Competing at the National Eisteddfod

Steffan Rhys Hughes – National Eisteddfod Llanelli
August 2014

National Eisteddfod field

National Eisteddfod field

This was the 12th National Eisteddfod I have competed in and although it was not my first visit to Llanelli, it was my first attending this festival in this area. The Eisteddfod appeals to me not only because of the competing but because you meet so many old friends and peers who compete and you have an annual boost of immersion in Welsh culture and language, and of course many opportunities for socialising!

After arriving, we soon realised that the park and ride system was not going to work for us given the timings of the preliminaries and the need to rush to and from the field where the Eisteddfod was held. We decided to take a chance and park on the street as near to the field as possible – not as easy as it sounds with hundreds of others with the same idea but it worked without a parking fine in sight! Our hotel was ‘The Three Rivers’, some 10 miles away in Ferryside, and the views from the hotel across the estuary towards Llansteffan Castle and down towards Laugharne were beautiful.

There were five preliminaries for me on the Tuesday from 8.30am onwards and one stage performance. The top three (occasionally four) in each competition get to perform on stage in the large Pink Pavilion, televised on S4C and in front of an audience. There were between ten and thirty competitors – the best in Wales – in the various preliminaries I took part in throughout the week. There really are no passengers in the competition,  particularly by the time you reach post-school age where most competitors are from Music Collages and Conservatoires, so if you want to do well you really do have to prepare, practice and focus. I was pleased to be placed first in the Cerdd Dant under 21 competition – a traditional Welsh art of vocal improvisation – the soloist sings a counter-melody over a melody played by the Harp.

Steffan competing

Steffan competing

The Eisteddfod field was set out in 3 large circles and one smaller one with masses of stands, exhibitions and activities – well worth a visit! However, usually I never get the chance to see many areas of it as, when I am not competing, I like to support my friends by going to their preliminaries and watching other competitions in the Pavilion to see how my opinions compare with the judges’ decisions.

On the Wednesday I had three preliminaries, the first starting at 9.00am and 2 stage performances – Recitation from the Scripture which I was pleased to be placed first in, and Cerdd Dant Duet under 21 with Sion Eilir a student at Aberystwyth University. We were placed first – a relief, after very little rehearsal time!

Thursday  was one preliminary for me – recitation to music, and two appearances on stage – Folk song under 21 and recitation under 25 and I was relieved to gain another two first places – some prize money to help in year three at Cardiff!

I had been planning to go with friends to ‘Maes B’ on Thursday night – the young people’s village at the Eisteddfod where live gigs are held with some of the best young bands in Wales performing. However as I was on stage on the Friday morning I made the decision to give it a miss and go back to our hotel to rehearse and get a good sleep.

The following morning, I returned to perform on stage with recitation to music and came second. It was the first time I had competed in this competition and I had composed and recorded the accompaniment myself.

I moved from the hotel on the Friday to the Eisteddfod Caravan field close to the Maes to share a caravan with friends and went to Maes B that night. I had finished my individual competitions by then, but still and one ensemble to compete with in the morning, so I tried to take it easy…

10537398_10153079211324535_2228097478533472225_nThe Cerdd Dant quartet was my final competition, and I was joined again by Sion Eilir along with Ceri Haf Roberts – who won the girls solo under 19 (coming toCardiff University to study law in September) and Mared Williams who won the song from a musical under 19 and is also the lead singer of the band ‘Trwbz’ who performed in Maes B on the Friday night.

On Saturday night it was off to Maes B again for the final gig of the week. It was nice to enjoy the evening without worrying about performing the following day, and I had a chance to catch up with old friends as well as making a few new ones.

Sunday we packed up the caravan and awning and all the camping equipment and made our way in stormy weather back to North Wales, slightly sad to see another National Eisteddfod over!

My time with Palestrina Singers – Jessica Haig

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Porchester Castle (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Porchester Castle (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

Having recently graduated from a busy three years studying at the School of Music, life has still been pretty hectic, travelling around the country singing in wonderful venues. But now things have finally begun to calm down for the summer, I have had time to sit and reminisce about all of the fond memories from my time in the department, ones I will cherish for a very long time.

I have been so very lucky to gain some incredible opportunities with the school, like singing with several choirs, both ensemble and solo, gaining first class academic training from some of the best lecturers in the country, and meeting some of my closest friends, who I will have for life. On top of all that, being awarded the David Evans Award for my outstanding general contribution to the musical life of the school was a particular highlight – I am so grateful!

Being a very keen choral singer, my singing experiences are the ones that particularly shine out for me. But one of the fondest, which shines out brightly amongst my experiences, is being a part of The Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University for the two final years of my degree. Directed by Masters student Nathan James Dearden, and managed by fellow student Cathy Mottershead (both in my final year), the fact that Palestrina is a completely student-run ensemble is the reason why I was so utterly impressed with my time as part of the ensemble.

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Romsey Abbey (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Romsey Abbey (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

As a choir, we partook in many amazing concerts, choral pilgrimages and tours, and all of them were organised, managed and made successful by these students – what a wonderful achievement! Furthermore, I got to sing alongside some very talented singers, conducted by an incredibly skilled musical director – Nathan is such a knowledgeable, artistic musician, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future, it has been a pleasure, thank you!

The most significant event with Palestrina for me was our summer Tour to the South of England, singing in beautiful churches and cathedrals in Guildford, Portsmouth and Romsey. We sang some very tricky repertoire, and our audiences were so appreciative – that’s what makes it so special, singing to such grateful audiences.

I’ve learnt so much from being in the ensemble, both musically and performance-wise, and most of this was from being a part of the busy, hard-working conditions of a tour. We all had the greatest time singing and socialising together (I’ll forget the amount of driving I did around in the minibus… Such fun!), and I think it’s a tour, and choir, we will all remember for a very long time.

Spotlight on: Cathy Mottershead

“Both Cardiff University and the city itself were so fulfilling and gave me opportunities that I never had at home. I loved my time in Cardiff and feel like it has shaped who I am for my future, both for my career and in my personality.” 

Cathy-M-269x300

Congrats to Cathy, music graduate and member of the BBC National Chorus of Wales, on her First Class Honours. 

 

Hi Cathy! Thanks for chatting. What did you enjoy most about your time in Cardiff?

I enjoyed the vast variety of activities I was able to be involved with and experience with my friends, such as regular concerts, operas and plays.

I can imagine that the city offered you a lot musically. Do you have a favourite memory?

One particular concert sticks in my memory as a favourite experience while at Cardiff. In my second year, the Cardiff University Symphony Chorus, which I had been a member of since my first week, joined with instrumental forces from the Royal Welsh College and Drama to perform Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ in St David’s Hall. The piece is phenomenal and the accumulation of such hard work put in by both students and staff produced a real breath-taking performance.    

What else did you get up to?

As a music student, there are many extra curricular activities to be involved with. I was a member of Cardiff University Symphony Chorus, Chamber Choir and Contemporary Music Group. I was also a singer with The Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University and became choir manager which I very much enjoyed. I successfully managed the choir’s week to week rehearsals and activities along with seven concerts during the year and a tour to the South of England (Guildford, Portchester and Romsey) during June 2014. I loved both the social aspect to singing with the choir and the challenges that came with organising it.

I was also a member of the BBC National Chorus of Wales for three years, holding a student scholarship for the year 2013/2014. I also volunteered at the New Theatre and casually had work at the Millennium Stadium, through the Union JobShop.

You busy bee! How easily did everything fit alongside your studied?

Time management is an essential skill. University work had to be my highest priority and doing it in advance (rather than the night before) was definitely preferred. Other than that, finding time to just have some time off was difficult but I found great enjoyment in the activities I did.

Did you face any particular challenges during your university life?

The hardest challenge I faced was fitting in with the people in my accommodation in first year as I lived with six boys and only two other girls. I felt it was difficult to be myself but found comfort in friends on my course and discovering people with the same interests as me.

What’s next for you, Cathy?

I am moving to London to study for an MA in Art Policy and Management at Birkbeck College, University of London.

What are your thoughts on graduation?

Excited but with a sense of nostalgia. As the majority of my close friends are remaining in Cardiff, I am still feeling a little apprehensive about leaving the city where I have spent the last three years of my life. However, I am very excited about beginning the next chapter of my life and feel graduation will provide me with the opportunity to say goodbye to a place I have grown to love and people I will miss greatly and a happy conclusion to my undergraduate degree.

Do you have any advice to future students?

Try and make friends on your course as well as in your accommodation. This has seemed pretty easy in the School of Music as such a small school with plenty of activities to be involved in and meet new people. However, I understand it is difficult in larger schools with many courses and students in one place.

Budget your money! I had minimum maintenance loan which hardly covered rent let alone cost of living. Budget your money and keep an eye on the non-essential spends.

And make the most of the city and surrounding area. It is a busy, metropolitan city with plenty to do, surrounded by gorgeous countryside and magnificent beaches. Don’t overlook it and try and explore.  

BMus Final Year – Public Recital Examinations

Concert Hall 2Our BMus Final Year Public Recital Examinations will be taking place in June. These Recital Examinations are open to the public – free admission.

Sound and/or video recordings are not permitted

WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE

9.30                 Daniel Greene (piano)
Works by Schubert, Messiaen and York Bowen

10.05               Christopher Gibbons (clarinet), Sue Bird (piano)
Works by Stanford, Widmann and Poulenc

10.40               Jessica Segelov (piano)
Works by JS Bach, Schubert and Debussy

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11.25               Joshua Betteridge (guitar)
Works by Dowland, Walton, Villa-Lobos and Brouwer

12.00               Bel Si Hui Chiew (violin), Soon Kun Ming (piano)
Works by Corelli, Kodály and Smetana

12.35               Jonathan Bentley (guitar)
Works by JS Bach, Villa-Lobos, Falla, Ohana and Albéniz

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2.15                 Rhiannon Braddick (flute), Jan Ball (piano & harpsichord)
Works by JS Bach, Enescu and Godard

2.50                 Gwenith Evans (voice), Andrew Wilson-Dickson (piano & harpsichord)
Works by JS Bach, Gluck, Mozart, Schubert, Berlioz, Granados, Elwyn-Edwards and Dove

3.25                 Flora MacDonald (voice), Andrew Wilson-Dickson (piano & harpsichord)
Works by Handel, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Massenet, Warlock, Lorca, Dove and Offenbach

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4.15                 Isobel Clarey (voice), Andrew Wilson-Dickson (piano)
Works by Rameau, Haydn, Poulenc, Britten, Gershwin and Novello

4.50                 Bryony Doyle (voice), David Thomas (piano)
Works by Mozart, Schubert, Granados, Bizet, Barber, Sondheim and Walton

5.25                 Catherine Mottershead (voice), David Thomas (piano)
Works by Handel, Mozart, Gurney, Poulenc and Johann Strauss II

6.00                 Jessica Cale (voice), Jeff Howard (piano)
Works by Handel, Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, Britten and Flanders & Swann

THURSDAY 12 JUNE

9.30                 Harriet Jenkins (piano)
Works by JS Bach, Debussy, Scriabin and Montague

10.05               Joshua Ruck (cornet), Donna Dickinson (piano)
Works by Kreutzer, Jenkins and McDowall

10.40               Jack Lewis (trombone), Robert Court (organ) Daniel Bickerton (piano)
Works by Cesare, L.Mozart, Guilmant, Castérède, Cage, Rabe and Bickerton

            ***********

11.25               Jessica Haig (voice), Robert Court (piano)
Works by Handel, Schubert, Massenet, Rodrigo and Tann

12.00               Elia Berdala Gil (violin), Christopher Williams (piano)
Works by Corelli, Mozart, Franck, Falla arr. Kreisler

12.35               Myfanwy Dymond (violin), Christopher Williams (piano)
Works by Corelli, Brahms, Bartók and Pärt

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2.15                 Rhys Batt (voice), Christopher Williams (piano)
Works by Finzi, Bizet, Liszt, Britten and Rossini

2.50                 Kirsten Shepherd (violin) Christopher Williams (piano)
Works by Handel, Genzmer and Franck

3.25                 Joanne Huxton (French horn), Rhiannon Williams-Hale (piano)
Works by Mozart and Dukas

**********

4.15                 Sam Hickman (voice), Sharon Richards (piano)
Works by Handel, Purcell, Massenet, Schoenberg, Strauss and Mozart

4.50                 Alice Gunn (voice), Sharon Richards (piano)
Works by Mozart, Brahms, Bellini, Gounod, Massenet, Quilter and Obradors

5.25                 Edward Parks (voice), Daniel Bickerton (piano)
Works by Handel, Schumann, Britten, Poulenc and Turnage

6.00                 Sarah Berbilllion (voice) AN Other (piano)

Students in the Media: Cardiff University Chamber Choir

chamberCardiff University Chamber Choir featured in this week’s episode of Suzy Klein’s BBC 4 series, Rule Britannia! Music, Mischief and Morals in the 18th Century.

Suzy joined in rehearsals of Handel’s Messiah late last year with the Chamber Choir, Swansea Bach Choir, and The Little Baroque Company.

The episode is still available on BBC iPlayer - the Messiah rehearsal starts about 28 minutes in!

Third-year extravaganza

The student-run Music Society organises free Lunchtime Concerts on Thursdays during the academic year to give students opportunities to take to the stage regularly. The concerts give valuable experience to all involved, whether as performers or accompanists.

It’s become something of a tradition for final-year undergraduates to give a group performance – an extravaganza as it’s billed in the programme – at the final Lunchtime Concert of the year. This year our talented cohort of third-years chose Bohemian Rhapsody…

Spreading their wings: Cardiff University Operatic Society take flight with Mozart’s The Magic Flute

Kate Willetts, 2nd year BA Music

As the final week in March approaches, Cardiff University Operatic Society are gearing themselves up to face their biggest challenge to date. After months of planning and hard work, they are taking on Mozart’s classic fairytale The Magic Flute, and they mean business.

magicflute


Over the past three years they have grown in strength and numbers, tackling operas such as Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado in their first year, Pride and Prejudice (a brand new work based on Jane Austen’s classic novel) in March 2013, and performing countless opera favourites in gala concerts, their last outing in Cardiff being a very successful Opera Through The Ages concert at the end of November 2013.

In this short space of time, they’ve not only shown themselves to be diverse in their approach to operatic styles, but also ready for a challenge and, most importantly, dedicated to promoting the operatic genre in all of its eclectic glory.

The Magic Flute is an opera in two acts, which follows the story of Papageno the bird-catcher and Prince Tamino on their quests to find true love and enlightenment. Its charming characters, memorable score, and wonderful moments of comedy have cemented it as one of Mozart’s best-loved works; a joy for performers and audience members alike!

cuoslogoDespite its light-hearted facade, this opera contains some particularly demanding music, with vocally challenging parts across all roles (from the soaring Queen of the Night arias to the impressive choruses); that a cast of young singers should attempt this work is a huge risk (especially for a student-run society in its early stages), but CUOS were up for the challenge and, what is very apparent, is that they have the singers and the production team to pull it off in style.

One of the most prominent features of the Operatic Society’s production of The Magic Flute is its concept; drawing on the continued popularity of The Wizard Of Oz story, the company has explored the similarities between the land of Oz and the unspecified land that the characters of the opera inhabit, in order to create an extraordinary dream-world that aims to highlight the pull between the reality and the fantastic. Here, the high priest Sarastro represents the all-powerful, grandiose nature of the Wizard, whilst the Queen of the Night occupies the more mystical and magical side of Oz. Throughout the production, the traditional fairytale elements are juxtaposed with a more abstract interpretation of the opera (with some wonderful moments of stylised movement and a more modern approach to costume design) which results in a refreshing amalgamation of styles and ideas.

With both the familiar and the uncanny in equal measure, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this interpretation.

The CUOS team – from the cast, crew, and orchestra, to every single person working behind the scenes – have a truly fantastic show on their hands. Who knows what the future may bring for this fledgling society, or what new projects they have in store; for now, they are looking forward to revelling in the excitement of a brilliant show, with both the prospect of spreading their appreciation of opera to a new audience, and being able to look back on this time and pinpoint the moment when this society really learned how to fly.

Cardiff University Operatic Society’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is running from 28th-29th March at The Gate Arts Centre, Keppoch Street, Roath.

Tickets are available from cuos.ticketing@gmail.com, cardiffstudents.com/cuos or by calling on 07752 341 834

Keep up-to-date with CUSO on Facebook and Twitter

Students in the Media: Idrissa Camara portrait

Interviews with two of our undergraduate students featured in a new BBC Radio 4 documentary this week. The documentary portrait of West African dancer and choreographer Idrissa Camara included his current work as director of Lanyi, the School of Music’s African student dance and drum ensemble.

Students Anton-Jari Desai-Paulden (BSc Physics with Music) and Phoebe Greenland (BMus) were interviewed about Idrissa’s teaching methods and what they have learned from their experiences with Lanyi.

Idrissa Camara (centre) performing with members of Ballet Nimba at the School of Music's Concert Hall last year

Idrissa Camara (centre) performing with members of Ballet Nimba at the School of Music’s Concert Hall last year

Ethnomusicology lecturer Dr Amanda Villepastour also featured in the documentary.

Lanyi means “gathering” in Idrissa Camara’s first language, Susu. It is the School’s first African music and dance ensemble, established to give students experience in singing, dancing and playing a range of instruments from the Mande world in West Africa.

Lanyi will give a free concert full of dancing, drumming and high spirits at the School’s Concert Hall on Saturday 29 March 2014.

BBC Radio 4 portrait on Idrissa Camara: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03w0200

Ballet Nimba, Idrissa’s Guinean music and dance company: http://www.balletnimba.org.uk/

Unibrass 2014

Rosemary de Jong, BA Music and English Literature (3rd year)

 

Saturday 15 February 2014 saw the return of the highly anticipated annual UniBrass competition. The contest, founded in 2011 by pioneering students of Lancaster University, and this year hosted for the first time by the University of Warwick, is the world’s only inter-university brass band competition.

Each participating band performs a twenty-minute programme, individually chosen and choreographed, to adjudicators and an audience. The performance is judged by the adjudicators on entertainment value and musical prowess.

Cardiff University Brass Band

Cardiff University Brass Band

The adjudicators this year were Mike Fowles—one of the leading brass band conductors of his generation who has worked with many top bands in the UK including Leyland, Fairey, Hepworth and Foden’s—and Tom Davoren, who has rapidly developed a reputation as an exciting young brass composer and also conductor working with the BTM Band and Filton Concert Brass.

With such eminent names determining our position, Cardiff University Brass Band prepared for the competition with new musical directors David Langley and Andrew Mitchell, hoping to keep our good standing. Since the competition began we have been ranked consecutively in 3rd, 5th and 4th place.

The event began for Cardiff University Brass Band on Friday 14 with an informal performance of our programme in our own Concert Hall. An encouraging turnout from students and lecturers gave us a brilliant send-off, from which we jumped into minibuses and made our way to Coventry. The draw of the contest meant that we played to the judges at 11am on Saturday.

Our programme, entitled ‘Modern World, Modern Music’, included only music that was written in the last five years. Cardiff University has a reputation in the competition for exploring music which is contemporary and exciting. Our programme opened atmospherically with ‘Sunrise’ by Swedish composer Magnus Hylander. In this piece, an evocative pianissimo opening with a flugelhorn feature, played by Benjamin Atkinson, gave way to a rousing, almost Celtic, setting of the main theme.

Performing onstage at UniBrass

Performing onstage at UniBrass

This was followed by ‘Castell Corbett’, a march written by our very own tuba player and former musical director, Martin Humphries. Following this, our solo feature was ‘Scene from a Silver Plate’ by Peter Meechan, played by our principal trombonist Elan Higueras. Our programme closed with ‘Fanfare for the Future’ by Andrew Stevenson.

Tension and friendly rivalry mounted throughout the day until the results were given. The judges took some time to come to a decision, but the outcome was worth the wait.

Only seven points behind the winners, Cardiff were awarded fifth place and retained the title of Welsh Champions. In first place was Huddersfield, in second place Manchester, in third place York. ‘Best Solo/Feature’ went to Sheffield. Warwick received the prize for the ‘Best March’, and the ‘Most Entertaining’ award went to York. Durham took home awards both for the ‘Most Improved’ band and the ‘Best Original Composition/Arrangement’ with a piece which featured narration entitled ‘The Lambton Worm’ by Dave Collins.

A celebration ensued, the proceeds of which went to Brass for Africa, a charity that – founded in 2009 with the donation of thirty second-hand brass instrument – uses music to empower and to support disadvantaged children and their communities in Uganda and Liberia.

All the bands that entered put in a huge amount of preparation and hard work. Part of what makes UniBrass so unique is that, although each band wants to do well, it is equally rewarding to witness the growth of brass bands in each represented university. The improvement in quality of performance and musicality from year to year is what makes UniBrass so worthwhile.