Monday, 1 April 2013

Spring '13 music endeavours

Recently I feel like I've been standing still and watching time speeding past. I'm now 20 and have finished my 2nd year of uni (only got the exams left :C). I feel irrevocably senile. However I did have a fantastic birthday which I celebrated over 3 days. My flatmates bought be so much food and alcohol, my uni friends were sweet and waited with me until midnight in the middle of Trafalgar Square in the freezing cold. They bought a hefty 3 layer velvet cake which I indulged lavishly in.


All in all I have had a fun three months of 2013 so far, and would like to share with you some highlights. Unfortunately, I haven't been out and about as much as I'd liked due to the tenacious cold and gloom, and now it's already April aka time to buckle down and study 24/7. But this summer will be amazing, I'm in Shanghai for an internship and we're going to Seoul for a week (if there's no talks of war...) so I'll be somewhere hot for months :)

I've had an amazing experience with my Acapella group (The Houghtones) so far. We've braved the Lyceum Theatre (where the Lion King is held), and I was lucky enough to be given a solo. Standing on that stage was phenomenal, I've never seen so many pairs of eyes staring at my face. Thanks to that 30s of terror before I opened my mouth, now when I perform in front of an audience I don't get nervous anymore. I'm also grateful to my group for their amazing vocal backing plus all the hugs and confidence boosts they gave me backstage.

My 2nd encounter with my group is entering the Voice Festival UK 2013, an inter-university Acapella competition in which we were examined on performance, vocal ability, creativity, choreography and many other aspects including vocal percussion and soloist/backing harmonisation. It was a totally unforgettable experience, both the competition itself and also the preparation stage where all of us gave up so much time to get the entire 12min set together in around 2 weeks. The competition was also held at my old Sixth Form school, City of London School for Girls, and our rehearsal room was the room where I used to maths (which means I probably stayed there 90% of my day). Nostalgia undermines what I felt.

the score for one of our songs

serious face family portrait

We didn't win in the end as it's our first time ever entering, but the winners really did deserve their title. They are called 'Vive' and are from Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They most likely won for their originality plus very tight, dissonant harmonisations.


I heard them for the first time at the London Acapella Festival 2013, and was impressed by their execution, especially at their blend and how they don't sing with their solo voices. They really listen out for each other and make sure that the others are heard, not only themselves. Since our group all come from a background of being soloists, we all agreed this is something we could work on.

They also remind me of a Korean jazz group called 'The Green Tea' who I discovered around 4/5 years ago:

There were people from BBC and Channel 4 who came and filmed us rehearsing, and carried out a few interviews. We also received some positive feedback:
"The Houghtones of LSE were the third group to take to the stage, and they opened with a fantastically original idea. The theme of radio jingles cleverly ran through their first number. They opened with the BBC Radio 2 jingle, segueing into Queen’s Radio Gaga, Ignition (Remix), and even Beethoven’s fifth symphony combined with When I Get You Alone, Robin Thicke number based on a sample of A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy, before ending on the ‘This Is Heart’ jingle. In that fantastic introduction – complete with a William and Kate parody – they established themselves as having a fantastic sense of humour, great stage presence, and fantastic, simple, but extremely effective arrangements. They clearly enjoy a good medley and so I was already sold, but then their next number, an arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water that borrowed elements of Aretha Franklin’s version of the song, really brought the good stuff, combining a brilliant soloist with an arrangement that was both subtle, pretty, powerful and full on. Their set culminated in a mash-up of We Are Young by fun. and Take A Walk by Passion Pit. This is definitely a group to look out for." - UACUK

On March 13th I went with Frankie to see the BBC Singers singing some Baroque works by Lotti, Scarlatti and MacMillan. It was a great way to relax and take a break from end of term deadlines. I'm not religious, but after this concert I understood why people go to church to pray and self reflect. We sat in the front row and the voices of the singers reached as directly, to the degree where we could hear their enunciation+vibrato as clear as glass. The music is both overpowering and introspective. It was hard to not be at complete peace. We were treated to an excellent repertoire of both 16th century classics of the Passion of Christ and also contemporary works by Macmillan, which had the iconic Baroque style, but was given a more clashing, political edge. 

Around 3 weeks ago whilst I was skimming Facebook I saw a post by piano legend/master Valentina Lisitsa saying that she was going to hold a free concert playing on an old public piano at St Pancras International Station. It was obviously unmissable since her normal concert tickets are sky high in prices, so I waited for her in the freezing cold. It turned out she kept her promise and played for us a first class set, including Beethoven's Appassionata in full, Liszt's La Campanella and Tottentanz, Rachmaninoff Prelude No.5, Chopin Nocturne No.2, Ave Maria and many more pieces by Rachman. I was impressed how her fingers could move so fast on that crappy upright piano under such cold temperatures, and how she kept on playing without talking much for a good 1 and a half hours. 

Me and the legend!

Rachmaninoff Prelude No.5 In G Minor, Op.23

To end off with some modern day music, I went to see Beach House with some uni friends. I really have no words to describe how incredible Victoria's voice was. It was hauntingly elegant, sultry and heavy but liberating at the same time. She had an amazing range for a female voice and was not scared to deliver with volume, which was very refreshing for singers of her genre, who often sing with a raspy, airy tone. I was hugely impressed also by the stage lighting, which changed with the music and added more impact to certain parts of the music. They did a super long set playing their new album Bloom entirely and also many old songs. Before seeing this live I honestly quite disliked Bloom because the entire tracklist sounded like they all came from one sample. But the band was very conscious of the beginning and endings of their songs, which in the end seemed like a 2 hour long track. They definitely lived up to my standards and we all left evidently yearning for more.

Victoria did however say that they won't be playing again in London for a very very long time, and when we all laughed in disbelief she told us it was no bullshit. I have no idea what they have in plan but that made me very sad :(


That's it for now! I'll be getting a new haircut this week similar to my one of my favourite Chinese actress Sun Li's
so hope you look forward to my future updates :) I also want to do a wishlist post on a few fashion items to let you guys know the trends I'm into right now, but I'll probably do that after I have my haircut so I can upload some nice photos of me haha

I'll end this post musically with 3 songs I'm madly in love with right now! x

Mindy Gledhill - Anchor

Blondfire - Walking With Giants

The Shins - Australia

Good luck with revision to all of you, I'll be working hard too :D
Can't wait for the summer!!