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Hailed as “a rather special mezzo” (MusicWeb International), Helen Charlston’s warm and distinctive tone has cemented her as a key performer in the next generation of British singers. She received first prize in the 2018 Handel Singing Competition, was a finalist in the Hurn Court Opera Competition, and in the 2018-19 season she will make her debut with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (Handel Messiah) and return to work with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (Bach St Matthew Passion).
For her recital, Helen will be joined by lutenist Toby Carr and their programme, titled Lettera Amorosa, pairs the solo vocal works (a voce sola) of two great Italian composers: Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Barbara Strozzi (1619-77). It will include Monteverdi’s Lettera Amorosa (published 1619) and his Lamento d’Arianna, the only surviving fragment of his 1608 opera, L’Arianna. The recital follows the highs and lows of love – from languishing looks and sighs of passion, to cries of ‘Let me die’ – something which for Helen makes this music ever relevant.
Some of the music you’re performing is over 400 years old – why do you think it still speaks so vividly to us today?
I guess the words are really important here. Despite 400 years of history, the complications, elations, and inconsistencies of Love, or what it might mean to love, surely haven’t changed much, have they? But it’s more than just a ‘theme of love’. What makes these works so vivid is that they are perfect examples of moments or situations that are so extreme, that the only answer is to vocalise it and sing! Just reading the poetry, or writing it, is not enough. Arianna (in Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna) for example, has to lament and bewail as a physical, gutteral response to her abandonment.
This music also presents a vulnerable scene: just a singer and, in this instance, one instrumentalist. It requires both players to be totally open and honest in what they are doing, which in turn draws the audience into a scene that could in fact be completely contemporary.
How are you benefiting from the CMF Artist Programme so far?
It is wonderful to have such a team of experts so easily to hand! As well as the lunchtime recital, I have been preparing for Tchaikovsky: Notes & Letters where I’m performing alongside three amazing artists (also CMF Patrons): Simon Callow, Roger Vignoles, and Joan Rogers. Joan has been guiding me through the songs and coaching me on the Russian and then I get to sing them accompanied by Roger Vignoles; you couldn’t ask for a greater line-up really! It’s also really wonderful to have a team of people around you who are in your corner and very happy to answer your silly questions and help.
Tell us about a gig you’ve got coming up:
On 18th November I have a concert with Amici Voices, a small baroque ensemble that I run. It’s a rather lovely concert format that we started last year centred around music for the Vespers service, performed in a liturgical setting. We started with Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, but on 18th we look to Handel and the music of the Italian School that influenced him as a youngster in Rome. The programme includes Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Nisi Dominus, as well as a number of rather glorious psalm settings for voices and instruments by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Finetti. It should be a pretty special evening. Oh, and its free, so the more the merrier…! Secure your tickets here.
Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano) with Toby Carr (lute)
Wednesday 14th November 1pm
The Hospital Church of St Bartholomew the Less
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Helen and Joan spent the afternoon together discussing how to build a successful singing career, as well as preparing for Tchaikovsky: Notes & Letters (Friday 16th November), at which they’ll both be performing songs and duets by the Russian composer accompanied by Roger Vignoles, another CMF patron. Joan, Helen, and Roger will be joined on stage by a third illustrious CMF patron, Simon Callow, who’ll narrate the evening.
Tchaikovsky: Notes & Letters
Friday 16th November 2018 6.30pm
Guildhall Art Gallery & Roman Amphitheatre
Book your tickets here
Towards the end of their session, Joan and Helen were interviewed by Classical Music Magazine. The interview provides a fascinating insight into the mentoring process as Joan offers Helen advice on taking the right opportunities, learning resilience, choosing repertoire, and looking after your instrument, i.e. you!
At the end of the article you’ll find a detailed summary of the CMF Artist Programme: Artistic Mentoring, Business Mentoring, Professional Development Workshops, Promotion, Performances, and support from the CMF Team.
Reproduced by kind permission of Rhinegold Publishing Ltd.
A former prize-winner at the USA International Harp Competition, Welsh harpist Gwenllian Llyr has performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and St David’s Hall.
Her programme will include works by Debussy, Scriabin, and Liszt, as well as music by the French harpist/composer Henriette Renié and a trio a of Welsh composers: Grace Williams, Haldon Evans, and William Matthias.
We caught up with Gwenllian ahead of her recital!
Why have you decided to perform music by Welsh composers?
The simple answer is because I’m Welsh! It’s important to me to be a champion of Welsh music and share these wonderful pieces as widely as possible. I’m also preparing for a new recording… stay tuned for more information!
How are you benefiting from the CMF Artist Programme so far?
It has been wonderful to be a part of this programme – I’ve connected with a variety of industry professionals that have inspired me in different ways and provided new opportunities. It’s also incredibly helpful to have a team on the other end of the phone that can guide you in the right direction, be a listener or brainstorm a new idea.
Tell us about a gig you’ve got coming up.
I’m so looking forward to performing in Belgium for the 25th anniversary of Harpe Diem! The programme will be quite varied, including one of my own compositions and I’ll also be teaching a masterclass. It will be great to connect with more harpists and celebrate the success of this great festival. Details of this and other exciting upcoming concerts can be found on my website: www.gwenllianllyr.com
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