Keep Music Playing / 3

Last week the RNCM should have been buzzing with excitement midway through the run of the opera, Mansfield Park. I know many of you will have been looking forward to seeing it, and will feel the same disappointment as our students in missing this wonderful production.

The College has now announced that the building will remain closed to the public for the remainder of this academic year, to safeguard our students, staff and audiences.

Although an incredibly difficult decision to make, the speed and flexibility that everyone has adapted to online teaching has been truly inspirational.

As we acclimatise to our new way of living, learning and engaging with music, I’m heartened by the ways in which our community is keeping our collective souls nourished during these challenging times.

Singing, particularly with others, brings such joy and below is a selection of just some of the wonderful activities our students and alumni are embracing. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Professor Lynne Dawson
Head of School of Vocal Studies and Opera

Online vocal teaching

As Head of the School of Vocal Studies and Opera, I am proud to report that all our singing tutors are now utilising online teaching methods. The feedback so far has been hugely positive and we are finding it is offering some wonderful new ways of working.

Olivia Townell, a second-year voice student, has been enjoying online signing lessons, accompanied by her mum, pianist Joanne Townell, performing together in isolation from their family home. Joanne notes; ‘This is a glimmer of light at the end of what has been such a dark week for us all.’

Free lessons and advice for singers

Rising star, soprano Soraya Mafi, Harewood Artist of English National Opera, RNCM alum and Honorary Associate Artist, is offering free lessons and advice to singers. Covering areas including repertoire, mental health and working in the industry, Soraya is generously sharing her expertise via her Twitter account.

Soraya’s recent performance, with Royal Wedding trumpeter, David Blackadder, of a beautiful programme including music by Purcell, Handel, Bach and Torelli launched the Academy of Ancient Music’s Sunday Streams on YouTube and can still be seen here.

Join in with a virtual choir from home

The wonderful Daniel McDwyer, recent RNCM alum, (and Director of our very own RNCM Staff Choir!), has been instrumental in harnessing the power of singing during the most challenging times. In 2018 Dan set up Bee Vocal, supporting those suffering from mental health problems through music and song, leading them to their stellar appearance at The Royal Variety Performance with Emeli Sande.

During this time of instability and increased insolation, Dan is spreading the message of singing, launching a new online virtual choir which he hopes will keep spirits high and bring people together through song.

 ‘During this difficult time, it’s important more than ever to look after our well-being and continue doing the things that we love… My online choirs allow people to sing in the comfort of their own home, learning new songs and vocal exercises while improving their singing and well-being’ – Dan McDwyer

To find out more about Dan’s online singing lessons for children and adults and to join the online choir, follow Twitter for updates @danielmcdwyer and @choir_project or subscribe to his YouTube channel.

National Youth Choir of Great Britain

Our friends at The National Youth Choir of Great Britain are continuing to engage their young members, many of whom are RNCM students and recent alumni. Each day they are posting a recording or video of their work, and asked our Principal, Professor Linda Merrick, to select a recording from their archive. She chose this beautiful piece by Olivier Messiaen, O Sacrum Convivium, conducted by Stephen Layton and recorded live in concert at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2017.

They’ll be posting a new QuaranTUNE each day, so do keep checking their website here for more treats.

Although our plans for travel are currently curtailed, we can still visit some of the most beautiful musical venues in the world, albeit virtually. So, relax and enjoy some armchair travels, drinking in this wonderful musical tour of the Sydney Opera House, waking up, in rehearsal and at rest.

And finally…

…a truly unique performance by RNCM vocal students of The Cries of London by Orlando Gibbins, recorded and performed last year in the Gala Pool at Manchester’s historic water palace, Victoria Baths.

A perfect example of how the College and our hugely talented students embrace the new, experiment and delight.

We promise that we too will keep finding ways to innovate, to nourish and to share the pure joy of music with you all. We have been so uplifted by your kind messages and generous donations.

The College is supporting as many students as possible, with immediate emergency grants to support their day to day living costs, while they are unable to rely on part time work or performing.

If you are in a position to offer some financial support, however small, the College and our students most in need would be so very grateful. For further details about how to give and how it will help, please visit here. Thank you.

Until next week, keep listening, keep singing and keep well.


3 April 2020