Saturday, April 24, 2010

Caleb Shaw

I keep coming across this singer on YouTube - probably because I keep looking up Jason Robert Brown. But anyway, I really, really like his voice! It gives me such hope that there are people out there who are performing so beautifully. And, I mean, I like Josh Groban as much as the next girl enamoured with him, but this guy - Caleb Shaw - sings Josh Groban's songs better than Josh ever could. (I think-- it's something called-- technique? Support? Lowered larynx? A restraining order for vibrato? ... Sorry, that was uncalled for. I love Josh Groban. I do.) Anyway, this guy is great. Check out the demo video and look at his other stuff! Terrific.

Also, this song below is from a show on YouTube you can find called An Evening Of Jason Robert Brown. Brown is a fantastic contemporary American composer of music theatre. That guy does nothing wrong. These theatre students put an evening of his songs on, as I understand it... They're brilliant. (Anyone recognise Miranda?) This was the first time I heard Caleb Shaw.


They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

This line comes from the middle stanza of the poem “For the Fallen”, by Lancaster-born poet Laurence Binyon (1869-1943). [Source.]

Below, is a video of Eric Bogle, an Australian folk singer/songwriter I was lucky enough to go and see with my dad several years ago in Tasmania. I really admire the honesty and integrity with which he delivers his music.

Friday, April 23, 2010


How do you walk out in front of hundreds of people like you own the stage?

How do you smile confidently at a bunch of people you don't know, reassuring them that they're going to love every second of your performance?

How do you stand there, perfectly still with your head proud, completely self-assured in your own body, positive that nobody is criticising you?

How do you open your mouth and sing: blindly; dumbly; without thought process? Without stopping to think - did I come in exactly in the right place, or did the entry sound a little late? Am I loud enough? Am I too loud? Does it sound beautiful? Are people put off by the sound of my voice? Do I look convincing? Why does that woman look bored? Why does that guy look so disinterested? What does the next verse start with? Am I perfectly in tune with the piano? Am I remembering to think about the emotion of the text? What am I doing? Oh wow, I'm singing a song onstage and I totally just had an OMG moment in my head and got completely distracted and now I'm kind of singing on autopilot, fuck. That woman still looks bored! What am I doing wrong?

How is it possible to spend so much time in a practise room; perfecting the technicalities of the music; spend so much time walking yourself through the emotions and journeys of your pieces; watching every version possible on YouTube; placing yourself in the characters' collective shoes; really feeling what they're living; and then: forget all of that the minute you get onstage because you're worried about what people think of you?

Curiouser and curiouser.

Something I've said to at least three different people this week is that I don't think I could've chosen a more challenging career path for myself if I'd tried. Once upon a time, I thought maybe I wanted to be a doctor. If I had ever followed that path... I don't think I would've found it as personally challenging as I find this career path to be. What other career allows me to be a literary, book and poetry nerd with the texts of my songs and operas? Allows me to sing and work on the technical glory of voice? Allows me to learn musicianship and musicality? Allows me to learn to act, move and dance? Allows me to develop a strong work ethic, perfectionism and drive? Challenges me to step outside of myself? To stand and deliver? To put aside inherent shyness and insecurites, and offer my heart up on my palm, while remaining far enough removed from the subject to deliver the sound technique that I should have?

I commit to what I'm doing 100% when I'm by myself. When I'm singing in front of anyone else, that 100% commitment isn't there; I lose the connection with the heart of the work, for... fear? I become way too consumed with needing to prove that I can do all this technical amazing stuff that I forget to connect my soul to what I'm doing, and then it's curiously detached. How do you reattach your heart in front of others? What holds me back? How do you fix that?

The psychology of singing.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Inner Diva

Today, I learned that the hardest part about singing is learning to put yourself and your insecurities aside, and adopting a level of professionalism that is confident, assured, and completely, totally diva-like. I struggle with My Inner Diva. I don't think she's there. I think she's on holiday or something. She's probably stranded in Europe, waiting for the ash-cloud to disappear. I could call her, but I really need her here. We have some beef to sort out, and then she's going to become me, and I'm going to be a confident, self-assured singer. Really.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Billy Gilman's Amazing Tour Manager

I meant to write this post ages ago. You know, back when it was still relevant and had recently occurred. Never mind. You know how these things are. Ideas brew in your head for months and then eventually pop out to say 'ello when you least expect it. Or, when you may or may not be procrastinating from studying for your German test.

So, do you know who Billy Gilman is? I didn't, really. I was a young singer studying her undergraduate degree in classical singing when lo and behold, my mother suddenly went CD-crazy and bought me 4 Charlotte Church albums. Previously, I'd only heard of Charlotte Church from a duet she did on a Josh Groban album. (I know. You're beginning to figure out what my early CD collection was like, aren't you?) So anyway, I got into the Charlotte Church albums (thanks, Mum) and really liked a duet that she did on one of them, which was called "Dream A Dream (Elysium)". It's actually a tune by French composer Gabriel Fauré, written in 1887, called Pavane (Op. 50). The album in question of Charlotte's was called Dream A Dream, and she recorded the title song as a duet with a boy named Billy Gilman. I didn't know who the heck that was, but he had the sweetest, clearest voice, and according to my cursory research made at the time, he was, like... 11. 12. Really, really young. I came across a song of Billy's called Oklahoma, which was a lovely, mushy song that made me feel good about living, and so I decided that Billy Gilman must be a great singer to keep watching for. (I just watched a bit of the YouTube I've linked you to, and had to turn it off as it was making me weepy - AGAIN. The power of a good story.)

I've decided to save you the trouble of clicking away to YouTube. Here, just watch the duet here. Cute vid. Note that Billy totally had some sort of retainer thing in his mouth while recording. Mad props.

Being a university student, I didn't have quite the budget to stretch to importing American CDs (shipping, you know... it's a killer) and so it wasn't until quite recently (last year, 2009) that I finally remembered I wanted to buy some more of his stuff. Went online and found that I could buy all 4 of his CDs from his website! Sweet! Buying directly from artist and therefore directly supporting musical career: TICK! Then, of course, my sweet little soprano brain became confused by the demands of buying from the website. I had to calculate my own shipping, AND add American sales tax! What the hell? In Australia, they just add the sales tax onto everything first! It's such an easy system! I had no idea what the rate of sales tax was in America, so I contacted the email address listed on the website and pleaded for help.

Received back an email from the Tour Manager, Al. What a nice dude. Seriously. Emails back and forth, always exceptionally polite. He even rang the local post office and worked out my postage costs for me. Then, he asked me if I'd like for Billy Gilman to personally autograph each CD to me. Sheesh, I thought! Cool! Monetary exchange and a few weeks later, and bam! I got a package from America containing 4 personally autographed CDs, which I shall now brag about to you:

Don't know if that's his first album or not. Could probably Google it for you, but if you're really interested, you should dang well do it yourself.

Billy's second album. Or maybe NOT. Did you hit up Google? Let me know. I'm just sitting here.

Another album. Not sure where this one fits in, chronologically. After doing a bit of googling for this post, I've come to realise that I'm missing not one but several CDs of his now. Bummer. This CD is especially important, as it is through the existence of this CD that I learned about Mattie J. Stepanek, a young peace-maker who wrote plenty of important books of poetry. His poetry was called Heartsongs, and promoted peace... He was an inspiration. He has since passed away, but his mum, Jeni Stepanek, is persevering! Follow her on Twitter. Also, you should read her book; I bought it and read it. Laughed. Cried. Smiled. Sobbed. Fantastic. She is one amazing person, and her son was nothing short of a miracle. What a joy to read. Foreword by Dr. Maya Angelou.

The fourth and final album in what I suppose I shall now term My Billy Gilman Collection. Yes. So. Excellent. Anyway. Just wanted to show off my new shiny things, and compliment Al on going above and beyond for some fan he's never met in Tasmania. The other side of the world. If he ever comes to Sydney, I'll buy him a beer.

Oh, and the Billy albums? Pretty good. Check Billy out on Twitter - he's being fought over by hundreds of girls.

@bg524 Wow now I'm reading that girls will wrestle in jello for me..that is AWESOME!!! via Twitter for BlackBerry®
NB. Bit of a disclaimer. These album covers don't belong to me. Well, actually, they DO... but the design/concept/art/whatever - not mine. You knew that; I knew that. I just have to acknowledge it. Cheers. Also, that number 1 just up there appeared when I copied and pasted the tweet. Bugger. Can't delete it. It's indestructible. It'll just have to stay.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Music love karma

It's always embarrassing when you write a raving, gushy post about somebody, and then they read it...

@JRhodesPianist: Utterly beguiled and blushing at this blog by @painted_duchess. My head is already big enough...

Didn't I have this problem with Robert Llewellyn, and Twitter, once...?!! A mad fan-girly moment enshrouded in Twitter newbie mistakes? ... Actually ... Let's not revisit that one.

Never mind. James Rhodes'll just have to get used to people waxing lyrical over him, because he'll be a world famous superstar after you all go out and buy his albums! Right? And I'm sure I'm not the only one posting blogs about him.

With crimson cheeks,
Pamma the Hamma xxx

Monday, April 19, 2010

James Rhodes, Pianist

Right. So I know I've mentioned James Rhodes at least twice before in this little blog that I seem to neglect, but I would like to devote an ENTIRE entry to him (which I think I may've already done... oh well, twice the love), just because I am so impressed with him, and what he is achieving out there in the Big, Wide World.

I first encountered James Rhodes on Twitter. Stephen Fry posted something about how we should all be following this amazing young English pianist he'd just been to hear. My ears instantly pricked up. Pianist? Young? Yes? Clicked, and voila. A young English pianist (I say young, but he's older than me - but seriously, until you hit age fifty in classical music, you're not truly considered old) with an immense talent.

I mean, what would you think of this album if you didn't know anything about it? Look closely at the cover:

Yes. You would think, "Oh, a punk rock album!", or "Oh, wow, cool, some emo album!", or "Heck, that guy's gorgeous!", or "Little pills? Razor blades? What the hell?". You wouldn't necessarily pick it up, look at it briefly and think, "Oh, wow, check this out - an album of extraordinary pianistic talent from a young, cool, English guy who hasn't had any formal education in music like the rest of us music plebes who have, indeed, gotten their degrees and still aren't cool." Would you? Would you really be thinking that? No, you wouldn't. Your curiosity might be piqued by the "big pianos" part, but, on the whole, you'd be a bit, "Well, I think this was shelved in the wrong part of the store. What's it doing amongst the people-in-suits Bach French Suite recordings?" (Suit you! SUIT YOU!)

However. (There is always a "however". It's usually followed by a comma, but I'm trying to be more dramatic.) The album is SO EXCITING. It is classical piano porn, I am telling you. I haven't been so intrigued and bewitched by a pianist's album in ...-- Well, that's just the thing. I haven't been this intrigued and bewitched before by a pianist (unless, of course, we are talking about pianists like Malcolm Martineau or Julius Drake, who have released albums with incredibly sexy singers... That's different; they are gods). Of course, I'm not a connoisseur of pianists. I cannot profess to know all of them, and to be fair, I am training to be an operatic soprano, so the majority of my listening is recordings of singers. Still, as my main partner in musicianship has to be a pianist, I like to think that I know a little bit about what I like. Also, I did indeed take piano lessons for six years (but as I hardly ever practised, I don't think I have any right to comment there). Anyway, my long-suffering point is that I am just entranced by James Rhodes' playing. It is elegant, provocative, mischievous, thoughtful, musical, intelligent, daring, sweet (in the dolce sense, not the lolly sense) and has a certain je ne sais quoi, which is what we all say when we're trying to think of something terribly intelligent to say, and just can't.

James must be enjoying great success from his first album (maybe the rest of his fans bought two copies, too? -- I know, shut up -- such a fan-girl), because he's already released the second one! Look! And it's a double-album!

Magical pants. And I can't get away with that shade of red. Dizamn.

I've been pov, what with no job and all in this new city as I pursue my Master of Music degree (again, which James Rhodes doesn't have and he doesn't seem to need one, either - if I could just sing all the time without having to do the degrees... I'd be so happy), but now that I have gained employment, this CD shall be MINE! Mine, I tell ye.

Let's watch James Rhodes kick arse at playing some Volodos/Mozart. (Even my favourite pianist/partner-in-crimes-against-lieder, Mikey, confessed that he thought that James Rhodes' pianistic skills was well leet, mate, well 1337, in this clip):

Or about we watch James Rhodes be utterly amazing at Moszkowski: Etincelles? Yes? More tea.

Let us now watch James Rhodes being utterly charming:

Actually-- alright. We could be here all day. Just click here and go directly to James Rhodes' YouTube channel, and watch the rest for yourself.

So, to recap: This is where you go to admire James Rhodes. This is where you go to read James Rhodes on Twitter. This is where you go to watch James Rhodes on YouTube. This is where you go to buy James Rhodes' CDs. This is where you become a fan of James Rhodes on Facebook.

Until next time, I remain,
eternally a stalker of James Rhodes,
Pam xxx

NB. Obviously, the images in this blog post do not belong to me. I don't really fancy that James Rhodes would be too offended if he knew, because all I'm doing is singing his praises, but you never know. Just so you're all aware: Not mine. His.

Mozart Requiem

I had this great burning desire to write about several topics and now I can't be bothered stepping up to bat for the topics that I feel most passionate about. One wonders how truly passionate I could possibly be. In any case, I'd like to let you all know (all two of you) that I'm singing the Mozart Requiem next week. Friday 30 April, at Llewellyn Hall, at the School of Music in Canberra (Childers St, off Marcus-Clarke St in Civic). Reasonably easy to find. Presume it starts at around 8pm. Might be able to confirm that for you but possibly too lazy. Now, it should be rather good. Some good soloists (a tenor from Queensland, a lovely mezzo-soprano from Sydney, and a dashing baritone from Albury), a smashing orchestra, a scintillating choir, and other bits and bobs on in the same programme. I will be wearing a fabulous dress also. Suggest you all fly to Canberra and attend AT ONCE. Do you hear me? That's right. Get on a-- oh, that's right, you can't. No planes are allowed to fly at the moment. What a bore. A yawny bore. Do you know, my Mum went to Iceland. She worked in a fish-factory and nearly got killed in a blizzard on her way to work once. Hell's bells. That's TWO strikes against Iceland so far... Yet, I'd still really like to go sometime. Iceland looks so cool (when it's not being flooded with hot lava and ash). So, yes. Point of this entry: come and see the Rambling Soprano sing at Llewellyn Hall next week. Hooroo. x