Hello King’s Singers fans, Wallis Giunta here!
It was my great privilege to be a guest performer/teacher at the 2019 King’s Singers Summer School. When the gents asked me to be a part of the course, I was surprised and honoured. I’m an opera singer and recitalist, and as I’m still pretty young in my career, teaching is not something I’ve done much of to date. But when they described their reason for including me and the focus of the class they had in mind, it all made sense. Something that’s very important to me as an artist is exploring my versatility and connecting authentically with a variety of musical styles to make my work richer all round. Obviously, this is a huge part of what makes The King’s Singers so special! So we thought we would collaborate for the summer course, and have me do a quasi-recital/workshop/Q&A session to explore this theme. I looked forward to it with such glee for the months leading up, and when the day arrived, I was literally skipping my way to Cambridge’s Clare College like Maria in The Sound of Music on her way to the von Trapp villa. My first evening was absolute bliss, as an audience member at The King’s Singers intimate recital for their students in Clare Chapel. I’m sure we are all in agreement that these guys bring something incredibly unique to their work. Their honesty, broad colour palette and versatility as a group is outstanding, and all of us there that night felt very privileged to have witnessed this special performance (I was thoroughly inspired for my class the next day!). We had a lovely little beer or two afterwards at the pub under the chapel where I got to properly meet everyone and fan girl about how awesome the concert was with the other students.
I started the next day by leading the vocal/physical warm up for the students and faculty. We assembled in the (very echoey) Old Court of Clare College and did some crazy yoga stretches and choral hooting. I then had a little free time so went for a walk around the colleges and the old town and fell completely in love! I went to university in my home country of Canada and we just don’t have anything like the beauty of Cambridge there! I’ve always dreamed of having the kind of experience that you would get somewhere like Cambridge or Oxford, with the history, beautiful architecture, tradition and romance of it all. It was really special for me to be there.
Then, it was time for my class! I sang some of my favourite arias and art songs, and lead a discussion of what it means to explore your versatility as an artist/ensemble, and to be fearless in your approach to new repertoire. The questions were totally on point (from both The King’s Singers and many of the students), and my collaborative partner on the piano, Toby Hession, did a cracking job! We talked about balancing repertoire for vocal health, how to approach new styles, dealing with the touring life of being a musician, breathing techniques, being patient and compassionate with your own artistic development, forgiving yourself when things don’t go as planned and lots more. It was a great learning experience for me, and a real humbling joy to be a part of such a lovely, enthusiastic group of musicians. And did I mention I got to be the 7th King’s Singer for about 4 minutes after the class, when we did an arrangement of “She Moved Through the Fair” together as a surprise for the students!? Words cannot describe my joy.
I had to jet-off soon after the class, as I’m in the midst of rehearsals up in Scotland for my next show, the opera Breaking the Waves, at the Edinburgh Festival. But before I left I had just enough time to sit by the river Cam and watch the punters go by. That’s my goal for next time, punting! I wonder if my experience in a canoe in Canada will help at all? It was a whirlwind and totally joyful 24 hours with these absolute gentlemen and their wonderful students, and as a bonus, they are coming up to Scotland on tour this week, so I’ll get to see them again and find out how the rest of the course went! These kinds of collaborative and inspiring artistic experiences are a large part of what make this career so rewarding. I’m really grateful that I got the chance to be a part of the summer school this year.
Thanks, guys. À la prochaine!
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