!!) We (well I did, and really hoping they did!) had lots of fun studying a Mozart aria and a Mahler song together in detail and they presented them so beautifully. It was great to hear from the audience members afterwards that they had enjoyed the insight into how detailed our approach is to learning, presenting and interpreting the pieces. It is exciting discovering that the smallest changes and choices can make a biggest impacts on music making and create really exciting performances. The masterclass was followed by performances by two of the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary winners Camilla Saba Davies and Jacobo Ochoa who sang beautifully for us.
I returned the following week to Uppermill to perform with Festival Director/pianist Duncan Glenday in a recital dedicated to remembering the legendary contralto Kathleen Ferrier who passed away 65 years ago. It was a real treat to sing many of the pieces that Kathleen had performed in the past including; Handel’s ‘Art thou Troubled,’ Schubert’s ‘An die Musik’ and with big thanks to Duncan and Garfield Jackson (viola) for the chance to perform Brahms’ beautiful 2 songs with viola during the evening. We also included some songs which the audience had voted for to listen to within the programme (which kept me on my toes!!) Thanks to everyone that voted:) It was such an honour to bring back happy memories of Kathleen’s choices of repertoire. St Chad’s Church is such a lovely venue and we had a packed audience for the evening who even gave us a standing ovation at the end!
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Kathleen’s recording of ‘What is life’ was the first aria I ever listened to when I was about 15 years old– my wonderful singing teacher at school, Polly, first introduced me to opera and one day bought in an aria to school for me to have a look at ‘Che Faro Senza Euridice.’ I didn’t really know how I’d ever manage to sing an aria and the best starting point seemed to be to keep listening to it, lots! I really felt a connection to her singing and personality and playing through the record I found such a contrast of pieces – and began to grasp the joy of the ‘art of song’ and what it’s all about! Years later, during my second year at music college, I won a bursary from the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary Society competition and received the Joyce Budd prize – the greatest prize from that day was the friendships we made – I met and kept in touch with a wonderful lady Dorothy (her sister, Joyce Budd, was great friends with Winifred Ferrier) and also Kathleen’s goddaughter Kath and her husband Paul who are still such a support and great friends. I have always been really inspired having the close connection to Kathleen and an insight into her life – I always enjoy referring back to the books about her and the recordings she made. Her Letters and Diaries edited by Dr Christopher Fifield give a great insight into her life and also Winifred Ferrier’s book she achieved so much in a short time and she was so well loved. A few audience members at Uppermill remembered seeing her sing live and shared how wonderful she was – It must have been such an exciting time for music and she gave so much of herself to music and did it with such grace.. and humour! I would have so loved to have met her and been in the audience at her performances – the best I can do is to remember her though music and its the greatest honour to have been able to do that this week.
“The greatest thing in music in my life has been to know Kathleen Ferrier and Gustav Mahler – in that order.” That’s what the conductor Bruno Walter wrote after Ferrier’s death from breast cancer in 1953, at the age of just 41.
ELGAR, CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL
I feel really lucky to have performed Elgar’s wonderful ‘Dream of Gerontius’ in two magnicent historical chapels this year. Performing ‘Gerontius’ in Cambridge had been so memorable and I had to pinch myself again during the rehearsals in Canterbury Cathedral as I looked at the beautiful architecture all around me!
(The beautiful glass installation is by artists Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg and is called ‘Under an Equal Sky’ – It is mould blown glass and steel blown – one hundred clear glass amphorae suspended in the shape of a ship in the Cathedral‘s Nave – each one represents a year of remembrance since 1918 in the shape of a ’Boat of Remembrance.’)
I had last spent time in Canterbury during my first year as a professional singer in 2012 touring with an opera for Glyndebourne in their production of Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. I had been able to explore the beautiful town then and visted the Cathedral… I could never have dreamed I’d be singing Elgar’s Angel there! On 23rd June 2018 I performed with Andrew Staples (tenor) as Gerontius and Edward Grint (bass baritone) conducted by Richard Cook with the Philharmonic Orchestra and Canterbury Choral Society and Youth Choir.
Canterbury choral society as been led by their music director Richard Cooke since 1984 and the Canterbury Society Youth Choir was formed in 2007 and provides an amazing platform for young people – The Society performs four major concerts and hosts Family Carols at Christmas in Canterbury Cathedral every year. Canterbury Festival has invited Canterbury Choral Society to perform a major concert each year since the Festival’s launch in 1984. Find out more at their website
The Dream of Gerontius Op.38 was composed by Sir Edward Elgar in 1900 is a work for voices and orchestra in two parts. Elgar has gifted us the most magnificent and moving musical setting to the text of the poem by John Henry Newman – It’s a work that is literally ‘out of this world’ – and I love singing the part of the Angel!
A little bit of history about Canterbury Cathedral…
The Cathedral houses a Romanesque crypt dating back to the 11th century, a 12th century early Gothic Quire and a 14th century Perpendicular Nave. The beautiful medieval stained glass windows illustrate royal connections, bible stories and miracles and stories associated with Thomas Becket.
I stayed within the grounds of the Cathedral and it was such a stunning setting particularly as the cathedral is illuminated during the evening. It was great to be able to wander around the lovely gardens and cloisters when general visiting was over and everything was so peaceful.
St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to England in 597AD. He came from Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great. He established his seat within the Roman city walls (the word cathedral is derived from the the Latin word for a chair ‘cathedra’, which is itself taken from the Greek ‘kathedra’ meaning seat.) and built the first cathedral there, becoming the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
Canterbury’s role as one of the world’s most important pilgrimage centres in Europe is inextricably linked to the murder of its most famous Archbishop, Thomas Becket, in 1170. When, after a long lasting dispute, King Henry II is said to have exclaimed “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”, four knights set off for Canterbury and murdered Thomas in his own cathedral. A sword stroke was so violent that it sliced the crown off his skull and shattered the blade’s tip on the pavement. The murder took place in what is now known as The Martyrdom. When shortly afterwards, miracles were said to take place, Canterbury became one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage centres.
2020 marks an important dual anniversary for the extraordinary figure of Thomas Becket. It will be 850 years since his dramatic murder on 29th December 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral, and 800 years since his body was moved on 7 July 1220 from a tomb in the Cathedral’s Crypt into a glittering shrine. The events of 1220 were orchestrated to relaunch the cult of Becket, and ensured that Canterbury became the principal pilgrimage destination in England and one of the major pilgrimage sites within Europe.
Portaferry, Northern Ireland
had a wonderful time performing a recital of songs with brilliant James Baillieu in beautiful Portaferry Northern Ireland at the Portico of Ards.
The annual four day classical music festival called, Festiv’Ards ‘celebrates the best in classical music with first class artists of international repute.‘ The festival kicked off with Irish pianist Michael McHale, followed by violinist Patrick Rafter. The Gala concert on Saturday featured The Tallis Scholars. Sunday brought guitarist Thibauld Garcia and in the evening chamber music with the Ficino Ensemble. Bank holiday Monday started with an organ recital from Daniel Cook and the festival concludes with our song recital.
Young Irish architect John Millar designed the venue PORTICO in 1839. He had trained under Thomas Hopper an eminent London architect of the mid 19th Century. This church was built in 1841 by the Presbyterian congregation of Portaferry on land gifted to them by the local landlords, the Savage family. It is modelled on the Temple of Nemesis on the Greek Island of Rhamnous (although this has been contested) but Professor Margaret Myles of the University of California, and a world authority on that ruin, is convinced of its lineage.
The church building was little changed, apart from the installation of an organ in 1917, until it underwent a £1.5m restoration in 2015. This not only resulted in its structural “salvation” but also fitted it out with 21st Century facilities and equipment. Today the building is still used by the local Presbyterian congregation but it is now under the ownership of the charity friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church and is a nondenominational building used as an Arts and Heritage Centre centre for the region and a venue for weddings, conferences and events of all kinds.
KINGS COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE
On 30th March 2018 (Good Friday) I performed the role of the Angel in Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius‘ broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from the magnificent setting of the Kings Chapel at Kings College Cambridge. Performing the piece too were Brenden Gunnel (tenor) and David Stout (bass baritone). Christopher Robinson was the Conductor with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Philharmonic Chorus. It was such a thrill to sing Elgar’s beautiful music in such a stunning setting as the Chapel to a very receptive audience.
King’s College Chapel is a stunning masterpiece of English craftsmanship. It’s part of one of the oldest Cambridge colleges sharing a wonderful sense of history and tradition with the rest of the University. It was founded by Henry VI in 1441, and includes an elaborate fan-vault ceiling, magnificent stained-glass windows and Ruben’s masterpiece, The Adoration of the Magi.
We had a wonderful time staying within the College and it was very special to be able to being to wander around the beautiful grounds and admire the wonderful architecture. It was a real treat to have breakfast in the famous College Dining Hall (I felt like I was on a Harry Potter film set!) The Hall was designed by William Wilkins in the 1820s and it is considered to be one of the most magnificent and dramatic dining halls of its era. It was part of the Gothic-style development the College underwent during the reign of George IV (1820-1830). There was also a lovely reception after the Concert too in the cloisters which was a magnificent setting and it was great to have the opportunity to talk to some of the audience members afterwards who all seemed delighted and to have thoroughly enjoyed the concert.
We ended our week-end in Cambridge watching the funeral cortege of the world renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking – it was very special to be there at this time and great to be able to pay our respects to such an amazing man who inspaired so many people and was so well loved – especially at home in Cambridge.
Maida Vale, London
I recorded my final sessions at Maida Vale Studios for the BBC New Generation Artist Scheme (NGA) this week with pianist Christopher Glynn which included songs by Chausson, Mahler and Strauss for broadcast by BBC Radio 3 – it’s been a real honour and an amazing chapter in my musical life! It feels like a good time to reflect on what being a New Generation Artist has meant to me.
I became a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist back in 2015. There have been lots of new, enriching experiences for me in a short period of time – all opportunities, as a developing artist, that I’ll be forever grateful for! It’s been a chance to learn, explore, consolidate, create, discover, take some risks and leaps of faith (-eek!) and I’m still here to tell the tale (..that always seems like a good sign to me!:) )
The first time I sang as a NGA artist was at the Houses of Parliament with pianist Chris Glynn for BBC Radio 3 “Live in the House’’ (I spent the whole time pinching myself wondering how in a million years I’d ended up singing in there!) I sang “Una Voce Poco Fa” Rosina’s aria from Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’ as I was making my debut in this role at English National Opera at the same time.
It was great fun performing and being interviewed by Shaun Rafferty as always on Radio 3’s “In Tune” and there were lots of broadcasts of live concert performances too. Pianist James Baillieu and I performed song recitals together which included brand new commissions of compositions by Michael Nyman – “Two Sonnets for Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz” – broadcast live from Leeds College of Music as part of a song recital. Also, composer Roxanna Panufinik wrote “Love Sought” based on text from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night” – this was another new commission and we performed the world premier live on BBC Radio 3’s “In Tune” from Stratford Upon Avon as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Festival 2016. We recorded this with Anna Tilbrook (piano) & Rachel Roberts (Viola) and I worked with Roxanna in making a music video for this directed by animator & VJ Mischa Giancovich for the New Shakespeare Songbook – commissioned by BBC, ORF and the European Broadcasting Union. (Available to view here. )
This year James Baillieu and I opened the new concert series in the beautiful setting of Glynde Place where we were made so welcome – they hope to keep supporting future BBC New Generation Artists in their next concerts too. BBC Radio 3 also broadcast our live recital from the Norwich and Norfolk Festival. It was a brilliant experience to perform songs by some of my favourite English composers in the BBC Radio 3 live lunch-time series of concerts at Wigmore Hall too – I loved having the opportunity to sing Frank Bridge songs with viola with Gary Pomeroy there too.
I discovered composers that were new to me and it was great to have the chance to work in the recording studio on more songs that had not previously been recorded – there was a chance to do this with songs by Scottish composer Alexander Mackenzie for broadcast on The Composer of the Week series.
Most recently, I recorded Spanish songs by Manuel De Falla ‘Siete canciones populares españolas’ with the wonderful guitarist Thibaut Garcia who has just started on the NGA scheme.
I also had the honour of working with the brilliant BBC Orchestras throughout – a particular highlight was making my BBC Proms debut live on Radio 3 singing Rossini’s ‘Petite Mess Solemnis’ with the BBC Singers which was Conducted by David Hill. I was over the moon singing my first Elgar ‘Sea Pictures’ with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Ben Gernon at Elgar’s home town of Malvern. Earlier this year I sang beautiful Eric Coates songs and Ivor Novello songs live on BBC Radio 3 with the BBC Concert Orchestra and their Chief Conductor Bramwell Tovey. I am thrilled to have another Radio 3 live performance in December of ‘Chausson’s ‘Poeme de l’amour et de la mer’ with the BBC Scottish Orchestra and Conductor Ben Gernon.
Regular recording sessions of songs for NGA broadcasts were a real highlight for me. Studio 2 in Maida Vale became a music haven to me – I loved spending hours there recording some of my favourite pieces, working and creating with brilliant people. It is an amazing place with so many artists making and recording music from all genres in studios down the corridors, not to mention the pictures on the canteen wall of when the Beatles recorded there! I enjoyed every minute of soaking up the atmosphere of the whole place.
Recording with different artists and producers really inspired me to keep re-thinking how I approach my music making and even how I listen to music – new perspectives on preparing repertoire; from singing lessons, rehearsing and working in the studio to gearing up for the red recording light. Then listening to it all back and hearing subtle details that sometimes pass by in a flash when you’re ‘in the moment’ of performing – recording magnifies everything! I’m sure it’s the life work of any artist to keep striving for perfection and I often convince myself it will take longer than my lifetime for me to get some performances where I’d really like them to be – but hitting the record button right now on songs that are old friends, brand new music and during live performances has been a brilliant experience to learn, share and gain the perspective of fellow musicians, colleagues, tutors, friends, family and wider audiences – Thanks to them all! I’ve really appreciated the benefits of having the opportunity to collaborate in this way and the luxury of our precious time together with the music and ultimately the reward of simply being able to share it. Always with the hope that we have respected the composers and writers and given of ourselves to the music in the best faith to communicate its message. No matter what at the end of each session, like every performance, I know I gave every piece my whole heart and soul – a totally enriching and rewarding labour of love.
It’s been the greatest privilege to have the chance to meet new audiences at the concerts and reach so many people – and so exciting to have the responsibility of making music that travels across the airwaves. Thanks to all the external promoters and festivals that have supported us. I really want to thank everyone that has been a part of it – especially the wonderful musicians and creatives I’ve had chance to work with over the last few years and the whole BBC team that made it all possible. I’m in total awe and I absolutely loved it!
Also, to everyone who has listened and been in touch to say they’d heard songs along the way – it means the world! ..Here’s to the next chapter all together 🙂
IMG_9865_ynwa from Katie on Vimeo.
A little clip of the final take in my last recording session at Maida Vale as a BBC New Gen Artist. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – Carousel – Rodgers and Hammerstein with Christopher Glynn.
The BBC Artist page will have our future recordings and clips.