Meet our Instrumental and Vocal Teachers

At City, we have a great team of visiting instrumental and vocal teachers, many of whom also teach at the leading London conservatoires.

We also have two ensembles in residence, a large number of departmental ensembles and offer regular workshops and masterclasses with high-profile visiting performers and composers.

Read some short interviews with a selection of our visiting performance teachers.

Alena Walentin

Alena, could you start by telling us something about your current performance projects?  I recently recorded my debut solo album and also a second album with my wind quintet Atéa. Both albums will be released later this year which I’m very much looking forward to! I will also will be recording with my chamber duo partner harpist Anne Denholm for a planned release next year. As well as recording, I have some masterclasses and performances coming up in Denmark, the USA and in the UK, including with Ian Pace at City! Right now, I’m in the middle of a tour of Wales with Mid-Wales Opera as part of the Ensemble Cymru playing Puccini’s Tosca. So some really exciting and enjoyable projects.

What is the highlight of your music teaching career so far?  I feel that each conservatoire and university I teach at is unique and each offers a different but wonderful experience. When I was a student I had no idea that such an important part of my career would be teaching, but now I teach and give masterclasses in so many amazing places and I absolutely love it. I feel very humble and honoured to be teaching at City as well as at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Junior Royal Academy of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as well as giving masterclasses in different countries. I think sharing one’s knowledge is so important and it’s a very special, incredibly happy feeling when you hear your students progress and see that they enjoy playing the instrument!

What were the most important things you learned from your own teachers? It would be very hard to identify one single thing – they all together form one thing! Everything from intonation, the technical side of playing the instrument, posture, breathing, rhythm, dynamics etc are all incredibly vital to being able to express the composer’s intentions to its fullest. But if I had to pick the very most important thing, it would be the feeling that I’ve had from when I first started to play the instrument: that music always should come first, technique second. Instrumentalists, of course, need a flawless technique to be able to be professional, but the musical part should always take first place. When an audience member comes to a concert, they might not know much about the instrument and how hard certain passages or aspects of the playing might be. However, they feel the music! And if one can make them cry, laugh, smile from real enjoyment or bring back to them sacred memories – that is what it’s all about and is the reason why we learn the instrument. And that is why I always aspire to be a musician, an artist and not an instrumentalist. And I wish to all the students out there to remember why they love music so much and why they want to play the instrument.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your forthcoming tours!

You can find out more about Alena’s music at www.alenawalentin.com

 

Richard Uttley

Many thanks for joining us, Richard. Could you start by telling our students something about your current performance projects? One unusual project I’m particularly enjoying at the moment is playing Erik Satie’s ‘Entr’acte’ music from his ballet Relâche, which was written to accompany a silent film by René Clair. I’m playing it in the piano duet version with my friend and collaborator Kate Whitley, and we’re performing it live with the film. We spent a long time experimenting to work out how we could bring out as much subtle detail in the timing between the music and visuals as possible; it was a labour of love but that makes it so enjoyable for us to share the result with audiences. As well as being a pianist, Kate is also a composer and she’s writing me a piece that I premiered in a recital at City last spring. Other things I’ve got on the go this season include the Gershwin Piano Concerto, which I learnt over summer and played in the Queen Elizabeth Hall recently, and  a cycle of all ten Beethoven sonatas for piano and violin for a tour in Scotland next month.

What is the most exciting country you’ve played in? I’ve toured in China several times in recent years, and have given recitals in over twenty cities there. I didn’t get to spend a long time in any of them, but to play and travel in a totally different culture was a great experience and one I feel very lucky to have had through music.

What is the most memorable concert or other musical event that you have attended?   It was a concert at LSO St Luke’s (just round the corner from City, in fact) that was part of a Barbican festival in 2007 focussed on the music of Thomas Adès. I wasn’t living in London at the time but made a special trip to attend this concert as I was obsessed with Adès’s music back then. The concert included, amongst other things, the composer himself playing his mesmerising Traced Overhead (I had no idea until then what an incredible pianist as well as composer Adès is), and a very starry Les Noces, with Peter Donohoe, Rolf Hind and Katia and Marielle Labèque on the four pianos and an amazing group of Russian singers called the Pokrovsky Ensemble. If I could go back in time to hear concerts again I’d go to that one every week!

What would you most recommend students do beyond practising their instrument/voice and rehearsing?  Make the most of being in London. If you come to study at City you’ll be in the heart of an incredibly vibrant city, with world class food, theatre, concerts, museums and galleries – to name but a few – and this is a great opportunity to have experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. Students get cheap tickets too!

Thank you!

Listen to some of Richard’s music: https://soundcloud.com/richard_uttley/chris-willis-burning-up

richarduttley.com

 

Madeleine Mitchell

Many thanks for joining us, Madeleine. Could you start by telling us about your current performance projects? I’ve just completed a 3-week tour of the USA which included three performances of the Brahms Double Concerto and two concerts in San Francisco – a trio concert and my recital programme ‘A Century of British Music’ ranging from Elgar and John Ireland to Grace Williams (1906-77) and a piece written for me in 1993 by Michael Nyman. In coming weeks, I’m focusing on Grace Williams’  Violin Sonata in several concerts, coinciding with the release by Naxos of my latest album of her chamber music, all premiere recordings, with my London Chamber Ensemble, recorded here in the Performance Space at City. In fact, we held the album release at City last year at City.

What is the most exciting place you’ve performed in? I’ve played in over 50 countries so there are many exciting places to choose from, including the extraordinary German Cultural Centre in Madagascar (at the invitation of the British Ambassador), the Sydney Opera House and representing the UK at a festival of British Culture in the Lincoln Center, New York just after 9/11. New York is particularly dear to my heart since I was a Fulbright/ITT Fellow there years ago.

What were the most important things you learned from your own teachers? (a) that to be a complete musician, you have to be open to the other arts; (b) that your body is your instrument; (c) that, as the great Jascha Heifetz put it: ‘to be a great artist you need the nerves of a bullfighter and the concentration of a buddhist monk’

Madeleine Mitchell is a leading international violinist, who has performed as soloist and chamber musician in over 50 countries, including with major orchestras. She has made many recordings, some of which have been nominated for BBC Music Awards, and has collaborated with composers including James MacMillan and Michael Nyman. As well as teaching at City, University of London, Madeleine is also a Professor at the Royal College of Music

Thank you very much for your time!

Find our more about Madeleine’s work at: www.madeleinemitchell.com

 

Shirley Smart

Thanks for joining us today, Shirley. Could you start by telling us something about your current performance projects? Sure. I am currently performing with my trio/quartet, with whom I recently released my first album, ‘Long Story Short’. We have quite a few performances this year, and hopefully a tour next spring. I’m also writing material for my next album, although that may take a while to be ready for performance! Long Story Short is available here: Long Story Short

Other projects which I lead/co-lead are a duo with reeds player James Arben – this is a freely improvised project, mostly as a duo, but sometimes with guests. We have recorded quite a bit of music recently, so may well release an EP or an album with that.

I also have a jazz string trio with violinists Matt Holborn and Richard Jones. This is a relatively new project that we have been trying to put together for about 2 years. The three of us felt that string players in jazz often get overlooked. Matt and Rich are both amazing jazz violinists, but also very different players so it’s an interesting balance.

Another group I play in is Issie Barratt’s band Interchange, which is an all-female dectet that she founded in 2016, in order to address the imbalance of gender in the jazz world. We were all commissioned to write a work for the group, and the album ‘Donna’s Secret’ was released earlier this year.

My final, and one of my favourite bands ever, is the trio ‘Sawa’, with vocalist Alya Al-Sultani and pianist Clemens Poetzch. This was founded in about 2015, and is a unique synthesis of Iraqi folk music, jazz, chamber music and free improvisation. As Clemens lives in Germany, we don’t get to play together that often, but I love it when we do! Our EP is here : Sawa EP

What is the most exciting country/venue/space that you have played at? I suppose, having lived in Jerusalem for 10 years, that would have to count in its entirety as the most exciting (and challenging) place to have existed musically in. It was incredibly fertile and I was involved in all sorts of things, from jazz to classical Arabic and Turkish music, all of which inform my musical activities now.

What is the highlight of your teaching career so far? It’s difficult to pin-point one particular thing, as I get different things out of different contexts, and they all present different challenges! I really enjoy teaching at the RCM Junior Department, where I do a lot of improvisation work, since this is very marginalised in classical education – although I think it is better than it was 15 or so years ago.

A couple of particular highlights were a workshop I gave for Jazzlines in Birmingham a few years ago – the students were so keen and eager to learn! We worked on a North African tune completely by ear, and performed it at the end of the session in the Symphony Hall Foyer. The group included Xhosa Cole, who recently won the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year. He came up at the end and extracted a list of everything I knew about world music – he was so keen to absorb everything he could, which is an absolutely fantastic attitude to have!!

What would you recommend students do beyond practising their instrument/voice and rehearsing?  Learn to use your time well. And be on time for things. The music profession, especially the session world, is very highly time-constrained, and being on time is a central part of your professionalism and a really good habit to get into early. So much is about taking responsibility for yourself, being respectful to others, and learning to discuss any issues – musical or otherwise – calmly and professionally as well.

My website is here : Shirley Smart

Thank you very much and good luck with your forthcoming projects!

 

City Music Department Hosts Major Ethnomusicology Conference

Beginning on the day that the UK might have left the EU, the Music Department at City, University of London hosted a three-day joint conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and Société française d’ethnomusicologie from 31st October to 2nd November 2019. This was the second time that the two societies have come together for a conference, following on from a previous meeting at the Musée de Quai Branly in Paris in 2015. In a thoroughly amicable atmosphere, three days of thought-provoking papers highlighted the intersection between ethnomusicology and sound studies, and explored the places and spaces in which music and sound are produced, contested and consumed.

After a bilingual welcome, the first day consisted of two plenary panels: ‘Listening in France’ and ‘Mediated Listening, New Spaces and the Shifting Sonic Experience of Islam’. Papers focused on a range of topics, including music at the 1931 ‘Exposition Coloniale’ in eastern Paris; the forming of sound hunting clubs – both amateur and professional – that used tape recorders to capture ambient sounds; the car as a counterprivate arena for Islamic ethics in the United Arab Emirates; and much more. The day was rounded off with two sound walks to the British Library, where Dr Janet Topp Fargion (British Library) delivered the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Annual John Blacking Lecture. Dr Topp Fargion’s presentation was entitled ‘Archiving World Music Cultures and the Impacts of Listening’, and explored a range of issues relating to the collection and preservation of sounds from around the globe.

Day two was characterised by friendly duality: parallel panels, with presentations in both English and French. Papers pertaining to contested, ritual, urban and judicial spaces highlighted how the environment (natural, social and physical) influences the production and consumption of music. Topics included archaeology and archives, including papers that encouraged us to consider elements of field recordings that are not directly the sound itself. Andrea Zarza Canova (British Library) highlighted the additional context that field notes can provide that may not be immediately obvious from the sound recording, and Jonathan Henderson (Duke University) unpacked how studio processes contribute to understanding cultural practices of negotiation and power in music production. Kit Ashton (Goldsmiths, University of London) presented work on how music was being used to save language, through the case of Jèrriais on his native island of Jersey.  At the other end of the spectrum, Dr Heikki Uimonen (University of Eastern Finland) presented ACMESOCS, a four-year Finnish project researching the carefully mediated sounds present in commercial areas such as shopping malls. It was a reminder that background music – the music we tend not to actively hear – nevertheless merits scholarly attention.

A buzzing wine reception on the Friday evening, kindly sponsored by the BFE, offered an informal space to discuss the papers presented so far, before an evening concert run in conjunction with SPARC (Sound Practice and Research at City), which featured work by sound and visual artists in response to the conference theme of ‘music, sound, space and place’.

The third and final day of the conference featured excellent panels on instrumental sounds and ecomusicologies, followed by a final plenary panel on virtual spaces, which considered sound and music in Virtual Reality experience, music-making in virtual social spaces (such as mobile phones) and streaming online spaces (such as YouTube). The wide variety of research elicited by these contemporary virtual spaces seemed a fitting end to a fascinating three days that started with listening for the past in Paris.

Throughout the conference, the papers encouraged thinking about how physical and virtual spaces influence the type of music and sound practices we encounter as ethnomusicologists. The close relationship between ethnomusicology and sound studies was brought to the fore, echoing the relationship between the BFE and the SFE. We can only hope that this was the second of many more joint conferences in the future.

Mez van Slageren, Cerence

Summer Sounds Festival Ends with Chamber Choir and Orchestra Concert

The final concert of this year’s City Summer Sounds Music Festival took place on Friday 31st May at the local church of St Clement’s, King Square.

The concert began with the City University Chamber Orchestra performing the Overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (1786). The orchestra was then joined by the Music Department’s Chamber Choir for a performance of Haydn’s dramatic Missa in Tempore Belli (‘Mass in Time of War’) (1796).

Many thanks to Tim Hooper for his amazing work conducting both Chamber Choir and Chamber Orchestra this year.

The concert marked the end of this year’s festival and another busy year of music-making!

 

Children’s Book Launch at the British Library

On Thursday May 30th, The Phoenix of Persia children’s book was launched at the British Library in London.

This picture book is the culmination of a two year collaboration between the Music Department at City, University of London and children’s publisher Tiny Owl

Based on a tale from the 10th-century epic poem, the Shahnameh, by Iran’s national poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi (940-1020 CE), the book tells the story of Prince Zal, born albino and abandoned by his family as a baby, who is found and raised by the wise and magical Simorgh bird. At the end of the story, Zal is reunited with his family. The aim of the book is to introduce British children to Iranian storytelling, music, instruments, culture and history. With its many topical themes of understanding and valuing difference, and of the importance of forgiveness, this is an ideal story for a book aimed at promoting greater cultural understanding.

The project was initiated by Professor Laudan Nooshin and builds on her earlier project with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012-12 It is very much about promoting a different and more positive image of Iran than children might otherwise receive through the mainstream media and elsewhere.

The book’s soundtrack introduces children to Iranian instruments, with each character of the story represented by a different instrument. The original music was composed and performed by: Nilufar Habibian (qanun, plucked zither), Saeid KordMafi (santur, hammered dulcimer), Amir Eslami (nei, end-blown reed flute) and Arash Moradi (tanbur, long-necked lute).

City Music PhD student Soosan Lolavar, was the Creative Producer and Assistant Editor, and the music was mixed, mastered and edited by Julius Johansson and other students in the sound studios at City (Malhar Kawre, Mara Miron, Olivia Cepress-Mclean).

The story was adapted by Sally Pomme Clayton, who also narrates the soundtrack, and beautifully illustrated by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif. Ideal for children aged 6 to 11, the book can be purchased here:

As well as the book, the project includes educational resources for key stage 2 children and Laudan and Nilufar have been leading school workshops around the project.

The book has received many positive reviews, including the following:

http://tinyowl.co.uk/the-phoenix-of-persia-is-a-beautiful-immersion-into-the-literature-of-iran-armadillo/

http://tinyowl.co.uk/the-phoenix-of-persia-is-a-boon-for-teachers-parents-in-touch/

http://tinyowl.co.uk/the-phoenix-of-persia-is-a-must-read-read-it-daddy/

Photos from the launch:

Workshop on Interrogating Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Music: BAME routes into and through Higher Education

On 28th May 2019, City hosted a workshop on ‘Interrogating Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Music: BAME routes into and through Higher Education’.

The event was co-organised by the Royal Musical Association, the National Association for Music in Higher Education and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, and is one of a number of recent initiatives aimed at addressing issues of equality, equity and diversity in University Music Departments and conservatoires, with a particular focus on BAME under-representation.

The afternoon was attended by about 30 delegates, with representatives from Music HE institutions and the wider music industry, including organisations such as the Musicians’ Union, Live Music Now, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Sound and Music, London Music Masters, Chineke! Foundation and The Third Orchestra.

The discussion was very wide ranging and covered a number of areas from pre-university to academic careers. Ideas and recommendations coming out of the workshop will be taken forward to a larger event to be held in the autumn.

The event was linked to the Department’s 2019 Distinguished Lecture, which followed in the evening, on the topic of diversity in British Orchestras and delivered by Chi-chi Nwanoku, OBE.

The work of Michael Finnissy: 2019 Book Launch at City

by Chloe Davey, BMus Year 2

The evening of Wednesday 26th June 2019 saw an exciting new book launch, and a celebration of the work of British composer Michael Finnissy, with the added honour of having Finnissy himself in attendance. The launch involved talks by those who contributed to the book, along with outstanding performances of some of Finnissy’s works.

The book, titled Critical Perspectives on Michael Finnissy: Bright Futures, Dark Pasts, was edited by City’s Head of Performance Dr Ian Pace, along with composer and musicologist Dr Nigel McBride. It consists of chapters written by several performers, musicologists and composers (many of whom were in attendance at the event), all portraying their perspectives on Finnissy’s complex and contemporary work.

The music began with Philip Thomas’ performance of Finnissy’s First Political Agenda, and the concert consisted of several other performances of Finnissy’s works, including Chi mei ricercari for cello and piano, played by Neil Heyde and Zubin Kanga. The works of Chris Newman also featured, and were performed by Lauren Redhead.

Philip Thomas

With Michael Finnissy present at the concert, a world premiere took place of his new 2019 work, Fourth Political Agenda. This was performed by Finnissy himself, along with Ian Pace and Philip Thomas.

Michael Finnissy

Lauren Redhead

Dr Ian Pace closed the evening’s performances with Finnissy’s highly complex Piano Concerto No.4; the exceptional performance had audience members standing in applause.

Ian Pace

The evening as a whole was an excellent opportunity to launch the new book and acknowledge the commitment of the book’s contributors, as well as celebrating the work of Michael Finnissy in his presence. Many thanks to Leo Chadburn, Ian Pace, Laudan Nooshin and many more for making the event possible!

Some of the book’s contributors.

Music Alumni Concert and Reception Evening

The City Music Department’s annual alumni event was held on Friday 24th May 2019, as part of the Summer Sounds Festival 2019.

The evening began with a concert featuring four of our outstanding pianist alumni, each of whom are variously established as concert soloists with international careers, as award-winning creative musicians, and as rising stars.

First on stage was Ben Smith (BMus, 2015), performing the extraordinary extended piece Phrygian Gates (1977-1978) by John Adams. This was followed by Ikuko Inoguchi (PhD, 2016) playing a series of pieces by Japanese composer Karen Tanaka (b.1961): Who Stole the Tarts? (2016), Water Dance I. Very lightly with flow (2011) and Crystalline II (1995).

Robert Mitchell introducing his set

Jazz pianist Robert Mitchell (BSc, 1993) then performed a solo set, followed by Clare Hammond (DMA, 2012) who completed the concert with a series of pieces around the theme of ‘bees’: Felix Mendelssohn’s The Bee’s Wedding (Op. 67 No. 4), Rimsky-Korsakov’s (arr. Rachmaninov) Flight of the Bumblebee and Ewan Campbell’s Flight of the Killer Bee (2013). Clare also performed the piece A Garland for Anne (2003) by City Professor Emeritus Rhian Samuel, who was also in attendance at the concert.

Clare Hammond

Dr Clare Hammond and Professor Rhian Samuel

 

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The evening ended with a drinks reception for alumni, final year music students and current and former staff.

Many thanks to all who attended, and to the alumni office for organising the evening, and of course to our amazing pianist alumni!

Current second and final year students enjoying the reception!

DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC DOCTORAL PROGRAMME FEE WAIVERS

The Department of Music at City is offering two fee waivers for PhD studies commencing in September 2019 or January 2020. Enrolment can be on full-time or part-time basis.

While these fee waivers are open to all, we wish particularly to encourage applicants from under-represented groups at this level, or those considering doctoral studies who have taken non-traditional educational routes.

The Department combines world-leading research with exceptional teaching in performance, composition and musicology. We have one of the highest completion rates per member of staff of any music department in the UK.

For information about our PhD programme please visit:

https://www.city.ac.uk/courses/research-degrees/music

For details on staff research interests please visit:

https://www.city.ac.uk/arts-social-sciences/music#unit=staff

 

What is Offered

These awards will provide a full tuition-fee waiver for UK and EU students for the duration of the programme. Applications from overseas applicants are welcome, but the applicant must make appropriate arrangements to cover the difference between the overseas and UK tuition fee.

As part of our commitment to doctoral student training, you will also be eligible for appointment as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and are likely to be offered teaching-related duties (to a maximum of 150 hours each year for full-time students). This work will be paid in full.

Eligibility

The studentships will be awarded on the basis of outstanding academic potential, and a record of achievement that evidences the capacity to successfully complete a programme of doctoral research.

  • Applicants whose first language is not English must have achieved at least 7.0 in IELTS or a recognised equivalent
  • Applicants must not be currently registered as a doctoral student at City, University of London, or any other academic institution

How to Apply

Applications must be made online using the link to the Music PhD programme page above, and with the materials requested on that page. Applicants are strongly advised to make contact with a potential supervisor prior to making an application.

Closing date: 23.59 on Monday 15th July 2019

For any enquiries, please email SASS-enquiries@city.ac.uk

Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum, 20th May 2019

On Monday 20th May, City hosted the bi-annual Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum study day, with speakers from the UK and abroad.

The morning sessions focused on Iran and included papers on Iranian film music, rave culture, experimental musical theatre and Iranian classical music.

The afternoon included papers on Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Muslim communities in Berlin.

The day ended with a drinks reception to mark the publication of Sense and Sadness: Syriac Chant in Aleppo by Tala Jarjour (2018, Oxford University Press).

The day also included a lunchtime musical origami session!

 

Darci Sprengel (University of Oxford): ‘Theorizing “Quiet”: Atmospheres of Sleep and Political Refusal in Post-Revolution Egypt’

 

 

 

 

Peter McMurray (University of Cambridge): ‘Listening with the Dead in Muslim Berlin (and Beyond)’

 

 

 

 

Laudan Nooshin (City, University of London): ‘The Phoenix of Persia: Introducing Primary School Children to Iranian Music’

 

 

 

The Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum has been running since 2007 and is open to researchers, students and anyone interested in the music and culture of the region. In the spirit of fostering dialogue and interdisciplinarity, we hope that the issues discussed at the forum will be of interest to a broad audience, including musicologists, ethnomusicologists and other researchers in the arts, humanities and social sciences. In addition, we welcome those working on other aspects of Middle Eastern and Central Asian culture broadly speaking (dance, visual arts, media, film, literature, etc.).

The Forum is convened by Professor Laudan Nooshin, City, University of London (l.nooshin@city.ac.uk) and Dr Rachel Harris, SOAS, University of London (rh@soas.ac.uk).

 

 

Chi-Chi Nwanoku Delivers the Music Department 2019 Distinguished Lecture

On Tuesday May 28th 2019, the Music Department welcomed Chi-chi Nwanoku, OBE, to present the 2019 Distinguished Lecture.

Chi-chi talked about her work with the Chineke! Foundation, which she established in 2015 with the aim of increasing the representation of Black and ethnic minority musicians in British and European orchestras.

Chi-chi has been an inspirational figure and role model for those working towards greater inclusion, diversity and equality in the classical music world.

As well as her international performing career as a double bass soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player, Chi-chi is a broadcaster, teacher, board member and trustee of numerous organisations. Amongst many broadcasts, she presented a two-part series on BBC Radio 4 in 2015 entitled In Search of the Black Mozart, which explored the stories and music of black composers and musicians from the 18th century.

Chi-chi was awarded the MBE in 2001 and OBE in 2017 for Services to Music.

The talk was followed by a Q&A with the audience.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2019/may/chi-chi-nwanoku-obe-to-give-distinguished-lecture-on-improving-diversity-in-orchestras