26 April 2023

Newsletter 66 – Summer 2023

When music speaks

Our Samling Academy Singers invite you to eavesdrop on intimate conversations between families, friends and lovers in their summer concerts this July. ‘Conversation Pieces’ is a semi-staged production with song, opera and poetry, extending the performance skills that our Academy Singers have been developing over the year by using movement, props and lighting. The production will also include some of the work from our recent three-day ‘Scenes from Opera’ workshop, when the Academy Singers worked on selected scenes by Britten, Mozart and Tchaikovsky led by actor James Garnon and theatre director Susannah Waters.

‘Conversation Pieces’ will be directed by Samling Artist Miranda Wright and performances take place at Saltburn Arts and Sage Gateshead following an extended period of rehearsal and coaching. Samling Artist pianist Leo Nicholson joins the team as music director and will accompany the concert.

Every summer, we say farewell to Academy Singers who are moving on to the next stage of their musical journey and once again this year we’re delighted to see singers going on to undergraduate and postgraduate studies on scholarships at the country’s top conservatoires. We also look forward to welcoming our new Samling Academy cohort in October, following auditions held at the end of March. Thirty young singers from schools and universities across the North East have been offered places, including students from the schools we visited for our Samling Futures workshops in January.

As we go to press, we are preparing for auditions in London and Glasgow for the Samling Artist Programme. Following a highly competitive three-stage process of recommendation, video application and live auditions, twelve singers and four pianists will be offered coveted places for two residential weeks to be held at Marchmont House in November 2023 and March 2024, with leaders including soprano Yvonne Kenny AM, pianists Simon Lepper and Samling Artist James Baillieu.

Samling and Song

The response to the first round of applications for our new Samling and Song residencies for singer and pianist duos has been fantastic. We asked for proposals that present art-song in new ways, to new audiences across the UK and which explore repertoire by under-represented groups.

The first two duos chosen to benefit are mezzo-soprano Shakira Tsindos and pianist Lana Bode and baritone Kieran Rayner and pianist Gamal Khamis. Over the next few months they will work with their project mentors before spending a week at Marchmont to refine and rehearse their programmes. The variety and imagination of the applications we received made it clear that art-song has a lively future and we are looking forward to following the two selected projects through to fruition.

Samling at Sage

Six Samling Artists joined Royal Northern Sinfonia and conductor Nicholas McGegan at Sage One in February for a concert of baroque choral music alongside the UK premiere of Is a rose, a song cycle by American composer Caroline Shaw.

Mezzo-soprano Katherine Aitken (pictured above) gave an electrifying performance of Is a rose to an audience that included Newcastle based poet, Jacob Polley, whose poem ‘The Edge’ opens Shaw’s work. Katherine was joined by Samling Artists sopranos Harriet Burns and Lauren Lodge-Campbell, tenors Michael Bell and Harry Grigg and baritone Daniel Barrett for a setting of Dixit Dominus by Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat. All six artists were making their Sage One debut and appreciated the warm welcome they received from the large audience.

Download a PDF of the full newsletter

Samling Artist Katherine Aitken performing ‘Is a rose’ with with conductor Nicholas McGegan and Royal Northern Sinfonia. Photo: Tynesight Photographic

“Being a Samling Artist has, without exaggeration, been one of the most artistically fulfilling things I’ve done. You really are part of a family and as a young singer in what can be a gruelling profession, having someone on your side is invaluable.”

Mezzo-soprano Katherine Aitken