I’m off to the Stroud Festival later this month for a concert with two of my long-time friends and collaborators, Paul Sheehan and Paul Turner. This year’s Festival is themed on Revolution in the Arts so we have created a new programme exploring this idea in three dimensions – aesthetic, harmonic and socio-political. Inevitably there’s a lot of overlap but we will be offering everything from Beethoven to Cathy Berberian, via Ravel, Wagner and Weill. It’s a terrific range of repertoire, full of interesting juxtapositions, and we think that even the most knowledgeable members of our audience will make discoveries.
As the concert is taking place on the day when the UK may or may not be leaving the European Union, Revolution seems a very appropriate theme and we are assuming that anything could happen!
The Swindon Recital Series celebrated its 25th year on Sunday evening. It’s a remarkable achievement to have sustained this strand of high-quality music-making in the face of many local pressures on the classical music audience. The celebratory concert featured series founder and artistic director Paul Turner, with other performers who have been regular contributors over the years.
Members of the Music Of Renown Ensemble performed with me in a reprise of William Walton’s Façade, which we first presented in 2012.
Paul and I also performed a much-loved staple of our recital repertoire, A History of the Thé Dansant by Richard Rodney Bennett. The jazz theme was maintained with Schulhoff’s “hot” saxophone sonata and an arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for the same forces as Façade.
On Saturday, I took part in a performance of JS Bach’s St John Passion BWV 245 at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, an in-house performance of the work. The professional church choir, of whom I am one of the altos, shared the solo arias as step-outs: I sang Von den Stricken meiner Sünden. Director of Music Stephen Farr played continuo with music scholar & cellist Finlay Spence and an orchestra of instrumentalists from the associated Royal College of Music was directed by Assistant Organist Michael Papadopoulos.
Last weekend I was delighted to return to All Saints Hertford to sing the Alto arias in a performance of Handel’s Messiah. Conductor Derek Harrison conducted the Camerata of London in a performance of the early Prout edition of Handel’s enduring masterpiece. Hertford Choral Society have a strong local following and we all really enjoyed the warmth of both the music-making and the reception of the performance.
Following a change of management, I’m delighted to confirm that I will be on the roster of Ann Ferrier Artists, effective from 1 October 2018. I look forward to working with Ann, whose new website is annferrierartists.com.
For a list of my current concert repertoire click here.
We’ve had the reviews for Mary’s Hand in London. I am thrilled to get five stars in The Independent – my first review in a national newspaper.
Writing for The Independent, Alexandra Coghlan said, “Elegant, thoughtful, current without being gimmicky and immaculately presented, Mary’s Hand is a 70-minute rebuke to the UK’s major opera companies.
At the centre of it all, holding the stage with girlish, flickering fingers and a pitiless thrust of the chin is mezzo-soprano Clare McCaldin… an outstanding singing-actress.”
You can read the rest of that review here and a digest of all the reviews on McCaldin Arts.
The whirlwind of activity that always precedes a new show is finally abating and I’ve been able to step back today and look at what I and my team at McCaldin Arts have achieved with Mary’s Hand. It has been the most fantastic experience and I am totally thrilled with it.
Firstly, I owe huge thanks to the team that has made the piece with me – Di Sherlock, Martin Bussey, Andie Scott and Sophie Meyer. Mary’s Hand works on many levels and its success is in large part due to the balance of musical, textual and design elements that has been achieved through a genuinely collaborative exchange of ideas and critical process.
The decision to make another one-woman show after Vivienne was not a foregone conclusion. However, Mary’s Hand naturally builds on that show’s success, not least my interest in revisiting the stories of historical women with blurry or dark reputations. In addition, my interest in setting myself development challenges as a performer has been brilliantly answered in Mary’s Hand, thanks to our collective insistence on refining the piece to its best.
Thank-yous are also due to Tête á Tête for programming a third McCaldin Arts production in its Opera Festival – my progress as a maker of new work is closely linked to TaT’s support and encouragement. My thanks, too, to the clergy of St Paul’s Knightsbridge, which provided rehearsal space and where we ran Mary’s Hand in its first draft. The Church of the Holy Cross warmly welcomed us for the August performances and we are delighted to have made new friends in our local King’s Cross area.
The biggest thank you of all is to Cheyney Kent, who not only curates McCaldin Arts’ online presence, but provides behind the scenes support at every turn. Without him Mary’s Hand simply would not have made it to the stage at all.
After an intense year of work, the premiere of Mary’s Hand is approaching fast. The first performance is in Chester on 21 June, with London performances on 1 & 2 August. Ticket information for all dates is here.
We have some fantastic publicity photographs of the finished costume (left.) This was completed with funds crowdfunded from our supporters, to whom much thanks. The video below introduces some of the key creatives on the team and footage of our try-out in April 2018 with the costume still in its partially-finished state. The experience of running the show with the three instrumentalists and an invited audience was of enormous help to us in making final adjustments to our work before the premiere.
You can discover more about the project at McCaldin Arts. You can download and read Di Sherlock’s libretto for Mary’s Hand here and read an interview with our composer Martin Bussey here.
Born in a Soho slum, Jessie Matthews rose to become a superstar of stage and screen throughout the 1930s, and was often described as “the English Ginger Rogers”. Elisabeth Schumann was a German opera and song specialist whose popularity with British audiences remained undimmed even after Germany and England had fought a war. Both women were hugely famous in their day, and yet their names are hardly recognised now by younger generations of music-lovers.
Over My Shoulder sets out to remedy this by weaving together the stories of these two singers around their unexpected intersection here in London. In a strange twist of fate, Jessie and Elisabeth now lie buried on opposite sides of the same West London churchyard. Could they also have met years earlier in Covent Garden at the height of their fame? Might there be some connection between the two women?
Clare McCaldin (mezzo-soprano) and Paul Turner (piano) combine story-telling and singing to celebrate the lives and work of Jessie and Elisabeth. Tales of romantic scandal, tragedy, falls from grace and triumphant come-backs are inseparable from the remarkable artistic contribution of these two women.
The performance includes music by Felix Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf, Johannes Brahms, Otto Klemperer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Noël Coward, Harry Woods and Rodgers & Hart.
15th February 2018, 7.30pm St Paul’s Church, 32a Wilton Place, London, SW1X 8SH
Tickets £25, £15, £10. Interval drinks will be served (donation requested). Click here to book in advance or buy a ticket on the door.
I’m delighted to have been invited to speak at the Future of Knowledge conference at the British Museum on Monday 12 February 2018. The conference is organised by the Knowledge Quarter to mark its third year of promoting productive partnerships, fruitful networks and creative interaction between its member organisations.
I will talking about McCaldin Arts’ project Mary’s Hand, which is in development for performances in 2018. In dealing with historical issues around the life of Queen Mary I, the show considers how her reputation was posthumously manipulated by her half-sister Elizabeth I, and the partial treatment of important facts and truths. As it turns out, fake news and PR spin are not a recent invention.