Bethany Seymour is writing a monthly blog exclusively for Early Music Today to talk about her experiences as a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship Award winner. The young professional soprano is carrying out her fellowship at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) in York. The BBC Performing Arts Fund (BBC PAF) is a charity committed to developing new performing arts talent from across the UK in all disciplines, including early music.
Well, what a month! York Early Music Festival (YEMF) was a fantastic success with artists coming from all over the world. A particular highlight was meeting world-famous soloists including both the lutenist Paul O’Dette and gamba player Wieland Kuijken. The Young Artists Competition was also better than ever with participants seemingly a better standard each year; it would have been possible to present a whole festival using just these young ensembles.
‘Voicing Corelli’ was the theme of a concert performed by La Risonanza directed by Fabio Bonizzoni; it was a real treat to hear Italian music performed by Italian singers and players and the programme, with lyrics added to Corelli’s string trio sonatas by Antonio Tonelli, was fascinating. The interaction between two violins and two singers was wonderfully intricate and very different to anything I have heard before. The two groups are treated as equals with both starting each piece together, as opposed to the more usual fashion of the violins playing a ritornello before the singers’ entry. The BBC Radio 3 Early Music Show has already broadcast La Risonanza, but Paul O’Dette’s concert is broadcast on 3 August and Wieland Kuijken’s on 24 August.
I was incredibly delighted to take part in the live festival broadcast of the BBC Radio 3 Early Music Show alongside the Rose Consort of Viols and Fabio Bonizzoni on the harpsichord. Having chosen to sing the Carisimmi Lamento di Maria Stuarda, I felt very honoured to discuss the piece with Kate Bott, as I was influenced and guided greatly by her own recording of it. A word of warning , however – make sure your accompanist has bound his music before you begin a live broadcast as it is a little nerve racking when his music falls off the music stand mid-performance! In fairness, he did catch it in one hand and continued playing with the other, and thank goodness for a fast-moving viol player who saved the day by putting the music back on the music desk and then holding onto it until the end of the piece! And, of course, I was grateful for the talent of the harpsichord player to remember the notes while the music was being repositioned!
In August I am solely working on preparing Bach’s St Matthew Passion for a recording in September. I will be singing first soprano chorus and solos. In this particular recording (based on Bach’s first version from 1727) we are using single voices for each chorus and I am very proud to say I will be standing alongside the likes of Sally Bruce Payne, Charles Daniels, Peter Harvey, Matthew Brook, Joseph Cornwell, Julian Podger, Helen Neeves and Nancy Cole – quite a line-up! This recording is performed by Yorkshire Baroque Soloists who have some wonderful players too; Lucy Russell is leader and Tony Robson is principal oboe. I’m looking forward to hearing the bass aria ‘Komm, süsses Kreuz’ sung by Peter Harvey, not with a gamba as we usually hear it but with Liz Kenny on lute.
After YEMF I was almost straight off to Bingen in Germany to sing Bach’s motets (all seven … ) with Rheinische Kantorei. There were some inspiring moments as the conductor, Hermann Max, explored the idea that dynamic markings influence the tempo choices. This created a very focused and concentrated atmosphere and a very exciting and rewarding concert. I was also able to slip in some lessons in Köln with Barbara Schlick whom I have been studying with since my year’s study at the Musikhochschule in Köln. I returned on Eurostar only to fly out immediately to Italy to perform with Vox Musica and the Southbank Sinfonia at the Anghiari Festival.
Over the past few months I have been creating my website and it will be up and running in the next week; I will announce it on Twitter so do watch out for it (follow Bethany on Twitter @bethany_seymour).