Sketched at the Knitting Concert

At a recent concert, Dennis Lane was sitting in the audience and sketched this lovely line drawing of me singing.   This was one of Robert Bridge’s splendid Knitting Concerts in Putney, at which the audience is encouraged to listen while doing another activity.  A great way to encourage people to support concerts on a Sunday night, when traditionally there are chores to be done. People have been seen reading, knitting, drawing, darning, ironing (allegedly) and organising their tax receipts during the performance – or they can even just sit and listen.

My thanks to the artist and the owner of the sketch for their permission to reproduce the image here.

Lakesongs by Phillip Cooke

I will be premiering Phillip Cooke’s Lakesongs on August 9th 2011 in a recital of music for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano at the Lake District Summer Music Festival. The three songs were commissioned by the LDSM and are settings of A Lake Memory by William Wilfred Campbell, The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats and By The Lake, by Dame Edith Sitwell. The songs are intense and lyrical, charting a descent into emotional austerity. The composer describes the viola’s role in the songs as that of a “commentator, a distant representation of the emotional content an dark melancholy of the lakes”. The songs are extremely atmospheric and effective, and I hope there’ll be opportunities to perform them again.

New songs by Hugh Wood

Following the great success of Beginnings, Hugh’s songs for me with string orchestra that were premiered at the 2010 Presteigne Festival, he has written a second group, this time with piano accompaniment.  The five Laurie Lee Songs were begun at a similar time to Beginnings, in the late 1950s, but remained incomplete until this year.  The poems that Hugh has set are Boy in Ice, The Edge of Day, The Easter Green, Town Owl and April Rise and the songs are full of rich lyricism and lush textures, as well as the drama inherent in Hugh’s intelligent wordsetting.

I hope to premiere the songs in a recital at the Royal Opera House later this year.  Watch the website for a date and booking details.

Click here to listen to excerpts from Beginnings

Brave Tin Soldiers – Sarah Nixey’s new album

Sarah’s second solo album came out in May and has been garnering great reviews.  She sang in Black Box Recorder, before going solo, and recently supported KT Tunstall in concert – the first performers to appear in concert at the newly-built RSC theatre in Stratford on Avon.  Download her album from iTunes here http://bit.ly/mbtxWU and receive the bonus track Silk Threads (Antonymes Lost Thread Impression), a reworking by the amazing Antonymes, plus the digital booklet.

Sarah and her band are performing at the AAA Kensington on July 8.  The other magnificent band members are Mark Lodge (keyboards and cello), Tim Weller (drums) and Kevin Cormack (guitars).

Click here to go to Sarah Nixey’s website

Cunning Little Vixen cast update

Rebecca Bottone will play the Vixen in Ryedale Festival Opera’s production, in which I play the Fox and the Dog, with Sam Evans as the Forester.  Other cast members include Michael Burke, Tom Herford, Eleanor Greenwood and Helen Bailey.  Joe Austin directs, Simon Kenny designs and Iain Farrington conducts.  Performance dates are 15 and 17 July – see the gig guide for more details and booking information.

As In Waking Dream – Monday 23 May, Opera North, Leeds

I’m delighted to be involved in this project, curated by Cheryl Frances-Hoad. Six new song cycles have been written by poets and composers from the Universities of Leeds and York and will be performed by a group of singers, actors and pianists, including me, Natalie Raybould, Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks and Ian Shaw.

As in waking dream is a thought provoking evening of new music and poetry written in response to Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben (A Womanʼs Life and Love).

New poetry by Adam Strickson, John Whale, Andrew Knight, Jo Brandon, Bethany Layne and Ian Fairley.

New music by Edward Caine, Marcello Messina, Nektarios Rodosthenous, William Finn, Jessica Ward and Dorone Paris.

The performance is in the Howard Assembly Rooms, Opera North, Leeds.

The Aspern Papers – Michael Hurd

I’ll be in Belfast this September to record the role of Miss Tina in Michael Hurd’s opera “The Aspern Papers” based on the novel by Henry James.  George Vass will conduct and the cast also includes Louise Winter and Pippa Goss.

Cunning Little Vixen – July 2011

I’m delighted that I’ll be reunited with my friend Joe Austin, to sing the Fox and the Dog in Janacek’s glorious opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, for the Ryedale Festival.  Joe directed me in Hary Janos for the Festival a couple of years ago and working with him again will be wonderful.  See the performance diary for more information about where and when.

Recital with Lindy Tennent-Brown – 20 March 2011

Somehow Lindy has found time in her crazy schedule to play a short fund-raising recital with me on the evening of Sunday 20 March as one of the “Knitting Concerts” held in All Saints’ Church, Putney Common.

This is a series held each year at All Saints’, at which the audience is encouraged to relax and enjoy the music while doing any other activity that might be compatible with listening. Some people read, some knit, some organise their receipts, children play or draw, and some people simply sit. It’s totally relaxed – the brilliant brainchild of Robert Bridge, a fine pianist himself – and a wonderful opportunity for artists to try out new repertoire in a supportive environment. Hopefully, encouraging the audience to multi-task also means that people are more disposed to come out and support the concerts on an evening that traditionallly is given to preparing for the next week.

We will be performing:

Schubert: An die Musik; Die Forelle
Faure: Aurore, Automne, En Sourdine, Prison, Fleur jetee
Poulenc: Banalites & Quatre Poemes de Guillaume Apollinaire
Quilter: Go, lovely rose, Now sleeps the crimson petal, Love’s Philosophy

Admission to the Knitting Concerts is free and there is a post-concert drink gratis, but there is a retiring collection, which is donated to a nominated charity. The proceeds from our concert will be going to the Wandsworth Refugee Network which is a very worthwhile support service for local refugee families.

The performance is from 7-8pm, at All Saints’ Church, Putney Common, London SW15, on the corner of Lower Common South and Putney Common.

Tokyo Part 3 – Who ate all the animals?

There’s almost no wildlife of any sort, except crows and cicadas.  An occasional cat in the street, some tiny dogs being walked by single men at 6am, the odd sparrow – but i haven’t seen a rat, a lizard or any of the other things one might expect.  Spotted an egret in the park, and some monster carp and terrapins, plus a pair of sea eagles over the bay, but startling lack of fauna.

Did they eat everything?  Clearly they did – i have been offered things that are so newly born that they probably didn’t have time to breathe.  Tokyo is very fond of eels and we have had elvers so tiny they are like baby bean sprouts – eating them just feels wrong, like eely child abuse.  Bags of teeny shrimplets that surely only just made it out of the egg before being scooped up.  All delicious but will there be any left soon?  Even the tuna look suspiciously on the small side, but that’s not stopping them.