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Introducing the Samling Young Artists

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Samling Young Artists

For this concert we are partnering with our friends at the Hexham-based Samling Institute for Young Artists. Samling offers incredible coaching and professional development opportunities for young singers and pianists and we’re really pleased that we give no less than six of them the chance to shine on the Sage One stage as part of our concert with conductor Nicholas McGegan. We caught up with four of the young artists, putting a few questions about the project and their time as a Samling Young Artists to them:

Can you tell us a little about what you’re singing with Royal Northern Sinfonia, and what you enjoy about it?

Harriet Burns, soprano (bottom right)

“I’m one of the soprano soloists in Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus, and Bach’s Magnificat. Both pieces are baroque masterpieces, they’re great fun to sing with lots of interesting musical features to bring out, and both pieces have great choruses for us to enjoy!”

Michael Bell, tenor (top left)

“I’ll be singing in the Bach Magnificat in D and Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus. The Bach is a firm favourite but the Vivaldi is completely new to me; I think it’s great to have such a positive, rhythmic work as a foil to the well-loved Magnificat.”

Lauren Lodge-Campbell, soprano (bottom left)

“I’m singing Soprano 2 solos in Bach Magnificat and Vivaldi Dixit Dominus. I’ve been enjoying learning the soprano 2 part for the Bach as I’ve only sung the soprano 1 part before. My aria Et exsultavit is really joyful and has some interesting and unexpected harmonies. I absolutely love singing Bach. I haven’t sung the Vivaldi piece before but I’m looking forward to the duet with Harriet Burns (soprano 1), which is also really joyful.”

Katherine Aitkin,mezzo-soprano (top right)

“I’m singing the mezzo solos in Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus, Bach’s Magnificat and Caroline Shaw’s Is A Rose. It’s always brilliant getting your teeth into the great works of the repertory, like the Magnificat, but the highlight for me is Is A Rose. I love tackling contemporary music and bringing new voices to audiences. The final song of Is A Rose is particularly special as it’s a setting of a Robert Burns poem and as a Scottish lass with Burns night just gone, it feels very special.

The performance is being conducted by a specialist in period performance, Nicholas McGegan – does that have any impact on how you approach the music as a singer?

Harriet: “We’re very lucky to work with Nicholas and to collaborate on the best interpretation for a historically-informed performance. Vocally, I treat it the same way as I would any other song or aria I perform; it needs great preparation and good commitment to energy and text. I very much enjoy singing period performance pieces – the music is alive with musical and dramatic possibilities.”

Michael: “Period performance is all about gesture, so I will be thinking of that in particular in advance of meeting up for rehearsals later in the week.”

Lauren: “I’m really passionate about baroque music and it’s a real privilege to work with conductors who are specialists in the repertoire.”

Katherine: “I don’t think it changes how I approach the music from a preparation point of view but I’m very much looking forward to rehearsals and to hearing how someone who lives and breathes this repertoire interprets it. With someone of Nicolas’ calibre at the helm, you know you’re in for a treat! “

Audiences just get to see the finished product – how much preparation do you have to put in before a concert like this?

Harriet: “A great amount! It’s ideal to spend a number of hours on a work you’re preparing to perform; this also includes time with coaches and lessons on the repertoire to ensure you’re going along in the right direction! There’s always more going on behind the concert stage than we think, but it’s always worth it.”

Michael: “Lots! Fortunately I have done the Bach before, but you still need to revisit and relearn a piece like that before every performance. For a new piece like the Vivaldi it is really important to start early enough in your preparation, even more important than the number of hours you put into it.”

Lauren: “Luckily I’ve sung the Magnificat before – although a different part this time so I have to make sure I sing the right part, especially in the trio as the lines overlap each other. That’s a challenge! After a lot of preparation my hope is that I can focus on enjoying the performance with the orchestra and other singers.”

Katherine: “A lot!”

What has being a Samling Young Artist meant for you?

Harriet: “The Samling Institute for Young Artists is an amazing organisation. I had such a wonderful week during my residency, and met coaches and musicians that are still important in my performing life to this day. Being a Samling Artist has opened a number of doors for me, and I don’t think I’d be where I am now I’d be without their support.”

Michael: “Being a Samling Young Artist makes you part of a huge family of singers across several generations which is a fantastic resource and support network.”

Lauren: “Samling have been a real source of support. I learnt so much during our artist residency week and they continue to provide great opportunities to their young artists.”

Katherine: “Being a Samling Artist has, without exaggeration, been one of the most artistically fulfilling things I’ve done. The coaching you receive whilst on the course is world class and having the chance to surround yourself with incredibly talented young singers creates the best environment for professional and personal growth. It’s the continued support though, that I think makes The Samling Institute so special. You really are part of a family and as a young singer in what can be a gruelling profession, having someone on your side is invaluable.”

What composer or musician, past or present, would you most like to have dinner with, and why?

Harriet: “This is too difficult to answer! There are so many people. I would love to have dinner with Victoria Wood: I love her songs and adore her musical Acorn Antiques. I love her ability to humanise words and communicate through humour. I’d also love to have dinner with Franz Schubert, his Lieder is a big part of my performing life and I’d love to delve into his life and music with him.”

Michael: “It’s very difficult to choose, but I think perhaps Mozart. His music has become so universal that we all feel we have a clear idea of what it is and what it should be, but I often wonder what he was used to hearing and now that informed his writing, particularly from singers. He also famously had a sense of humour so would go down well at a dinner party…”

Lauren: “I really like contemporary composer Mica Levi. I’d love to meet them and talk about their music and how their influences have shaped their sound.”

Katherine: “That’s an easy one, Joyce Di Donato! Not only is she an incredible artist and an idol of mine, but she seems like a genuinely lovely woman and would be brilliant company.”

What piece or song (of any genre) are you listening to on repeat at the moment?

Harriet: “I’m a massive fan of choral music, my wife’s a choral conductor so I hear a lot of it I’m currently listening to Mendelssohn’s Elijah at the moment, it’s top tune after top tune!”

Michael: “Perhaps unusually I have recently been reacquainting myself with the classic Steely Dan album Can’t Buy a Thrill

Lauren: “I’d like to name drop some cool new albums here but honestly probably just the music that I’m learning at the moment!”

Katherine: “At the moment, I’m binge listening to Caroline Shaw singing ‘And So’, the second song in Is A Rose. She recorded it a few years ago with the Attacca Quartet and not only is it a fabulous recording, but it’s amazing to hear a composer playing or singing their own work; it gives real insight to how they imagine the piece being performed and really helps influence my performance.”

The Samling Young Artists join Royal Northern Sinfonia and conductor Nicholas McGegan on Friday 3 February.