The Power of Words

As a poet, I have a deep love for the intricacies of text; as an artist, I have a passion for the unique aesthetic world of each language and the way it shapes the songs set to it. Over the years, I’ve hoarded a fairly vast repertoire spanning eleven languages, with repertoire suitable for any context. Areas of special interest include the songs of Fanny Hensel and her circle, Debussy’s Vasnier Songbook and Prose Lyriques, and the late songs of Ivor Gurney, but I feel equally at home in classical and contemporary song, late Baroque and lieder, chanson and cabaret.

The Four Quartets

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliot,

Blooming Where You’re Planted: Becoming Red Lotus

Since May, I have been involved in an extraordinary project: Monk and Lotus, a new opera mingling Western and Chinese opera and physical theatre. Below is a little taster of the result:   Whole-Body Singing: Shiru’s Wang’s Quest Mapping the Petals of the Lotus...

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‘The River’: Improvisation and Sounding Reality

Four Drums and One Stage On Sunday, I went to an improvisation gig by a jazz quartet at a venue in East London. Five minutes in, I was thinking that I should have read the blip more carefully, though a second reading confirmed my initial reaction, which was entirely...

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Smelly Shoes and Redemption

Today was a bit of a triumph, a laying to rest of old ghosts. For the first time in my memory, I went for a run (3 miles, if you wish to know details), and actually enjoyed it—all of it. No doubt it helped that it was a mild spring evening, that I was running around...

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Suchet, Swingouts and Semiquavers

Tuesday was a day of contrasts not as great as they initially appeared. First that evening, I went to hear David Suchet read the entire Gospel of Mark in St Paul's Cathedral. Several things struck me. First, the way that it brought out so vividly the original source...

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Death and the Semitone

‘For we shall be hereafter as though we had never been’. Cheery thoughts from Solomon, he of the Ecclesiastes quote, ‘Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless!’ One could imagine that in a song-cycle with a title such as Songs of Loss and Regret, these...

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Afterglow of a Instant Classic

‘Music, when soft voices die…vibrates in the memory’ (Percy Shelley) Two days after the recording and premiere of Jane Eyre with David Stout, Mark Milhofer, Gwion Thomas, Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra, these lines by Shelley capture my sensations,...

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Role as Relationship

Geography Learning a role is a bit like beginning a relationship. First comes the general geography: name, family, hometown, education. The parallel is the musical geography: how many scenes am I in? Have I highlighted all my lines? Have I marked in the next page...

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Lines in the Sand

Having just prepared a large chunk of Ilia from Mozart’s Idomeno with the lovely Kensington Chamber Orchestra, I have been pondering the different demands of singing in Italian and English. Though everyone is always telling me that Italian is easier to sing in,...

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The Balance of Furious Opposites: Dialectic in Jane Eyre

dialectic   noun  di·a·lec·tic \ˌdī-ə-ˈlek-tik\ 1:     philosophy: a method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth 2a:  discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation; specifically: the Socratic techniques...

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And So, Dear Reader

I begin, or rather continue, a relationship begun many years ago. Jane, who is not beautiful but is intensely herself, passionate and self-aware. Deprivation has taught her self-containment but she, as all of us, longs for connection. She finds it in the 'dark,...

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