The 2014 winners were vocalist Sabrina Curwen, a student at Sir Roger Manwood's School in Sandwich, and violinist Jessica Meakin of St Edmund's School. 2014 is the first year in which two winners were selected, due to the extremely high standard of performance and talent on the evening.
Blog Post #1 - March 2015
Wow, what a busy few months it's been. I feel like every month that passes gets busier!
Aside from applying to university, working for my A-levels and playing my flute, my singing life has also been packed. Soon after winning the bursary competition in October, I was asked to perform in my school for the 100th commemoration of the beginning of the First World War. The service was attended by our Combined Cadet Force and ex-military members, and I hope that my version of Faure's Requiem was a fitting tribute. Following this, I performed at the school's carol services in our local church, singing the legendary 'Once in Royal David's City' solo, something I had looked forward to since starting at Manwood's in Year 7. As a result of this performance, I was asked to perform the soprano solo in the Rutter 'Requiem' in a collaborative concert of local choral societies in April. I have been working towards this rather tricky solo and I look forward to this concert coming up soon.
Throughout these past few months I have also worked at another area of singing that I love, musical theatre. A really wonderful aspect of my life at school has been the annual show, auditioned in June, rehearsed from September and performed in February. This year the show was 'Joseph and his amazing technicolour dreamcoat', and I was lucky enough to play the part of the Narrator. I absolutely loved rehearsing and performing with all the cast, even if the month of January was filled with after school and all day Sunday rehearsals, and it was with a very fond farewell that I finished my last ever musical at school.
Since then, I've had my first meeting with Ali at the Canterbury Festival about what the plans are for this year, in the ambassadorial role. We've started to plan concerts and workshops, both of which I am very excited about taking. I also started thinking about what I would like to use my bursary award for, and I have just recieved confirmation that I've been accepted onto the Eton Choral Course in July. I had looked at applying for this prestidgious course last year, however I couldn't afford to go. Being awarded the bursary has allowed me to have many more opportunities than I usually would, and so I am extremely excited about attending this course in the summer, and being able to sing in the beautiful chapels at Eton and Oxford. Aside from school work and music, I'm looking forward to a trip up to visit my sister in York. We're planning to visit the Yorkminster and, of course, Betty's Tea Rooms!
Blog Post #2 - September 2015
This summer has been extremely hectic and a whirlwind of singing! After a stressful few months taking my A-level exams in May and June, I was ready for a quick holiday with my friends to Greece to start the summer. Unfortunately, despite coming home very relaxed, I soon came down with a throat infection and completely lost my voice. As you can imagine, I was devasted! As a result I had to cancel the Eton Choral Course that I was planning to go on at the beginning of the summer. I was extremely disappointed and spent the next few weeks recovering whilst trying to do as little singing as possible.
Thank fully, I was able to go on the National Youth Choir course down in Cornwall in August. It was so nice to see some old friends, and the intense schedule effectively whipped my voice back into shape! After spending a few days in sunny Cornwall following the concert in Truro cathedral, I returned home to find that someone had dropped out of Course 6 of the Eton Choral Courses, to be held at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and so there was a place for me! I excitedly took up the offer, and off I went a few days later.
I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life. I’d never sung in a chapel choir before, and I learnt so many things, from how to sing psalms to how different it is to sing for a radio broadcast than for a live performance. The amount that we packed into each day was phenomenal, rehearsing from 8.40 to 22.00 at night! One of the best moments was being given the opportunity to have a private lesson with Iestyn Davies, world-renowned countertenor, when he came to give a masterclass. Working with such a great singer was amazing, and I’ve gained so many invaluable ideas about performing. Another highlight had to be exploring the chapels and colleges of Queen’s, King’s and St. John’s, which was a privilege.
Finally, with only a week spare after getting back from Cambridge, I packed numerous boxes and bags and moved to Greenwich, where I am now studying classical singing at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. I was lucky enough to be offered a place on their ISP Foundation course, a one-year programme that will hopefully provide the basis for my singing career. I’ve only been here a few days, but already I have fallen in love with Greenwich and I’m starting to feel like a proper music student! I cannot wait to get stuck into the year to come.
I can’t finish this blog post without saying a massive thank you to the benefactors of the bursary award, without which I couldn’t have gone on the Cambridge Choral Course. The rest of my bursary has gone towards funding my course here at Trinity, and I know already that it will be an invaluable help. Thank you.
Blog Post #1 - Summer 2015
Here we are, nearly a year on from having won the Bursary competition, and I cannot believe how fast it has whizzed by!
This past year has been absolutely jam packed for me, and I think its fair to say that it’s been one of the busiest (and most stressful) of my life (so far at least). For most of the year I was working hard towards my mock A-level exams, and then the actual exams, which I took in the summer. Also mixed in with this was my monthly visits to sunny Madrid to see my teacher, every Saturday in London at Junior Guildhall plus daily practice – that is at least 2 hours a day….. I think the trips to Madrid kept me going though – not just because I get amazing tuition from a truly inspirational and unbelievable teacher BUT, …..hey…. a week of sun; just me, my mum, and my third arm/loyal companion-my violin!!!!
I think I was in shock after winning the Bursary – what an honour and what an achievement! Despite this, life actually goes on as normal but because of my other commitments, life was fairly/relatively quiet in terms of performing, but certainly not in terms of practicing! My school’s annual Gala Concert was being held in March where I played the Beethoven Romance in F alongside my school orchestra and some players of the English Chamber Orchestra. It was a true delight and pleasure to be given an opportunity to perform with this National orchestra where every player is not only friendly (they are actually human after all) but have achieved so much in their careers – I make it my mission to talk to as many musicians as possible (not just string geeks either) – everyone has a view or an opinion and it is always worth hearing it, even if I don’t agree with it. Later in the spring I was also asked by David Burridge to perform with his orchestra “Revelation Strings” (an orchestra made up of pupils, teachers and professionals – as you can imagine, the range of abilities is very wide but….it works extremely well and David does an amazing job in producing amazing performances). I also played the Beethoven, so by the 3rd and final performance, I think I had it nearly figured out – my teacher says it takes 7 performances though to ‘get it right’ so what do I know!
In May, and also as part of my role as Ambassador for the Arts for the Festival, I helped to run a strings’ workshop for Kai Strings, where I tutored two young violinists (one of whom had a pink violin and bow – its fair to say I was very jealous!) to play a couple of small string pieces, and helping them figure out difficult and complex rhythms, using the word “Chicken” to outline the rhythm (I think it went “Chick chick chick, chick chick-en chicken”), which I think left us all a bit hungry more than anything! It was a real delight to see both the girls enjoying the workshop, both of them becoming more and more confident in their own playing. It made me feel like a Mother Hen (if you will pardon the pun…)!
I also played at the Sandwich Arts Festival’s Film Music evening, where I played the heart-wrenching melody of Schindler’s List and also “The Swan” by Saint-Seans (although originally for cello…) where I played alongside a young ballet dancer. It was very calming watching her float around the stage in front of me, but was also great to work with someone in a different form of art trying to make a single experience and atmosphere. Definitely an experience that was brand new for me and I hope it was as enjoyable for her as it was for me. It was really good though that as we got more comfortable with each other during the rehearsals, the more we were able to interact together, and the result was heightened emotions of the piece in its entirety! I hope the audience were as moved as we were – it was truly and new, and wonderful, experience for me.
A few weekends ago I helped David Burridge in the “Revellers” String Course (the younger orchestra of Revelation Strings), where I was tutoring and helping out with children of a standard between open strings and grade VI. As well as this, I played the first movement of Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons with them, each child having a part which was suitable for their standard, however still allowed them to feel as if they were making a worthy contribution to the overall piece. It was really great to see them all enjoying playing music, which is what its all about really, right? Just seeing the younger children of today enjoying and being interested and challenged by classical music! ALL HAIL VIVALDI!
Earlier this year when I was also invited by the Festival to play at their annual Vice President’s dinner. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and very little info about the venue – which turned out to be a first because I was playing in a marquee!!! The Festival gives many people the opportunities to see and hear the hard work of others and for me, it was a chance to give something back to the people who pull it all together, giving me the opportunity to show them how they’ve helped me!
Immediately before my performance, I was watching people file in and it started to make me think how lucky to be playing on a fine instrument that I’ve really managed to connect with and which I feel is simply part of me. It has taken me several years to find one I’m comfortable with - it’s like an extra arm really! However, it is on loan to me where a monthly rate is being paid, and this is one area where part of my Bursary prize has helped. I am also extremely lucky to be using a fantastic bow, and although the bow is mine (well, my Dad’s really – you cant beat Bank of Dad!) and it really get’s the best out of my playing, being able to explore different colours and sounds that I can create with these two sticks of wood which are ever so precious to me! Finally, the Bursary has also helps me to pay a little of the costs towards my trips to Spain. I know that I am very lucky in the way that I am learning with such a fantastic globally acclaimed teacher, who is helping me leaps and bounds to become not only the player, but the musician, that I hope to become.
Blog Post #2 September 2015
This summer has been a total whirlwind of new experiences for me!
I have been a member the National Youth Strings Orchestra for 4 years now, and this year was certainly an important and busy year for the orchestra. In the summer we went on a tour to Denmark, and so to help show how truly great NYSO are as an organization, I was asked to lead a quartet to play at the Royal Artillery Hall in London for the Danish-UK Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner. When arriving at the venue, we were shown to our performance space, where we had to climb up a very steep ladder into a little door, which then led onto a small balcony overlooking the entire room. It was rather interesting trying to navigate a cello up said ladder! On our summer course, after a week of intense rehearsals in Leatherhead, we embarked on a 17-hour coach journey through the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands (we only knew where we were through texts we received from phone companies!) before finally reaching Denmark at 2 o’clock in the morning, being told upon arrival that we had to be down to breakfast by 9am so that we could get on our way to the 1st of 5 concerts we were to perform. In 3 of the concerts, we were extremely lucky to be joined by the leader of the Danish Radio Symphony, Christina Åstrand. It was such an experience to have accompanied Christina because she was not only a fantastic violinist, but she was genuine, kind and truly inspirational. Plus, she also let me have a go on her Stradivarius violin!!!!! After our final concert as part of the Schubertiaden Festival in the Roskilde Cathedral, we set off back home, through Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France, until we finally touched down in the UK, after another monster of a coach journey! However we were not finished yet, we still had our most important concert to perform, at King’s Place in London. Christina accompanied us again here, and the entire concert was such a success and the best we’d ever played our programme (which we now knew like the backs of our hands!). Tears were spared as we left the stage, however not by the audience, but by some of the orchestra (mainly me…). I was also very pleased and privileged to hear that I will now be the new leader of the orchestra, which is such an exciting prospect, even if it is a little tiny bit frightening!
For now though, I am starting the next stage of my life: the stage of work and paying for (a few more) things myself! Having finished school, I am now on a gap year continuing my monthly trips to Spain, and also working at my school, St Edmunds, as a Music Assistant (I have a staff badge and everything! very grown up…). Whilst you would think I have more time…I don’t because I am increasing my practice time and taking every opportunity to perform and I hope to get lots more opportunities this year!