There’s nothing like working towards a live concert to develop your singing and performance skills. And last month, 12 of our talented, committed singers showcased their work at our annual concert, held at The Flute Tree in Sydney’s Leichhardt, performing 24 songs to 50 appreciative guests.
The concert offers a valuable opportunity for our singers to experience the work required; to use their current skills, learn new techniques – and enjoy the rewards on performance day.
For months before the show, singers worked with me on song selection and memorising lyrics, delving into interpretation, expressiveness and characterisation, stage presence and audience engagement. They also learned how to collaborate with an accompanist, our accomplished pianist, Alison Cameron, and with each other for the group and duet songs.
For this year’s concert, some singers had chosen songs that lent themselves to cello and flute accompaniment. Alison’s talented children, James Hillier (flautist); Sophia Hillier (cellist) stepped in, their instruments adding greater depth and emotion to the songs.
Much of the rehearsals took place one-on-one with Alison, helping build a deep rapport between the singer, accompanist, instrumentalist and the song.
The week before the concert, we had a group rehearsal at Alison’s studio, to get a feel for performing in an intimate space with good acoustics. Knowing they would be so close to their audience helped the singers fine-tune their approach to engagement, such as making eye contact with the audience to involve them more.
As a singer, every fibre in your body is alive when performing, and the gaze of an audience can cause distraction and dread, but each performer, including first-time singers, sang with confidence, joy and spirit.
The program was a mix of songs: characters from musicals, requiring small movements and expressions to convey the characters’ personality, to Art Songs or pop songs which singers performed with the appropriate conviction, style and drama.
Nick Barkl’s version of ‘If I Ruled the World’ (Ornadel & Bricusse), based on jazz singer and pianist Jamie Cullum’s cover, was fittingly accompanied by flute.
Anne Richardson sang Massenet’s ‘Elegy’, and the cello accompaniment was ideal for this passionate late 19th Century song.
Belinda Mar sang ‘Sleeping Sun’ by Finnish Band, Nightwish, and the cello again provided a dramatic accompaniment.
For Gina Cohen, who sang ‘Ireland’ from Legally Blonde, the concert is a fantastic opportunity to perform for a live audience in a supportive environment.
“Singing in front of an audience can be daunting, however this is the perfect place to experience the nerves and pressure. There’s only one way to address nerves and build confidence as a performer and that is to do it,” she said. “It’s also good to learn that a performance is more than just the quality of the vocal sound, it’s the way you connect with your audience and sell a song. The way you present yourself as the visual element also helps tell the story.”
View the concert photos on our website
Listen to some recordings from the day
As singers return to their lessons, we gently review their performance, checking on their interpretation of it. We discuss any weaknesses and the strengths that shone out. Then we work on the techniques needing attention, always connecting new information to previous ideas.
Tina Baines, who sang ‘Someone Like You’ from Jekyll & Hyde said: “When I reflect on my performance, what fills me with profound joy is the growth I’ve experienced. I recall during the beginning of my song, the moment where I allowed the nerves to pass rather than take hold and I adjusted my mindset to technique – using the skills I’d learned and practised with Kathleen’s expert guidance to give me grounding. I’ve never been able to do that! I’m so excited to continue this journey with my renewed love of singing and performance.”
Studio concerts are hectic, involving much planning and time spent with each singer. For the singers themselves, there’s much work and learning involved. But the rewards are a joyous sense of accomplishment, and greater trust in their abilities.
A successful show wouldn’t be possible without the following people, to whom we say ‘thank you’:
Accompanist: Alison Cameron
Instrumentalists: James Hillier (flautist); Sophia Hillier (cellist)
Sound recordist: Frances Murphy
Photographer: Ben Walton
Want the challenge of singing for an audience? Kathleen Connell trains performers of all levels and varied song genres to perform at their best. Browse our in-person or online training options, or call 0402 409 106.