I was privileged to to be a Britten-Pears Young Artist this June. And wanted to write a blog about my experience now that I have returned from the singing Britten Course.
If you don't know who Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is - here is his wikipedia page. In a single sentence; he was (and still is) one of the most influential British composers for vocal music and opera of the twentieth century.
He was mostly based in Aldeburgh, Suffolk where the course took place. It was fascinating to surround myself with many of the sights and sounds that he would have been inspired by. It really helped me to understand his song writing better.
We were also privileged to watch the opera production of A Midsummer Night's Dream while we were there. It is so interesting to compare the way he wrote for piano and voice with the way he wrote for opera.
The repertoire I was working on and performed in the masterclasses with my wonderful pianist Keval Shah, was:
On this Island (Op. 11)
I.Let the florid music praise!
II. Now the leaves are falling fast
V. As it is, plenty
Britten Folk Song Arrangements
Ca' the yowes
O can ye sew cushions
She's like the Swallow
The Last Rose of Summer
The Salley Gardens
Who are these Children? (Op. 84)
II. "A Laddie's Sang"
IV. "Black Day"
XII. "The Auld Aik"
I learned a great deal about music and artistry while I was on the course. I think the main thing I will take away is that it is important to be very specific when singing a song. You have to have an idea for every word and syllable that you sing. That is what will make the text come alive and really mean something.
I'm not finished with singing music by Britten (even if the course has now ended). I will be performing some of the songs that I worked on during my time in Santander, Spain. And in August I will be singing 2nd Niece in Britten's Peter Grimes for Dartington.
Jennifer Coleman is a soprano who works as a classical singer and vocal coach. Available for performances across the UK and internationally.