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

4x3-2-55172

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.’

4deb3b6b4296309e7d5868d6da9fb5b3

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.

Guest article by Joanna Wyld

In anticipation of the premiere of our new opera, The Gardeners, on 18 June at Conway Hall, Robert Hugill has written about the genesis of the work

The story of how I came to write the libretto, and the significance of that experience, starts a little further back. When I was studying music at university, I loved writing about it, but I also loved writing it – under the guidance of Robert Saxton – to the extent that I went on to take a Masters in Composition, taught by George Benjamin, Rob Keeley and Jonathan Cole. But I also had to make a living, and composing is a notoriously precarious profession, so I channelled my creative instincts into writing about music. Soon, I felt pretty confident that I’m a better writer than composer, and have loved writing every programme note, every CD liner note, since. Yet alongside that experience there has always been the urge to produce something original for its own sake, so when a friend asked if I might be interested in writing a libretto for Robert Hugill, not only did I jump at the chance, I also felt rather stupid that the idea hadn’t occurred to me before. ‘Librettist’ seemed the perfect fusion of my interests, my loves – but was I up to it?

I met Robert Hugill at his house and he welcomed me with tea in his sunny kitchen. Absurdly, this is the only time we’ve met in person, but there’s a long history of composers and librettists working together remotely and through correspondence, so we’re in good company. Robert’s vision for The Gardeners was clear from the outset. He had read an article about a family of gardeners tending war graves and felt that this subject was ripe for operatic treatment, exploring issues of radicalisation as well as family dynamics. The Dead themselves were to feature, audible only to the Old Gardener – at first. The written style was to be pithy, using short phrases, and adapting lines from poetry by A.E. Housman and Rabindranath Tagore.

Before starting to write, I ordered myself a volume of Tagore’s texts and started to get to know them, as well as re-reading the article. I’d originally envisaged poring over other libretti – I’m a bit suspicious when I encounter writers who don’t also read extensively in order to learn from others – but Robert’s ideas were so clear that the first scene came naturally, and it felt right not to muddy the waters with too many other voices. I wanted Robert’s voice to come through, as well as my own and those of Housman and Tagore. That seemed enough.

However, I did have an idea of what I was aiming to avoid. Ronald Duncan’s libretto to Britten’s chamber opera, The Rape of Lucretia (in which I’d played the flute years before in a production directed by Ryan Wigglesworth), has come in for some criticism for its rather trite sewing up of a complex and sensitive subject. My aim was to dodge where possible the same pitfalls, by allowing tensions to surface and ambiguities to breathe without neatly resolving them. As a result, The Gardeners asks more questions than it answers, but with issues such as radicalisation this seems appropriate; this is a contemporary problem with no easy solution.

ENO+Advert+1000

 

For the choice of language, my experiences as a composer came into play. I love setting words to music (I still occasionally write songs for my band), and it helped me to remember that process whilst writing this libretto. Words which, when combined, sit well together and possess a musicality, a distinct rhythm, inevitably lend themselves to musical treatment. I also remembered reading letters between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath discussing the weight and density of words, and how the energy of two paired words needs to be complimentary rather than overly similar. Hughes wrote to Plath about her poem, Touch-and-Go: ‘… there is a traffic confusion I think in “Fierce flaming game of Quick child” – do you think “Quick flaring game Of child, leaf or cloud” because the “Fierce flaring” are two consecutive likenesses, and have been too often the double tap of the hammer… Well in verse the tendency is to follow an adjective that’s working with an idle timing one, so that adjectives tend to go in pairs. Well in “fierce flaring” an old couple has come up…’ Plath changed “fierce flaring” to “quick flaring” and the difference is palpable. I bore this in mind and tried to avoid ‘traffic confusion’ or ‘the double tap of the hammer’.

As for characterisation, I hoped to give a clear sense of each personality without resorting to types, allowing room for each of our artists to bring their own interpretation to their character. The Angry Young Man’s frustration can be damaging, but we also understand why he resents the invaders of his country, and he grows during the course of the opera. The Old Gardener casts a long shadow over his family, and the Gardener is caught between these two strong figures, trying to keep the peace. The Mother and Grandmother offer insight and wry observations in their attempts to mend relationships; both do their share of peace-making and eye-rolling, but neither is spared the sardonic wit of the other.

I sent each scene to Robert at regular intervals. He would tweak the text as needed, and in turn would send back his composition as it unfolded – and I would enjoy listening as The Gardeners grew. At each stage we discussed the direction of the plot, and although the whole process took some time – we’re both busy people with other commitments – it felt remarkably straightforward. I hope to have the chance to write more libretti in future, but in the meantime, I loved working with Robert Hugill, I’m really proud of The Gardeners, and I look forward to its premiere. See you there.

The Gardeners by Robert Hugill with libretto by Joanna Wyld receives its world premiere at Conway Hall, London, on Tuesday 18 June 2019, conducted by William Vann

Further information and tickets

© Joanna Wyld, April 2019


img_0904Joanna Wyld was born and educated in London before reading Music at New College, Oxford, where she was an Instrumental Scholar. She was listed as one of the Women of Distinction in 25 Years of Women at New College.

Joanna established Notes upon Notes in 2004 and has been writing liner notes, programme notes and other copy for a wide range of artists and record labels ever since. She also worked on Stop The Traffik for Steve Chalke and Cherie Blair, a book used as a resource by the UN.

Joanna won the 2014 OUP spoof Grove Dictionary article competition, as well as both second and third runner-up slots.

She curates playlists for classical streaming service IDAGIO, and recently appeared in a Southbank Centre video introducing a concert at the new Queen Elizabeth Hall. Joanna is Editor at Odradek Records, and has written her first libretto for an opera by Robert Hugill.

Notes upon Notes