I was awarded £750 by the Tait Memorial Trust in 2006, just as I embarked on my first year of post-graduate studies specialising in piano accompaniment at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
This award felt like a welcome from a community of like-minded antipodean ex-pats: it made me feel like I was in the right place, and that pursuing my musical studies was worthwhile. I deeply appreciated this as I was so far from my family and trying to manage the precarity of student life and the breathless pace of London.
With the help of this award, my one year programme became seven years of intensive study and performance in London. During that time I performed all around the UK and further afield, at venues including the Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Snape Maltings, the Slovakian Philharmonic and Amsterdam’s Het Concertgebouw, and Sydney’s Angel Place Recital Hall. During this period I also performed often with other Tait Awardees, including singers Derek Welton, Seija Knight and Eleanor Greenwood. I performed at the Paxos International Music Festival in Greece from 2009-2013, and from 2010-2013 was Artistic Director.
I recently returned to live in London after completing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, where I researched the contemporary implications of singing Lieder in English translation. My studies in Canada followed a year spent as resident collaborative pianist at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies, where I had the chance to perform with dozens of musicians from across the world. This included a performance as soloist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and recitals with cellist Gavriel Lipkind, pianist Ronan O’Hora and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew.
Please see my website for further information or news of future projects or to get in touch. I thank the donors past and present for their support and encouragement of young artists like myself as we navigate the very many challenges and joys of this vocation.
We are delighted to confirm that Lauren Fagan is to be the Australian representative in the 2019 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.
To be selected as your nation’s representative is a great honour, we are thrilled for her
Twenty singers from 15 countries have been chosen for this summer’s competition.
The contestants come from 15 countries – three Russians, two each from South Korea, Ukraine and USA, and others from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, England, Guatemala (for the first time), Mexico, Mongolia, Portugal, South Africa and Wales.
Lauren was supported by the Trust in 2013 & 2014 during her studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Her award was funded by Michael Whalley OAM & Karen Goldie-Morrison.
To learn more about how to support a young artist from Australia or New Zealand please contact James
The reviews are in for the world premiere of ‘The Monstrous Child’ by Gavin Higgins and Francesca Simon, a new production directed by Timothy Sheader and designed by Paul Wills, at the Linbury Theatre, The Royal Opera House. We are thrilled to see that #TaitAwardee, and Chair of the Tait Music Board, Jessica Cottis has received such glowing reviews for her work. Brava Jessica, we are so proud of you.
Isla Baring OAM, Chairman of the Tait Trust
“I had tickets for the opening night of The Monstrous Child, and it was sensational! Jessica Cottis was brilliant the way she handled this modern music, the incredible production, and the singers in this new opera. Bravo to Covent Garden at the newly refurbished Linbury Theatre. The reviews say it all! We are so proud of Jessica who is really making her way Up!! I am sure.”
“Jessica Cottis directs members of the Aurora Orchestra with incisive clarity, deploying her forces strategically, always mindful of the singers who must project Simon’s text without the help of surtitles. It’s no small praise to say that you hardly lose a word.”
We are delighted to announce that #TaitAwardees, Lauren Fagan, and Samantha Clarke are to sing major roles in Opera North’s production of La Boheme later this year. Lauren is to sing Mimi, Samantha the role of Musetta.
Lauren was generously supported by a grant from Trust donors, Michael Whalley OAM & Karen Goldie-Morrison for the duration of her advanced operatic studies in 2013 and 2014. This financial support assisted with her fees at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where she was a member of the prestigious Opera Course. After graduation Lauren was offered a coveted place in the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House which gave her two years of training as a junior principal.
A review of her recent appearances as Alcina with the Handel Festspiele, Karlsruhe, Germany.
“Unusually for Europe, the two main roles were sung by Australians, up-and-coming soprano Lauren Fagan and the more established countertenor, David Hansen. Fagan was a convincing sorceress from the very start, with a strong rich soprano, inducing sympathy in “Ombre pallide” as her shades desert her, spitting venom in the trio “Non è amor” and finally collapsing as all conspire to defeat her. ” Sandra Bowdler, 25 February 2019. Bachtrack.com
Samantha is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music and is supported by a grant from Tait donor, The Thornton Foundation and is currently in her second and final year at the Opera School at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Samantha is also supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, and was recently awarded the Nora Goodridge Developing Artist Award from the Australian Music Foundation
Samantha is a Baroness de Turckheim Scholar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
“There was no lack of chemistry between him and Samantha Clarke as a pure-toned and vulnerable Anne Trulove. Her Act 1 aria “Quietly night” (with Ana Docolin’s beguiling bassoon) and florid cabaletta (with a fabulous closing top C) were both wonderful – her traversal from despair to determination utterly convincing.” David Truslove, 06 September 2018 | Bachtrack.com
Following the opening of My First Ballet: Swan Lake in London last week, hear from one of its stars, English National Ballet School student Chloe Keneally. She performs the iconic role of Odette in this version of the classic ballet for young children.
What or who inspired you to take up ballet? Can you remember the first lesson or performance you attended?
My older sister danced which made me want to. I started aged 4 and loved it, I enjoyed the freedom. I saw Sleeping Beauty first and loved it, it became my favourite ballet.
What did it mean to you to get a place at English National Ballet School?
It is a sacrifice being away from my family back home in Australia, but being here is a dream come true. Everything I’d been working for paid off. I loved the school, it was the only one I auditioned for.
What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to dance in My First Ballet: Swan Lake?
Amazing. It feels like the first steps into the rest of our lives, it shows us what we can do in the future. The artistic team are very supportive which is great.
Tell us about the role you have been rehearsing – what are the best bits and the challenges?
I’m rehearsing Odette – it’s my dream role. It’s hard to remember it all but I’m embracing the challenge. I’m loving doing an entire ballet and building the character. I feel like I can relate to this character – falling in love, learning about trust and vulnerability.
Jakab Kaufmann is a successful bassoonist from Sydney now based in Europe. He trained as an orchestral musician and a conductor in Sydney before moving to Basel where he studied early music at the renowned Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
Now living in Bern, he has established himself as a freelance musician working with ensembles and orchestras in Switzerland, Germany and the UK, playing on both modern and historical instruments. One of his upcoming ventures is a new, innovative production of Rameau’s Pygmalion with his colleagues in the London-based Ensemble Molière. Speaking to Jakab, I asked him about his work and this exciting new project:
How does an orchestral musician make the leap to specialising in early music, particularly after studying to be a conductor?
While I was studying conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium, I was asked to play baroque bassoon for the early music ensemble’s performance of Gluck’s “The Pilgrims to Mecca.” I’d never played this instrument before and I thought it sounded horrible but once I braved the potential embarrassment of playing in front of other people, I discovered the incredible resonance within an ensemble. I started playing more and more and learned to love the difficulties of playing such a different instrument. There seemed to be so much to learn and enjoy from playing music on an instrument so distantly related to the one I’d previously dedicated my life to.
Like so many Australian musicians you decided to move overseas. I am interested to know why you chose Switzerland? Was it your first choice?
I decided a long time ago that I wanted to move to the German speaking world and in 2011, I attended a summer school at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I spent a month there improving my German and I still have a soft spot for that city. My path changed however and whilst I still entertain the idea of returning to conducting someday, my goal quickly re-focussed on being a well-rounded musician in whatever form it took. I flew to Europe in 2013 and travelled around, doing masterclasses on both modern and baroque bassoons, and visiting different teachers until I decided on Basel and its famous Schola were perfect for me. It’s a very international school with a great balance of academic research and performance-based projects. The community is very positive and creative, which lead to some great friendships and fantastic opportunities.
The UK can be quite a distant world to the continent without the right connections. How did you began to work here?
I attended the Dartington International Summer School’s Baroque Orchestra Programme with a scholarship in 2013. The environment there is so open and relaxed that it’s conducive to amazing opportunities. I made friends with many different musicians there, including established professional musicians who have been able to organise projects with me. In addition to various audition processes, I’ve also reconnected with a lot of friends from Sydney who have moved to the UK. The life of a freelance musician is very much dependant on who you know and luckily, some lovely people have helped me get my name out there.
As a founding member of the young early music group, Ensemble Molière could you tell me about your work and the repertoire you play?
We first played together in this combination in 2014 at the Dartington International Summer School and the first piece we played was the “Deuxième récréation de musique” by Jean-Marie Leclair. That experience made us realise that we worked well as an ensemble and that we all wanted to play more French music. Since then we’ve gone on to perform concerts in Brighton, Graz, Bruges and Utrecht, as well as more regular concerts in London.
We were lucky enough to participate in the Brighton Early Music Festival’s Early Music Live! Scheme in 2015 and we were invited to return for our own concert in the 2016 Festival. We’ve expanded our repertoire and recorded our music and we’re always looking for opportunities to push the boundaries of the modern-concert programme.
French music retains an element of mystery today and I was curious as to why you think we don’t see enough of it on today’s concert programmes:
When you study music in English and German-speaking schools, French music before Debussy rarely gets a look in. The truth is, Paris has played a more important role in music than Vienna or London at various points throughout history. For example, in the Middle Ages, the French-speaking world was essentially the musical centre of Europe. That changed with the printing press, the migration of Netherlandish musicians to Italy, and of course, the reformation.
However, the French court at Versailles was an incredible force for artistic support and the “French Baroque” led to some of the most unique music this world has ever known. Because of the rivalry with the Italians and the influence of kings like Louis XIV, French musicians played very different instruments in a very different way. The wind instruments were built in another way, the string players used different bows, and the keyboard instruments had their own designs. The performers would also use very individual ornaments, which some composers like Couperin took the time to write down with full explanations. The music itself is sometimes harmonically dissimilar to the German high-baroque masters that people tend to think of and it can also feel more static than the repetitive patterns of the Venetians like Vivaldi. I think this is why performers have, in the past, neglected the nuanced and delicate sounds of France. The good news is that French music is constantly being rediscovered!
Your upcoming project at festivals in London and Brighton will see a new take on French Opera.Could you tell me a bit about the project’s background?
As our first large-scale project, we wanted to explore a genre that is not commonly addressed by chamber groups but is incredibly important to the French Baroque: Opera. Rameau’s greatest contributions to music include his solo keyboard works, his theoretical writings and his many operas. The forces required to perform them are so large that most opera companies don’t stage his works too often. As a result, his music doesn’t get heard often enough. We thought we would bring one of his shorter operas, at 45 minutes, to the people with a more accessible medium with a smaller ensemble on stage.
Rameau’s Pygmalion is based on the original Greek legend of a sculptor who falls in love with his own creation. Most people today would be more familiar with the George Bernard Shaw version which came much later, and led to the even-more popular “My Fair Lady.” We’ve teamed up with artist Kate Anderson and director Karolina Sofulak to present a live performance of the opera with animation and simplified surtitles, so as to make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
I would be interested to know about what stage the project is in? What are your plans for such an ambitious undertaking, how are they progressing and how can audiences can help?
We’re still at the funding stage which is looking very promising. We will be applying to the Arts Council for a grant to make the project happen once we’ve secured enough funding from other sources. We’ve started a crowdfunder to collect an initial investment of £3000 by 9th January. This would show the Arts Council that we have support from both the artistic and wider community for this project. We’ve been offering rewards ranging from Thank-You tweets right up to private concerts in peoples’ homes. If you’d like to contribute, the crowdfunder site with a video explaining the project can be found here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ensemble-moliere. Any help is always appreciated as we’re very passionate about getting this project off the ground and onto the stage.
As you can see, Jakab is dedicated to expanding the confines of the contemporary musical experience. We wish him and his ensemble all the best for this exciting project. We are thrilled to see Australian musicians like himself pushing the boundaries and we can’t wait to see where his career takes him next.
Please click hereif you would like to be a part of Rameau’s, Pygmalion, with Ensemble Molière
Lovely interview with our first awardee, Liane Keegan. Liane was the reason that Isla Baring created the Tait Memorial Trust in 1992.
Liane wanted to further her studies in the UK but needed financial assistance to allow her to continue. Isla offered to produce a concert at Australia House, invited her friends, and due to their generosity raised a great deal of money and the Trust was born…well it wasn’t quite that simple but that is how we started.
Now 24 years later the Trust has helped over 300 young Australians and has raised more than £600,000 to assist young Australian performing artists to complete their studies in the United Kingdom. And it all began with a young contralto from Victoria.
Now we are thrilled to see Liane is at the very top of her chosen profession and is singing Erda in the Neil Armfield production of Wagner’s epic Ring at Melbourne’s State Theatre, with Opera Australia.
Deborah Humble talks with dramatic contralto Liane Keegan about her musical life in Melbourne and recreating the role of Erda in the 2016 Melbourne Ring.
What motivated your return to Australia in 2012 and what is your perception of the cultural and artistic life here by comparison?
I no longer enjoyed working in opera in Germany. I had been living overseas for 20 years by this stage and felt it was time to come home.
The fest system stifles individual development if you are an ensemble member as I was at the Deutsche Opera. Without being able to supplement my monthly stipend with guest contracts it was also no longer financially viable to remain in Germany.
Since my return to Melbourne my life has been extremely happy and fulfilled. I have had some wonderful opportunities with my singing and my teaching studio was very quickly established and I now have many talented young singers working with me on a weekly basis. I also established XLArts.org, a not for profit group, with conductor Patrick Burns and we work to provide performance opportunities for developing singers of all ages and stages, to help them further develop their craft and skill set as burgeoning opera singers.
The opera and arts scene here in Australia is very different to Europe. In Australia we don’t have the commitment to the arts that the Europeans do either financially or culturally. In Europe very young children are taken to the opera not as a special treat but as a part of their daily life. Here the companies are working hard on this next generation of opera lover and there is some very fine work being done by these companies in Australia. However, I do not feel that more funding to the Arts is the answer but better education. The lack of music education in schools here now means that exposure for the young to art and culture is just not there in their foundation years and that is vitally important to the future of our artistic culture.
Melbourne is fabulously cultural and creative and certainly has the most going on in the field of opera of all our capital cities. I was amazed and rather overwhelmed by the choice of entertainment available and could not get over how much the arts scene had “exploded” in Melbourne since my departure in 1992. It is fabulous to see that there are companies and groups catering to the needs of performers at all levels and to suit all musical tastes. I was thrilled that we still have a Victorian opera company as I was overseas during the demise of its predecessor and that made me very sad indeed.
The orchestras in Melbourne are also world class and I have been most fortunate to work with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as well as the many and varied community and council sponsored orchestras. We now have the Melbourne Recital Centre and the vast amount of performances offered there are of an extremely high standard. As an audience member all my needs are catered for and I am more often than not, spoilt for choice! My needs as a performer are also met here in Melbourne and I am busier than I ever was in Europe….
We are thrilled to report that Tait Awardee, Panayiota Kalatzis, won the coveted 2016 Herald Sun Aria in Melbourne’s, Hamer Hall a few days ago. Panayiota was the 2014 recipient of the Australian International Opera Awards which gave her the funds to study at the Wales International Academy of Voice with Dennis O’Neill.
SCINTILLATING soprano Panayiota Kalatzis swept all before her last night to win the 2016 Herald Sun Aria.The 30-year-old Brisbane vocalist, trailing an elegant train, won the coveted prize in its 92nd year ahead of four other outstanding classical singers.“I never thought it would happen,’’ she said after accepting the prestigious award from Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston. “You work hard and enter competitions and then someone, ‘Yes’. Winning this changes everything.’’Kalatzis, of Greek background, captivated a 1500-strong audience at Hamer Hall with thrilling performances of Massenet and Verdi. A huge ovation greeted her win which carries $15,000 cash and a $22,500 scholarship for overseas tuition.“The plan is to go back to the UK, make some connections there, and then go to America,’’ she said. “Winning this makes all that possible.’’Jessica Harper, a 26-year-old soprano from Sydney, was runner up while the encouragement award went to Douglas Kelly, a Victorian-based tenor.Judges Richard Mills, Margaret Haggart and John Bolton-Wood praised the high standard of competition and Penny Fowler, Chairman of the Herald and Weekly Times, paid special tribute to Richard Divall — the Aria’s long serving maestro and chief adjudicator.
We are delighted to share the news that Tait Awardee, Benjamin Mellefont is to play Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on Thursday 13 October 2016 7:30pm & Friday 14 October 2016 7:30pm at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall with the ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.
Benjamin was appointed Principal Clarinet of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2015. He has also performed as Guest Principal of the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Opera, London Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Sydney Symphony and Sinfonia Cymru, as well as performing with the London Sinfonietta. He has played at the Salzburg, Edinburgh and Aldeburgh Festivals.
Tait Winter Prom 2016
Benjamin joins us at the Tait Winter Prom at St John’s Smith Square, 30th November, to play Copland’s Clarinet Concerto with the Tait Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Jessica Cottis.
“Post-concert Question Time (Thursday 13 October) – starts 15 minutes after the concert in the Music Room. Join conductor Nicholas Collon and Principal Clarinet Benjamin Mellefont, in the Music Room after the concert.
Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony isn’t just a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that. Written as an answer to Stalin at a time when one wrong note would have landed Shostakovich in the Gulag, it’s one of 20th-century music’s true epics, told in music of raw feeling.
It’ll make a powerful Liverpool debut for one of the UK’s most talked-about young conductors – and a striking contrast to Mozart’s beloved Clarinet Concerto, played by our own Principal Clarinet Benjamin Mellefont. Berlioz’s comedy overture kicks things off with a wink.”
Form the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s website
To learn more about Benjamin please go to his website
AUSTRALIA PIANO QUARTET
(Rebecca Chan, violin; Daniel de Borah, piano; Thomas Rann, cello; James Wannan, viola)
Thursday 15 September 2016 at 1:00PM
MOZART: Piano Quartet in E flat K.452 (after Quintet for piano & winds)
BRAHMS: Piano Quartet in C minor Op. 60
‘Intellectually and musically vigorous’ – Sydney Morning Herald
‘Chamber playing of the highest order’ – Limelight Magazine
The Australia Piano Quartet, Ensemble in Residence at the University of Technology Sydney, performs concert series at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre, as well as international tours throughout Europe and Asia. Following their London debut in 2015, the APQ returns to the UK, China, France and Italy in 2016.
In addition to the canonical masterpieces, the ensemble is committed to unearthing neglected works. They have commissioned piano quartets from Australian composers, including Elliott Gyger, Elena Kats-Chernin, Paul Dean and William Barton and have been broadcast on Foxtel Arts, ABC Classic FM and BBC Radio 3. In 2017, the ensemble will release their first disc, Mozart’s complete works for piano quartet.
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