It has occurred to me that a ‘master’s in singing’ may seem a rather obtuse occupation to anyone outside of the conservatoire bubble. And so while I do not possess the ego, or status to justifiably write about ‘a week in the life of Mimi Doulton’, I do hope this might be enlightening to those of you living in the ‘real’ world. So, here it is - a week in the life of… me:
Monday: This week kicks off with a 9.45 am singing lesson at school - fortunately not every week does. I’ve been at home ill all weekend so am in a practice room (translate to concrete cell) by 9.15 testing what voice is there. Everything seems OK, so at 9.45 I head to my singing lesson to go through some exercises with my teacher, Gary, and get the full doctor’s report on my vocal condition. Thankfully, it’s a green light for the week ahead.
Lesson over it’s time for a quick meeting at work. I have two part-time jobs to help pay the bills, and fit them in where I can during the week. Next, I’m off to a two hour Italian repertoire class. I’m not singing this week, but there is always much to be gained from watching your colleagues and hearing their language, musicality and, sometimes, technique, being corrected.
Next up is my vocal coaching for the week. At Guildhall we change coach every term, and this is my second session with the lovely, but meticulous, Sandy. The role of a coach is to bring the music alive, and Sandy is brilliant at this - helping me make the best out of the words and notes on the page, despite my vocal limitations.
To end my day, I go to support my friends in a concert of Russian Song at Milton Court Concert Hall. I always find it so inspiring to enjoy the talent of my peers - and this is a seriously classy concert.
Tuesday: On Tuesday morning I have a luxurious few hours at home, which I spend translating new repertoire, researching composers and poets, and reading up on my Shakespeare for stagecraft later. Although this time to think and research is rare, it is immensely valuable for developing interpretation, and something I try desperately to schedule into the week.
In the afternoon I’m in school for the weekly stagecraft and movement sessions. We start with movement - an hour and twenty minutes of intense core strength and flexibility exercises. Whilst this kind of fitness is a must for singers, it is gruelling, agonising work that can be felt for days after the class. Stagecraft is gentler - we are currently being coached on how to develop character, using Shakespeare monologues as a starting point. I enjoy stagecraft and movement sessions as these are the moments when people are pushed completely out of their comfort zones - thus in these classes great friendships have been formed.
Tuesday evening I’m off to a film premiere at my old job - a nice evening off and an opportunity to be immersed in a different kind of art.
Wednesday: Wednesday morning I’m back in the practice room for 9 am, and on my way in to school I spot people leaving who have been practising even earlier than that! Practice rooms are a highly contested commodity in any music school, and early at morning/late at night is the prime opportunity to get a decent space to work in.
After an hour of exercises I’m off to watch the London Symphony Orchestra rehearse Mahler and Berg for three hours. One of the many perks of being a Guildhall student is that we get LSO rehearsal passes once a month, and this rehearsal is fascinating - taken by the extremely diligent conductor Francois Xavier-Roth. It is wonderful to see soprano Camilla Tilling in the more personal setting of a rehearsal, and to gain some insight into how she works.
The afternoon starts with an English song class, which is similar to Italian, except different repertoire. A quick French coaching is followed by platform - essentially a short recital opportunity for anyone who wants to test some repertoire. Another practice session (we do a lot of that), then dinner with a school-friend - because although food has largely been exempt from this blog post, it forms a very important part of my life!
Thursday: Guess what? Practise.
After a quick cup of tea at a friend’s flat I’m in school for 2.5 hours of rehearsals with three different pianists. First, for Friday’s French song class, next for a pianist’s exam in accompanying, and finally for my own mid-term exam which is coming around the corner fast. I love one-on-one rehearsals - there is the opportunity to throw musical dialogue back and forth in a way that can’t be done with larger groups of people. If the pianist is right, it’s more fun than hard work.
At 2 I’m off to watch a German repertoire class. This is followed by a masterclass with Amanda Roocroft, who is currently doing a series of classes at the Guildhall School on opera arias. I leave the class inspired and return home to three more hours of translations and concert planning. Then a couple of hours of ‘work’ work, and its time to call it a night.
Friday: Surprise, surprise… Friday morning starts in the practice room. In fact, the entirety of Friday morning is spent in a practice room. Fortunately, the afternoon involves a little more human contact - lunch, of course, and then a French repertoire class which I am singing in. We are working on some Gounod that I am singing for my mid-term. It’s a great opportunity to put the piece ‘on stage’ for the first time, and also to pick up some new interpretative ideas.
In the evening it’s the first of the six master’s opera scenes nights at Milton Court Concert Hall. Another chance to watch my class-mates and be inspired… and entertained!
Saturday: Saturday is a blur of sleeping, eating, studying, working… basically anything but practising. School is taken over by the Junior department on a Saturday - I like to think of it as an enforced day off!
Sunday: When I get lucky, Sunday mornings begin in church - it may not be everyone’s idea of luck but it’s a good way to get another £50/60 in the bank and work with some brilliant musicians. This Sunday I’m at the journalist’s church on Fleet Street and a rather famous journalist is in the congregation with his new beau…
Back home for a couple of hours to catch up on the ‘day-job’ and then into town again to practise and support my friends performing at the Barbican tonight.
And that’s me done for the week. I hope. If you made it this far, congratulations. If you skipped to the end, I’ll sum it up for you: I watch, I listen, and I practise. And just sometimes, I do sit-ups.