A Good Time Not A Long Time – SMP Ensemble

A Good Time Not A Long Time

New short piano and solo works by New Zealand composers


Sam Jury (piano)

The SMP Ensemble

Adam Concert Room,

New Zealand School of Music

Sunday June 27th 2010

The SMP Ensemble, a Wellington-based contemporary music performing group, has gradually become a welcome “presence” upon the local music-making scene. Formed by clarinettist Andrzej Nowicki, the group draws upon the skills of various freelance and New Zealand School of Music performers. Like its longer-established  “big brother” equivalent Stroma, it has a wondrous flexibility in terms of performance, both in playing existing music and in commissioning new works, being able to call upon the services of so many talented musicians. Although this recent concert “A Good Time Not a Long Time” was advertised as featuring mainly solo piano, there were other instrumentalists involved at various times, making for a few diverting surprises throughout the evening.

The bulk of the performance responsibility was borne by pianist Sam Jury, an extremely capable and talented player, who was able to encompass the diverse worlds of the compositions for solo keyboard with quiet, undemonstrative confidence, and (very importantly) what seemed like considerable enjoyment. His programme included a number of established contemporary piano classics by Douglas Lilburn, Anthony Ritchie, Gillian Whitehead and John Psathas, a recently-composed work by Pieta Hextall, and some highly diverting miniatures by various composers, written as submissions for a concert performed at the 2010 ISCM World New Music Day Festival in Sydney.  So, the solo piano component of the concert alone was diverting enough, but the occasional alternatives served to refresh eyes and ears – french horn, strings and contrabassoon all played their part in this process of bringing to audience ears new and thought-provoking sounds.

The concert actually began with a work for French horn, Deux Grand Fanfares by Karlo Margetic, a composer whose work I find constantly stimulating and often surprising, not least of all for his droll sense of humour which occasionally makes a telling appearance. After Alex Morton had gurgled, breathed and grunted his way through an opening fanfare notable for its player’s physical gesturings and the sense of antiphonal spaces created by the contrasting timbres and “exit-points” of the sounds, the composer appeared with a bucket, presumably suggesting either that the musician either was or would shortly be in need of a receptacle of some kind! The second fanfare was delivered with the mouthpiece removed from the instrument, creating what might be thought of in some quarters as an uncanny visual reminiscence of the cartoonist Hoffnung’s depiction of an oboe player. The “plumbing” sounds took us past such visual and aural conventions into a different cosmos of chain reaction involving impulse, player, instrument and listener, a cobweb-cleaning process for our receptivities if ever there was one.

Sam Jury’s first appearance was to give us some Lilburn, beginning with the Four Preludes from the years 1942-4, ritualistic pieces with characteristic rhythms drawn from melodic impulses. A lovely Grieg-like descending sequence marked the first piece, while the second was a sombre and subtly-inflected processional. The third Prelude alternated repeated-note patterns with deep, rich shifting chords, while the fourth was more energetic, a Toccata-like energy driving the music through darkly rich realms, with a lovely, treble-voiced throwaway ending. Two Christmas Pieces for L.B. from 1949 followed, the first singing a gentle, wistful song, and the other depicting distant carollers and resounding bells floating in an ambience of nostalgic harmony. These pieces were dedicated to the composer’s friend, the artist Leo Bensemann, and reflect a shared perception of ritual and natural order in the world. The last piece, Rondino, has the composer’s characteristic repeating note-patterned melodies, the obsessive treble set against a shifting bass to winsome effect.

A number of shortish pieces followed, written by various composers for the 2010 ISCM “Momentary Pleasures” concert in Sydney, works that had to be written in one day. Justus Rozemond’s Humoresque had a quirky, accelerando character, using a triplet rhythm to generate momentum, before contrasting the mood with a nocturnal-like melody, and returning to a skittery scherzando before finishing with a fortissimo chord. Carol Shortis called her piece Momentary Pleasures, creating wistful spaces between treble and bass at the start, the sounds agglomerating into a sphere of rolling triplets, before the energies dissipated once again, a final whimsical phrase suggesting a poem’s words “a caress of momentary pleasures”. Anton Killin’s After Clive Bell evoked a great stillness, into which was hewn a great resounding forte, the music moving and tolling like an earth-clock – very evocative! By contrast, Andrzej Nowicki’s Resonate seemed to reverse the previous piece’s process, massive chords resonating, whispering fragments of melody building up to monumental blocks of sound, saturating the ambiences and gradually dying away, the music for me strangely evocative of dreams. The final ISCM piece was Drying Music by Robbie Ellis, a piece that achieved the distinction of being selected for the actual concert in Sydney – a brief and instantly memorable evocation of a laundrette dryer, a bass ostinato driving a motif that petered out along with the money.

Gillian Whitehead’s Lullaby for Matthew, dating from 1981, and dedicated to the composer’s nephew, worked its well-known enchantments, from the opening’s dynamic contrasts through the lull of the ever-diminishing repetitions, and to the point of sleep. Something completely different was provided by composer Tabea Squire, a work for violin and viola called Reto Doble, a Spanish expression meaning “double challenge”, the piece played by the composer on violin and Greg, her father, on the viola, the work suggesting an interaction not unlike that of bull and bullfighter. The two instruments began by musing on a single note, violin holding the note and viola decorating around and about it, before generating rhythmic repetitions with a Spanish flavour, the players taking turns with the melodic and accompaniment roles of the music’s advancement. What developed was a musical dance of confrontation between combatants, the intensities screwed up ever-tightly to the point where the “coup de grace” was held and savoured, and then delivered. Most enjoyable and compelling!

More “Momentary Pleasures” followed the interval (wonderful refreshments! – prospective SMP concert-goers, please note!), pianist Sam Jury returning to do each composer’s brief but telling conception proud with sensitive, well-focused responses. I loved Pepe Becker’s Snoozing, the sounds having all the colour, ambience and feeling of my own doze-dreams, with the awakening depicted as a couple of involuntary, regretful murmurings. Ben Hoadley’s Ben and T at the Puriri Trees together with Shirin’s Music began as another meditative, Debussy-like soundscape, with sensibilities shaken and stirred by violent irruptions and exotic-sounding declamations, the music crowding around and about the centre with clusters of melismatic figuration. I wasn’t too sure regarding the division-point between the two named sections, but I guessed that Shirin’s Music was more ritualistic and processional, the music’s progress decorated by exotic-sounding ornament and irrupted by flashes of temperament and agitation. Cascades of figurations allowed these energies to run their course, the music returning to the opening processional aspect, the ending wide-eyed and widely-spaced.

Alex Taylor’s somewhat elliptically-titled work alt. generated, like Ben Hoadley’s piece, a world of wonderment at the outset, gathering increasing weight as the widely-spaced arpeggiations vied increasingly with what its composer called “glacial phrases”, the effect dramatic and visceral, and in almost complete contrast with Yvette Audain’s Upon attending a performance of “The Wizard Of Oz” , which readily brought to mind a child’s wonderment at the magic of a theatrical experience, the music infused with treblish brighness and enthusiasm. To achieve true closure of the ISCM bracket of piano pieces, Hayley Roud brought out her wondrously large contra-bassoon to play a piece by Tristan Carter entitled Lilith. Such demonic associations were suggested more by default than by the serpentine sounds conjured from what seemed like a sleeping being, a monster slowly aroused from slumber, the player viscerally choreographing the soundscape with breathiness and impulsive vocalised exhalations, the instrument’s voice abstracted through gesture as it were.

Three piano pieces remained, one a new work by Pieta Hextall, and two other, more established pieces by Anthony Ritchie and John Psathas. Pieta Hextell’s 2010 piano piece Planet Vandal was described by its composer as “a musical impression of a confrontation between whalers and activists on the Pacific Ocean”. The writing has both pictorial and narrative elements, the opening redolent of the vast spaces of a seascape, with tones clustering and reforming, and fragments of a song sounding. As the music’s manner becomes more dynamic, first figurations and then chordal passages begin to generate agitations, leading to syncopations, hammerings and downward cascades of notes, a mood which runs its course and returns the music to the mood of the opening, the song taking the character of a lament, as the sounds gradually disappear. This was the work’s second performance in public, and one hopes it will be heard again before too long (via William Green in Auckland, perhaps?) – in Sam Jury’s capable hands I found it a moving listening experience.

Anthony Ritchie’s attractive Birds and a Steam Train in the Caitlins was written for Ann Saslav for performance in schools, but surely deserves wider currency, perhaps as New Zealand’s answer to Heitor Villa Lobos’s world-famous steam-train evocation. The composer gets it right throughout, taking the listener to the heart of the native bush via rich and verdant harmonies and insistent birdsong, before stimulating gentle locomotions, generating less steam and smoke than atmosphere and nostalgia. Of course, John Psathas’s well-known work Waiting for the Aeroplane is a quintessential nostalgia-trip, having what pianist Dan Poynton once described vividly as a “goosebump-sick” quality, the drifting resonances generating powerful equivocations of presence and distance which never fail to touch deep places within. Sam Jury kept the ambiences together, moving the arpeggiated melismas along, and knitting more closely the agitations of the central section with the overall rhythmic pulsings of the piece, rather than going for maximum contrast – more Stravinsky-like than Schumannesque in his approach. His playing of the piece made an appropriately resonant conclusion to the evening’s music, a sense of something ongoing, despite the immediate sounds dying away…

Twentieth-Century fare from the Wellington Chamber Orchestra

Wellington Chamber Orchestra

Shostakovich: Symphony no.9 in E flat, Op.70 / Poulenc: 8 Chansons Gaillardes on anonymous 17th century texts

Beethoven: Overture ‘Egmont’, Op.84 / de Falla: El amor brujo

Linden Loader (mezzo soprano) and Roger Wilson (baritone)

Justin Pearce (conductor)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A well-filled church enjoyed an adventurous programme from this amateur orchestra.  It would be unusual for an amateur orchestra to play an almost entirely twentieth century programme.

The Shostakovich was a difficult and challenging work with which to open the concert.  It is not one of his longest compositions, and makes good use of the orchestra – there is plenty of exciting playing for the winds to do, and the description in the programme note ‘A short witty work full of light and bite’ is apt.  There are hints of Prokofiev-like wit here and there.

The orchestra mostly made a good sound, but uniformity of rhythm and even intonation were uneven at times.  Precise rhythm is especially required for pizzicato playing.  Perhaps this work was a mite too difficult for the orchestra. However, after a slightly shaky start, the players settled.

The second movement, Moderato, featured dramatic and forceful playing from the woodwind band.  Most noticeable throughout, but especially in her extended solo, was the excellent bassoon playing of Kylie Nesbit.  She had lots to do, and always her playing was sonorous and beautiful.  In fact, her playing was a recommendation for the value of this instrument.

While the programme notes were very good, they were somewhat doctrinaire, and some phrases did not make comprehensible English, while some of  the statements did not really apply in 1943-1945, when the symphony was written.  It was good to hear this work played.

Poulenc’s songs to words of both dubious provenance and dubious morals were sung well by Roger Wilson, who was in fine voice and produced the words with clarity.  However, the orchestra did not always display good ensemble, and Justin Pearce, resplendent in red shirt and a silver-backed waistcoat kept everything going.  But frequently the winds were too loud for the voice, the vocal lines in some of the songs (e.g. ‘Chanson à boire’) being in the lower register of the singer’s voice.

The conductor cannot always go by the composer’s markings; balance depends on the size of the auditorium, its acoustic qualities, the size of the orchestra and as well, the size of the audience.  Therefore to achieve it, sometimes the orchestra needs to play more quietly than the composer directs, especially when he calls for full orchestra, or considerable use of brass.

The balance was better in the fourth song, ‘Invocation aux parques’.  It was a succinct song of typical French brevity.  In the following song, ‘Couplets bachiques’, there were again threats of swallowing up the singer.  Poulenc’s typical wit and insouciance were evident.  Next was ‘Loffrande’.  This setting was without brass, so it was possible to hear the words.  It featured another humorous, piquant ending.

‘La belle jeunesse’ achieved a better balance, mainly because most of the phrases were in the higher register.  Here, there was some great brass playing.

The final song, ‘Sérénade’ was the most lyrical of the songs, in a traditional sense.  It was enchanting.  Robyn Jaquiery provided a vital part of the texture, with her inconspicuous piano.

The brass problem affected the Beethoven overture also, at least where I was sitting, in the gallery.  With four horns and two trumpets, the brass accompanying notes were too loud to enable the melodies in the strings and woodwind to be heard clearly.   When the brass was not playing, the balance was good.  It was a stirring performance (apart from a few renegade notes) of the finest of Beethoven’s overtures.

El amor brujo must be one of the favourite works of Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.   Soloist Linden Loader looked the part of a Carmen-like gypsy for this gypsy music, in a red dress and black shawl, matching the red hangings in the church and Justin Pearce’s red shirt.

In the first movement the orchestra generally, and especially the brass, were too loud for the singer, but the second and third movements’ muted string tone with piano was most attractive.  Here, the trumpets too were muted, and made a wonderful sound, particularly in the trumpet solo.  The oboe solo was also excellent.

Unfortunately the programme notes titled only the movements with voice, and not the orchestral ones in between.  The second song, ‘Will-o’-the-wisp’ had better balance, but I felt  that Linden Loader was not singing as well as usual.

In the dreamy movement that followed the strings evoked the mood superbly.  The final song ‘Dance of the game of love’ featured more tone from the soloist, and the lilting and mellow quality we know and love in her singing.  The joyful and cheerful ending of this song brought the concert to a fine close.

Grant Tilly at the Southcoast Gallery, Cuba St.


by Peter Coates

June 25th 2010

Cuba Street in Wellington is developing its own special character when it comes to galleries.Amongst my favourites are Cameron Drawbridge’s South Coast Gallery the Fibre Art “Minerva” Gallery and the” Thistle” with its enterprising youthful exhibitions. All are worth visiting, all bring something special to the Wellington Art Scene. Is Cuba Street doing what our Wellington Gallery should be doing ?

Although very small,  the Southcoast Gallery hosts a delightful exhibtion by the Wellington icon Grant Tilly. I have known Grant for ages – since our times at Wellington Teachers College, and illustrating children’s stories for David Crewes’  “Merry-Go-Round” children’s television programme. Later he played the good soldier Schweyk in my first stage production and fronted and voiced many of my television programmes. Grant is always a delight to work with  and his wonderful sculptural pieces (I will avoid boxes) are a permanent reminder  of  his art and friendship in my home.

Grant’s greatest gifts to his Wellington home have been the seemingly endless brilliant displays of character acting with the professional theatres of Wellington, and his legacy of beautiful drawing of the older parts of Wellington, a legacy that constantly reminds us of what we have lost and warns us of what we must not lose in the future. One of the strong features of his current exhibition are two dimensional  street scenes that take you on walks around some of our lovely old streets. Included in this exhibition also are abstract paintings developed from segments of these unusually perspectived works.

Just to keep us up with his recent artistic developments there are examples of his colourful parrot series and the circus exhibition he had at Pataka. The ingenius is evident in everything he does, and Grant like every good artist moves steadily into new challenges.

Keep it up Grant. Everyone who calls himself/herself a Wellingtonian should have one of his works in their home.

Witchcraft, Romance and Nostalgia from the NZSO

DVORAK – The Noonday Witch Op.108

TCHAIKOVSKY – Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor Op.23

PROKOFIEV – Symphony No.7 in C-sharp Minor Op.131

Freddy Kempf (piano)

Alexander Lazarev (conductor)

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Friday 25th June 2010

Each of conductor Alexander Lazarev’s two recent concerts with the NZSO has featured repertoire which, although not obscure, doesn’t often appear in our orchestral programmes. Both Glazunov’s ballet The Seasons and Dvorak’s spooky tone-poem The Noon-Day Witch are in what I would call the “somewhat neglected” category of orchestral works – I was therefore interested to read NZSO CEO Peter Walls’ description in the programme’s welcoming foreword of the Dvorak tone-poem as “ever-popular”. I would have thought that, for most people, it simply wouldn’t rate in the popularity stakes next to works like the Carnival Overture and the Scherzo Capriccioso. And as for calling the concert series “Russian” – well, I feel the good Antonin would have had something to say about that, Slav or no Slav.

Nonetheless, the second of the “Russian Romantics” presentations by the NZSO was as resounding a success as the first (Glinka, Rachmaninov, Glazunov) with all credit due to the musicians involved. I compared the NZSO’s performance of the Dvorak piece with a recording I own featuring the redoubtable Czech Philharmonic under the directorship of the worthy but relatively lack-lustre maestro Vaclav Neumann. Even allowing for the extra frisson generated by a live performance, conductor Alexander Lazarev and the NZSO’s players brought to the music whole oceans more colour, atmosphere and energy, so that the macabre story of the disobedient child whose life is taken by the pitiless witch at the unthinking invitation of the child’s mother really came to life. Every phrase counted as part of either atmosphere or narrative, the story’s unfolding episodes so very vividly characterised – the opening’s rustic folk-dance, the oboe’s depiction of the disobedient child, and the mother’s anger and frustration leading to her unwitting invocation of the witch were all brought unerringly into focus in varying ways. What incredibly sinister pianissimi Lazarev conjured out of his string players, for example (the conductor involuntarily shooting an accusing glance out into the auditorium at a hapless cougher, at one point), by way of depicting the arrival of the witch and the fear and horror of the mother at her impulsive threat’s nightmarish realisation. Then, how baleful the brass, how wonderfully angular the string-playing, and how brutal and whip-lash the final orchestral payoff!  Despite such full-blooded advocacy, I still didn’t feel as though the work hung terribly well together – it somehow lacked the surety and focus of some of the composer’s other shorter orchestral pieces, such as the two mentioned earlier.

Concertgoers who had heard pianist Freddy Kempf’s poetic Rachmaninov Third a fortnight ago in Wellington would have revelled in the chance to hear him tackle another of the most famous concert war-horses of all time, the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto. I may sound perverse, but after having remarked in a review of the previous concert that the pianist seemed never to completely COMMAND the Rachmaninov Concerto despite the moments of great poetry and depth of feeling, I thought on this later occasion that it was the orchestra which in places wasn’t quite (literally) up to speed in relation to the playing of its star soloist. Conductor Lazarev adopted an expansive approach to the famous opening tune, one which I thought didn’t quite “knit” with the more forthright playing of the pianist. Kempf in fact seemed determined to prove that he could make the most of the biggest virtuoso moments, though to be fair, his playing of the more lyrical and limpid passages as well never missed the chance to generate washes of poetic feeling. But two of the most exciting pieces of interplay between orchestra and soloist in the first movement didn’t quite come off for me because of the conductor’s reluctance to match the pianist’s terrific head of steam, resulting each time in a kind of sudden upward gear-change as the music spurted forward in the soloist’s hands – I was surprised, considering what I’d witnessed of Lazarev’s energy and volatility on the podium and the exciting results he got from his players elsewhere.

What did emerge (as it did during the Rachmaninov concerto performance a fortnight previously) was the music’s narrative aspect – one felt that a story was being told, both by the orchestra (a gritty, dogged build-up to a flailing piano entry reminiscent of similar orchestral textures in the same composer’s Fourth Symphony) and the pianist (a lovely dialogue between the hands, the same phrase tossed back and forward with different emphases and textural qualities, before dialoguing (so operatic at this point) similarly with the orchestra. The cadenza was played with a volatile mixture of poetry and bravura, even if the pianist seemed to momentarily tire towards the movement’s end. Somebody’s rogue hearing-aid interrupted the beginning of the slow movement, which, when conductor and pianist agreed that they would press on anyway, featured the most delicately-voiced string-playing I’ve heard for a long time, allowing Kirstin Eade’s flute to shine through untramelled. Freddy Kempf’s elfin playing suited the central section’s scamperings to perfection, though in the finale (played “attacca”) I felt he could have “roughed up” the music’s textures a bit more, in keeping with the roisterous energies of the orchestral tutti. Still, his scherzando-like playing wove wonderful arabesques of energy, and he certainly unleashed a jaw-dropping torrent of octaves by way of announcing the final “all-together” statement of the finale’s big tune – thunderbolts and whirlwinds indeed! – earning him a momentous ovation at the end. Some people I spoke to thought the encore (Vladimir Horowitz’s amazing transcription of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever March) inappropriate after the concerto, but I didn’t think so – I loved its outrageous excess, and thought Kempf’s performance was positively Horowitz-like in its power and brilliance (I’m SURE I counted only two hands at that keyboard!).

Before the second half began, an endearingly human touch to the proceedings came with Associate Concertmaster Donald Armstrong’s warmly-expressed farewell to one of the orchestra’s longest-serving violinists, Jane Freed, playing in her last concert. Then it was the Prokofiev Symphony’s turn (the composer’s seventh and last) beginning with an unusually forthright piano note, its resonances colouring the string-playing that followed with whole skyfuls of nostalgic feeling, floating like terraced banks of clouds. Alexander Lazarev was in his element with this work, encouraging great surges of string-sound within expansive orchestral paragraphings, but then keeping the percussion-led “other voices” dance-like reply strictly in tempo, ensuring a seamless flow of engagement from all concerned. He brought out the accompanying piano figurations to the big tune’s reprise at the movement’s end in a way that opened our vistas even further and dug more deeply into the terrain’s soil. In the second movement, begun gracefully, but then gathering momentum and pointed articulation, Lazarev galvanised his forces during the motoric percussive episode, cranking up the tempo most excitingly, then slowing again for the strings’ return. Throughout, the players’ instrumental detailing was a delight – I couldn’t see the trumpeter from where I was sitting, but his (her?) waltz-tune was played with just the right amount of delicious vulgarity, for example.

Conductor and players caught the crepuscular, lump-in-throat expanses of the third movement’s opening with great sensitivity – those tunes sung over the music’s dark abysses (Robert Orr’s oboe-playing a constant delight) engendered such a flavour, a bitter-sweet sense of remembrance and loss and resignation throughout. Of course, Lazarev is an “attacca” musician with a vengeance, and the symphony’s finale was no exception, its first note here searing through the ambiences of the previous music’s dying fall and creating a great stirring of blood and breath, ready for the propulsive urgencies that followed. The orchestra equally delighted in the fairy-tale gallop episodes and the gawky gavotte sequences, nicely playing up the music’s contrasts and angularities, the brass players covering themselves with glory along the way, especially during the lead-up to the reintroduction of the first movement’s “big tune”. Lazarev seemed occasionally to want to bring the audience in as an optional chorus during this section, turning his body towards the auditorium with some of his sweeping arm-gesturings, as though the entire space within the MFC had been given over to conductable music-making. I had thought that we were going to get both endings of the symphony, as written by the composer (the authorities objected to Prokofiev’s original elegiac ending to the work, requesting that he write an alternative coda with a happy, boisterous ending!) – but instead of setting this “clip-on” piece in motion at the end, the conductor brought the symphony to its conclusion with a single pizzicato chord as per the original. And that, as they say in the classics, was that! Rapturous responses from all sides at the end, with appreciative plaudits for Alexander Lazarev and more salutes to Jane Freed, bringing a memorable concert to a satisfying conclusion.

Violin Dances – Kurt Nikkanen and Rosemary Barnes at Expressions


STRAVINSKY- Suite Italienne  /  TCHAIKOVSKY – 2 Pieces from Swan Lake

KHACHATURIAN – 3 Pieces from Gayaneh  /  GLAZUNOV – 2 Pieces from Raymonda

SARASATE – Carmen Fantasy Op.25

Kurt Nikkanen (violin)

Rosemary Barnes (piano)

Genesis Energy Theatre

Classical Expressions, Upper Hutt

Tuesday 22nd June 2010

“Violin Dances” the concert was called, and “violin dances” was certainly the case throughout the evening –  and in the manner of true dancing, the violin was partnered by piano-playing whose music-making trod just as sprightly and gracefully a measure. Violinist Kurt Nikkanen and pianist Rosemary Barnes enlivened everything they played, bringing together melody, colour and rhythm in a winning amalgam of various dance music drawn from several well-known ballets. Their command of these basic elements was so assured, and their playing so vivid that we in the audience never once wished for the weight and colour of an orchestra, and were left fully satisfied with the music-making’s flavour and energy.

Beginning the recital with Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne was a particularly engaging piece of programming. This was a work that began as Pulcinella, a ballet score for a commedia dell’arte scenario proposed by the impresario Diaghilev, and based on music attributed to the 18th-century composer Giovanni Pergolesi. Stravinsky rearranged (and recomposed) the music for orchestra and solo voices for the original ballet, then dispensed with the voices for an instruments-only suite, before transcribing the music further for violin (or ‘cello) and piano. The original Pulcinella was one of the earliest examples of neo-classicism, and has retained its popularity in all forms to this day. Kurt Nikkanen and Rosemary Barnes danced into the world of the work with a flourish, varying the opening theme’s cheerful insouciance with lovely sotto voce episodes, bringing out the Russian melancholy of the Serenade, and tearing into the Tarantella with skin and hair flying, finishing with a nice touch of throw-away po-faced wit.

There was both elegance and theatricality on show during the Gavotte and Variations sequences and throughout the Menuet’s ever-growing pomposity, followed by a sudden dash into the helter-skelter finale. Nikkanen and Barnes demonstrated plenty of virtuosity and great teamwork, here, exchanging and countering irruptions of energy and exhilaration right to the end. Before beginning the next item, Nikkanen talked with his audience regarding his own early love of music that had plenty of rhythmic vitality – Stravinsky and Bartok, for example. Ironically, the first exerpt from Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake that followed demonstrated more the composer’s infinite capacity for melody than for rhythmic excitement. Still, the beautiful playing of both the violinist and pianist in the famous Act Two “Pas de Deux” was utterly captivating, with the piano taking the original ‘cello part, and duetting with the violin, to indescribably expressive effect. The Russian Dance, from Act Three of the ballet, brought out that indigenous folk-quality which Tchaikovsky exploited so fruitfully in his music, the performers responding to the deep melancholy of the opening before springing into the whirl of the concluding dance with great energy and physicality.

Kurt Nikkanen talked about being inspired as a young man by hearing the Russian violinist Leonid Kogan play music by Khachaturian on the radio, in particular a dance  from the ballet Gayaneh. We got a gritty, no-holds-barred rendering of Aysche’s Dance, Nikkanen and Barnes giving the effect of digging into something directly and deeply, playing with an intensity that also informed the Nocturne and the succeeding Sabre Dance, the piano adding to the music’s wild abandon with flailing note-repetitions alternating with the violin’s stinging pizzicati. The interval allowed a breather from such full-on engagements, as did the second-half’s opening bracket of items from Glazunov’s ballet Raymonda, firstly a waltz whose “teashop charm” evoked something of a bygone era, and a Grand Adagio which allowed the performers to dig a little deeper into the emotions, Nikkanen delighting us with some deft melismatic flourishes and even the occasional touch of elfin wickedness, admirably supported at all times by his pianist.

But I can pay no greater compliment to Kurt Nikkanen and Rosemary Barnes regarding the concert by avowing that they managed to make even Pablo de Sarasate’s tiresome Carmen Fantasy work its magic (I must confess to an aversion to virtuoso violin arrangements, pot-pourris, medleys, etc. of this ilk). Even when content became thoroughly subservient to display, as with the second-movement Habanera, the playing had such style and panache that I was thoroughly absorbed by what they were doing and how it was being achieved. Rather more than the obvious pyrotechnics elsewhere, I liked the ghostly insinuations of the lento assai third movement, the music accompanying Carmen’s sexy taunting of Don Jose when being taken by him to prison.

By dint of audience appreciation we got two encores from the pair, firstly Moussorgsky’s Gopak from his unfinished opera Sorotchinsky Fair, a raunchy folk-fiddle-fest with brandy on the breath of the music (to paraphrase another far more famous and far less approbatory critical remark about Russian music), followed by what seemed like its antithesis, Elgar’s charmingly wistful Chanson de Matin, a piece which the violinist told us reminded him of his recent explorations of Wellington, walking around amid the beautiful sunny weather. It made for an elegant finish to a consistently stimulating concert.

French Songs definitely allowed – Alliance Française Wellington

Alliance Française Concours de la Chanson

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A new venture by the Alliance Française Wellington, but intended to be annual, this was a competition for singers in two categories of French song: modern songs in the syles of Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and others, and classical mélodie by nineteenth or twentieth century composers.  A prize of $1000 and two terms’ tuition at the Alliance Française was offered to the winner of each category.  Certificates were awarded to second and third place-getters in each.

Frenchman Franck Monnet, author, composer and performer judged the modern category, and experienced New Zealand singer Catherine Pierard judged the classical song section.  They were assisted by Jean-Georges Vendome from the French Embassy in Wellington. The organiser was Dan Tait-Jamieson, President of Alliance Française Wellington, who received considerable assistance from Jenny Wollerman, fine exponent of French song and singing lecturer at the New Zealand School of Music.

A preliminary round was held on Saturday, 19 June, and six finalists selected for the first category and nine for the second, out of a total of 29 entries. While the styles of singing for the two categories are very different, calling into question the wisdom of having a shared competition, nevertheless quite a number of the singers entered both classes.

The singers introduced their selections themselves – with varying success.  In the first class three singers sang without microphone (Edris, van Mellaerts and Smith) while the remaining three used amplification, and these seemed to score well with the judge, who in his remarks at the end said he thought the microphone gives an intimacy between singer and audience.  While we may question this view, it did allow the technician to increase the sound for one singer whose piano accompaniment was too loud.

Amina Edris opened with a Piaf classic: ‘L’Hymne à l’amour’.  She was accompanied by Catherine Norton.  Her style was good, though (thankfully?) she used less portamento than Piaf.  She was confident, projected well, and her language was good.

Next, Daniela-Rosa Young sang ‘Pour que tu m’aimes encore’ by J-J Goldman, a Céline Dion song.  This was not as affecting as the previous offering, but the French pronunciation was even better.  Her accompanist, Paul Carnegie-Johnson was competent, if a little restrained.

Julien van Mellaerts has a big voice, both speaking and singing.  It was pleasant but not distinguished.  His rendition of ‘Vous qui me passez sans me voir’ by J. Hess was cheerful but lacked variation and imagination.  Much repetition meant that not a lot of language was involved.  Julie Coulson expertly accompanied both him and the next singer.  Julien was awarded second place.

Bianca Andrew used the microphone, and impressed as having put a lot of thought into the way she sang ‘Nantes’ by Barbara, and she gave the best introduction so far.  I thought the song a little low for her, meaning that there was little tone on the lowest notes, but otherwise it was a very touching performance, making full use of the microphone to sing this sad song in an intimate way.  Her style was very French as was her little black dress.  Pronunciation and articulation were first class; my friend and I were pleased that she won, since we had picked her for the prize.

Felicity Smith sang without microphone, the bitter-sweet Piaf song ‘Padam, padam’ by N. Glanzberg, with Catherine Norton the fully supportive accompanist.  This was a good performance – intelligent, and with panache and emotion, despite some breathiness. Her French pronuncation was very good indeed.

The final performer, Wallace Gollan sang with the microphone and accompanist Daniel Hales.  Her language and style were thoroughly French, in ‘La jeune fille aux cheveux blancs by Camille.  She used the words with subtlety.  It was a pity that her accompanist, playing without printed music, was too loud.  The balance improved with some knob-twiddling by the technician.  She was awarded third place.

Other words from the judge of this class were to stress the importance of the lyrics, and to note that he thought the singers really made the songs theirs.

The larger category, Mélodie, began with Daniela-Rosa Young singing ‘Absence’ from Nuits d’Été by Hector Berlioz.  This lush song was sung attractively, but slight flat intonation on the top note, too much gesture, and a less than excellent accompanist spoiled the performance somewhat for me.  The words were well produced and the piece was sung with expression.

Julien van Mellaerts’ ‘Le Mendiant’ by Francis Poulenc was accompanied by Julie Coulson,and was sung in good style after a good spoken introduction, but I found the performance somewhat monotonous.  He was placed second in this class also.

Next was the diminutive Xing Xing, who with Julie Coulson sang ‘Il pleure dans mon coeur’ by Debussy (not Débussy as in the programme) most feelingly.  She has a lovely soprano voice and her French language was beautifully produced and accented.  Her interpretation had variety.

Bianca Andrew used her voice and her language skills well in ‘Sanglots’ by Poulenc.  With Julie Coulson she created a range of dynamics.  Bianca was the first to tell us who the poet was; in this case, Apollinaire.  She explained that he was one of the Symbolist poets, and that the words did not really make sense.

Amina Edris gave a rather inadequate introduction, but did say the Massenet’s ‘Elégie’ was originally written for cello and piano, and has had many arrangements.  It was therefore a pity not to learn who wrote the words used in this arrangement.  A confident, strong presentation and an attractive voice went into a very dramatic performance.  Catherine Norton accompanied.  She was placed third.

Elitsa Kappatos gave a very strong and confident performance of ‘Psyche’ by E. Paladilhe, accompanied by Catherine Norton.

Bryony Williams was the winner, singing the well-known Duparc song ‘L’invitation au voyage’. A cheerful and confident singer with quite a fruity voice with plenty of volume, she was supported by accompanist Julie Coulson who played for the next singer also.

Frances Moore sang Duparc also: ‘Au pays où se fait la guerre’, the poem being by Gautier.  Her voice production was very good, and she made a dramatic performance of this quite difficult, long song.

Finally, Felicity Smith with Catherine Norton performed Debussy’s ‘Noël des enfants qui n’ont plus de maison’, the composer having also written the words.  The drama was presented well, and the singer made good use of her voice, and her facility in the language.  A slight slip and the breathing were minor factors to mar the performance.

The contest had a very high standard.  My conjecture about the awards in the classical section is that the judge went for carrying voices, which would do well on the operatic stage; there is sadly so little public performance of lieder/mélodie/art song these days that these promising singers cannot expect to base a career around such beautiful words and music.

The singers, especially the winners, are to be congratulated on their presentations and their teachers on the skills they have assisted their students to gain.

NZSQ and Richard Mapp – Wellington Chamber Music

MOZART – String Quartet in D Major K.575 “Prussian”

CHINARY UNG – Spiral III for String Quartet

SCHUMANN – Piano Quintet in E-flat Op.44

The New Zealand String Quartet : Helene Pohl, Douglas Beilman (violins) / Gillian Ansell (viola) / Rolf Gjelsten (‘cello)

– with Richard Mapp (piano)

Ilott Theatre, Wellington Town Hall

Sunday 20th June 2010

The very opening of the Mozart quartet fooled me into thinking the NZSQ was for some reason playing the music in E-flat. I sadly fear that part of my confusion was due to my ever-declining ability to precisely recognise note-pitch; but in my defence I ought to state that the quartet’s playing of the opening paragraph of Mozart’s wonderful K.575 in (wait for it!) D Major was so warmly and richly expressed, the music SOUNDED momentarily as though it was in the higher, mellower key. I thought the players’ combination of warmth and focus quite captivating, with both the ensemble and the solo instruments drawing on a full range of tones that took Mozart’s music out of the drawing-room of taste and decorum and into the world of pulsating human interaction. Even if intonation wasn’t absolutely perfect at all times (more in the softer, throw-away phrasings than in any of the leading lines), the group’s interplayings of different strands, and ready command of colour and texture, ever led the ear onwards through a fascinating amalgam of narrative and interaction.

The players darkened the textures beautifully with the lead-in to the development, whose dynamic, almost confrontational mode was achieved by great attack, especially from the ‘cellist – playing which gave the music all of its emotional range and expressive force. All the more joie de vivre was generated, then, with the return to the opening, the quartet’s energy and brio culminating in final flourishes of great elan at the end. The slow movement’s full-throated tones fragment beautifully into individual voices, here characterised by each player with piquant expression, drawing the listener into the world of both sounds and gesturings, whose combination makes live music-making such a pleasure, as was the case this time round. The daintily tripping Minuet enjoyed its occasional angularities, the players again not hesitating to get “physical” with the music, their bodily movements frequently choreographing the sounds in a way that suggested their total involvement in the ebb and flow of things. The quartet made an adventure out of the finale as well, the viola-and-‘cello exchanges decorous and ritualistic at the beginning, but with poise occasionally giving way to high spirits, a dancing triplet theme dominating the middle section, and archways of dotted rhythm figurations and melismatic impulses adding to the festivities – the players here emphasised the energies of the music more, I think, than the moments of circumspection which every now and then glanced furtively outwards at the world.

In between two more-or-less “standard” classics the NZSQ presented a contemporary piece which they discovered through Jack Body. The composer, Chinary Ung, born in 1942, in Cambodia, went to the United States in 1964 to study at the Manhatten School of Music, winning a number of prizes and honours for his music, and teaching at various institutions – he’s currently the Professor of Composition at the University of California in San Diego. His music combines the worlds of South-east Asian music and western art-music, resulting in works such as Spiral III (as the name suggests, the third of a series), the one programmed for this concert.

Helpfully, the players, prompted by Quartet leader Helene Pohl, demonstrated some of the work’s most prominent features, a couple of distinctive themes (one sounding as though it could have been written by Gershwin), and a few examples of the music’s wide variety of texture (plenty of ponticello, or playing close to the bridge – and its antithesis, bowing at the other extreme, over the fingerboard). The work itself made a remarkable impression – a forthright opening, with the “traditional music” ambience quickly evident through those exotic sounds created by the ponticello technique, the bluesy pitch-slides and colours seamlessly fusing with the South-East Asian folk-sounds, the melodies lovely and the accompaniments spidery. More rhythmically volatile and rhapsodic episodes reminded me in places of Janacek’s music, the language in places almost disjointed and whimsical, but whose overall effect is something strong, vital and deeply-rooted. And as well as this ground-based folkish feeling, there’s also an other-worldliness whose beauties can curdle without warning – one is taken away and then suddenly re-confronted with more immediate and pressing realities as part of a continual process discovery and rediscovery. I look forward to the Quartet’s projected CD of this work, as part of a project featuring works by Asian composers, the others being by Toru Takemitsu,Tan Dun, Gao Ping, and Zhou Long, in a recording to be undertaken over the coming month.

After the interval Richard Mapp joined the quartet for a performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet, a timely act of homage to a composer born, like his great contemporary Frederic Chopin, two hundred years ago this year. Right from the beginning the players caught the work’s “stride” with a resounding flourish, then moving easefully into those soulful lyrical utterances that could be by no other composer – ‘cello and viola introduced a beautifully-weighted second subject, as beautifully answered by the piano, the whole episode then “swung” back to the beginning with great relish for the repeat. The piano’s introduction to the ensemble showed up the distinctly unglamorous Ilott Theatre sound, very precise and focused, but with little warmth and resonance – thus the rather “Gothic” descent into the world of the development lacked the ultimate in romantic atmosphere, but through no fault of the performers. This also affected the opening of the slow movement, the sound having a curiously “dead” quality in between each muffled drumbeat, though the contrasting flow of the major-key sequence worked better, with lyrical, song-like playing from all concerned. The Sphinx-like transition to the agitato passages created a frisson of tension, from which burst forth terrific energies, before subsiding into a more troubled lyricism, Gillian Ansell’s viola tones conveying the retreating march theme’s sombre character in tones of grey and purple. A pity, then, that the quiet concluding chord’s treble voice sounded, to my ears, slightly under-the-note.

The Mendelssohnian energy of the scherzo danced and fizzed with plenty of spirit, the players capturing the darker-browed drive of the contrasting trio, piano and string pizzicati properly angular and prickly; while the finale, beginning gruffly, drives the argument forward with resolute purpose. One senses the composer looking for ways of resolving inner conflicts through music, those characteristically sombre themes being fought with and eventually conquered, here with great rhetorical gesturings by use of the work’s very opening theme, introduced by the piano, and developed fugally by all the instruments, against the counterpoint of the finale’s opening theme – as with the Fourth Symphony’s finale, a heart-warming “working out” is driven by tremendously buoyant rhythmic energies, the musicians here bringing out that sense of resolution and homecoming in the music that makes the work’s journey such an invigorating experience.

Josef Špaček – consummate violinist at Waikanae

Waikanae Music Society

Josef Špaček (violin)and Michael Houstoun (piano)

Bach: Chaconne from Partita no.2 in D minor / Mozart: Sonata no.22 in A K. 305

Gareth Farr: Wakatipu / Ysaÿe: Sonata no.3 in D minor Op.27 ‘Ballade’

Prokofiev: Sonata no.1 in F minor Op.80 / Smetana: From my Homeland

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A packed Memorial Hall greeted the winner of the Michael Hill violin competition 2009, Josef Špaček, for the first recital in his Winner’s Tour with Chamber Music New Zealand.  Though still a very young man and still studying (at Juilliard, with Itzhak Perlman), Josef Špaček already has a number of performance with leading orchestras and conductors in a dozen countries behind him, and appearances at music festivals.  He has won numbers of competitions – and no wonder!  He is a consummate violinist, with intelligence, imagination, and impeccable technique.

These features of his playing were particularly to the fore in the unaccompanied Bach, which he played from memory.  This was a very rhythmic, but not mechanical performance. Josef Špaček made great use of stresses and a range of dynamics.  This made for a more interesting performance than one sometimes hears.  The double-stopping and spread chords were played as if with ease, so secure is his skill.

Considered by some to be one of the most demanding works in the violin repertoire, it delighted the audience.  The programme notes were ample and absolutely excellent in giving the background to this and all the pieces played.

Mozart followed; not his most interesting sonata, but it was appealingly played here, with flair and beauty by both performers.  Despite, as the programme note explained, Mozart’s making a greater emphasis on a duo partnership for the instruments than had been the case previously, there were nevertheless extensive passages for violin alone, played unerringly and ravishingly by Josef Špaček.

Gareth Farr’s work was a test piece for all the competitors in the first phase of the Michael Hill Violin Competition, in Queenstown.  As in all the works, Josef Špaček played with a bright sound.  He is a confident and superb soloist.  It was hard to imagine that there could be a more skilled performance of Farr’s difficult unaccompanied piece – played here with a continuo background of the sound of pouring rain.

Ysaÿe’s sonata followed, also unaccompanied and played from memory.  A real virtuoso work this, with a variety of moods, all performed with expertise and evident talent.

Following the interval, Prokofiev’s sonata demonstrated what a demanding programme the performers tackled. Špaček’s intonation is flawless, and the range of emotions and temperaments in the work were conveyed well. The bombastic second movement was followed by very gentle, lovely pianissimo in the lyrical, dreamy third. Špaček’s playing in the last movement was masterful, and its very thoughtful ending capped off a brilliant interpretation and performance.

From My Homeland by Smetana was a good way to end the recital, since Špaček, like Smetana, is Czech (though Smetana’s homeland was called Bohemia in his day).  The gentle first movement gave another opportunity for Špaček to demonstrate his beautiful, controlled pianissimo.  But he has strong, even tone when required.  This was a much more mellow work than the Prokofiev, but demanding for both performers.

It was met with a rapturous reception from the audience.  Sensibly after such a demanding concert, Špaček did not provide an encore, and so one was left not with lollipops, but with an outstanding work played by a violinist with formidable talent, technique and memory.  He seems a natural with the violin, and should rise to the top.

Throughout the works with piano, Michael Houstoun was a true partner – supportive, eloquent, and thoroughly accomplished in interpretation.

Students’ lunchtime string-along at St. Andrew’s

String students of the New Zealand School of Music

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Five string students, with the emphasis on the viola, performed a varied programme.  First up was Megan Ward, playing the Suite no. 1 in G for solo cello on viola.  Bach was well served by this performance.  Megan Ward, playing the seven movements from memory, produced a lovely rich tone, which seemed so well suited to the acoustics of the church. She had superb control, accurate intonation and brought out the variety in the work through her use of dynamics and phrasing.  This was a splendid start to the concert.

For this work, as for all the items, there were excellent programme notes; however, I would like the students to know that there is an English word ‘recurs’ – no need for the clumsy ‘reoccurs’.

Next up was an unfamiliar piece: Viola concerto in C minor, in the style of Johann Christian Bach, by French composer Henri Casadesus (1879-1947).  Apparently Casadesus was in the habit of passing off his works in baroque and classical styles as being discovered pieces by composers of those eras.  This was played by Leoni Wittchou, viola, with Douglas Mews providing piano accompaniment; his support was always that of a first-class partner.

The work was interesting though not an outstanding composition.  The violist’s tone was quite different from that of the previous performer – not as rich. this may be at least in part due to the different instruments – violas vary a lot more than do other stringed instruments.  Leoni played without the score, but made a false start.  There were not infrequent lapses in intonation, and phrasing was sometimes untidy.  However, while at times she exhibited beautiful tone, there was nevertheless unevenness of tone.  The charming last movement featured strong, rich playing, especially in the cadenza.

The third violist, Eva Mowry, played Robert Schumann’s Maerchenbilder (Fairy Tales).  She seemed somewhat tentative in the first movement, Nicht schnell (played using the score), but the second, Lebhaft, really caught fire, and the competing piano and viola parts were fun. The same player followed with Henri Vieuxtemps’s Capriccio.  The work did not seem particularly capricious – perhaps it was played too slowly?  It was rather a difficult solo viola piece, but was played with care and good tone.

The final piece was the first movement, allegro serioso, from Zoltan Kodaly’s Duo for violin and cello, performed by Vivian Stephens (volin) and Lucy Gijsbers (cello).  This was difficult music exceedingly well executed, in fact to a professional standard.  The interplay between the performers was superb, and they were obviously well inside the music.  The cello sound, particularly, was gorgeous, and the phrasing of both players was immaculate.   thoroughly accomplished performance.

All the performers played to a very high level, and demonstrated how expert is the tuition they are receiving.  It was interesting to have a number of viola works, but perhaps a little unfortunate that this enabled comparisons to be made between the players.

Bon voyage, Brigitte – a farewell recital

Vocal recital: Brigitte Heuser (mezzo-soprano)

with Catherine Norton (piano), Daniel O’Connor (baritone) and Aivale Cole (soprano)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Brigitte Heuser arrived on the platform looking elegant and beautiful.  She began her programme with Mahler’s Lieder eine fahrenden gesellen.  These lovely and varied songs were sung very well; the fourth, ‘Die zwei blauen Augen’ particularly, was given a heartfelt rendition.  There was not, perhaps, sufficient variety of tone in the other songs.  One certainly misses the variety and subtlety of the orchestra, but Catherine Norton accompanied superbly.

It would have been good to have had printed translations of the songs; we are not all skilled in the German language as is Brigitte.  There is so much in the poems that cannot be rendered in the singing; we are not just listening to pleasant music.

I found the singer’s hand movements rather off-putting in lieder; they are fine in operatic excerpts, but detract from the value of the words and music in lieder.

Daniel O’Connor followed with Onegin’s aria from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikowsky.  This was a very assured and characterful performance.  O’Connor’s voice has a mellow quality, and is even through the range.  It was easy to mentally see him as Onegin, on stage.

Four excerpts from Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte were most enjoyable: the arias ‘Smanie implacabili’ and ‘E amore un ladroncello’, the duet ‘Il core vi dono’ (with Daniel O’Connor) and the lusciouis trio Soave sia il vento (with O’Connor and Aivale Cole).

All these were quite lovely.  The second aria was sung very brightly. In the duet the voices matched very well, making for a charming rendition.  The trio was absolutely splendid.  It was great to hear Aivale Cole again.  She stood quite still and just sang, with superb control, wonderful top notes, warmth, and expressive commitment.

Brigitte Heuser came on for the second half in another skirt and top in shades of dark red, beautifully toning with the carpet and hangings in the church.

Her ‘Jewel song’from Gounod’s Faust was rather fast, and her intonation became a little sharp in places, but was nevertheless effective.

The two women followed with the ‘Flower duet’ from Lakmé by Delibes.  The voices were beautifully together and blended, making for a gorgeous performance.

Then Aivale Cole sang ‘Vissi d’arte’ from Puccini’s Tosca.  She knows how to colour her big voice.  Her words were excellent, with generous vowels.  Her splendid performance reminded me of Maria Callas in her heyday.  It was met with huge applause from the good-sized audience.

Brigitte Heuser was next, with ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville by Rossini.  This was well executed, and as with all her singing, showed promise.

‘Bella sicome un angelo’ from Don Pasquale by Donizetti was Daniel O’connor’s next offering, and again his assured singing and excellent words had one placing him in a performance of the opera.

Brigitte Heuser closed with two Kurt Weill songs, one in German and one in English.  Her singing was stylish and very accomplished;; she seemed at home in these songs.  As an encore she sang (and acted) a French cabaret song, which was most amusing.

Throughout, Catherine Norton’s accompaniments was very skilled and sympathetic; she made a good approximation of an orchestra.  Not only did Brigitte Heuser sing very well, with a attractive, mellow tone, she was fortunate to have such expert musical collaborators. This was an evening of very musical performances of lieder and arias.

Brigitte was offered and accepted a place at the International Academy of Voice in Cardiff, where Phillip Rhodes has recently completed a course.  However, unfortunately the British government has withdrawn funding for the Academy for this (northern) academic year, but she will be able to take up her place there next year.  She intends in the meantime to have lessons from the Aademy’s principal coach, Sir Dennis O’Neill, and from other teachers and coaches.

She should do well – she has a fine voice, stage presence, and a very musical approach to her singing.