Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I haven't thought about new years' resolutions at all yet. It's almost as though I'm preventing myself from it. Like I don't want to commit to actually thinking about anything seriously. I did a lot of serious thinking this year. There was that whole quarter-life crisis where I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. And I had that meeting with Ger and I thought I was ok and then I wasn't again.

Well, anyway. I need to set goals for 2010, because 2009 was so very lacking in direction. It was just floating and bouncing and floating again. I am lucky that I have a job in a school for now, I can sing for now and I have piano students. These are all things that I at least don't have to think about. I also know that I will be working for Midsummer Festival in the summer and there will be my brother's wedding in July. After that I don't know. But in fairness, that's the next seven months taken care of. I would quite like to make a few new resolutions at the start of every month too.

Personal goals.

Obviously, I have to lose weight. I don't even see this as a goal because it's already happening. But it is a goal to be a size 10 for the wedding.

Things I want to take up: Low Whistle/Tin Whistle, belly dancing, running, continue piano and singing and guitar.

Finish my album. I can't believe how long this is taking me.

Have some ME TIME. Been sorely lacking in recent months.

Sort the house out. Massive declutter. Paint, decorate, etc.

Make a YouTube video soonish.

Is that enough?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

London Audition

The audition went quite well really! Much better than I expected! I was expecting to mess up my monologues and get really flustered and rush through them. But I managed to say them in a way that was beyond my expectations of myself. I think they found my Irishy one funny, which is good. They didn't really laugh very much, though.

My songs went quite well, even though I thoroughly messed up one part of "Let Me Be Your Wings. I missed an entry and screwed up a syncopated but. But whatever. I feel like I dealt with it well, which is a good sign of a performer.

The pianist is like the musical director on "Wicked" in the West End, so I nearly had a conniption because one of my songs was "Defying Gravity." God, it was such a good feeling to sing it with him. I was so elated and enjoyed it so much. UNFORTUNATELY, he didn't follow me at all and took it much too fast, which didn't give me enough time to change register a few times. But I did my best and he should have been following my lead.

The workshop was NOT SCARY!! Christ, I've had Drama classes more scary than that!! It was a short physical warm up with spine rolls and rhythmic movement followed by a 3 minute improvisation. I *love* improv. So... well, that was awesome? The girl I was doing it with ended it after about 1 minute though. Idiot.

Meeting up with everyone was just wonderful. My flight was delayed and thus I was 1.5hrs late to meet everyone but I got to see them for a while and we went to the Science Museum. (fun) Once the younger people went home, myself, Chloé, Neil and James S went to a quiet pub near King's Cross for a few drinks and a loong chat. It was just thoroughly enjoyable. I had a pint of water and two bottles of J2O. Lots of fluid. Neil had come all the way down from Scotland just to hang out! How great!!!

I stayed with Chloé on Sunday night. I had never met her before. I am besotted. I think she's amazing! I'm utterly astounded by how wonderful she is. She's so kind and funny and fun and just so nice? And she has amazing taste in MUSIC and obviously BOOKS and she's so TIDY and ARTISTIC and she's FRENCH and I don't know. I'm just marvelling at the fact that I never knew her before, I suppose. Like definitely I wish everyone had a Chloé. She made me feel so at home in her little bedroom!!

After the audition I went home with my friend James and we had dinner out and I stayed at his place in Windsor. That was nice. We watched YouTube videos for a while and in the morning I made him breakfast with food i'd brought from here. He put me in a taxi and everything.

Jaysus lads. People. Humans. They're just awesome. I love them!!

This a photo of me singing at the opera show two weeks ago! :) The thumbnail above is a photo of the whole cast!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Draw her home with Music

This is literally the first moment I've had to sit down in about four weeks.

I sang in an opera concert on the 22nd November in a lovely converted church in north Cork. It was a really pleasant evening and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. I was even given a gorgeous bunch on yellow roses afterwards! It was great! The run up to it was quite stressful, though. There were a lot of duets and the pianist came over from the Netherlands to accompany us, so we had to fit in rehearsals in with him. He was wonderful though! It's a great feeling to sing with an excellent accompanist!

Once the concert was over I started rehearsing properly for an Audition I have coming up in the Royal Academy of Music, London on the 7th December. It's for musical theatre, not opera, though. HA! It's something different, anyway. A challenge! So I've been studying three songs on my own and two monologues with a teacher. So far it's been a really positive experience. I didn't get too many opportunities to act during my time at college. Apparently I have natural comic timing! Who'd have thought it :P

Apart from that, I've been taken on in a Gaelscoil in Cork, teaching music to second years for the year. (A gaelscoil is a school where Irish is spoken all the time. Everything is taught through Irish.) So for example, today I was explaining was syncopation is in Irish to a group of 14 year olds. I've only been there a week but I'm enjoying it already. All of the students play at least one instrument and the can all sing. They all play the tin whistle too! So I've arranged about six Christmas carols on the tin whistle for them and organized some Christmas songs for them to sing too. (HARMONY!!) Obviously the problem here would be that I don't speak fluent Irish. But do you think i'd let that stop me? BAH!

I've also been singing in churches a lot recently. Two funerals this week. Funerals are so sad. And I'm still teaching beginner piano two evenings a week. I should also mention the Feischmann choir concert next Thursday for which I have been attenting rehearsals. We'll be singing Vaughan Williams' Serenade (absolutely stunning) as well as Handel's Hallelujah Chorus and Zadok the Priest and some other fun bits and pieces. We're singing with the Cork Symphony Orchestra and Julian Lloyd Webber is playing ELGAR'S CELLO CONCERTO!!

So, you see, I haven't forgotten about blogging about singing! I've just been too busy actually SINGING to blog! Above picture depicts my crazy busy head.

Listen to Williams' Serenade.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Taci! Taci!

On the Sky Arts channel on Saturday there appeared to be some sort of opera marathon. I came in for a bit and watched a documentary on Caffé Taci in New York City. It's a restaurant that has regular opera nights. Singers come and serenade the diners once a week. It sounds amazing. I would so love to sing or eat there. Or both. It seemed so lovely - such a warm and understanding, supportive atmosphere. I wish we had something like that here in Cork. It would be amazing to be able to have somewhere to perform frequently if we liked. I wonder if anyone would come. I'd say they would - there appears to be quite a devoted opera following in Cork. Imagine an open mic opera night!! Amazing!!

If only I could snap my fingers and hop of a flight to New York. I could do a musical tour of the city and go to Broadway and Julliard and Café Taci and the Metropolitan Opera. I need to do this.

Excuse me while I tell ever single one of my New Yorker friends about Caffé Taci.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Yesterday I bought an album on iTunes. It was a special occasion because I'd just bought one of those iTunes gift cards for myself with the first 'spare' money I've had in a few weeks. The idea was that I would purchase a few different recordings of the songs I'm singing at a recital at the end of November.

My search led me to Akiki Nakijima, an operatic soprano whom I had never heard of. Having listened to a few samples of the album, "La Pastorella," I decided to buy the whole thing.

You know when you get a new album and you kind of listen to the start of every track, flicking through to see if anything grabs you?

Oh God.

"Romanze Ich Schleiche Bang Und Still Herum." By Franz Schubert. Track 7.

It is so beautiful that I am having a very hard time believing that I've never heard it before. It is incredible. I can't find it on YouTube and I can't find a translation on Google. But I can't stop listening to it. Nakajima's voice is like a crystal bird. It's so clear, it soars, it's light, it flies. It's beautiful. There's something so delicately sad about this song, so wistful.

The arrangement of clarinet and piano for the opening is wonderful. The clarinet is played expertly by Peter Schmidl. It is so beautifully negotiated that it sounds like another voice, perhaps the voice of the soprano's lost love. It echos her and weaves around her, complimenting her but never over-powering her.

I love songs like this. Songs that are so wistful that you can just get completely lost in the feeling without understanding why.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ghosts of Versailles at the Wexford Opera Festival

On the 18th October I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to see a full, public dress rehearsal of "The Ghosts of Versailles" at the Wexford Opera Festival. The opera was attended by its composer, John Corigliano and its librettist, William M. Hoffman.

The action in the opera is rich and extremely unusual. The story weaves artfully between the afterlife and the fictional world of an opera ("the opera within an opera"). In the afterlife, we meet Marie-Antoinette, her husband Louis XVI and their court. Marie-Antoinette laments her death and does not seem to accept what happened to her. She re-enacts her beheading and is tormented by the cruelty and injustice of what happened to her. The other ghosts are much more at ease with their lifeless situations, although they are bored without the distractions they were used to in life.

That is why they jump at the chance when another ghost, Beaumarchais, the author of the three Figaro plays suggests an opera. He is in love with Marie-Antoinette and can't bear to see her so unhappy. He plans to stage a play in which she is saved from the guillotine by Figaro. In saving her in the play, Beaumarchais tells everyone that he will save her in real life and rewrite history.

The problems begin when the characters of the play stop bending to Beaumarchais' will and developing a will of their own. In an attempt to reign in his unruly characters and convince them that they must save Marie-Antoinette, Beaumarchais himself enters the world of the play.

Once this barrier is broken, all of the ghosts find that they can enter the colourful imaginary world.

Being seated four rows from the front, I was afforded an excellent view of the actors, the sets and the costumes. The costumes particularly struck me as something to write home about and I'm sure every time I've spoken of "The Ghosts of Versailles," I have raved about them. To begin with, they more than anything separated the afterlife from the world of the play, although the style of both was firmly rooted in the 18th Century. A palette of grey, black and white was used in the wardrobe of the ghosts, as well as in their makeup. It was startling how haunting they all looked in their pallor. The only colour used was red, and sparingly. The eye of the spectator was drawn to the red glittering areas, which signified how the characters met their end. There were glittering stab wounds, shimmering head injuries and gun shot wounds and red neck pieces, symbolizing decapitation. Notably, Marie-Antoinette does not wear any red for most of the opera.

The costumes in the world of the play, however are bursting with jewel-bright colours, shining fabrics and stunningly made dresses. When we enter the house of the Turkish Ambassador, we are provided with a feast for the eyes when Samira, a Turkish singer seranades us. Everyone from the core cast to the dancers are clad in rich and sumptuous colours and patterns. It is, without a doubt the best wardrobe I have ever seen on stage.

At times the music is what you might expect from an opera written in the 1990s, and yet there were more than a few pleasant musical surprises. In the beginning the music is discordant and eerie, almost unpredictable. It frames the mood of the afterlife flawlessly, as the ghosts sound like they are crying out. Some beautiful motifs are carried out through the play, such as Marie Antoinette's "Once there was a golden bird" motif, which forms the basis of her powerful and chilling aria "They are always with me".

"Once there was a golden bird,
In a garden of silver trees,
From the courtyard could be heard,
The laughter of women at their ease."

To contrast with this, the music in the world of the play is altogether much more melodic and what one might term 'traditional' for opera. Many of the themes from the actual opera "The Marriage of Figaro" are explored and visited during the action of the play and there is, of course, much more laughter and up-tempo music.

This contrast further serves to immaculately separate the two worlds in "The Ghosts of Versailles." Between the lamenting, eerie notes of the afterlife and the jovial and tuneful music of the play's world, the viewer always knows exactly where he or she is.

As for the acting and quality of the singing in the Wexford Opera Festival/St Louis production - I've never seen anything like it in Cork, that's for sure. While the whole cast and chorus were flawless, there were a few who shone even brighter. Maria Kanyova delivered a chilling and heart-breaking performance as Marie-Antoinette. Christoper Feigum, who played the character of Figaro, was quite a powerful and charismatic presence on the stage. He is completely perfect for the role of Figaro in this play. Other notable performances included Laura Vlasak Nolen as Samira, the Turkish singer, and Dominic Armstrong as Count Almaviva.

This production opened on the 21st October and will wrap on the 30th October 2009.


Friday, October 23, 2009


My friend Emma recently pointed out to me that as singers, we are so vulnerable to any change in our bodies. I remarked that absolutely every singer has at least one thing that causes them trouble. For me it's my sinuses and throat. For someone else it might be athsma or tension or old muscle injuries. Every one has one thing.

I think this breeds some paranoia. If we know that the tiniest thing going wrong can ruin us, we start to worry about it until we have to be talked down.

Right now I'm convinced I have laryngitis. Just because I feel like I've had a lump in my throat for about two weeks. "Laryngitis?!" I hear you cry. "Isn't that a SLIGHT over-reaction?"

WELL NO. I'm just a leetle bit worried that my throat is doing anything out of the ordinary four weeks before my deluge of rehearsals, concerts and auditions begin. You expect me not to freak out?! Well then you need to send me some singing and ear-nose-throat specialists STAT because that is the only thing that will calm me down.

As it stands I'm drinking buckets of the above "Yogi Throat Comfort Tea." Today I had to replenish my stock and buy two new boxes. I'm sipping it as I type. I'm convinced that if I drink enough of it, the mysterious larynx lump will go away and I'll be able to reach that C6 with ease and grace. A girl can dream.

Today I mentally started writing letters to anyone who might be able to figure out what this weird feeling is.

If it were laryngitis, it would hurt right?

Gah! It's so frustrating! I'm not hoarse and my singing's not impaired but I haven't practiced any of my songs since Wednesday because I'm PARANOID that maybe I've inflicted some terrible irreversible injury on myself, of developed vocal nodules/nodes. Nooooo! A singer's worst nightmare! Let's not even go there!

Right, I'm going to make another cup of throat comfort and go to bed with my programme from the Wexford Opera Festival. Hopefully when I wake up I'll be a bit more rational. Or maybe I'll actually start writing those letters.

Goodnight. xxx

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Singing is my life. It's always been my life. I can remember being 4 years old and standing on a stool to sing 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' for my grandparents. Every car journey, regardless of distance was spent singing along to cassettes in the back seat with my older sister. There is nothing that I have ever wanted to do more than perform.

When I was in third class, aged 9 years old, I stood up and volunteered for the first time to sing 'Land of the Silver Birch' publicly. (In front of my whole class) I will never forget the feeling that came straight afterwards. That infinitesimal stretch of silence between finishing a song and the applause that follows. It's heart wrenching and terrifying. You wonder why you just did that and if everyone now thinks you're an idiot and if they're going to laugh at your or just stay silent and stare in horror. Thankfully neither of those happened to me at the tender age of nine. In fact, that was the beginning of my school music career. That was when the teachers realised I could sing, and that was the year that I auditioned for the school choir.

For the next three years I relished every second that was spend singing, listening to music, learning about music... My only weak point was practicing my instruments, which I will undoubtedly delve into at another time. On reflection, the fascinating thing was that my family never really knew I felt like this, or that I had "a voice." That changed, I think, when I was in sixth class. I was 12 years old and the teachers put me singing something at the Christmas concert/mass. I think I sang 'Once In Royal David's City.' Afterwards, parents of other children came up to congratulate me and once I managed to reach my mother, she said "You never told us you could sing!" She was a music teacher and my mother so I took that as meaning "OH MY GOD YOU WERE AMAZING. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU. YOU ARE THE BEST SINGER IN THE WORLD!!!"

And so I carried that with me into secondary school. Incidentally, I attended the school where my mother was the music teacher. This meant that I happily spent half of my secondary academic years in the music room singing in choirs, playing the 'cello and learning about Vivaldi and Jazz. The school knew me as a singer, because I didn't just restrict my musical activity to the music room, and because I was the music teacher's daughter and that comes with a legacy of its own.

I decided to study Music at university. Actually, I don't remember ever deciding to study music... I always just knew I was going there. That was almost a complete disaster, except that I found my singing teacher. I started to train my voice and appreciate singing classical music and opera as well as popular music and musical theatre.

I've since graduated. And I'm still studying my instrument, my voice with aspirations of being on stage, on TV, in a recording studio, on the radio and far, far more.

Starting to learn to sing properly is simultaneously wonderful and frustrating. It poses many more questions than it answers and every day your voice changes. It's a journey with puzzles and rewards along the way. I'm going to start properly blogging about singing here as often as possible.

It would be fantastic to hear from other singers and music lovers in the comments.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Happy Song

I have never told you about my "happy song." It's from the musical "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and was written by the ever-surprising Danny Elfman. For those unfamiliar with the film, it is on of those magnificently craven products of Tim Burton's mind. The story follows Jack Skellington, a skeleton frustrated with the humdrum of living in 'Hallowe'en Town' - a place where three hundred and sixty-five days of the year are devoted to preparing and executing Hallowe'en.

The song is called "What's This?" and it's performed when Jack stumbles across 'Christmas Town.' Jack is completely confused and amazed by all the happiness, colour and light that he sees everywhere.

"Oh my, what now?
The children are asleep
But look, there's nothing underneath
No ghouls, no witches here to scream and scare them
Or ensnare them, only little cozy things
Secure inside their dreamland
What's this?"

Basically this song brings across the spirit of an excitable four-year-old who has just been let loose in a toy shop and told he can have whatever he likes. I LOVE THAT! The pace of the song accelerates and lulls depending on what Jack sees and how bewildered and excited he is.

The effect that this song has on me is quite remarkable. It has been known to cause me to just laugh hysterically at the top of my lungs. I don't know why I find it so funny, but I can find myself in floods of tears from singing along. It's especially fun if there are people around who don't know that I am particularly insane. That's always good.

I can't stress enough how wonderful I think this song is. I loved it before I saw "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and I still maintain that it's better to listen to it without the video.

From it's magical and energetic extended introduction to the final line, I LOVE THIS SONG! IT MAKES ME HAPPY!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009


__..::Part ONE*

Recently music has become about exercise for me. It's hideous. I don't even listen to it anymore - I just plug it in to my brain and use the beat to keep me going. In moments of reflection this makes me feel a bit sick. It's not who I am. But I know I've been avoiding music, just like I've been avoiding something giant and looming and invisible. Some part of me is rotting when I'm not listening to music or singing. Why don't I sing anymore?

__.::Part TWO*

It's so easy to get caught up in all the hype and popularity. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to walk away. I crave "quiet all about me."

__..::Part THREE*

I'm developed a sort of fear of the kitchen, cooking, food, shopping. I'm listening to my inner seventeen-year-old a little bit too carefully. She's the one who taught me silence and self-control and tact. University taught me to forget her for three years. Maybe I shouldn't welcome her back so readily but I envy her ability to write and marvel at everything, alienate people and not sleep.

__..::Part FOUR*

"Oh simple thing, where have you gone? I'm getting old and I need something to rely on."

Somewhere Only We Know by Keane.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good friends, good times, good music.

So much has happened in the last few weeks. I mean other than cleaning my room. I turned 22 on the 17th of January!

The weeks leading up to that date I was sad and I couldn't quite figure out why. For days I was in a sort of "emo" funk that I couldn't shake, no matter how much I cleaned the kitchen (I clean when I'm upset). But on Wednesday the 14th of January I finally realised that I missed my friends and the knowledge that I would see them on the eve of my birthday was like an amazing beacon of hope.

It sounds lame. It sounds like something out of an American after-school special. But it's true. The thought that in just a few short days I would be surrounded by people I love and who love me was exactly what I needed to get me out of the funk. That's when it hit me how important friends are - and I don't mean MSNing or emailing them. Or even creating a YouTube collab channel with them. I mean actual hugs and smiles and laughter. There's nothing quite like being completely ridiculous with your friends.

So since then I've been a lot more active in arranging meetings with my friends. I'm avoiding the return of the emo funk. Sadly some of my best friends live in the UK and USA but I need to make more time for the ones who live closer and more of an effort to get together with the UK ones. The USA ones will just have to put up with Skype sessions until the summer.

Turn to the Music:
Two of my dearest friends came to visit me from England for my birthday and as we walked into the airport we sang this:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Closing the Door

Every so often I need to hide away from the world. I close the front door and stay in my house, avoiding going outside at all costs. Even to the garden. I think this is day four. I'm not sure why I do it exactly but a recent almost-argument with my father about going out to buy paint has alerted me to the fact. Is it a condition? Have I developed temporary agoraphobia? Well, I'm not sure. Perhaps is the answer. I mean I'm not really afraid, more extremely reluctant. In fact it could just be chronic laziness.

The only thing that detracts from the laziness idea is that I'm shying away from life, even on the internet. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all give me a hollow feeling and I'm wary of them.

Luckily I know it won't last forever. I know this because it's happened before. In fact it usually occurs at the beginning of a holiday after working for a long time. Well. In a way, I suppose, this is one big life holiday. 

However, I couldn't say that I'm sitting inside all day and watching TV. Quite the opposite. I've been cleaning and tidying and cooking and knitting. I've also been thinking a lot and reading and, of course, listening to music.

I have to admit that so far I don't miss the outside world at all. I mean, it's only been three days, right? I recommend staying in and enjoying leisurely pursuits to anyone who has the time. The Christmas holidays were too mad to get anything done. Now is the time to pick up that book you've been meaning to read for weeks, turn off the TV and have some "me" time.

Turn to the Music:
Well, if you need motivation, or inspiration for any reason try this newish song by Snow Patrol : Take Back This City. (videokindofsucks)