Author Archives: Rebecca Knights


Open Space Residency, Abergavenny

Open Space artists Richard Scott and Alice Dixon spent a week down in Wales working with artist Edwin Burdis as part of their Open Space project. Here is their story, by Alice    :

We came a long way. Meeting Richard at Newport station seemed like a scene from some kind of heist film. Him with the glittering baggage of cello and mixing desk, me still exhaling the piped easyjet air and rushing from goodbyes.IMG_4036

Walking past the castle and through the rain Edwin explained the move from Dalston to Abergavenny. ‘We wanted it to be more about living and less about surviving’ he said, as he pointed out the Blorenge again. ‘We go up there once a week’. At Park Street dinner is waiting for us. There are other creative types here, reclusive, inhabiting the spaces.
The next morning we visit Edwin’s studio down the road. Full of sketches for healing machines and installations with sound. I ask him about Dieter Roth, and the relationship of the object to the sound it makes. ‘Sound Systems Are Sculpture’, he says ‘many very beautiful objects, I find’. He likes it when the sound makes parts of the object rattle. In his Scottish show he performs too, among his sound pieces and paintings.

Richard reads and sings his poems as we lay down loops and lengthy melodies – EIMG_4013dwin cutting and adjusting as we go. He works at a speed; a speed that we like. It pushes on through uncertainties as we gather more and more material. We listen to Hildegard von Bingen and Quintin Crisp. They echo in our work.

The next day we start away from logic with a visual score for ‘Boy’s Head’ with berries and fizzy hummingbird wings. The poem is full of nostalgia and punctuated with fear.

Now we are laying down a new track- ‘The Butcher’; ironically designed to compete in the X-Factor of the future. Surely we’ll win.IMG_3995IMG_4020


Kit Downes’ and Tom Challenger’s Suffolk Church Crawl – Part 2

Written by Kit Downes

As our journey across Suffolk continues – Tom and I are enjoying listening back to some of the recordings we have already made in Snape church and Bromeswell church. It is interesting listening back to two full days of recording, especially of music that is completely improvised, as you hear t16670533788_9c76238f71_mhe music developing the more we play. As we arrived in Snape on the first day, we started to experiment with the acoustics of the space – a slightly larger and more generous acoustic than some of the other churches we visited back on our ‘recce’ in December – we started using the more colourful aspects of the organ to find interesting resonances (i.e. the larger Reed pipes, especially the 16 foot reed pedal). Then the challenge became about how we blended the two instruments together. As the day continued, we started moving away from the brasher sounds and the longer drones, into more stop/start durational pieces. We started focusing on ways to phrase together – each with each other, or against each other. We started using a lot more space, and hearing a lot more silence/room sound – a sign that we managed to slow ourselves down the to the glacial place that we like to 16670600528_786df8725e_mimprovise to.
As our sound engineer, Alex Bonney, started to zone out (listening to a lot of very spacious and often quite abstract organ music does that to you!) we started making some really nice music. We were improvising with the knowledge that everything we are doing now will be edited, moved around, manipulated, at a later date – so we were really just focused on finding good timbres, ideas, textures – rather than worrying too much about form at16856954362_2d42d033ec_m this stage. This is another benefit of having Alex on board – we can spend a lot time away from the churches, editing and manipulating.
As we all sat in the pub at the end of the day (with Ashley who is helping film the whole residency for a documentary) we started talking about the music a little. Commenting on the relationship between organ and saxophone, I mentioned that I am beginning to think of Tom’s role as almost like a rouge rank of pipes on the organ. A manual that I am suddenly not in control of, and that can bend pitch and manipulate dynamics in a way that I can’t. Tom, I imagine, likes the idea of being a rouge.

The next day we started the entire process again, but with a new church (Bromeswell St. Edmund), new organ, fresh headspace, and w16650956947_c84063d8cf_mith the experience of yesterday very much in our minds. The organ (and church) today was a lot smaller, but in a way, even more unique. The organ doesn’t have a pedal board, as it is essentially a converted Harmonium. A lot of the old organs from Suffolk were removed during the Reformation, seen as overly grandiose and excessive. So we are left with a humbler instrument, much smaller in size, but nonetheless attempting to be as grand as it can be. There is something sweet about the idea that inside the organ, it’s real personality is just a small harmonium. With that in mind, I tried playing it as quietly as possible, finding all the nuance I could at low volume (the opposite of its normal rousing16650941097_1deb9d762c_m ‘join-in-with-the-hymn’ role). Tom and I experimented with some beating (finding pitches between pitches, and then playing them against each other to hear the different beats they give off of each other) and finding micro-tonalities, different textures and sounds. Today was even more slowly paced, as we had obviously relaxed into something. We started with less ideas, and built more patiently. Alex set up another microphone to record the outside noise (we left the front door of the church open, in order to hear the blackbirds), and the da16832411256_f4e3e4434b_my continued with us finding more and more eccentricities in the organ, then exaggerating them in our improvisations. As the day ended, we took a trip up the bell tower to look around the landscape. The almost perfectly flat landscape of Suffolk (very close to where I grew up) was a relaxing and familiar sight – and we drove back to London looking forward to May, and recording the 3 remaining churches left on the residency.

B5O2v15CMAAFVG5.jpg large

Kit Downes’ and Tom Challenger’s Suffolk Church Crawl

Written by Tom Challenger

Kit and I began to collaborate on what we now refer to as ‘Wedding Music’ in the summer of 2012. We embarked upon a recording residency in Huddersfield University; Performed 2 concerts in the Royal Festival Hall and also placed the music in a non-site-specific version that utilised Hammond organs, along with myself as per usual on saxophone.

The common thread throughout this year of collaborating and developing our music was that we were playing material from our first record, and very much looking to get that music to fit the surroundings we were immediately placed in.

The next phase of our collaboration (in conjunction with the Open Space scheme) is very different. We arrived in Aldeburgh in December with the idea of exploring some of the churches and organs of Suffolk as potential candidates for us to use for developing new pieces of music and performance concept. Therefore all the music developed here in Suffolk is completely site and organ specific, and with the idea that some of them would be used on the recording documenting our work.

I had no pre-conceptions as to how the spaces and organs would be. However, I was blown away by the variety that we encountered, and also by the willingness of local people, church-goers and organ enthusiasts to provide a social and historical context to the places we explored.

From the grandeur and warmth of the organ at St. Michael’s, Framlingham, to the sonic intricacies of the small single manual in St. Edmund, Bromeswell, we found every church we encountered did indeed hold something unique. However, our problem was to identify the churches that would be of benefit to the overall project later in 2015.

As already mentioned, Bromeswell houses a fantastic instrument, characterised by sonic oddities that wouldn’t be usually heard in a normal Sunday service. Our aim was to explore all of the hidden artefacts housed in the organ and church – here, we even found something in the bell tower…

On to St. John’s, Snape, an ancient church with a relatively new organ that boasts a real clarity over the whole range of the instrument; then to Shottisham St. Margaret – by far the coldest of all the churches in December! Mince pies somewhat lessened the effect of the cold, and the cassette recordings we made of the trip reveal a beautifully warm tutti on the organ there. We finished in All Saints, Darsham, where again we enjoyed the colour of the space and instrument.

The next day started in Framlingham, where the beauty of the fantastically preserved organ there really jumps out. Apparently famous composers have enjoyed playing on this organ (or so enthusiastically told by people decorating christmas trees on the day), however the compact sounding organ and splendid acoustic really gel these particular improvisers well! A short trip via Grundisburgh St. Mary led us to Holy Trinity Blythburgh, where the light set on two fantastic days of exploration. Blythburgh is beautiful, and its organ similarly so. However, the tuning issues that all instruments suffer from were quickly identified and utilised – this providing a fascinating backdrop to this writer’s improvisatioB5O2v15CMAAFVG5.jpg largens at the end of the day.

The cassette recordings revealed a strong initial leaning towards microtonal nuance and drones. The pace of the improvisations are generally glacial, sometimes punctuated by dense forays into more intense melodic interplay.

It was a great opportunity to sit down and draw up and develop some initial ideas together – oddly helped by the post autumnal Suffolk countryside! Driving around and discovering the local area, meeting the people and creating the building blocks of an exciting project will be part of a great overall experience I’m sure!

Here is a link to some cassette recordings made by us during our December visit:


Richard Scott on his first Open Space residency

15th December, 2014
Number 8 Wentworth Road has a blue door. Number 8 Wentworth Road is filled with books – first editions of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Louis MacNeice and William Carlos Williams. Number 8 Wentworth Road has a view of the beach from the kitchen window – a sliver of silver sky above shingle . . .photo-50
I have been staying at number 8 for three days now as part of my Open Spaces Residency at Aldeburgh Music and apart from an early morning walk along the sea each morning with a Thermos of tea, I have not left the house. Firstly it’s very cold and secondly I have tasked myself with the somewhat ambitious aim of investigating words and music. In advance of being joined by the composer Maxim Boon and the cellist Alice Dixon in January I wanted to research as many collaborative works that set poetry to music as possible, but this does not include songs. I am looking at all the instances of the spoken word set to music – but I should also be clear that my research doesn’t necessarily include spoken word as a genre. Together, with Maxim and Alice, I am going to be creating a piece which sets poetry to music, which we will perform together in Berlin and London but all my research has planted the seeds of another project which will run alongside this one; as well as creating a theatre piece I will also be using my research, notes and writings to compose a lecture for radio on the pairing of poetry and music. In seeking to find out what we might be able to add to the somewhat hidden and sometimes derided coupling of spoken or performed poetry and music I have uncovered a vast and fascinating history which sought to utilise the human voice in every possible way.
Handel’s legendary pieta aria, ‘He was despised’, was first performed by Susannah Cibber, the great tragic actress of the 18th century. Now perhaps Cibber was also a great contralto but I suspect she partially intoned or spoke the words rather than singing them and she did this to great effect for her performance was indeed the highlight of The Messiah’s premier. So why did Handel want these words almost-spoken, rather than sung – he certainly could have asked any number of virtuosic Italian singers. Well I think that he wanted the words to be the focus, rather than the vocal tone or technique of the singer. Handel was a devout man who must have wanted the audience to really hear and meditate upon the words, ‘He was despised and rejected of men’. I imagine that Handel wanted nothing to come between the audience and this biblical text detailed the earthly torture of Jesus; scripture, to him, was a kind of prayer.
But why set words to music anyway, are well written words not already musical enough? The poet Don Patterson wrote how it would be impossible to set his poetry to music ‘because it had already been set’. He is, of course, exaggerating but we do understand what he means – well written words have their own rhythm, pitch and even a near-melody, so what could a composer add?
At the very heart of setting words to music lies the need for the words to be remembered. Words are difficult to remember on their own, so adding a melody makes them instantly flow into one’s memory – just think of all the folk songs you half-know! The line, ‘the trees they grow so high and the leaves they do grow green’, is immediately rendered catchy and memorable when sung to it’s tune but without it, it would be hard to remember the exact phrase – despite the anonymous’ author’s attempts at assonance and alliteration. But what about those times the composer wanted text or a voice without a vocal melody? What purpose does this somewhat rare coupling serve? This is one of the questions I want to answer whilst at Aldeburgh and it can only be answered by cataloguing and experiencing the various collaborations and artworks that have sought to address the same issue.
‘Music always wins’, said Samuel Beckett whilst he was writing his radio play Words&Music but it doesn’t, not really. Music might be absorbed into the mind faster, music might cause a listener to emote quicker as there is no need for the brain to translate words into sense and then create a physical or glandular reaction; simply put music just prompts pure reaction but scientific studies have begun to show that poetry affects the same parts of the brain as music does. The pitch, the cadence, the rhythm of poetry can cause a listener to emote immediately too. Beckett was being modest – in Words&Music his words, which are not always narrative or easy, are certainly affecting.
Beckett has indeed been something of a jumping off point for me over the last few days, I have listened to Words&Music over and over trying to understand the interplay between Beckett’s words and Feldman’s music and I have begun to realise that at points Beckett abandons narrative sense to let musical form influence his words and word patterning. Joe and Bob speak and converse together in a fugue like fashion and really their monologues are, to my ears, just spoken arias. The way Beckett’s chosen actors also play with and pronounce his carefully chosen words even brings to mind musical settings – Joe and Bob both roll ‘sloth’ and ‘love’ around their mouth as if they were yawning or perhaps even singing.
But what was a source of conflict and competition to Beckett, his worry over music winning, was something of a mystic fusion to Rilke who saw all poets and singers as descended from Orpheus, who was himself the son of the muse Calliope – ‘Song is being. For the god, a simple matter. But when are we? Rilke’s answer to this mighty and disturbing question was simply, ‘Once and forever it’s orpheus, whenever there’s song’: Any creative person expressing themselves is the same, is a child of Orpheus and is thus descending from a muse. Words and music are both pure expression so they are perhaps the same or at the very least utterly intertwined.
Some composers, like Schoenberg and Goebbels, perhaps used narrators and the spoken word when the themes of the work were just too dark to allow a sung melody that might detract from or add too much of the inevitable musical pathos. Schoenberg’s Survivor in Warsaw sees a Jewish man left for dead in the street by the Nazis, and the effect is one of hard-hitting historical reportage, it sounds like fact whereas a song or melody in its place might have sounded like emotion or opinion. Goebbels uses Gertrude Stein’s poetry in Songs of Wars I have Seen to express complex thoughts of how growing up amid war and political revolution might impact one’s own character. Both pieces are hard to listen to as they seem to want to connect to the listener in a more visceral way then a song would imply. There is no ease here, no melody with which to help the text be swallowed with. And when Arvo Pärt set Robert Burns heartfelt and moving words, ‘My heart’s in the highlands’, a home-sick paean to Burn’s native Scotland, the singer barely moves across any intervals, the text is mostly set on one repeated note – despite there being no melody to speak of, his piece is so emotive and moving. Perhaps Pärt didn’t want any more emotion in the piece than necessary or perhaps he, like Handel, didn’t want the oscillations of vocal tone distracting from the important text. The methods and reasonings of composers when dealing with spoken texts are so varied and extraordinary that researching them is completely edifying and refreshing.
But I have uncovered comedy too, Woodie Guthrie, who pioneered his Talking Blues, wanted to bring light-hearted life stories to his listeners to distract them from depression, long working hours and poverty. His spoken pieces are full of witty lines like, ‘If you wanna get to heaven I can tell you what to do, you grease your feet with a mutton stew’. And Guthrie speaks his words with something approaching pitch and a very clear rhythm. And amidst all this I haven’t even spoken of Schoenberg and Berg’s invention and use of Sprechstimme, which certainly added gravitas to the cannon of spoken words and music. They were looking for something dramatic, dark and utterly new and they found it – their compositional technique of having a singer follow rhythm and rough pitches, but allowed the performer to slide up to and away from the desired note still sounds shocking and different. It confuses our ears, which associate it with a troubled state of mind or anguish, for that’s when our voices usually find a melody of their own. This sound world certainly suited Pierrot Lunaire and Wozzeck, but this new technique was not without it’s troubles – Boulez wrote, ‘ the question arises whether it is actually possible to speak according to a notation devised for singing. This was the real problem at the root of all the controversies’, for neither Berg or Schoenberg left crystal clear instructions on how their sprechstimme should actually sound, it is, as with most spoken word set to music, down to the performers nuanced and informed interpretation.
And further to Sprechstimme and Talking Blues, I have also been aurally wading through Baroque recitative, parlando, rap, African Griots, spoken word, Nina Simone, My Brightest Diamond, Christopher Logue, Tony Kinsey and Henry Purcell. There is no end of sounds that the human voice can make or indeed no end to the uses for those varied sounds, so why do we naturally think of music and words as song? There is no clear historical path, certainly Sappho sung her poetry accompanying herself on the lyre and this is thought to be the beginnings of lyric poetry, but why then is lyric poetry only spoken and recited now? And the earliest travelling storytellers and historians were thought to accompany themselves on drums or any type of percussion they could find as they meandered across continents, to add drama and pulse to their stories, but again history is rarely now sung or spoken over a beat. I have no answers yet but I don’t really want them right now, I have a whole year at Aldeburgh Music to uncover more truths, more collaborations and even make my own collaboration. I have always been obsessed with the interplay between words and music and these days at number 8 Wentworth Street, with it’s sliver of sea view and cabinet of first editions, have only increased my passion.
Richard Scott


Q&A with BPBO: Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea – Olivia Jarema

We are just over a week into our rehearsal period for our semi-staged performance of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea as part of the Snape Proms on Saturday, and things are definitely falling into place! We have been working with a fantastic team of tutors who have really pushed our singers and players to the best of their abilities: Richard Egarr (conductor), index 1  Michael Chance (vocal director), Daisy Evans (stage dirindex 2ector), Ziggy Jacobs (production designer), Rita Dams (vocal coach), Paula Chateauneuf and Pavlo Beznosiuk (ensemble coaches). The whole project is a really exciting experiment for us, combining singers and orchestra, open rehearsals and two concerts, and a whole host of musicians from all over the world. Here is your chance to get to know some of them before you see them on stage this weekend!

Alice Rose Privett – Nerone

Tell us a bit about the character you’re performing in the opera.
201431Jul_2379I’m playing Nerone. It’s my first time properly playing a trouser role and it’s really interesting. I’ve always wanted to do it but, because I’m a soprano, there aren’t really many opportunities to do that and it’s really fun! We’ve got costumes, even though it’s semi-staged, so that really helps. Daisy’s put me in quite a louche-masculine style so it’s not super-macho but it works with who I am and what I look like, as well as the character. Nerone is a fantastic part because there are so many layers to him, he’s so complex – you know, such a psychopath! But he’s also kind of a lost little boy really, who’s desperate to prove himself in his position and he’s already got this very bloody past – he’s got a pile of bodies including his own mother behind him. And really, a lot of the opera is about him coming of age and growing into the really, truly dark side of his character.

What are the first three things you’d do on a day in Aldeburgh?
The first thing I have been doing is swimming in the sea, which pretty much all of us have done, which has been really fun. There are a lot of nice things to do, maybe having a coffee on the high street. There’s a great bookshop which I still haven’t been to because it opens just too late for me to get there – I’m looking forward to going there!

What’s your most memorable moment on Aldeburgh beach?
Probably the other night… We went swimming when it was pitch black and I didn’t realise there were phosphorescent plankton in the sea! It’s really beautiful, so you move your hands and it’s kind of glowing in the water and the stars were absolutely incredible.

Which course that you have attended has been your favourite and why?
I’ve only been on two courses here, including this one. I loved the last one here which was with Dawn Upshaw; it was French-American song. It was wonderful, I met so many people, a lot of Americans came over for that so I made lots of American friends! But this has been kind of a step up – it’s so fun doing staged work and the team here is really enabling us to push ourselves and go really far with the project.

Fernando Aguado
– Harpsichord

What is your favourite moment in the opera?
My favourite moment is when Littore comes in and finds Drusilla – of course he thinks he’s looking for Drusilla, but he actually is looking for Ottone dressed up as Drusilla – and she’s just waiting happily in the garden, rejoicing that Ottone is going to be (finally) her lover. This Praetorian guard of Nerone comes in and basically tells her “Shut up, you’re dead!” It’s hilarious, gets me every time!

What’s your most memorable moment on Aldeburgh beach?
Well the first day I was here, I woke up at 4.30 in the morning and I couldn’t get to sleep so I decided to go to the beach. I saw the sunrise there and I walked on the beach to the sculpture there, the scallop, it was fantastic seeing the sun rise. The weather changes so quickly so that suddenly a fog came in and so it was sunny and then completely foggy again, and then sunny. It was really, really beautiful – a great way to start the course!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I started studying music in the UK. My mother was working here and I came here with her. I was a pianist. After, I moved back home to Spain, where I was born originally, and then got interested in the harpsichord, finished a degree in harpsichord and moved to New York to do a Masters at the Juilliard School. Now I’m continuing to studying in Amsterdam with Richard Egarr who’s fantastic, and I’m really hap201431Jul_2328py to be there.

Doug Dodson
– Ottone

Who’s your favourite composer and why?
My favourite composer is probably Handel, he’s the one I’m most familiar with. As a countertenor you have to do a lot of his music, or I should say you get to do a lot of his music! I’m really lucky because I do enjoy that repertoire, so I’m very lucky to be best suited to the music I enjoy singing the most. I think his music, more than the other opera composers of his time, had a much stronger sense of the drama, the flow of a piece… and that’s why his stuff is what we still do. There’s a lot of a forgotten composers from that period that we can’t be bothered with. I think that’s what he survived.

What did you want to be when you were younger and when did your aspirations change?
I originally wanted to do palaeontology. I was obsessed with dinosaurs. That eventually changed to archaeology, kind of an Indiana Jones kind of thing, I guess. I went to university for anthropology with the intention of becoming an archaeologist and then I found out that the actual act of doing archaeology is quite boring. I’d been doing music my whole life and I had told myself that it was something I didn’t really want to do as a career because I was afraid… Because it was something I really enjoyed, I was afraid it would ruin it for me – I was afraid that it would become ‘work’ and I didn’t want it to be drudgery, I always wanted it to be something I enjoyed. Then eventually I just realised that it was the only thing I was passionate enough about to want to pursue and devote my life to so I changed.

How did you first hear about BPP?
I first heard about the programme years ago – I didn’t necessarily know anything about it but I was aware of it. In the United States at least, for aspiring opera singers, young artist programs are a big big part of your career. It was always on my list of a programme that I was aware of and that I knew about. I did this programme because a friend of mine was auditioning and she said “Oh, they’re doing Poppea, they’ll probably need countertenors, you should apply too”, and I was like “Okay” and so I just kind of put something together at the last minute, and then I got accepted and she didn’t…! [laughs] So, thank you for that! So that was a little… sad for her, good for me… Oops.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in South Dakota in the United States in a very rural part of the country. There’s not a lot of classical music there but I was involved in choir and band in school and, like I said, when I went to college or university, I stayed involved in music and eventually when I decided I wanted to switch directions I already had a minor in music and so I just went on and got my Masters in Voice. People always ask me “when did you first become a countertenor?” or “when did you decide?”. I’d kind of been singing in that range my whole life and then I finally got this voice teacher who said “if you want to sing like that, that’s a real thing, there’s a name for it, there’s repertoire for it, you can do it!” And so I said “sure, let’s just…” It had always been the best part of my voice and so I went with it.

Mattia Corda
– Theorbo

What’s your favourite moment in the opera?
My favourite moment in the opera is when Ottone sings [sings] “in dolce fantasia” because it’s really groovy and the music represents the words beautifully.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
indexI’m from York area, born in Scarborough. I started playing the electric guitar and then I moved to classical guitar. Then I studied at the RNCM Classical Guitar and came across a wonderful instrument called the theorbo, which not many people have heard of, but when they have heard it and they have witnessed it, they will not likely forget it because it’s quite something to behold! So I started playing that, and then I started failing all of my things at college because I just started playing that all the time and didn’t really touch my guitar very often and then… here I am!

Who would you like to play you in a film about your life?
That is a great question… Jim Carey, because he’s absolutely bonkers and he just gets really involved in what he’s doing and I really like his sense of humour, so probably Jim Carey. And he has great hair, not that I am trying to have his hair, but it is cool.
If you were a musical instrument, which would you be and why?
It would have to be something with an unbelievable amount of bass, probably have to be a sousaphone or a double bass… or a tuba! Because they are just quite comical. But bass is what gets everyone going. In any concert, bass is always the best bit. Anything that’s got a big bottom is what I would be!

What are the first 3 things you’d do on a day in Aldeburgh?
Well, depending on the time of year, go and collect some plums, swim in the sea, and I think it’s too boring for me to say go and get fish and chips, so probably go on a walk and see all the beautiful houses and the beautiful landscape.

You can see Monteverdi’s Poppea on Saturday 9 August at 7.30pm in Snape Maltings Concert Hall. For tickets call our box office on 01728 687 110 or head to the Snape Proms section of the website.poppea-feature

Holzmair & Cooper and Wolf Lieder masterclasses

10401937_10152537145370590_4976689175730438976_nA fortnight ago we began a rather glorious week with 12 singers and 6 pianists who were here as part of our annual masterclass series – this time studying Wolf Lieder with Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper, who as a duo have performed and recorded this repertoire so often that they really are masters. Holzmair and Cooper were joined by Richard Stokes, a good friend of the Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme and Professor of Lieder at the Royal Academy of Music, who gave invaluable coaching on the meaning of the poems that Wolf had set his wonderful music to.

As with all our masterclass courses, the week consisted of10444677_10154403835440503_9024519013959978293_n private coachings each morning with our three tutors and public masterclasses in the afternoons. It is always so interesting for the public to be able to watch a singer progress from the beginning of the week to the end, and to see the culmination of all that work in the final recital. A bonus in the middle of the week was the opportunity to watch our esteemed teaching duo perform their penultimate concert together, which proved to be a very emotional moment.

An added element to the course was the completed songs that had been composed during our Aldeburgh English Song Course in March. Seven singers were selected, based on their voice types, to wo10547953_10152542847480590_8834489142177677186_ork on, record and perform these new songs, throwing many of them way out of their comfort zones. It was an interesting challenge for all involved, but the singers worked really hard to achieve what the composers intended, aided by the composers actually being in residence at the end of the week. Following a week in sunny Aldeburgh, the whole team went to Club Inégales in London Euston to showcase the new songs and perform some Wolf, joined by the talented poets and librettists from the Aldeburgh English Song course. The gig was an amazing mix of music and poetry in an intimate environment, and where everyone could celebrate the week and say their goodbyes over a beer.


Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme realises a young tenor’s dream

Today the Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme received some wonderful news, the kind of news that really makes our work here feel worthwhile. In April we invited a young Brazilian tenor, Wagner Moreira, to sing some of Berlioz Les Nuits D’été with the Britten–Pears Orchestra in our Easter Sunday concert. He then sang Basilio in scenes from The Marriage of Figaro with Ann Murray and Claudio Desderi.

Wagner was a new applicant to the Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme, and had never been to Europe prior to these courses. As such, we had little idea of what talent he had except through an audition video. And how overwhelmed we were! The great Ann Murray was so impressed by Wagner’s voice that she suggested he contact some of the London music colleges to see whether anyone could hear him during his short trip to the UK – and he was successful.

Wagner (top left) with other course participants and Ann Murray

Wagner (top left) with other course participants and Ann Murray

Wagner has just given us the wonderful news that the Royal Academy of Music have offered him a full scholarship to start a Masters in Vocal Studies this coming September. It is the best news that Wagner could have received as he will benefit so much from the teaching that the Academy will be able to offer, and we are sure he will have a very successful career!

In Wagner’s own words: “I just arrived in Brazil and I am writing only to say that I am so grateful for every moment and opportunity in this wonderful place. I learned a lot there and I am sure that this opportunity totally changed my artistic professional life. Thank you very much to the Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme for having allowed me to achieve this important thing in my life! I am so grateful!”

Wagner with the other Marriage of Figaro participants following their Final Recital

Wagner with the other Marriage of Figaro participants following their Final Recital