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This is London calling!

Standing underneath the sign ‘International Arrivals’ at Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport I found it hard to work out what I was feeling. Excitement? Nerves? It had already been a long day – following my evening solo recital, it started before dawn as I hurtled my way from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on that marvel of engineering, the bullet train Sapsan; and immediately dashed across the city for some intense rehearsals with two wonderful soloists from the Mariinsky Opera. A few administrative and logistical tasks of preparation finally sorted, midnight was closing in and I was ready to greet some weary travellers from the Guildhall School.

They’re here! It was a defining moment that marked the public unveiling of a rather ambitious series of events of my project ‘A Voice between Nations’ as part of the official programme of the British Council-supported Year of Music UK-Russia.

Singers Alexandria Wreggelsworth, Jonathan de Garis, and Liam Bonthrone; and pianists Emelia Noack-Wilkinson and Ugne Vazgileviciute have been hard at work for many months now. Together we have been preparing a programme of Russian-British songs that involved their mastering a foreign language and alphabet, and delving deep into a sound-world with a distinct musical fabric which purposefully sets out to appear to be exotic.

Getting up to well past midnight, their excited chatter revealed their apprehensions for the following day’s masterclasses with Mariinsky Soloist soprano Olga Trifonova, and the former Soloist (now Head of Vocal Studies at the State Saint Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of Music), Andrei Slavniy.

– ‘What if they read the text completely differently?’

– ‘Will you be there with us to translate?’

– ‘Are you sure my Russian pronunciation is ok?’

– ‘Wait… Was it muka [suffering] or muka [flour]?’

Please keep following this blog to see how they got on and experience a collage of their impressions, discoveries, expectations and reflections from their time in Saint Petersburg as they participate in the Guildhall School-led project ‘Voice between Nations’ as part of the official programme of Year of Music UK-Russia.

In the next blog post I will share some words of wisdom from their day of masterclasses.

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