CLA France Blog: Final Concerts

The last week at CLA France is hectic yet exhilarating.  In the first two weeks, we work on specifying our vowels, cleaning our French diction, and finessing musical details.  Once the concerts begin, our hard work is put to the test.  Personally, I can fall into a bit of a practice obsession when I take part it in intensive studies.  With all my necessary improvements in mind, I find myself preferring to practice in solitude then to present my new skills in public.  

This is how I felt when the concerts approached: hesitant to perform.  However, the concerts proved to be the perfect opportunity to test out, and, in fact, practice our recently acquired lessons.  Moreover, the sheer quantity of concerts allowed me to feel comfortable taking risks and experiment with my voice and musicality. 

For an idea, here is the schedule of public events during the last week of the program.  (This does not include the first two concerts that occurred slightly earlier, as well as continued classes during the final week)

Wednesday, June 19 - Concert at Abbaye de Saint-Avit-Sénieur
Friday, June 21 - Public Masterclass at L’église Saint-Dominique de Monpazier
Friday, June 21 - Concert at L’église Saint-Dominique de Monpazier
Saturday, June 22 - Concert at L’église de Naresse
Sunday, June 23 - Concert at L’église de Cadouin
Tuesday, June 25 - Concert at Les Jouandis (our house!)

For the final concert, we performed at our own house as the ideal farewell.  We were immediately shocked that the audience filled our satellite building - since Les Jouandis is isolated in the countryside, it is hard to believe that a full audience of opera-appreciators would find themselves there.  We really shouldn’t have been surprised.  An enthusiastic audience filled each of our concert venues, with numerous repeat attendees.  There is clearly a special community that looks forward to the CLA concerts each year - I like to call them our CLAudience.  ;)

The staff successfully transformed the room which we affectionately call PPP (after the Ping-Pong and Pool tables that are inside) into a beautiful and intimate concert venue.  It was hard to believe that long days of rehearsals and late nights of games and wine took place in the same room that was then our elegant concert venue. 

The room featured a long walkway for the singers to enter and exit, which felt like a grand celebration as we passed our teachers and mentors after performing each piece.  There was a special energy in our green room as each of us cherished the opportunity to collaborate one final time.  The concert concluded with a resounding standing ovation, but the night was not over yet!

After the last concert, we always invite the audience to remain at the property and enjoy a grand garden party.  Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, and revelry filled every inch of the house’s exterior.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal with the audience, which happened to include my parents.  I was so grateful to be able to share my experience with them and also hear about their experience as audience members.  I think it is wonderful that the CLA staff is so accommodating and encourages the audience to feel like part of our musical family. 

Naturally, there was more music to be had.  I turned around for one moment, and the next, there was an electric keyboard outside ready to accompany singers for an impromptu garden concert.  Somewhere Over the Rainbow kicked off the light entertainment, followed by favorites from Carmen, Don Giovanni, Porgy and Bess, and even some popular Mexican music.  Requests were being made and one person noted that it felt like an “on-demand karaoke event”.  I found the spontaneous singing to be extremely heartwarming, as an indicator that this group of singers truly loves to sing.  It reminds me of Gaspard’s encouragement to “take pleasure in the music”, and I will certainly remember these moments of levity as I move forward in my career.

Photo by Elina Akselrud - elinaakselrud.com

Photo by Elina Akselrud - elinaakselrud.com

CLA France Blog: Agents Visit the Chateau

Agents Visit the Chateau

Following Mireille’s intense visit and three consecutive concerts, we woke up on Monday morning prepared to sing and work with two French opera agents.  Olivier Beau and Hervé Le Guillou, our guests for the next few days, co-founded their agency, BLG Artist Management in 2007. Their visit marks the first year that CLA France has hosted agents as part of the course’s offerings, and I think that the new opportunity was a grand success. 

After attending our Sunday night concert at L’eglise de Cadouin, Olivier and Hervé received a taste of what our singers are about. Glenn and Mina strategically planned the day’s schedule so that we would have our final coaching of the program shortly before our session with the agents. I found this time to be a wonderful opportunity to revisit key vocal concepts with Glenn one last time.  I’ll speak more to this in the final posts, but I’ll briefly share that, as I conclude my CLA studies, I’m surprised by how much my voice has grown over this short, intensive period.  I am grateful for the impactful coaching from each faculty member.  

There was a bursting energy, and a bit of humor, flowing through the house, as we heard non-French music filling the rooms.  The agents asked us to prepare 2-3 arias, which meant that, for the first time, we needed to prepare repertoire in other languages!  Personally, I really enjoyed hearing iconic Mozart melodies floating through the hallways.  This repertoire is more familiar among us than many French arias, and I witnessed (and took part in) lip-syncing and dancing as our colleagues refined their signature arias.  In one of my arias, Papageno’s Suicide Aria from Die Zauberflöte, Papageno counts to three - “Eins, Zwei, Drei” as he waits for his soulmate, Papagena, to appear.  During my coaching with Glenn, I heard some of my friends calling down the numbers from upstairs!  I remembered these moments of levity when I was feeling slightly nervous singing for Olivier and Hervé.  It was a gentle shock to sing in another language after three weeks of French intensity.  I found myself doubting my German accuracy, but Johanna, a German native, assured me that my German was up to snuff.  

My individual time with Olivier and Hervé was filled with kindness and wisdom.  They welcomed me into a warm, casual environment, and I felt comfortable performing my arias for them.  Afterwards, I enjoyed hearing their feedback.  Their comments were very constructive, and I agreed with their perspective.  I appreciated that they made an effort to thank me for singing and to identify specific aspects of my performance that they enjoyed.  It was interesting to hear where they disagreed - for me, this addressed my decision to act out the theatrics of my Mozart aria.  While Hervé recommended a simpler rendition, Olivier enjoyed the physical details that I brought to the aria.  Moments like these remind me that, as a performer, I must ultimately tell the story that I feel is important to tell since it is impossible to please everyone in performance.  

In addition to joining us for individual sessions, concerts, and meals, the agents presented important information about European management to the singers Tuesday morning.  I was not sure what type of information would be presented and was surprised by the great breadth of topics covered.  We discussed different rates of agents across countries, audition tips, lifestyle difficulties, and more. I appreciated the career advice, but, as a younger singer not yet prepared to seek out management, I resonated even more with the agents’ encouraging outlook on the life of a singer.  They demonstrated a strong passion for their work, including a deep care for the singers that they represent.  They stressed that an artist’s entire life should take precedence over the limited importance of furthering one’s career.  Instead of pushing their artists to pursue as many engagements as possible, they encourage singers to take time for themselves, whether it is for vacation or one’s family.  This is so reassuring because young singers often hear about the many sacrifices that they must make to secure a professional career.  Of course, sacrifices will be, and already have been, prevalent in our artistic paths.  However, it is comforting to know that there are administrators who will assist us in placing boundaries between our careers and our personal lives.

With excitement for the future, confidence in ourselves, and motivation to improve our craft, we bid a warm farewell to Olivier and Hervé.  

CLA France Blog: Masterclass with Mireille Delunsch

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any new content in a while - this is definitely not because there has been nothing to report!  In fact, we have been so busy with noteworthy events that it has been impossible to find time for writing.  Recent highlights include several beautiful concerts, working sessions with French agents, and, what you’ll read about today -  masterclasses with a renowned French soprano.  I will roll out my final blog posts over the next few days, and I’m so pleased to share the events of our final week with CLA France.  

Mireille Delunsch offered three days of masterclasses.  Having sung at many of the world’s major opera houses, Mireille offers a wealth of experience and talent to her students.  One fact that I find unique and inspiring about Mireille is that she has not limited herself to repertoire within a single fach, or specific voice type.  The fach classification system is typically used as a means of identifying the repertoire that is ideal for a singer’s voice, but Mireille’s resumé covers a wide range of music, from baroque to contemporary.  

The working sessions were a challenging and thought-provoking experience for all.  Each day featured four singers, and the second day of singers took place in L’eglise Saint-Dominique de Monpazier as a public masterclass.  Before the singing commenced, Mireille took the time to introduce herself and prepare us for the work that lay ahead.  Sharing a bit of her vocal history,  she humorously recalled her singing voice before any training, and she proudly noted her ability to improve through hard work with her first teachers.  I always appreciate hearing about a successful singer’s humble beginning - it reinvigorates my dedication to develop my own voice and reaffirms the value of transformative training programs like Classic Lyric Arts.  Mireille also emphasized the importance of a work’s text, and therefore, the story that is being told through the composition.  She believes that our first duty as singers is to honor the text and that our voice, and technique, is simply a medium through which we can communicate effectively.  This was a beautiful reminder of why we must train intensely in order to express ourselves in the most clear and compelling manner.  

Learning from Mireille is no walk in the park.  She has a very structured concept of vocal technique and is passionate about sharing her method with young singers.  As soon as each singer finished their aria, it was time to work.  Much of Mireille’s work centered on technical concepts that would further secure each singer’s voice.  She focused on concepts of support, high placement, and efficient singing.  One repeated topic was her insistence on creating the most resonant sound possible with the most efficiency possible.  This is an essential component of vocal technique that will allow a singer to fill a large opera house without placing physical strain upon their instrument.  Having sung at major opera houses, Mireille understands this need first-hand.  In additional to technical tweaks, the classes imparted invaluable musical wisdom.  A particularly important concept was the placement of stress within French music.  Mireille explained that there are often textual stresses in musically weak locations.  We used Micaëla’s aria in Carmen, “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” as a case study. She explained how clarifying the linguistic rhythm can help to establish an interesting hemiola feel within the famous aria’s first line. 

After an intense three days with Mireille, we had definitely learned a lot about the voice and French music.  It was rewarding to experience these classes together, as I found myself and the other singers bouncing questions off of each other.  “How did you interpret her concept of support?”  “What did you hear change in my voice when I was singing?”  Since many voice teachers in the United States treat singing so differently, this was an opportunity to learn from and about each other.  I finished the classes feeling grateful for Mireille’s words of wisdom and for the singers’ thoughtful reflections.  


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CLA France Blog: Artist Spotlight - Elina Akselrud

Today’s post spotlights one of the wonderful staff members and pianists, Elina Akselrud.  She has been an invaluable asset to the CLA team through the many different roles that she fills.  I enjoy the artistry that she brings to music-making through her independence as a solo pianist and the sensitivity that she offers as a collaborator.  I hope you enjoy reading a little bit more about her experience.  Look forward to posts about our wonderful concerts and faculty guests in the near future!

Where were you born and where did you live now?
I was was born in Sumy, Ukraine and grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine since the age of 7.  I moved to NYC with my family when I was 15, finished high school and got my BM and first MM in Piano Performance in NY (Mannes) and Boston (NEC).  Then, I moved to Europe to continue my studies in Florence, Italy and Lucerne, Switzerland.  I still live in Lucerne at the moment but will most likely move somewhere again very soon. 

Which languages do you speak?
To be honest, I speak none on a native level. However, I regularly use six languages in my everyday life, all on different levels.  English, Russian, Ukrainian, German, French, Italian.  More to come!

Why did you decide to study in the United States?
My family moved there so that my younger brother and I would have more choices and opportunities: a real immigration story.  It was a major decision that my parents made, leaving all of their own past behind, knowing zero English, and barely having traveled abroad beforehand.   I am more and more grateful for it every year: it gave me a huge jump start and a taste of real freedom.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

How did you come to be a part of CLA France?
A long time ago when I was doing my Bachelor's at Mannes I heard about Glenn Morton and his Song Interpretation class from my very close friend, a singer who studied with him.  The course subject seemed to be really interesting and I wanted to explore it deeper, so I approached Glenn and asked him if I could take his class.  He said he had no space in class, but I kept following him and asking if I could at least sit in and listen.  Luckily, someone dropped the class and I was allowed to take it at the end.  A few weeks later, CLA was approved as a non-profit, and Glenn asked in class if we knew anyone interested in graphic design.  Since I have some background in the visual field, I took the challenge to design the logo and the stationery.   Meanwhile, he invited me as a pianist to CLA Italy, and I have been working with CLA on occasion ever since.  I always wanted to come to the French program but until now, the scheduling has been too difficult.  It finally happened this year!

What is your favorite part of being a pianist here?
My favorite part is making music with the wonderful young artists.  I love discovering new abilities, talents and 'shades' of each singer's voice and learning from the renowned coaches.

What is it like to fill multiple roles here?
Well, this is something I am quite used to by now, as I generally do multiple tasks in my life, career, and especially in my own projects.  Sometimes it feels like a huge load, but it is always interesting to be involved in different things.  For example, here in France, I am playing loads of new piano repertoire, taking and editing photos and videos, learning French, and more. I feel that every experience adds up as a skill and makes me more profound both as an artist and a person.

What has been your favorite moment so far?
The most rewarding time is when all our hard work transforms into the magic that clicks together on stage!

What has been the funniest moment so far?
When singers invent nonexistent words in French, I can watch Raphaël (actively mouthing) and Gaspard (gently conducting) in the first row during concerts.  This is even better when I get to page turn and can actually see the audience.  Hilarious!

Anything else that you want to say?
I am grateful and truly honored to be part of CLA and to work with all the teaching and student artists here.  I wish every one lots of success and to never stop self-discovery!

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CLA France Blog: Reflection from Johanna

Today’s blog post is brought to you by another CLA participant.  Johanna is a lovely soprano from Munich and has become one of my close friends here at CLA France.  I appreciate her sharp humor and passionate approach to singing.  In this post, she shares her experience of our second concert, which took place on Monday evening.  Thank you for sharing, Johanna!

“Yesterday started off with the usual coachings. When walking through the chateau you could see everyone highly concentrated, memorizing the last lines of new pieces to be performed in the evening. In the late afternoon everybody got changed into concert wear, and luckily, this time it didn't pour down on us as it did before the previous concert evening. One last run through the common ensembles and we were off to the beautiful town Belvès for our second concert.

This concert was graciously hosted by the lovely Carol Haber in her home directly in the town center.  We were all in disbelief while entering - how stunning their home was, and it even featured staircases from the 13th century! We went to explore the house and after walking up several flights of stairs we were rewarded with a breathtaking 360° view from their rooftop. Since the town itself sits quite high already, we could see very far into the distance. And, with the beautiful weather and gorgeous background, some serious photoshoots took place.

The concert itself had a lovely atmosphere.  The audience was very attentive and interested, which to me is very important. It makes me feel appreciated as an artist and gives me freedom and comfort to unfold my artistry. Everyone did a fabulous job - it was such a treat hearing all the performances, knowing how much effort and work had been put into them.

Afterwards we got to meet the audience at the reception and we all engaged in pleasant conversation. It is always interesting for us to hear how the audience perceives a performance. Typically, they don't judge it nearly as harshly as we do ourselves.  After indulging in wonderful food and wine (oh, all the wine here in France is wonderful!), we packed up and drove back to our chateau very satisfied.

The loveliest aspect of the evening was how supportive and nice everybody was about each other’s performances and achievements. It is truly a gift to spend so much time with wonderful people who share with me a love for this unparalleled art form.”

-Johanna





CLA France Blog: Theatrical Collaborations

After two weeks of intensive coachings, classes, and rehearsals, we finally had a full run-through of our scenes.  This was an exciting opportunity to appreciate each other’s collaborations.  The ensembles cover a wide variety of musical styles, from Massenet’s Thaïs to Yvain’s Ta Bouche.  In total, there are 19 ensembles, and each singer performs 3-4 numbers.  

It was special to observe my new friends come together vocally and dramatically.  One advantage to having so many different ensembles is that we get to hear many different combinations of voices.  I was surprised by how well some of the groups blended, and several ensembles blew me away.  It’s also delightful to watch everyone take on larger stage personalities.  The mélodie concert was full of authentically sensitive interpretation, but operatic ensembles allow the singer to embody a more dramatic persona.  I found the lighter and comedic ensembles to be the most refreshing, serving as a respite from opera’s tendency towards the serious.

An important step in preparing ensembles is the theatrical development.  While solo performances encourage nuanced intimacy, the addition of a scene partner multiplies a piece’s expressive possibilities.  This is particularly interesting for me since I trained as a director in my undergraduate studies.  Another participant, Shannon Delijani, and I offered to help with staging the scenes.  Shannon began studies as a stage director while singing at Mannes, and we were both eager to contribute our theatrical knowledge to these French scenes.

While Shannon and I both have directing experience, we’ve rarely worked in such an expedited process.  We divided the scenes Saturday night and needed to stage many of the scenes the next afternoon.  My directing professor in college often assigned devised compositions to complete in class.  He would enter class with a list of requirements and gave us a limited amount of time to create a coherent piece of theatre within the guidelines.  For context, an assignment may ask the directors to include the following elements (and more): a clear beginning and end, one action repeated five times, fifteen seconds of sustained gibberish, and the line “The moon is my love”.  These wacky assignments often filled me with anxiety.  Finally, I am thanking my professor for these challenges!  

Since there was a limited amount of time to work through every number musically, I decided to meet with some of the singers after dinner.  Tomorrow’s concert includes duets from Cendrillon (Massenet), Hamlet (Thomas), and Dédé (Lalo).  I enjoyed staging these numbers because the singers brought a depth of detailed thought on their own.  I was able to quickly establish a framework of movement-based imagery within which they could supplement their own choices and artistry.  It was especially interesting to work on the duets from Hamlet and Dédé because Fernando Cisneros, a baritone, sings in both.  While working on the duet between Hamlet and Ophelie, we explored the majestic underpinnings of the music and text.  This resulted in a dramatic, slightly overwrought character.  In contrast, the other duet is a tango that requires more subtlety and interplay between the characters.  I was pleased with how quickly the singers, Fernando and soprano Judith Duerr, assumed the duet’s seductive character, and we were able to work out some very dynamic physical moments.  My favorite is an exchange where Judith momentarily lures Fernando in to tango with her, only to brush him aside and dance away in the opposite direction.  Even though the directing work extended into my free evening, I had a lot of fun working with the inventive singers.  It was refreshing to flex my directing muscles, and I look forward to watching the ensembles in concert tomorrow night!

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CLA France Blog: Felicitations - First Concert!

Yesterday, we enjoyed a wonderful first concert of French Mélodie.  It was a lovely evening of intimate and dramatic songs that demonstrated a great variety of musical expression. The concert took place at La Balie, which is about a 30 minute drive from our residence.  The faculty members drove us through the rain in a small caravan of cars. 

La Balie is a beautiful residence that spans several buildings and overlooks beautiful country hills. This was the first time that CLA France has performed at La Balie, and, as he drove, Glenn told us about how this performance came to be.  Fiona, who is the owner of the estate, built the residence as a center for all of the activities that she loves - piano, yoga, embroidery, and more.  Glenn and some singers met Fiona last summer, and they quickly decided to host a concert this year.  I am so glad that the connection was made because La Balie was an absolutely stunning location for our first concert.  

The room in which we performed features a lovely contrast of modernity and rustic charm.  It immediately enchanted us from the first glance out the large windows that overlook rolling hills.  Despite the room’s intimate feel, we were so pleased to receive a full and enthusiastic audience for our first concert.  It’s always a success when extra chairs have to be found in order to accommodate all the guests!

The concert was particularly special for us singers because it was our first opportunity to hear each other perform.  Until then, our impressions were limited to muffled sounds through closed doors and the final moments of a preceding coaching.  Unlike many other programs, CLA France doesn’t have a sing-in on the first day, where the participants sing an aria for each other.  There was definitely a nervous energy buzzing in the room, as we anticipated our “debut” in front of each other.  However, there was a very strong sense of community, which has become the norm for this lovely group.  I was touched that we felt compelled to applaud  each other even during sound checks.  

Since our first concert was such a special, shared experience, I thought it would be best for you to hear from more performers than just myself.  I’ve compiled some reflections from the singers and pianists for you to read.  In my opinion, the themes of respect, community, and encouragement are particularly special.

“It was a wonderful experience to listen to everyone for the first time and feel what they had to express.  I learned a lot from each one of them and felt that we were a team even though we were singing solo pieces.  It’s beautiful to feel support and love in a group of young singers.”

“It was wonderful to hear all of us for the first time .  Everybody is so expressive and on the right track to being a professional musician.”

“Yesterday evening we heard high-level singing in a dream-like location.  The contrasting and beautiful repertoire choices made the evening even more enjoyable since we could gaze at the artists’ different personality traits.”

“It was so wonderful to finally hear everyone, especially in a somewhat non-traditional concert location.  The space was absolutely beautiful, and because of its intimacy, we got to share a lovely, communal feeling of gathering as we made and celebrated music together.”

“It was a very creative exchange to ‘live’ through each different story of each character in each piece with every singer.”

“It’s rare to be in an environment where you feel total and absolute support from your peers.  Performing last night with everyone truly felt like a family experience.”

“It has been incredible to see such monumental growth in each singer within such a short period of time.  Especially in art song, language is such a vital part of communicating and our intensive few days of French immersion led to specific and moving performances.” 


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CLA France Blog: Poets in the Making

This week, the advanced French class is studying surrealist poetry.  After some conversational practice, we take turns pronouncing and translating French texts.  To supplement our studies, we translated an excerpt from André Breton’s 1924 manifesto on surrealism.  He puts forth that an artist should first clear their mind from sublime intentions and earthly distractions.  Once this state of openness has been achieved, the writer should allow their pen to simply follow the mind’s musings.  

We practiced this method of composition, and I think that we were all pleasantly surprised by the results.  Here are some of the poems that the class wrote - don’t worry, I’ve also roughly translated them to English!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Le café
Me donne du bonheur
Couchant dans ma tasse blanche
Les fleurs se réveillent en chantant pour son énergie
Les sons hauts et lourds
Quand arrive le soleil, le café sourit
Ah, j’ouvre mes bras
J’ouvre mes yeux
J’ouvre mon cœur
à ton pureté marron
Les paysans et les rois, tout le monde peut t’avoir
Mais tu es le mien seulement
Le mien

Coffee
Gives me happiness
Sleeping in my white cup
The flowers awake singing for its energy
The high and heavy sounds
When the sun arrives, the coffee smiles
Ah, I open my arms
I open my eyes
I open my heart
To your brown purity
The peasants and the kings, everyone can have you
But you are mine only
Mine
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Les roses sont une rivière
La montagne est un forêt
Je me suis jetée dans la piscine
Dans cette journée trop bleue
Le soir je me suis réveillée
D’un songe magique et puissant comme mon cœur
Ce cœur qui batte trop forte
Dans cette journée trop bleue.

The roses are a river
The mountain is a forrest
I fell in the pool
In this too blue day
In the evening I woke myself
From a magical and powerful dream like my heart
This heart that beats too strong
In this too blue day
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Que faites-vous, vous qui courrez?
Avec vos nouveaux chaussures
Écrivant sur la rue
L’encre gris-noir
Que dessinez-vous
Qu’est-ce que vous voulez dire au monde?
Si vous devez partir,
Pourquoi pas
Soyez un oiseau et
Voler?
Les dessins des pieds sont plus jolis dans le ciel.

What are you doing, you who runs?
With your new shoes
Writing on the street
The dark grey ink
What do you draw
What do you want to say to the world?
If you should leave,
Why not
Be a bird and
Fly?
The drawings of feet are more pretty than the sky.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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CLA France Blog: Joyeux Anniversaire

Today, I celebrated a wonderful 23rd birthday in France!  I don’t typically initiate grand birthday celebrations.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I would tell the other singers about my birthday - I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured to make my birthday special.  To my surprise, I already felt so close to the other singers by the second day, and I knew that I wanted to celebrate with them.  It’s also hard to hide one’s birthday when our conversations are filled with horoscope signs and birth months!

My first birthday indulgence was the opportunity to sleep a bit later.  Some of us stayed awake playing ping pong and foosball until midnight so that we could ring in the special day with a very dramatic rendition of Happy Birthday.  I awoke ready to enjoy an exciting and relaxing first day off in France.  We had planned a morning excursion to a market in Issigeac, a local town.  When I joined the breakfast table, I was sad to spot cold rain outside.  The market is located outside, so another dreary day would not bode well for our excursion.  As we ate, the rain started to lighten, and we decided to proceed with the trip.  

Hélène, one of our wonderful coaches, drove Temple and myself to the market in her car.  This was a great opportunity to practice some more French conversation and get to know Hélène a little better.  Since so many languages are represented among our singers and faculty - English, French, Spanish, German, and more - we have a very symbiotic linguistic community.  I feel further supported in my French studies when I can help Hélène and other French speakers with an English translation here and there.  

Issigeac offers a quaint, rustic appeal, but the market itself was immensely popular. (Quaint is one word that was completely new to Hélène!). It was difficult to maneuver oneself around the many attendees within the narrow streets. This was my first experience with a market that strings along various streets.  I have visited many farmer’s markets in the United States, which often fill vacated parking lots, as well as other European markets that sprawl around an entire square.  The linear rows of stands along the town’s streets allowed us to appreciate the surrounding buildings and picturesque alleys that branch out from the city center.  The vendors offered a diverse array of products, from foie gras to leather bags.  I certainly enjoyed many of the edible samples that were on display.  I was so pleased to find one of my favorite pastries, a canelé, at one stand.  This is one of my favorite treats, and I was able to buy a massive, delicious pastry for about one quarter of what it would cost back home in Virginia.  It was already turning out to be a wonderful birthday. 

After helping my friend pick out a light linen dress, I stumbled upon a stand featuring wooden watches and sunglasses.  The watches charmed me, and I couldn’t resist purchasing one as a birthday present to my self.  The market was a success!

We enjoyed another lovely lunch upon returning to Les Jouandis.  All felt normal, but there was a surprise brewing.  I was shocked that the staff had planned for a cake to be shared in honor of my birthday - with candle and all!  They also guessed my favorite flavor - lemon.  I received another dazzling rendition of happy birthday, and all I could think about was my gratitude for the kindness and generosity from my fellow musicians.  

Long warm naps, sunbathing, and pool volleyball filled the rest of our sunny day off (there may have been a bit of score study squeezed in there too).  I enjoyed yet another stunning afternoon walk before dinner and was so grateful for the company of my new friends.  I am still blown away by the excitement and energy that everyone shared with me.  I think that this speaks to the kind character that fills the chateau’s halls, and I’m looking forward to reciprocating the warm camaraderie that I received today.  With an extra year added to my age, I am feeling ready to take on a great week of music -  and, our first concert on Friday!

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CLA France Blog: Singer Spotlight - Temple Hammen

Today’s post features the first spotlight on a member of this year’s CLA France family.  I checked in with Temple Hammen, a soprano from the United States (she is also from my home state of Virginia!) to see how she is enjoying the CLA experience thus far.

Why did you choose to attend CLA?
Last year, I started coaching with Glenn, who told me about the program.  When he invited me to come to France, I knew that I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to immerse myself in French repertoire and language.  I felt and understood that this would be the best next step for me in my career as a young artist.

What has been your favorite moment so far?
I have loved getting to know the other singers, and the one time that we’re all together is meal time. The first dinner that we had at the chateau was so beautiful and very memorable to be all together. You could see the excitement and joy in everyones eyes. Since then, the times that we meet at meals are special because we are able to relax. It is so simple, yet so great for all of us to gather as a group. 

What is one important thing that you have learned already?
For me, the linguistic exposure has been the most impactful and important aspect of the experience thus far.  I feel like I can already look at a piece of music and more easily and clearly speak the French text.  This is extremely important because as a classical singer, I must develop clear diction to be the most effective performer I can be.   

What has been your biggest traveling faux pas?
If you had a chance to read the first blog post about a girl losing her bag on the train, that was me. I was on the train coming from Bordeaux to Bergerac with two other singers in the program, and I left my seat to use the restroom. I left all of my belongings behind. I started to leisurely walk back to my seat when I heard the two girls yelling to tell me that our stop was here and I had to get off the train. I noticed that they had retrieved my belongings, so I ran off and immediately the doors closed.  Once I gathered myself, I noticed that they had forgotten my suitcase, and it was still on the train. Immediately, I panic. All of my gowns and clothes for the entire month were in that suitcase. I was able to get a train conductor’s attention. She called over to the conductor of our departed train and has asked them to pass the suitcase to an incoming train in the opposite direction. (I must mention how appreciative I am of the kind and punctual French train staff.) After a stressful half hour, my suitcase was delivered to the platform of the incoming train…the connection worked!  I was beyond relieved, and I made such great friends with the conductor who truly saved the day!  I am very thankful. 

What are you most looking forward to in the program?
I am looking forward to my French improving and becoming more innate within my singing and personal life. The venues in which we are going to perform look beautiful, and I’m very much looking forward to performing in them. I am also so thrilled to be connecting with the other singers and coaches in so many ways and developing wonderful long-lasting relationships. Everyone has been so lovely, and I can’t wait to grow together even more!

Where will you be after the program?
I will be beginning my Masters degree in Voice at Mannes in the fall, studying with Diana Soviero. CLA has already been a great spring board into the next step of my vocal studies.

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