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Music

John Chambers holding percussion instrument (left); John Darvell in action choreographing (right)

Alumni commissioned to create interactive digital work

John Darvell and John Chambers are part of creative team for The RIDDLE

Under the Artistic Direction of Trinity Laban alum John Darvell, NOCTURN collaborates with artists across genres to develop a unique blend of dance, accessible technology and interactive events.

Their latest creation, The RIDDLE, is a fun, interactive outdoor experience,  produced by Spin Arts, that focuses on society’s consumption of digital technology.

The experience is a commission for Greenwich Dance’s ArtsUnboxed programme, which is a new way to safely create, produce and tour work in 2021 funded by the Culture Recovery Fund.

Unlike a traditional production, there is no live event. Instead, audiences can download The RIDDLE for free and engage in the adventure at their own pace.

Participants help the central character Pæn re-engage with the wonders of the outdoors by hunting down QR codes, solving riddles and making and sharing their own dance moves. Audiences can even use NOCTURN’s Spotify playlist to add to the mood as they explore.

“Your mobile phone is part of the problem – and the solution!”, explains Darvell, who is the show’s Director and Choreographer.

He continues –

“This is our first outdoor work and a new exciting development for the company. It is also a work which responds to the restrictions and impact of COVID-19 and can be engaged with during these difficult times.”

Darvell’s professional journey into dance began at 37 when he decided to retrain in contemporary dance at Trinity Laban, leaving the security of day-to-day office work. He completed his Postgraduate Certificate in Community Dance in 2007 and has spent the last decade forging a remarkable approach to creating and choreographing work, placing community interaction and inclusion at the heart of his creative process.

The creative team behind The RIDDLE also includes fellow alum John Chambers, who wrote the music for the digital experience. The freelance composer, sound designer and lyricist graduated from Trinity Laban in 2008 with BMus (Hons) in composition. During his studies, he won the Daryl Runswick Prize, the John Halford Prize, and the Chappell Prize.

Chambers and Darvell first worked together while both studying at Trinity Laban, collaborating on Darvell’s final choreographic project ‘No More’. They have been collaborating ever since and Darvell describes Chambers as “the musical backbone” for many of NOCTURN’s pieces.

“He’s very talented in understanding the needs of a piece and creating a musical landscape which helps drive the narrative forward. He’s brilliant at marrying two opposing creative needs together which is no easy task.”

Chambers says –

“Over the years we’ve developed a good creative understanding of each other’s style, which means I was able to quickly compose the music for The RIDDLE – speed is crucial for a tightly scheduled project where the score has to happen in pre rather than postproduction.

“It’s been great seeing dance artist Tom Davis Dunn embody and respond to my score, and I look forward to members of the public being able to experience the work for themselves.”

The team received the commission at the end of 2020 and started work on the project in January.

On receiving the commission at the end of 2020 Darvell comments –

“It was amazing news for us especially as when everything else had gone back into lockdown. A bit of a lifesaving project to be involved in.”

The RIDDLE launches as part of ArtsUnboxed in May 2021.

Discover more about studying at Trinity Laban.

Image L-R: John Chambers (credit Pauline Chambers); John Darvell (credit Savannah Photographic)

King Charles Court external

TL Competition Round-up 2020/21

Competitions and Prizes celebrate the creativity and technical excellence of students from across our Faculty of Music.

Since the Daryl Runswick Competition for composition students was reinvented for a virtual audience last year, we’ve delivered several internal competitions and prizes through a mix of digital and in-person formats that give our young musicians the chance to showcase their talent.

Streamed live to an online audience from Trinity Laban’s Peacock Room, The Roy Pleasance Competition saw postgraduate sopranos Olivia Bell (Kathleen Roberts Vocal Scholar), Anna Marmion (Eva Malpass Scholar) and Victoria Mulley (Elliot Rosenblatt Memorial Scholar) compete for the prize. After offering insightful feedback to the three finalists, adjudicator and Royal Opera House repetiteur Susanna Stranders announced Anna Marmion as the winner for her fire-themed programme.

Anna’s winning performance, accompanied by David Smith, included Gilda’s aria from Rigoletto and works by Britten, Strauss and Ravel. The soprano most recently performed the role of Susanna in Puzzle Piece Opera’s live-streamed production of Le Nozze di Figaro.

Anna says –

“It was such a pleasure to sing in the final of the competition alongside my wonderful colleagues Vicky and Olivia. It was thrilling to be chosen as the winner and I am looking forward to implementing the insightful and valuable advice I received from Susanna into my continued work. I am so happy to have been able to take part in this competition given the restrictions of the past year.”

Concert guitarist and professor at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Tomasz Zawierucha, adjudicated The Alison Stephens Competition for Plucked and Fretted Instruments, naming classical guitarist and second year Master’s student Daniel Moloney the winner. Daniel performed Mazurka Apasionada by Barrios, El Delirio by Cano and Maria (Gavotte) by Tarrega to claim the prize.

On winning, Daniel comments –

“It was a great experience playing alongside all the incredible musicians in the competition, and I was thrilled and humbled to win!

Third year undergraduate violinist Samuel Cutajar won this year’s Vera Kantrovich Prize for Solo Strings, following his “serene and spacious” performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s second Solo Sonata in A minor where he showed “command and insight”. Samuel is currently studying with Clare Thompson and was selected as a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra in 2020, following an internship with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017.

Reflecting on the competition, Samuel says –

“Performing this special piece with its fugal complexities juxtaposed with the andante’s intimacy was a privilege. Competing in against such fine fellow colleagues was a particular highlight in my musical journey so far. “

The competition was adjudicated by Royal College of Music’s Susie Mészáros, who comments –

“The demands of playing unaccompanied Bach are great, both technically and musically. It was with admiration that I listened to these young people playing and I was deeply touched and impressed by the beauty, skill and generosity of spirit demonstrated by every single one of the finalists.”

Clarinettists from the conservatoire’s Wind, Brass and Percussion department took part in The Wilfred Hambleton Competition, adjudicated by Chamber Orchestra of Europe clarinettist Marie Lloyd. Final year undergraduate Laurence Cuttriss performed a winning interpretation of Jorg Widmann’s Fantasie.

Winner Laurence comments –

“I had a lot of fun learning the pieces, which has everything the composer loves about the clarinet. It’s been so important to have a goal to work towards during these past months.”

Future performances include Jean Francaix’s Clarinet Concerto with the Horsham Symphony Orchestra in November 2021, and an invitation to perform in the Krakow International Festival of Composers next spring.

Adjudicated by distinguished British oboist and founder member of the Britten Sinfonia, Nicholas Daniel OBE, the annual Evelyn Rothwell Oboe Competition was won by Yu Hao who performed Telemann’s 12 Fantasies for Unaccompanied Oboe: No. 2 in A Minor and 48 Studies by Ferling: No.7.

The first year Artist Diploma student comments –

“I really enjoyed the competition. It was a great opportunity for the competitors to showcase our music after the most recent lockdown.”

This year, Sam Pugh’s rendition of Serge Koussevitzky’s Double Bass Concerto op.3 in the Vernon Elliott Competition was “a real highlight” for adjudicator and London Philharmonic Orchestra Double Bass Hugh Klüger, who named Sam the winner. “It was inspiring to adjudicate the Vernon Elliott Competition because of the high standard of double bass playing, the passion and the musicality shown by the competitors.”

In November, keyboard students took part in the The John Longmire Competition, adjudicated by Japanese pianist Ayami Ikeba, professor at the Universität für Musik in Graz, Austria. Third year undergraduate Priscilla Oprescu took home the prize for her performance of Beethoven’s Bagatelle Op. 126 no 4 in B minor and Sonata Op. 14 No. 2 in G Major. Priscilla says she was drawn to the sonata’s “honesty and sincerity” and that playing in the competition helped her discover “even more beautiful ideas in the music”.

The Romanian pianist joined Trinity Laban in 2018 and studies with Yekaterina Lebedeva, funded by the Arthur Haynes and Jimmie Cross Prize Fund Scholarships, as well as the Henry Wood Accommodation Trust. She will now represent the conservatoire at the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Intercollegiate Competition later this year.

Priscila comments –

“Winning the competition felt a bit unreal given the circumstances, and all in all it was a very unique and inspiring experience. I also found it interesting hearing different interpretations of the Bagatelle from my talented colleagues. I am extremely grateful to Trinity Laban for making this competition possible in these times.”

In December, soprano Bethan Terry and pianist Francesca Lauri Menta (Arthur Haynes Scholar) performed a programme of Messiaen, Duparc, Poulenc and Debussy to win The Lillian Ash French Song Competition, which was adjudicated by internationally renowned piano accompanist Roger Vignoles.

Roger, who is recognised as a leading exponent of art song, reflecting on his involvement in the competition –

“It was a novel experience to adjudicate the Lilian Ash Competition via my computer screen at home, but thanks to the positive spirit of the participants I was able to derive great enjoyment from their performances.  Imaginatively chosen repertoire, accomplished and communicative singing, supported by excellent piano playing – all demonstrated Trinity Laban’s commitment to teaching French Mélodie to the highest standard.”

The pair, who are both undergraduate students, have been working together as duo partners since 2019. Francesca explains –

“After feeling electricity between us as players when we competed in the 2019 competition, we decided to keep working together. To now be the winners has really given us a huge push to work even harder and continue the amazing bond we have together as a duo.”

In April, Imogen Burgess (Kathleen Roberts Vocal Scholar) and Francesca Lauri Menta were named winners of the English Song Competition, impressing British baritone and competition adjudicator Sir Simon Keenlyside with their programme of Herbert, Bridge, Guerney and Dove. Keenlyside gave insightful comments to the final duos, focussing strongly on the artistic approach to the interpretation and presentation of the songs.

Keyboard students Ka Ng, Jinah Shim and Zhu Sun competed for  The Alfred Kitchin Competition for Solo Piano with a programme of Schubert and Schumann. Romanian British concert pianist Alexandra Dariescu named Jinah Shim the winner. Donated by Alfred Kitchen, the prize is intended to encourage expressive and musical playing.

Jinah comments –

“I am delighted to have won the Alfred Kitchin Competition with Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy. It was such a thrill to play live, with an audience in the same room. The music world was severely impacted by Covid-19 and performing in this competition has given me hope that the music world is getting back on its feet.”

Leading British violinist Gina McCormack adjudicated the John Barbirolli String Quartet Competition, awarding the prize to The Waldstein Quartet (Greta Papa, Daniel Pukach, Natalia Solís Paredes and Miguel Villeda Ceron) who performed two movement from Beethoven’s Quartet No.5 in A Major. As winners, they will represent Trinity Laban in the upcoming intercollegiate Cavatina Competition.

Looking ahead, the summer term sees the Vivian Joseph Classical Concerto Competition for bowed strings and the conservatoire’s prestigious Soloists’ Competition.

Keep up to date on the winners by following us on Twitter.

Find out more about studying music at Trinity Laban.

Errollyn Wallen headshot

Composition Professor wins ISM’s highest accolade

Errollyn Wallen CBE is the recipient of the 2020 ISM Distinguished Musician Award. 

Formed in 1882, The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK’s professional body for musical artists. Since 1976, they have awarded the ISM Distinguished Musician Award which recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to musical life in the UK. 

This year, critically acclaimed Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen CBE has been named the 2020 winner, joining the likes of cellist Jacqueline du Pres, conductor Sir Charles Mackerras and composer Sir Michael Tippett.  

Errollyn, whose work ‘Jerusalem-Our clouded Hills’ was premiered at the 2020 Last Night of the Proms, is central within Trinity Laban’s Composition department. She has received commissions from the BBC, the Royal Opera House and The Schubert Ensemble. She is also frequently seen and heard presenting on BBC television and radio — latterly as a member of the judging panel for the 2021 BBC Young Musicians of the Year. 

ISM President, Professor Chris Collins commented – 

“Both her career and music-making transcend boundaries, and during COVID-19, Errollyn has continued to innovate, explore and challenge. In my term as ISM President, I can think of no one more worthy of receiving this award.” 

Errollyn Wallen CBE said –  

“I am deeply honoured to receive this award from the ISM, who do so much to promote the vital importance of music for us all. These times have revealed that the making of live music has been under the direst threat and yet the need and longing for it has never been greater.” 

Find out more about our Composition Department. 

Summer Season collage events banner

Summer Season Highlights 2021

Blending virtual and live events, our latest season offers audiences the chance to encounter dance, music and musical theatre in innovative ways.

This summer we are continuing to create performance opportunities for students from across our faculties through a diverse mix of digital and in-person events that showcase the talent of our community.

The season includes fully-staged productions, the return of our annual keyboard festival, exciting collaborations with international choreographers, and multiple digital premieres on our YouTube channel and across social media platforms.

DANCE

The Laban Theatre will play host to several performances this summer, showcasing our contemporary dance students from across our undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts.

Our flagship postgraduate dance company Transitions embarks on its annual UK tour with a programme of 3 New Works choreographed by Dog Kennel Hill Project, Didy Veldman and Rahel Vonmoos. The company will present homecoming performances (3 – 5 June, Laban Theatre) and are set to release a film premiere of the triple bill in July.

The Repertory Project sees second year undergraduate students recreate contemporary dance works by Tony Thatcher, Daniel Squire, Ali Curtis Jones and Sara Wookey across four evenings (15 – 18 June, Laban Theatre).

Final year undergraduate students will work with Matthew Harding, Artistic Director of Urban Interface Dance UK, and South Asian dance practitioner Divya Kasturi, as well as TL’s own Charles Linehan and Stephanie Schober, for Commissioned Works (6 – 9 July, Laban Theatre).

Later in the season, our annual Graduate Showcase returns to Laban Theatre and Laurie Grove, and our BA1 Performance Project, Dance Diploma students and CAT Programme take to the stage. More details to follow.

MUSICAL THEATRE

In May, our final-year Musical Theatre students present two shows at The Albany in Deptford.

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved classic novel, Little Women (18 & 21 May) focuses on the four March sisters and their beloved Marmee. Intercut with a series of vignettes in which their Massachusetts lives unfold are several recreations of the melodramatic short stories aspiring writer Jo pens in her attic studio.

Tony Award-nominated, The Addams Family (26, 27 & 29 May) is a musical comedy with music and lyrcis by Andrew Lippa based on the infamously ghoulish American family created by cartoonist Charles Addams. The show depicts the machinations of an eclectic cast of gothic characters as they deal with their relationships, old and new.

Both shows will have socially distanced live audiences and be livestreamed. Further information on tickets is available on The Albany website.

In June, our second-year Musical Theatre students present Half A Sixpence at Blackheath Halls (14 – 19 June). The show follows Arthur Kipps, an orphan who unexpectedly inherits a fortune, and climbs the social ladder before losing everything and realizing that you just can’t buy happiness.

MUSIC

Curated by Douglas Finch, the New Lights Piano Festival has earned a reputation for showcasing a diverse range of composed and improvised contemporary music for keyboard, electronic and avant-garde instruments. This year, audiences can enjoy a mix of pre-recorded events from across the globe and live evening concerts streamed from the Peacock Room, all available for free on TL YouTube (17 – 18 June).

Highlights include a live performance by the Helix Trio, Christos Fountos’s digital premiere of commissioned work by Canadian composer Rodney Sharman and the return of Yuka Takechi’s Winter Light / Ephemera for Piano performed by Yukiko Shinohara.

Catch Trinity Laban Brass Ensemble at Deal Festival 2021 (1 – 17 July), where they will premiere their pre-recorded digital performances of J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (arr P.White) and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (arr Howarth) conducted by Phil White.

Our postgraduate vocal students will be delighting live audiences with Rosina’s Lovers (30 June – 1 July), two outdoor concerts of operatic excerpts from John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versaille, Massenet’s Chérubin, Milhaud’s La mère coupable, Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro performed in an around King Charles Court.

Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra returns to Blackheath Halls (24 June) for Brahms Symphony No. 2, under the baton of Austrian conductor and Music Director Designate of the Oregon Symphony, David Danzmayr.

The summer seasons also sees music students compete in two of TL’s most prestigious competitions. Following the success of last year’s digital iteration, the Daryl Runswick Competition returns to YouTube for 2021 with a film featuring the finalist’s works and adjudication (21 May).

Instrumentalists will compete at Blackheath Halls in May to win the coveted Soloists’ Competition, a prize that sees them play a concerto with the TLSO.

Other upcoming digital releases include performances by Trinity Laban Jazz Orchestra and Trinity Laban Chamber Choir. Catch The Old Royal Naval College Trinity Laban Chapel Choir’s live broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (5 May).

Alongside our one-off events and digital release, we hope to resume our programme of weekly lunchtime concerts at the ORNC Chapel from 18 May and St Alfege, Greenwich from 20 May, and as well as a programme of lunchtime livestreams. More details coming soon, including the end of year performance from our Junior Trinity students in July.

Information regarding our events may change, subject to future social distancing measures and government guidelines.

We’ll be adding more to What’s On as details are confirmed. To keep up to date, please check our What’s On pages and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Group of singers holding folders in black

International vocal stars join TL’s masterclass programme

This spring, the Vocal Department welcomed guest artists from around the world.

A broad range of international talent from across the industry shared their expertise with Vocal Studies students in virtual sessions this spring term as part of the conservatoire’s masterclass programme.

Over the course of a month, the department hosted masterclasses with sought-after dramatic soprano Susan Bullock CBE, coloratura soprano Sandra Dugdale, mezzo-sopranos Yvonne Howard and Anna Stéphany, British baritones David Kempster and Roderick Williams and rising-star American countertenor Patrick Terry.

Reflecting on her sessions with TL sopranos, Sandra Dugdale comments –

“I enjoyed working with the students very much. They were all very well-prepared, receptive, keen to learn, and of a high standard.”

On working with our students, David Kempster comments –

“It was a joy to work with such a great group of talented and enthusiastic singers from Trinity Laban. […] We were able to do great work, which I hope all the students found both rewarding and insightful.”

Yvonne Howard says –

“It was really good to meet and work with so many of the next generation of Mezzo Sopranos at Trinity Laban. All were really well prepared musically and that made my job easy and enjoyable and the level of concentration and responsiveness to suggestions made, and the willingness to try new things was highly rewarding. Thank you all.”

Masters’ student Victoria Mulley comments –

“I loved taking part in Susan Bullock’s soprano masterclass. Her practical, insightful and friendly advice was really valuable. It was very exciting to work with a singer who has had such a diverse and successful career. I was particularly glad to work with her on an aria from Peter Grimes, as Ellen Orford is a role she has performed many times.”

Countertenor Alessandro Romano, a third-year undergraduate, comments –

“I really enjoyed working with Patrick Terry. He was very attentive to detail and gave me valuable feedback. He suggested different approaches on technique and how to maintain a good legato. A big thank you to Trinity Laban for giving us this opportunity.”

Garreth Romain, a second year Postgraduate Artist Diploma student, adds –

“I would happily work with Patrick Terry again as he is a lovely man that provides helpful, constructive feedback that I can take forward.”

TL vocalists also benefitted from the expertise of Morag McLaren, who returned to deliver an inspiring session on Emotional Expression in Singing. The versatile performer has worked with Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North and performed the role of Carlotta in West End smash-hit Phantom of the Opera.

Find out more about studying voice at Trinity Laban.

Chrissy Kinsella headshot

London Music Fund named Outstanding Musical Initiative

Led by CEO and TL alum Chrissy Kinsella, the charity wins a Music and Drama Education Award 2021.

Established in 2011, the London Music Fund is an independent charity that works in partnership with London’s 32 Music Education Hubs, and with other education and music providers, to enable children to access high-quality music education.

The Fund’s positive impact on the creative lives of London’s aspiring young musicians has been recognised at this year’s national Music and Dance Education Awards 2021, where the charity was named Outstanding Musical Initiative in an online ceremony hosted by Alexander Armstrong.

The Fund’s CEO is Trinity Laban vocal graduate Chrissy Kinsella. She has worked with the Fund since 2012, joining as Head of Programmes before being promoted to Chief Executive in January 2016. In this role, she oversees the strategic, financial, fundraising, musical and educational development of the organisation.

On winning the award Chrissy comments –

“I am delighted the London Music Fund received the award for Outstanding Musical Initiative. Since 2011 we have supported nearly 600 young instrumentalists from low-income families with four-year Scholarships and funded a further 50 projects with Music Hubs, schools, professional arts organisations and other education providers including Trinity Laban’s own ‘Animate!’ Orchestra, involving more than 10,000 of London’s children and young people.”

A passionate supporter of music education, Chrissy’s career has included working for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Morley College, the London Schools’ Symphony Orchestra, the Centre for Young Musicians and the Foundation for Young Musicians.

Reflecting on her training at Trinity Laban, Chrissy says –

“During my time at Trinity Laban I learned a huge amount about the impact that music education can have on children and young people and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to develop these interests, alongside studying as a singer. Since graduating, I have continued to commit to ensuring music education is something that every child has access to, and not just those whose families can afford to pay, something that I know the Trinity Laban family is also committed to ensuring for the future.”

Also recognised at this year’s Music and Drama Education Awards was fellow alum Charlotte Buxton, who received the newly introduced Goldstars Award. The award recognises UK teachers who have shown particular compassion, flair and creativity during the pandemic.

Judges described Charlotte, who is Deputy Head of Service at Services for Education, as “a person who has formidable impact and reach, with a remarkable ambition and vision, who has made an amazing achievement in challenging times”.

Find out more about studying at Trinity Laban.

Theo Jamieson playing keyboard

Alum receives BBC commission for virtual musical

‘U.Me: The Musical’ features lyrics, music and book by Theo Jamieson 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the BBC have commissioned alum Theo Jamieson to write an original musical for radio and podcast listening that captures the collective experience of an extraordinary year. 

Composer and lyricist Theo studied BMus (hons) in composition at Trinity Laban. Since graduating in 2012 he has worked as the Musical Director for several West End hits including Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre) and Funny Girl (The Savoy Theatre). 

His latest show centres on the international love story of two young people on opposite sides of the world who meet online and discover a true connection, finding hope and joy amidst the unfolding crisis. The book is written by Theo in collaboration with Simon Pitts. 

In the BBC press release, Theo commented –  

“The BBC wanted to do a radio musical in response to the Covid pandemic, a romance in this moment we are in that would get the blood pumping and raise goosebumps. When all guns are blazing on a musical, nothing generates that much energy and that much feeling. It’s a big challenge, but actually the feeling of responding and delivering something to the public in a short amount of time is actually really fun. It’s fantastic as an artist.” 

Following a five-month creation and rehearsal process, the show is set to premiere globally at 20.00 BST, 12 May 2021 on BBC World Service and BBC Sounds.  

Discover more about Composition at Trinity Laban. 

Image: Theo Jamieson (courtesy Curtis Brown)