"A soaring songstress, who has yet to realise how good she is"
- Graeme Johnstone, Author/Journalist (formerly The Sun)
Somehow, and after several extra years of ado, I completed a Bachelor of Music (and a Bachelor of Teaching) at the University of Melbourne (Melbourne Conservatorium of Music), with a major in classical voice and two minors in percussion and clarinet. It's a weird combination, the practical result of which was a unique perspective spanning the breadth of classical music - I performed in early music vocal groups, contemporary and ethnic percussion ensembles, orchestras of all sizes, chamber groups and the various solo vocal genres - among others Lieder, Australian contemporary, a bit of opera and French art song. The latter makes me physically ache, I love it so much. I was a teenager who, during the glory days of Nirvana, had a poster of Claude Debussy on my wall (and another of Rik Mayall, but that's another story!).
I was never going to be a classical performer - the music is my first love but the world of classical music and I were just never going to be a fit, and so I spent the next decade as a vocalist singing in various pop styles and groups - and didn't really fit there either! Ever heard a classically trained singer singing soul? Yep, ahem...I'm sure it's been done beautifully but not by me! My voice just seemed to work completely differently from other pop singers - the classical technique didn't work for other genres, and so began an extremely frustrating, but ultimately liberating and joyous process to sort this out. I now sing and teach using a science-based, artistically independent and pedagogically excellent Danish vocal method developed by Cathrine Sadolin called Complete Vocal Technique (it really is!) which enables me to sing freely across the breadth of my voice in a whole range of genres.
To cut a loooong story short, after much rumination I now understand that I'm moved and motivated by several key things - the extent of the capabilities of the human voice, the beauty of the complexity (and often simplicity too) of classical music, and the short form, accessibility and production possibilities of popular music of all styles. I should add too my eternal love of language. To this end then, my aim now is to combine the two and attempt to do both justice.
It's a big ask, but finally having found a focus is giving me a renewed energy that keeps me buzzing day and night. If you want to follow what comes of this, sign up to the mailing list to join the classically curious community and keep up to date with the progress of my current album, or purchase the previous one - Rotterdam (limited edition) - for a slice of my own little eccentric personal musical history.
Thanks for listening!
What if some of history’s greatest composers were alive and making music today? How would they blend their signature sounds with the sounds of the 21st century? How would they stay relevant and progressive, as they were in their time? As a recovering classical purist, I’m exploring these questions through new arrangements, lyrics and modern vocal and production techniques, because I really feel that more people deserve to hear this music and that this music deserves to be heard beyond the concert hall.
I am taking the essence of historical masterpieces - the bits that make them so devastatingly beautiful - and reconstituting them with a modern flavour and feel, to give new life and perspective to songs that have helped shape the evolution of music.
This music is my first love. I want to honour it in its original form while making it more accessible to the modern listener
This project is very much a work in progress. The first spark of inspiration came to me five years ago when my first son was a sleepless baby - and I'm still working on that same song - The Swan, from Saint-Saëns' 'Carnival of the Animals' suite - now that my second baby son is inflicting upon me the same punishment! I haven't been lazy! I've been slowly chipping away on it while also working hard on being a good mum and partner, in my day job as a regular working musician and music teacher and generally living life too. To be honest, although I am perpetually in a hurry and impatient to get something finished, it probably wouldn't have worked any other way. Breathe Mandy, breathe!
Anyway, if you're like a lot of people I speak to who like the idea of liking classical music but don't know where to begin, feel free to join what I call my 'classically curious' community and see what you find!