Monthly Archives: May 2014

Opera singer Lucy Kay voted through to finals

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Opera has been pushed to the forefront of British television screens after singer Lucy Kay made waves and wowed Simon Cowell with her rendition of Nella Fantasia.

The 25-year-old musician was voted through to the final of Britain's Got Talent, after a powerful and moving performance.

She also got a standing ovation from the judges after winning the hearts of the public.

The Glasgow-born singer described how she had previously been bullied for her love of classical music, which has now seen her rise to the top of her game.

Music mogul Simon Cowell was particularly impressed with her performance. He said: "Incredible. I mean, you literally saved the show. I was on my way home and then you came back and most importantly you proved a point to yourself. You have got rid of all your problems in your past.”

Fellow judge Amanda Holden said that it was one of the most "haunting" pieces of music she has heard in a long time.

She added: "You came back looking like a star, sounding like a star. Your voice control was incredible and I'm so happy we found you on this show. Amazing."

Thousands of hopefuls had applied for a chance to make it to the live semi-finals, but only 45 acts have made it through.

Of those who did get through to the live semi-finals, they are set to battle it out on the ITV1 show for the prize of £250,000 and a spot at the Royal Variety Performance.

Ms Kay also admitted that one of the musicians she looked up to is Susan Boyle, but it remains to be seen whether she will be able to follow in her footsteps.

Praising her performance, Alesha Dixon said: "Lucy I adore you and I know you have been on such a personal journey. You just transported me in that performance. I think you are a star."

The semi-finals are set to be held on May 30th, at 7.30pm while the final is on June 7th.

Opera has been pushed to the forefront of British television screens after singer Lucy Kay made waves and wowed Simon Cowell with her rendition of Nella Fantasia. The 25-year-old musician was voted through to the final of Britain's Got Talent,

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Technology meets opera in new advert

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Tech giant Apple has entered into the world of classical music, in its new advert for its iPad that shows Philharmonia Orchestra conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen using the tablet to compose his music.

The company has helped to give itself a sophisticated boost by showing off the composing skills of Salonen as part of its ‘mini-documentary’.

In the high production value video series, viewers are given an insight into the Finnish musician's life, as it goes behind the scenes to show how he uses the device to write music.

At the same time, the advert also shows Salonen using his orchestra app, which allows visitors to go on an interactive tour through the work of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and view performances.

The ad had 100,000 YouTube hits on its first day and was described as “a cool, elegant piece of work” by author Alex Ross.

But most importantly of all, the advert shows how technology can be a major influence on the composition of classical music and highlights the various ways in which devices can be used to both view concerts and perform pieces.

It also helps to inject a little bit of trendiness into the world of classical music, which in the past has been perceived as the preserve of the elderly and elites, according to composer Roxanna Panufnik.

He added in an interview with the Independent: "For composers to be seen as mainstream people involved in mainstream activities is a great advance for our public image. Previously, we’d maybe looked a bit precious and ivory towerish. I think this will give us great street cred."

In the advert, Salonen is seen travelling across London, coming up with new ideas for classical pieces, using his iPad.

It is the latest in a series of mini-documentaries which show the different ways that professionals can use the device.

Tech giant Apple has entered into the world of classical music, in its new advert for its iPad that shows Philharmonia Orchestra conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen using the tablet to compose his music. The company has helped to give itself a

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London’s Royal Opera House opens up to students

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London's Royal Opera House (ROH) is set to kick off the first night of its new season by handing over all of the seats in its auditorium to students, it has been announced.

In September, it is set to begin a series of new shows and performances, and tickets will be priced from £1 to £25, and include seats that would usually cost hundreds.

The move is part of a strategy by the Royal Opera House to open up opera and ballet to a broader audience and more diverse performers.

One of the most talked about shows on at the ROH at the moment is the opera, Anna Nicole. The play tells the story of "the brief life and sad death" of the glamour model, Anna Nicole Smith.

Anna was became notorious for her marriage, aged 25, to an octogenarian oil magnate and led a colourful career up until her death in February 2007.

These new announcements by the ROH are part of a strategy to help them to build up a reputation for being one of the most accessible and dynamic theatres on the planet.

Commenting on the scheme, ROH chief executive Alex Beard, told BBC News: "We do a tonne of stuff – but what has been missing is a galvanising moment. We don't underestimate the importance of old audiences.

"These are art forms that have had three or four centuries of history. They speak about the universal human condition, of love, death, sex and betrayal and they are still being refreshed today."

The initiative is targeting university students registered for the ROH student standby scheme, who will be able to apply for some of the tickets from mid-June.

Youngsters under the age of 16 on the Roundhouse young creatives initiative will also be eligible.

London's Royal Opera House (ROH) is set to kick off the first night of its new season by handing over all of the seats in its auditorium to students, it has been announced. In September, it is set to begin

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Arcade Fire’s Richard Parry announces new solo album

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Classical music fans may be interested to know that Richard Reed Parry, multi-instrumentalist with Arcade Fire, is set to release his first solo classical album on Deutsche Grammophon.

The album will be entitled 'Music for Heart and Breath', designed to imitate the human heartbeat.

It will also contain the hit song of the same name, in which performers are required to wear a stethoscope and play notes according to their own heart rate and breathing.

Grammy award winner Parry is no stranger to the world of music. He plays a wide variety of instruments and often switches between guitar, drums, accordion and keyboards.

He is also occasionally known to perform as a drummer and backup singer with Little Scream. 

Other musicians featured on the album are set to include the Kronos Quartet, and bandmates Aaron and Bryce Dessner, who are well known for their work with indie group The National.

In addition, composer Nico Muhly will be on the album.

Arcade Fire has recently hit the headlines after releasing the full length video for their new single 'We Exist'.

The video was shot at last month's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California.

Parry's website described his new album as "A slow process of creating a new way of playing music… very soft, very quiet music, played utterly in synch with the heart rates and breathing rates of the musicians performing it.

"Every note you hear is either in synch with the heartbeat of the person playing it, or the breathing of the person (or one of the surrounding persons) playing it. So what you hear when this music plays is played precisely in time with someone's quiet, internal rhythms. Brought to musical life by a handful of different ensembles."

On July 3rd, Arcade Fire are set to play at Hyde Park in London, and will also bring their current world tour to the UK next month, with a performance scheduled for London's Earls Court on June 6 and 7. 

Classical music fans may be interested to know that Richard Reed Parry, multi-instrumentalist with Arcade Fire, is set to release his first solo classical album on Deutsche Grammophon. The album will be entitled 'Music for Heart and Breath', designed to

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Composer Paul Mealor’s piece to be performed for Pope

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Music writer Paul Mealor spoke of the honour of his work being selected to be performed at the Vatican in June, it has been reported.

His wedding motet, 'Ubi Caritas et Amor', will be performed at the ceremony, which is taking place at a special mass being held on June 15th.

Although the music had originally been commissioned for the royal wedding, the composer says the piece has been used in a variety of different purposes.

Mealor said he was 'honoured, humbled and amazed' after hearing his piece was being selected.

In an interview with Classic FM he added: "It's not often you hear your music performed at St Peter's Basilica, in fact, it's the first time it's been performed there. I'm very humbled by it, it was written for royal family, performed in front of the Queen, and now this! I'm very, very moved."

Mealor has had a long and fruitful career in composing classical music pieces. The wedding of Prince William and Kate really helped his career to take off, and in 2011, he composed the song 'Wherever You Are', which became the 2011 Christmas number one in the UK singles chart.

In 2013, Mealor composed the song 'With a friend like you' for the end of the second season of BBC 2's series "The Choir: Sing while you work". 

Speaking about his latest appointment for the Vatican, Mr Mealor, added in the Classic Fm interview: "Although the piece gets done a lot now, its not an easy piece to sing. It was performed as a wedding piece, and then it was performed at the 9/11 memorial with the three presidents in attendance, so then it became a song of hope. 

"That's what the words mean after all: 'Where charity and love are, god is there. Now it's going back to its roots in the Vatican, from where the words originally came – it's gone full circle really. I'm amazed."

Music writer Paul Mealor spoke of the honour of his work being selected to be performed at the Vatican in June, it has been reported. His wedding motet, 'Ubi Caritas et Amor', will be performed at the ceremony, which is

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Can classical music training change your brain?

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A new study has helped to highlight the beneficial effects of studying classical music on the brain.

Research conducted by analysts at the University of Liverpool found that 30 minutes of musical training can increase blood flow to the left hemisphere of the brain.

The study pulled together a group of 14 musicians and nine non-musicians who were both given musical and word-generating tasks, while their brain activity was monitored. 

What it found was that for the musicians, the brain activity was very similar in both tasks,  but this was not the case in the latter group.

Commenting on the study, Amy Spray, who carried out the experiments, said: "The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared and previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain."

She called results "fascinating" and said they could literally start to change the brain with just half an hour of musical training.

The participants were tested again and another group of non-musicians were required to undertake 30 minutes of musical training (involving learning to tap a complex rhythm).

They were then given the word and music tasks. The results showed that the activity in this second group of non-musicians showed no significant similarities from the musicians, before the training exercise.

However, after the musical training, this group showed more signs of increased blood flow to the left part of the brain.

Dr Georg Mayer, another researcher from the University of Liverpool, explained: "This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing. 

"Therefore we can assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechanisms utilised for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language."

A new study has helped to highlight the beneficial effects of studying classical music on the brain. Research conducted by analysts at the University of Liverpool found that 30 minutes of musical training can increase blood flow to the left

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Sir John Tomlinson honoured with classical music award

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Sir John Tomlinson has been honoured with a Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Gold Medal, it has been announced.

Mr Tomlinson has already won RPS awards during his career, and has been praised as an 'international treasure'.

The RPS also paid homage to the fact that his "magnificent bass voice has thrilled audiences around the world in opera and in concert for more than 40 years".

Sir Tomlinson has had a long and colourful career and sings regularly with the Royal Opera and English National Opera. He has also appeared with all the major British opera companies.

In addition, he has previously sung at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany every year from 1988 to 2006 and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1997 for his services to music.

He was also knighted in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

The RPS medal was created in 1870 to commemorate the centenary of Beethoven's birth, while the Gold Medal is the society's highest honour.

It aims to celebrate the close relationship between the composer and the society.

Previous recipients of the medal include Brahms, Delius and Elgar, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky.

Six years ago, Tomlinson created the title role in Birtwistle’s The Minotaur and was also the inspiration for the dual roles of the Green Knight and Bertilak in Gawain, which premiered at Covent Garden in 1991. 

This week he is set to perform as Moses in Schoenberg’s 'Moses und Aron' for the Welsh National Opera.

In February, he will take part in the first British performance of Brett Dean’s 'The Last Days of Socrates', which premiered last year with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle. 

Another musician to claim an RPS award is Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who won his fifth award at the society, making him one of the most-honoured musicians in our present time.

Sir John Tomlinson has been honoured with a Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Gold Medal, it has been announced. Mr Tomlinson has already won RPS awards during his career, and has been praised as an 'international treasure'. The RPS also paid

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Eric Whitacre launches online virtual choir campaign

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Young singers from all over the UK have been invited to join an online virtual youth choir, in a bid to fine-tune their music skills.

The project is being launched by composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, who is encouraging singers aged 18 and under to join him in his latest online choral project, performing 'What If' from his musical Paradise Lost.

Although the sing-along is predominantly aimed at young singers, Whitacre is encouraging everyone to get involved in whatever way they can.

His Facebook campaign has already attracted youngsters from all over the world, hoping to get involved in the project.

Whitacre is a Grammy-winning American composer and conductor, known for his choral, orchestral and wind ensemble music. 

His first album from record label Decca/Universal, Light & Gold, became the number one classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of a release in 2012.

Whitacre is also the founder of the Virtual Choir, which was started up in 2010.

Previous videos have included a range of different musical styles and have attracted more than 7.5 million views since its inception.

This year's sing-along will premiere during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in partnership with UNICEF. 

Participants will be encouraged to learn their individual choral part, and film themselves singing.

They will then be required to upload the footage by June 8th, so it can be combined with the other submissions to form a multi-tracked piece.

Commenting on the project, Whitacre, explained: ""Even if you are over 18, you can be a part of this. Parents can encourage their children. Teachers can get their students singing. Older siblings can help their younger brothers and sisters. Together we can make some truly beautiful music and at the same time help make the world a better place for thousands of less fortunate children around the world."

So far, one of the youngest participants is aged just four years old, while nine countries so far have been represented.

Young singers from all over the UK have been invited to join an online virtual youth choir, in a bid to fine-tune their music skills. The project is being launched by composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, who is encouraging singers

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London Symphony Orchestra targeted by protesters

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An open-air classical concert which took place last week was interrupted by a group of protesters, it has been reported.

The London Symphony Orchestra held a concert in Trafalgar Square, but was disrupted by those who were making a stand against conductor Valery Gergiev's support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some 30 pro-Ukraine activists joined forces with representatives from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, held up placards and protested loudly as the conductor took to the podium. 

Gergiev was targeted for being one of 500 signatories to a statement on the Russian Ministry of Culture's website which backed the Russian president's policies in Ukraine.

Gergiev is a Russian conductor and opera company director. He is also the general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre  in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

He is a very influential person in the classical music world and is very well known for his work across the world.

It is not the first time he has courted controversy.

In 2012, he was criticised after saying that he thought that the Russian activists Pussy Riots were motivated for commercial reasons. In 2013, he was again targeted by protesters from the LGBT activist group Queer Nation, who turned up to his concerts in New York due to his support for Vladimir Putin, whose government had recently enacted anti-gay legislation.

In a public statement, he replied: "It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people. I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people and many of them are indeed my friends."

Despite the recent interruption to his concerts, it still proved highly popular among the public, with thousands turning up to listen to the orchestra.

An open-air classical concert which took place last week was interrupted by a group of protesters, it has been reported. The London Symphony Orchestra held a concert in Trafalgar Square, but was disrupted by those who were making a stand

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Dating Don’ts: What not to do on a date with him

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Dates can be a tricky thing, for both men and women. In general, ladies tend to mess up a little less than guys when it comes to dating – but not always.

Giving off the wrong signals, or unwittingly doing or saying something that drives your date away, can seriously help to knock your confidence and leave you feeling a little disillusioned.

So how do you avoid the dating don'ts, and strike up good rapport with the man you are meeting?

Avoid doing the following and you can concentrate on making your date a memorable one – for all the right reasons.

Don't talk about your ex

This is nearly always a deal breaker. Talking about your ex can give the impression that you are still living in the past and perhaps you are not fully over them. 

Instead you should focus on finding out more about your date and what his interests are.

Get drunk

This is nearly always a recipe for disaster. Not only can it potentially be unsafe, but the last thing you want to do is end up saying or doing something you might severely regret later – and not being able to remember what it was.

While it can be OK to enjoy a tipple before or during your date – going overboard will never end well.

A small glass of wine before or during can really help to take the edge off a date – but too much is exactly that. Too much. Most men prefer classy women, so if you are drinking, you basically want to stop before you start doing table dances, and vomiting over his trousers.

One step at a time

If you start talking about babies and marriage on a first date, he'll run a mile. I promise. Keep it cool – and enjoy your date for what it is.

Even if you do think "he's the one", you can never quite be sure whether he's feeling the same and you definitely want to take things slowly, so be patient.

Afterall, as the saying goes: good things come to those who wait.

Dress appropriately

Would you wear that to a work-do? If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn't wear it on your first date either.

Of course, you don't want to be too formal, and I wouldn't recommend turning up in a power-suit. On the other hand, you definitely shouldn't look as though you are dressed for a striptease, so the key is to keep it classy.

Talk about sex

The things you talk about can give a lot of clues as to your personality – and guys are likely to act accordingly.

This conversation is better left until at least a few dates down the line, when things are already going really well.

Interview your date

Where do you see yourself in ten years time? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How much do you make? 

Asking all of these types of questions can lead to your date asking himself a question of his own: "Why am I here?". 

Remember: It's a date, not an interview and it is supposed to be friendly and fun, not an interrogation.

A normal conversation will tell you all you need to know about a man in any case. 

Talk about religion/politics

This is one of those things that can either go really well – or end really badly. If you are on that initial date with someone, this part of the conversation is probably left until the end or at least until you know what side of the political fence he sits on.

The trouble with engaging in a political conversation with someone you do not know is it has the potential to be a complete disaster.

Even if your date is already on the rocks, why potentially make it worse than it has to be?

Maybe instead stick to shared interests such as opera or classical music as interesting conversation topics.

Dates can be a tricky thing, for both men and women. In general, ladies tend to mess up a little less than guys when it comes to dating – but not always. Giving off the wrong signals, or unwittingly doing

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