While clearing out my piano room ahead of a house move last year, I came upon a box of old concert programmes. Some were dog-eared and scuffed, or covered in scribbled notes from when I was a regular concert reviewer; others were pristine, as if unopened. One bore the signature in thick black felt-tipped pen of the tenor Ian Bostridge. I didn’t even have to open the programme to recall that concert – Bostridge singing Schubert’s heartbreaking song cycle Winterreise, accompanied by Mitsuko Uchida, in an emotionally profound performance which is memorable and moving to this day.

Printed programmes hold memories within them – of concerts, music, artists…. While the prime purpose of the programme is to give the audience details of the music being played, translations of song texts, and information about the performers, a programme is also a significant souvenir of an event.

My parents used to keep nearly all the programmes of concerts they attended and this represented quite a significant record of their regular concert and opera-going. They were kept in a special trunk in the box room and I used to love leafing through them. They had a distinct smell, like the musty reminiscence of a second-hand bookshop. Here amongst those age-speckled pages were the “greats” from an earlier era – Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pre, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zuckerman, Ida Haendel, John Ogdon, Gervase de Peyer, James Galway and many others, some of whom are fortunately still with us and still making music.

As a child I found the printed programme a curious, esoteric document, full of complex, often foreign words and concepts. I liked to have my own copy at a concert (along with an ice cream in the interval or a box of Maltesers) and I enjoyed looking at the pictures of the soloists or conductors, many of whom had artistically wild hair (conductor Louis Frémaux, for example, who worked with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s in the era before another, younger wild-haired man took over), but the programme notes were largely incomprehensible to me. When my musical studies were more advanced, I was better able to decipher programme notes: I understood terms like Ternary Form, Rondo or Coda, but still the notes seemed to inhabit a rarefied world of musicology which only a select few could enter. Fortunately today’s programme notes are generally more accessible and written to engage the reader/listener.

Modern technology has allowed for some innovations in concert programmes. Some organisations and venues offer the printed programme as a free download, in a reduced form, in advance of the concert, but a fistful of A4 sheets printed off at home does not have the same tactile quality of a shiny programme. And that is another pleasurable aspect of the printed programme – how it feels in the hands. Some, like the BBC Proms programmes appear satisfyingly weighty (until one discovers they are mostly stuffed with adverts!), others may be a slim piece of folded card, but no less an important document of the event. Many offer tantalising enticements to future concerts. Revisiting a programme from a long-past concert can elicit a Proustian rush of memory, of another time and place, and a record of music enjoyed and shared.

Lie down and Listen – A lying down classical music concert preceded by meditation and restorative yoga, transporting and enhancing participants’ wellbeing and creativity.

Friday 14 June 6.30pm

St Mark’s Church, Regents Park, London, NW1 7TN

Genesis Sixteen choral singers and pianist Christina McMaster

Meditative music by Pärt|Glass|Vasks|Monk|Harrison|Cage performed by choral singers Genesis Sixteen and pianist Christina McMaster in the stunning St Mark’s, Primrose Hill.

Meditation/ restorative yoga guide: Samuel Nwokeka

The ritual creates an intensely focused listening environment. The lying down element calms the central nervous system allowing the audience to absorb the good vibrations and healing benefits of classical music, promoting creative potential and mental wellbeing.

“Life enhancing and quite hypnotic. Trancelike!”

“Last night was sublime. I just didn’t want the experience to end. The whole thing was so uplifting.”

Founded by pianist Christina McMaster hailed as ‘One to watch’ by International Piano Magazine, she is regularly featured on BBC Radio, Classic FM, top venues and awarded Associate of the Royal Academy of Music for her contribution to the music industry.

6.30pm Doors open, welcome drinks/snacks served by Rude Health.

7.00pm Meditation, Mindful Movement and Lying Down concert

8.00pm Post concert hot chocolate and mingle

Friday 14 June 6.30pm

St Mark’s Church, Regents Park, London, NW1 7TN

Tickets: £35 (includes refreshments)

BOOK TICKETS

www.liedownandlisten.com

Read a review of the first Lie Down & Listen concert

Meet the Artist interview with Christina McMaster

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Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My chosen instrument is the voice, but I actually began my musical journey playing the flute. I was 14 years old when I was sitting in a corridor playing, then humming the passages back and fourth. The choir tutor heard me humming and asked me enthusiastically “why aren’t you in choir? you have a great voice!”. (At my school, you could only choose either band or choir because they clashed.) Soon after, the choir teacher created an after-school choir, and I joined. Inevitably, the choir fell apart but I continued to sing and she began to teach me privately. It was in our private lessons that she would teach me about Italian art song, folk song, lieder and eventually, opera. A few years later, I went to Cleveland Heights High School and received great guidance from my choral director. By the time I was 18, I was apart of every singing ensemble at the school, except Men’s Chorus! It was at this point that my choir director said “you were born for this” and I knew I had to become a professional singer.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

There have been many, many influences and wonderful people in my life who’ve helped to cultivate my musical career. Early on, my high school choral director Craig Macgaughy influenced me the most. He opened my eyes to all different types of music and always encouraged me to audition for solos, to stand tall and to be proud my performance. “You must bow!” he would yell from the wings, as I leaned forward, feeling like I was going to crumble – but I never did. He didn’t allow it. Later in life, I went to the Manhattan School of Music and began to study voice with Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, whom I still study with. This is where I truly began to find my voice and my confidence as an opera singer. It was here that I learned about the bel canto technique, specifics about how the voice and breath are always connected, and how to truly breathe life into whatever I’m singing. I learned how to be a professional opera singer and I recognized I am an artist in my own right, which redirected my approach to music in its entirety.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

One of the things I find challenging is the lack of time I have to spend time with family and friends. I think in any competitive career, striking a work-life balance can be difficult. With opera, the travelling makes dates and deadlines fairly inflexible. I’ve missed a couple of weddings and baby-showers because I have a rehearsal or a performance far away. As I get older and more experienced, I am finding ways to make time for both work and my personal life, but I believe that being an artist in the professional realm requires a lot of focus and dedication. This is a small sacrifice, as the pros heavily outweigh the cons in this business. As a result, my friends have started giving me dates more than a year in advance, to ensure my attendance!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I’ve had the privilege of performing at Buckingham Palace singing Strauss’ Morgen with orchestra for a gala sponsored by HRH Prince Charles of Wales and The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). That performance sticks out to me because I met a lot of wonderful people, including Shirley Bassey, who enjoyed my performance and later gave me a scholarship to help with tuition while at RWCMD. I’ve also had the pleasure of singing for HRH Prince Charles of Wales at private events, singing Strauss’ Four Last Songs in St. David’s Hall in Cardiff and singing Verdi’s 4 Sacred pieces under Sir Mark Elder with the Hallé Orchestra. Favourite opera to date: definitely Falstaff as Alice Ford under Maestro Carlo Rizzi at RWCMD. She is such a fun, witty character to play!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Generally, I enjoy to singing Opera and lieder from the romantic period. I find that the texture and colour of my voice fit the characters, and naturally pick up on the nuances of the repertoire. Composers like Puccini, Verdi, Strauss, and Donizetti really speak to me. All clearly different and distinct in their own right, but it’s something about the words. The way these composers set them to music, develop a story within a story, paint the music with the words and the vocal lines – it’s like magic to me. I recently did a performance of Strauss’ Opus. 27 and I believe this music is all encompassing. It shows, musicality, difficulty in keeping the legato line always shimmering, and all the while thoroughly expressing the meaning of the text. I get to take the audience on a journey, rather than give them a performance of songs. There are, however, many composers that I adore outside of this period, including Beethoven and my beloved Mozart, who wrote some of the most beautiful and timeless melodies I’ve ever encountered. I am also passionate about American Negro Spirituals and I enjoy singing works and arrangements by Moses Hogan, Margaret Bonds and most recently, Ricky Ian Gordan.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Each year, I have a point where I sit down and evaluate where I am in my career and my singing. I am very aware of my constant development and of what is required to sustain and longevity in my career. I work with my teacher and my coaches to create 3 categories: Repertoire that shows what I can do now, rep that I am working on/will do in the next few years, and rep for the further future. After I’ve got my three categories, I then decide whether to accept or decline offers based on the criteria above and I do not waiver. I feel strongly that once I’ve decided a role isn’t appropriate, it is not a good idea to go for it anyway. I believe you do yourself more harm by singing a role or piece of work prematurely, rather than waiting until the time is right. I understand that sometimes exceptions must be made, and that’s OK. However, there is a difference between doing something well and doing something so well that it exceeds expectation. “Can I do this?” “Can I do this well?” “Can I knock this out of the park?” The answers to all of these questions should always be “yes” before you take the work.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I’m not sure that I have a favourite venue to perform in because I get excited anywhere I get to sing. That being said, I love singing at St. Martin-in-the-Fields because the church is beautiful and the audience is very diverse, being right in central London. I also love singing in intimate recital venues, where I can see and interact with people in the audience. For opera, I love the big stages/opera houses like the London Coliseum at ENO and the beautiful grounds and theatre at Glyndebourne. Quite excited for The Met next season!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Whitney Houston, Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, Vladmir Horowitz, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Enya, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gellespie – to name a few.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I did performance a long while ago at Oberlin in Italy from a scene in I Capuleti e i Montecchi and I remember finishing the performance and one of my friends who played in the orchestra was sobbing uncontrollably. When I asked him what was wrong, he said it was “the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen”. He’d never really heard opera or been a fan of the type of singing we do, but he was forever changed after that seeing that one scene. From then onward I learned just how powerful music is and how important it is for the betterment of our society.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Performing all over the world, making connections with all walks of life, moving something within someone’s soul, empowering women and men alike, inspiring those who’ll follow in my footsteps, creating a life that is filled with love, laughter, good food and beautiful music – this is what success looks like to me.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I like to keep things simple. So:

Be prepared. Be on time. Be a good colleague. Love what you do. Even if you don’t actually love it, find something in it that excites you. Practice until you can’t get it wrong. Trust the process, but also know that it’s perfectly acceptable to go the road less travelled. Trust yourself and trust your instincts. No one knows you better than yourself. Every once in a while, Stop. Relax. Smell the flowers and experience all that life has to offer. Seems cliché but most musicians need to be reminded from time to time that we are human, and that’s OK.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In ten years time, I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now: Singing at amazing opera houses and venues all over the world! I also hope to expand my efforts to help introduce classical music to children and adolescents, particularly from rough backgrounds. I want to start a foundation that serves as a gateway to the art form, and provides lessons and coaching to kids, regardless of their parents’ financial ability. Second to singing, this is a passion of mine and I am quite excited to see this through over time.

What is your most treasured possession?

It’s not particularly treasured, but one thing I travel with is place mat that I bought from Paris when I was 20 years old. It was my first time going overseas and I’ve had it with me on every trip since. Also quite handy, since I usually have an herbal tea at my bedside. I’m never ruin the antique tables, dressers etc. that I come in contact with at some of my amazing house and hotel stays. Simple but it gives me a sense of comfort, which is nice when you’re away for months on end.

What is your present state of mind?

I have this feeling of eagerness, or readiness bubbling in me. I’m excited to get my hands dirty and to delve into new projects. I am ready to take my artistic skills to the next level and I wake up every day thinking of new ways to challenge myself. I carve through my rep, paying close attention to the small details. I feel a sense of jubilation, like every day is a new adventure. I feel grateful, humble and blessed to be able to do what I love for a living. I live in a state of blessed assuredness.


Praised for her attractive singing by the New York Times, American soprano is the newest sensation on the international opera scene. Engagements this season include her debut with Welsh National Opera as Anna Gomez in The Consul, and her upcoming debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Annie in Porgy and Bess. She returns to St. David’s Church for a performance of the Mozart Requiem with Cardiff Philharmonic Choir, under Maestro Alun Guy. This season also marks the premier of Chanae’s original composition “My Words in People’s Ears” commissioned by contemporary artist, Anna Falcini in her latest exhibition, In Between the Folds are Particles.

Read more

 

(Artist photo: Harlequin Agency)

246x0wTido Music, the innovative music learning app, has partnered with prestigious conservatoire the Royal College of Music (RCM), London. Committed to supporting music education, Tido will fund RCM student subscriptions to the app until 31st March 2020. Throughout the course of their subscriptions, students will use Tido Music to assist their studies and will be asked to give feedback on the app, contributing to its future development. The initiative will be extended to the RCM Junior Department next month.

Available as an iPad app or via desktop browser, Tido Music provides almost 10,000 piano and vocal scores from world-leading publishers, including Urtext editions from Bärenreiter and Edition Peters. Students will be able to find and access repertoire instantly and listen to professional audio recordings synced to the notation.

Piano accompaniment recordings are included with the vocal repertoire, enabling singers to practise with the piano part at any time, and innovative pitch-shift and speed-shift tools allow the accompaniments to be adjusted for individual needs. Additional audio tools such as looping will further enhance practice sessions. Tido’s proprietary technology means that the app can even listen to and follow pianists as they play, turning the pages of the score automatically.

Students will also discover rich educational materials such as video masterclasses from concert pianists and scholarly commentaries on the music. The practical and artistic insights offered in the masterclasses may help inform students’ understanding and interpretation of their repertoire.

Stephen Johns, Artistic Director of the Royal College of Music, said: ‘We are delighted to be collaborating with Tido Music, giving our students the chance to be at the cutting edge of music learning technology and benefit from the app’s many innovative features. Working with digital scores is a valuable experience in itself as the music sector becomes increasingly digitally focused. Through the Royal College of Music’s various digital development initiatives we are ensuring that our students are well equipped for 21st century music careers.’

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Brad Cohen, Founder of Tido, commented: ‘Using technology to enhance music education is at the heart of what we believe in at Tido. We’re thrilled to be partnering with such an illustrious institution as we continue to develop our product and further tailor it to the needs of music students. We look forward to working with RCM students directly throughout the course of their free subscription.’


Tido Music is a revolutionary digital subscription service for pianists and singers. Available as an iPad app or via desktop browser, the service provides sheet music, audio recordings, videos, interactive practice tools, written commentaries and images. For students, teachers, and amateur to professional performers, Tido Music offers unparalleled guidance and inspiration.

Tido was founded in 2013 when conductor and editor, Brad Cohen, collaborated with one of the world’s leading music publishers, Edition Peters. Kathryn Knight, former Publishing Director at Faber Music, joined the company as CEO in 2014. In 2015 Tido partnered with Faber Music to create the award-winning ‘Mastering the Piano with Lang Lang app’, and Tido’s flagship app Tido Music was released in late 2016.

Tido works with renowned publishers, artists, exam boards and institutions across the world including Bärenreiter, Edition Peters, Faber Music, Trinity College London and Wellington College International Shanghai.

Tido Music costs £4.99 per month after a 30-day free trial as standard.


Source: Tido Music press release

Guest post by Doug Hanvey

Unless they’ve been living in a cave for the past 30 years, most people have heard about mindfulness. I offer piano lessons in Portland, Oregon, and it’s difficult to go for long in my West Coast city without hearing about a new application or research study related to it. Mindfulness – bringing intentional awareness to one’s experience in the present moment – is said to reduce stress, improve one’s relationships, diminish chronic pain, improve productivity at work, and much more.

Gigantic corporations such as Google, hundreds of hospitals, schools and colleges, and even the military are all touting mindfulness. If mindfulness is good enough for Google, might it be useful in piano pedagogy? I believe the answer is yes.

In fact, I believe there are numerous potential applications of mindfulness in the piano studio that are only now beginning to be considered. Learning to play an instrument as multifaceted as the piano requires so many faculties (cognitive, emotional, kinesthetic) that cultivating a deeper awareness of our present moment experience is sure to help. Piano students (and teachers!) can easily become stressed. One of the primary functions of mindfulness (particularly in healthcare settings) is reducing stress. Piano students need to acquire a high degree of concentration. Mindfulness is most often taught with a focus on developing concentration. Pianists need to be able to feel their emotions deeply in order to express the emotional content of the music. Paying attention to one’s emotional experience is a vital element of mindfulness practice.

But mindfulness of the body, of one’s somatic experience and movements – which coincidentally is how mindfulness is usually first taught to beginners – is perhaps most relevant for most piano students. Mindfulness has immense efficacy in its capacity to enhance our awareness of our physical well-being and, not unrelated, our piano technique. In order to remain healthy by avoiding injuries due to faulty technique or overpracticing, awareness of the body and the impact of our practice habits is bound to be beneficial for most serious students. And since piano technique essentially boils down to how we situate ourselves and move the body to play, enhancing our awareness of the body (posture, position etc.) and how we move is sure to expedite improvements in our technique.

After all, the statistics are alarming. A large percentage of serious pianists, such as college music students or professional musicians, will be compromised physically at some point, most often due to a repetitive stress injury (RSI). Changing practice habits and routines, taking better care of one’s overall health, and even learning injury-prevention techniques such as the Taubman technique – which I have studied intensively – are all bound to be useful for the injured pianist, or the pianist who wishes to avoid injuries. Each of these strategies can be enhanced by practicing mindfulness. How?

One of the most common applications of mindfulness, as I explained above, is to reduce stress, and disorders and ailments aggravated or brought on by stress. Reducing one’s stress is likely to minimize the impact of playing, even with inferior technique – on one’s body.

In addition to stress reduction, mindfulness can help pianists become healthier and better players. Like athletes, musicians require some degree of body awareness simply to learn the instrument. Cultivating body awareness can help players become aware of habits of tension that may lead to injury down the road. Body awareness is also necessary for becoming a better player, i.e. for learning new techniques (ways of moving). Most musicians can be more “body aware” than they are. Mindfulness, in my experience, is one of the best ways to enhance body awareness and secure the benefits that brings.

How can piano teachers bring mindfulness into the studio? Just as piano teachers are expected to “practice what they preach” – i.e. play the piano well before teaching it – it’s also useful for teachers to practice mindfulness before teaching it to others.

Mindfulness is most often taught with an orientation on the body, in particularly towards the natural rhythm and “bare” physical sensations of breathing. “Bare” means awareness of one’s actual felt sensory experience. So a good way for music teachers to begin is by practicing “mindfulness of breathing” or “mindfulness of the body.” There are numerous free audio meditations online, and I offer a set of my own guided audio meditations for piano teachers and students on my blog.

After you’ve practiced mindfulness for awhile, and begin to understand how it works (or if you have already done that) you might be eager to try introducing mindfulness to a student to support their musical health, or when teaching technique. For example, say a student is struggling to learn a new way of moving, and they keep falling back into old habits. You might say:

Would you be willing to try a brief body awareness exercise that may help? OK…close your eyes for a moment, rest your hands on your lap, and tune into the rhythm of your breathing.” (Note: You, the teacher, might want to follow your own instructions by practicing mindfulness with your student as you lead them.)

(pause)

Be aware of the bare sensations of breathing wherever it’s easiest to feel them.

(pause)

Let your breathing do its own thing. Allow the breath to be as it is. You don’t need to change anything.”

(pause)

Now tune into your body. Feel your whole body, sitting here on the bench. Notice any tension or contraction in any part of the body. Let it be as it is.”

(pause)

“Now tune into your right forearm. What sensations do you notice? Be aware of any tension or contraction. If it relaxes or melts away, great. If it doesn’t, just let it be.”

(pause)

Now tune into your right hand. Notice what it feels like to have a hand. Notice the life in your hand. Notice energy flowing, tension, and any other sensations, pleasant or unpleasant.”

(repeat for left forearm and hand)

Now open your eyes and practice the technique we’re working on, with mindful awareness of your body and the movements you’re making.”

This brief exercise can help students to become more naturally aware of their body generally and playing “equipment” specifically (in particular the arms and hands). From this awareness, students may begin to notice that they are habitually moving in certain tense or less-than-efficient ways, which sets the stage for naturally dropping these habits and learning new ones.

Mindfulness offers much more, of course, but a gentle introduction with a specific orientation towards the piano is often the best way to start.


Doug Hanvey taught an undergraduate mindfulness class, The Art of Meditation, at Indiana University Bloomington from 2007-2014. He currently teaches piano in Portland, Oregon.