Friday, 30 March 2007

I have a date!

Well, one for Cardiff at least. My first round of the main prize will be on 10th June, and for the song prize on 12th June. The main prize will be on BBC4 so put it in your diary!

I had my first proper session with my new personal trainer yesterday and it was ace. Jerry is just the right mix of helping you feel good about yourself and at the same time making sure you feel bad enough about your fitness level. I did well on the cardio stuff but have the muscle strength of an orange. Seeing him again next week.

The brace has caused a few problems, particularly at night as I have to breathe slightly differently it seems. Had a better night last night so I must be getting used to it. Full steam ahead today with preparations for the run through tomorrow in Redditch. I'd best get cracking!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Isch greaff!!!

Yes, I have now got my brace (or brayssshhh as I am now limited to). I have to build up to wearing it all the time, apart from when I sing and eat, over 2 weeks. I had a rather disturbed sleep last night, so I'm hoping that will improve over time. The brace currently triggers my yawn reflex, so if I yawn when I see you I'm not bored, promise! I know I will have my moments of being fed up with it, but I just need to keep bearing in mind the good it will do my singing, let alone any cosmetic benefits.

Speaking of the cosmetics, I had a consultation with a personal trainer this morning (8am, that's dedication from a singular night owl) and I'm going to have my first proper session with him tomorrow. It's been quite a busy day today actually, particularly with having to transpose by hand the szymanowski (yes, that old chestnut) as the attempt at doing it by computer failed. I had a rehearsal with Phillip Thomas for my run through on Saturday earlier today and then went on to a Russian coaching with the wonderful Ludmilla Andrew who picked me up on the more lacklustre points of my pronounciation. After that it somehow took me 2 and a half hours to get from Teddington to Hampstead for the launch of this year's Hampstead and Highgate Festival, at which I am singing the Britten piece, Les Illuminations. I wish I could blame London Transport for the length of the journey, but I was so caught up with trying to transpose the szymanowski as I went that I managed to end up at Highgate instead of Hampstead and then took a wrong turn on the way to the venue. Those of you that know me know that I can't even blame my hair colour. It was, however, worth the trip and I met some great people.

I have another rehearsal with Phillip tomorrow and soooo much practise to do before saturday. So I'd better sign off because... even divas need their beauty sleep.

Monday, 26 March 2007

The big apple and more

I have a feeling this is going to be a rather long post as so much has happened over the last week! I am rather horridly jet lagged from my trip to New York (didn't get to sleep unitl 5.30 this morning), I think partly because I spent most of yesterday in a dark theatre - the young vic. It was the ENO Young Singers' Programme's Kurt Weill concert and it went really well. We had the good fortune of working with a lovely director - Mark Rosenblatt - who really trusted our instincts and created a brilliant show with next to no rehearsal. It's great to have a director who quietly encourages you to do your stuff, and politely tells you if your stuff is rubbish! The lighting guy, Phil, was also a genius. The show was 45 minutes long and had 55 lighting cues!!! The audience seemed to enjoy it and I had a ball singing the music. Jazz is very close to my heart and it was nice to use a bit of that for once. A triumph all round I think.

The New York trip was hugely rewarding. Working with Catherine Malfitano has been one of the best things I have ever done. She has massively helped me along the path from provincial-class to world-class and been so nice about it! I am also massively grateful for her and her husband Stephen for putting me up when my accomodation fell through. My lovely pianist friend Carol Wong also stepped in at the last moment and put me up when I first arrived. I feel lucky to know such wonderfully kind people. I had 6 hours of tuition with Catherine and we got through all the opera arias for Cardiff. I know the work we did will make a massive difference. I have recorded it all on my ipod so I now will go through it all again so I don't forget anything - the devil is in the detail, as they say.

Whilst I was in the big apple I also go to catch up with some friends from the Mork Morris Dance Group, who I worked with on King Arthur at ENO and the fabulous soprano Alyson Cambridge who was Euridice in the Boston revival of the ENO Orfeo. All in all it was just the tonic I needed. Being away allowed me to really focus on the music and reminded me that despite all the constant admin that comes my way, I am still a musician and that's what it's all about.

Plans for this week include starting with my personal trainer; getting my brace tomorrow; a massage to loosen those shoulders; hopefully finalising plans for the aldeburgh residency; more work with Phillip Thomas and a run through of the programme in Redditch on Saturday. I also need to get cracking on some music for concerts I have coming up: Elijah, St Matthew Passion, Bach cantatas, Britten's Les Illuminations, and various recitals. I think that's enough to keep me busy. Oh, and my flat needs some serious tidying. Because... even divas have to unpack their luggage when they're jet lagged. I'll post again tomorrow when I get my brace!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

New York, New York!

Just a quick post to say I am back from the big apple after a fantastic few days working with Catherine Malfitano. I'm struggling a bit with the jet lag and have a concert tomorrow of Kurt Weill at the Young Vic, so I need to get my rest. More anon though...

Thursday, 15 March 2007

New tactics

Well, I did go out, but only managed a walk as I felt exhausted today. I feel the weeks are slipping by and my fitness is not improving at the rate I want, so I have decided to bite the bullet and employ a personal trainer until Cardiff. I'll only get one shot at the competition, so I might as well throw everything I have at it. Yes, it will be fairly expensive, but I do need to be fit and healthy and I think in the short run it is worth being poor!

I have now organised a massage for monday to work on my shoulders and I will fly to New York on Tuesday to work with Catherine Malfitano. I am very excited, although a little concerned as snow is forecast, so I hope my flight won't be affected. A heavy few days lie ahead with a rehearsal for the Weill concert all day tomorrow, a meeting with my accountant and a concert the next day of some tricky music. Oh, and I really need to tidy up my flat on Sunday and at some point pack for the big apple. Yes, even divas have to do the washing...

Motivation, motivation, motivation

I have now completely fallen off the running wagon once more, but I WILL go for a run this morning and update the blog accordingly. I'm feeling slightly under pressure with the amount of things I have to do hence sacrificing the running to other things, but actually I know in my heart of hearts that even if I feel tired the running will actually help.

I have had a brilliant alexander lesson this week. I SO needed it. Most people seem to think alexander technique is all about posture, but it also helps with a wider philosophy about life and the world. It fascinating how narrow your focus becomes when things get even a little bit stressful. It's great to see the world again with all my senses after my lesson. Really feeling the world in the present is essential for giving a good performance too. One of the crazy things I did was wear some pinhole glasses (the lenses are black but dotted with pin holes). You get a wonderful soft focus on the world after wearing them for a bit. I still need to get my shoulders massaged to sort out the tension there, although the alexander has helped.

The same day as my alexander lesson I went out to Haslemere to see the specialist orthodontist doing my dental work for the moulds to be taken for my brace. Helen Jones has treated singers before with some great results so I am happy to put my trust in her. I will go back in a couple of weeks to get my brace. They have some amazing colour options, although I'm not sure I would have liked to have a blue brace, for example. I went for pale pink to blend in with my mouth, but with glitter for a small amount of glamour. You can't see the brace anyway so no one will know except me - a bit like wearing sexy underwear! I can take the brace out when I sing, so no worries in that department. I'm really excited!

Various concerts have been sneaking up on me this week. I have been learning the Weill songs for the young vic concert (rehearsal all day friday) and working out some ornamentation (extra notes added to the tune) for a Vivaldi motet - Nulla in mundo - that I am singing at the Petersfield festival on Saturday. The same piece has a really tricky fast section at the end and that requires hours of dull repetitive practise. My next Cardiff run through is in Redditch on 31st so I have been also trying to rehearse for that. I had a mammoth 4 hour practise session yesterday after an hour and a half coaching in the morning and I still didn't even get close to getting everything done. Having done such a lot of practise I am now behind on my admin so the pressure's on!

Right, well that's enough blogging as a displacement activity - I must go for a run and get cracking on my pile of work!

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Steel yourself...

I have just got back from the fab city of Sheffield after a stupidly long train journey (5 hours) and a lovely weekend. I stayed with wonderful friends of mine: Clare and Ella on Friday and Pete and Rachel on Saturday - thanks guys! I have promised Pete I will get one of his "phrases" into the blog somewhere. In the nicest possible way he is one of the rudest and amusing people I know, so I expect you will spot the Pete-ism instantly. The concert itself was in Doncaster and there was pretty much a full house. It all went very well and the audience were very warm. I expect they had heard worse sopranos. Once.

Needless to say, all this catching up with friends and travel has not been condusive to running (even though Clare is inspirationally running the Sheffield half marathon this year!). I am going to have to steel myself and get those muscles working! Cardiff work planned for this week includes the orthodontist (now slightly worried after horror story from Rachel), more coaching from the inspirational Phillip Thomas and a long overdue Alexander technique lesson. One of the things that came out of my body language coaching was that my shoulders are still too high, so I really need to get that dealt with. The Alexander technique will help, but I think I might need some major chiropractic manipulation. I'll investigate that this week. Not only do open shoulders look good but they also help with singing as a good technique relies on excellent posture and physical alignment.

Other work this week will be preparing for a concert at the Petersfield Festival on Saturday and rehearsals for a Kurt Weill concert happening at the Young Vic at the end of the month. Oh, and since I fly to New York the week after, I really ought to sort out somewhere to stay!

Friday, 9 March 2007

Gosh, things have been quite busy! Last night I saw a confidence and body language expert, Sam van Rood and I now feel ├╝ber confident. Long may it continue! Had a coaching with Phillip Thomas who is the main coach on the young singers programme at ENO on Wednesday and did some really good work on the Berlioz.

I'm off to Sheffield today for a concert in Doncaster tomorrow, so no rest for the wicked. I must be very naughty. Predictably I've slightly fallen of the running wagon, but I'm determined to get rollin' rollin' rollin' with that wagon again. Managed to slot in some more caochings for next week, so I'll keep you updated!

Right, I had best fly - I'm going to the dress rehearsal of the Tempest at covent garden this morning before I head off.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Well, it has been quite a busy few days, so I thought I would give you a little update.

The concert on friday went very well overall, with a few blemishes. The worst of these was me losing my way in the unaccompanied cadenza at the end of the Berlioz. I had been so worried about the rest of it I had failed to properly memorise the end! Note to self: when singing unaccompanied know the dots even if it is to ah! The audience were very receptive and seemed to enjoy all the pieces, including the more off the beaten track items by szymanowski and maconchy. So all round I think it's a thumbs up for the programme. I had a singing lesson today and my teacher seemed happy with it too, so no going back now!

Plans are now advanced for my trip to New York to work with the legendary soprano Catherine Malfitano, and the trip to Aldeburgh looks increasingly likely. I have now found a Polish singer to contact about perfecting my accent and will be seeing a German coach tomorrow. I have also now managed to set up an appointment with the orthodontist. This may seem completely irrelevant to my singing, but the shape and proper functioning of your jaw are crucial to a long and happy career as a singer. Mine needs a few tweeks ideally, so I am hoping to make some progress on that before the competition.

I was hoping to set up an alexander lesson later this week, but will, I think perhaps be thwarted by the long running saga of my new kitchen: 4 months on from when they started it is still not finished, and they want to come this week, which means staying at home whilst they work (things seem to go wrong if I go out). Yes, even divas have problems with workmen. If it doesn't get sorted out properly soon then I will name and shame the company!

Right, I had better do some practise!

Friday, 2 March 2007

Saints and a sinner

I am so glad that the world is populated with a few saints. Take a certain pianist, Mr Paul Plummer. He has managed to transpose at sight a very difficult piece of szymanowski AND not moan about it. This concert has rather sneaked up on me and I have been rather disorganised about it, I am ashamed to admit. Enter another saint, Birte Kelly who runs the concert series and seems to have an endless supply of patience too. I am lucky to work with such great people.

I'm off for another run now, and I will then sort out some coachings for next week: alexander technique, russian, confidence training (!) and maybe a massage from a friend who is training as a masseur as a bit of a treat. I'll keep you posted on progress. My first run through of cardiff programme is tonight so keeping my fingers and toes crossed....

Thursday, 1 March 2007

I'm flagging...

Urghh.. I'm flagging a bit today because of my quite busy schedule this week. Really struggled to wake up this morning so haven't been for a run but have decided to run and walk to Paul's for our rehearsal this afternoon. It will take about an hour, which is as long as it took me on public transport the other day anyway!

The audition yesterday went quite well I think, now I just have to wait. There's always things you think you could have done better in these situations, I just have to learn from each performance and improve each time. It's been quite some time since I had an Alexander technique lesson and I think that would really help my focus and concentration (and relax me a bit!) so I'm going to aim to put a lesson in next week.

I am quite worried about tomorrow and knowing all the words. I have most of the songs on my ipod so I will listen on the way to my rehearsal and have a bit of a practise before I go and hopefully that will be enough. I'm cooking for friends tonight so that will be a nice way to relax.

Right, Szymanowski beckons...