Music for solo voice – a reflection

Today I embarked on an experiment – a 50-minute recital of music for solo voice. I have been dreading this concert on-and-off ever since I programmed it ten months ago. Who would want to listen to me sing for almost an hour? Would there be enough variety in the programme? Would the audience get lost in a mire of atonality and nonsense text?

And then I got to London this morning and I was excited. I knew that an adventure was coming: one that might culminate in a high, or regret, or crushing disappointment. But it would not be a forgettable experience. That's why we do this, right?

Now it's over and I am on my train back to Wake rehearsals in Birmingham after a whirlwind afternoon of catching up with people. And I am trying to find the clarity of thought to reflect, and to develop my ideas.

What did I get from the experience? I enjoyed it; it went faster than expected; I enjoyed finding moments of stillness in the programme; and I enjoyed finding new ways to colour the text. I enjoyed the consciousness that my audience was with me from the first note of the Aperghis to the last note of the Weir – and I am grateful to them for that. I enjoyed finding the different hue or space owed to each phrase, and each movement. Somehow in the melee of 50 vulnerable minutes up there – serving the music seemed more important than ever.

What did my audience get from the experience? Something new, I hope. An exercise in focus. A chance to compare different styles of contemporary composition. I hope they found space in certain pieces to reflect, and to savour sound – or the lack of it. I hope they were surprised. Everybody was too polite to say they were bored, but different people liked and disliked different pieces of repertoire. And I hope that in the coming weeks, different questions will arise about the how and the why of devising this programme and concept.

I went into today wondering if I would ever subject myself, or anybody else to this again. And I think the answer is yes. The programme needed stillness – found in the Gowan-Webster. And it needed non-vocal sounds – from the Aperghis. It needed humour – Barchan. Story-telling – Weir. Lyricism – Carter. I could find these qualities in different works, but it is important to recognise what each piece brought to the table, and then explore future options.

Thank you to everyone who came on my adventure. Thank you for the music, without which it would have never materialised. Thank you all for making it a positive experience – for walking alongside me every step of the way with open ears and open hearts. There will be more, I think. Watch this space.