It's a beautiful summers day in London and I'm finally having a day off. While trying to remain cool but avoiding the pollen riddled parks, I'm reflecting on the journey I've made since being told I made the final of the Welsh Singers Showcase 2018. For the many people that don't know, The Welsh Singers Showcase is an opportunity for five welsh classical singers to compete to represent Wales in Cardiff SInger of the WORLD. As far as I'm concerned this is the biggest competition ever and I've watched it for as long as I can remember.
I nearly didn't audition for the Welsh Singers Showcase. I had a Nelson Mass to prepare for at the time as well as a British Youth Opera audition and I just hadn't placed much priority on the Welsh Singers competition because I genuinely didn't think I was ready to do such a high profile event. The day before I had a chat to my teacher and said I wasn't sure if I should audition. I told her my suggestions for audition pieces and she approved and said that I didn't really have anything to lose. She was right, so I went. I saw some of the other singers on the list for just the London auditions and thought... This will be good experience. I sang and it went well but I didn't think it would be enough to get through. A week went by and I had a phone call telling me I was one of the finalists. It was one of those jaw dropping moments where I didn't quite know what to do with myself. I remember not sleeping that night because of the excitement!
Preparing for such an event is an interesting process and I thought with a week to go until the competition I'd like to share a little bit about my experiences.
The unique aspect of this particular competition is that you are given the opportunity to perform with an orchestra but not just any orchestra.... the mighty BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Even though I have performed a number of times with orchestral accompaniment in operas and oratorios, this opportunity requires you to choose what you want to sing. You are told to provide a programme of 16-18 minutes with pieces from Opera, Oratorio or Song. It goes without saying that the music you choose needs to show a variety or languages, styles, emotions and most importantly showcase your strengths.
We all featured in an article in the Western Mail Weekend Magazine
I was set on doing some song but wanted to make the most out of the luxury of performing with an orchestra. Luckily my coach suggested a song that was transcribed for orchestra and that began the ball rolling. I also wanted to learn some new repertoire but realised it was dangerous to have a programme of completely new material. So I chose two pieces I knew already and two that were new. In the end i settled on Nel Grave Tormento (Mozart) and The Jewel Song (Gounod) as my opera arias, Ständchen (Strauss) as my song and With Darkness Deep (Handel) as my oratorio (though I call this one an Operatorio). It's an exciting prospect performing this programme. I feel it shows where I am at the moment with my singing but also offers a glimpse of where I might be heading.
You never really know how your programme is going to feel in a performance situation unless you perform it a lot. As I am still studying in an institution I made use of performance classes, coachings and masterclasses. I also had some concerts and competitions in the diary so I decided to use all these opportunities as a chance to try out my repertoire ready for what I consider to be the big engagement of my year. I performed part of my programme in a low pressure concert in Marple. I tried out two of my arias in Performance Platform and performed my whole programme for my end of year assessment at the Academy. I sang three of my pieces for the John Fussell Trust Award (which I won... Yayy). Today I also performed two of the pieces for an audition. Up until Friday, when I meet the orchestra for the first time, I would have only performed my pieces with piano accompaniment. Having just one person following you allows you more flexibility with breathing and the odd slip of pitch or rhythm. With orchestra it's going to be very different and I have thought a lot about making sure my rhythms and pitches are spot on to avoid any nasty surprises the day before the competition!
The finalists for the John Fussell Trust Award
Having the experience of performing most of my programme and winning a competition was the biggest boost I could receive just before the big one. It's so important to remain positive and I've found that the more positive I make myself the more likely my performance will go well. However, saying that, this competition is the most important thing I've ever done so I would be lying if I said I didn't have a little break down after one of the Performance Platforms!
Being a finalist for the Welsh SIngers Showcase has definitely pushed me to develop further vocally, musically and also physically. I have had some excellent sessions at the Academy with all the coaches and teachers I see. There was one particular lesson with a new tutor on how to use your whole body to effectively express a character and their emotions which really inspired me. I feel as if the Welsh SIngers Showcase has become a little project to get myself to a more professional level.
With a week until the competition I will be resting a lot, practicing to keep things ticking over and exploring some new musical ideas and physicality to keep my programme fresh ready for Saturday. We get a couple of rehearsals the day before and then a final rehearsal with the orchestra on the day in St. David's Hall. I've felt looked after throughout this process by the organisers of Welsh Singers Showcase and I can tell this is going to be an experience I will never forget. Though it's a competition and competitiveness is in my nature, I am treating this as if it's a concert and I just want to do my best. I'm looking forward to going home to Cardiff and performing in my home town with lots of friends and family supporting me. I love what I do and I wouldn't be doing it without their support!
Though, secretly what I am really looking forward to the most is wearing a brand new gown and having my hair done #priorities!
My Dad <3