Art Song is often described as being an acquired taste, but if you’ve studied it or ever been to a recital you’d know that this music is 2-5 minutes of divine musical snippets from some of our most beloved composers. In Perth, Western Australia we are lucky enough to have many wonderful opportunies to see this music performed live by some of our best performers. Art Song Perth constantly presents recitals with both young and seasoned professionals, and David Wickham, pianist extraordinaire and lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts runs Perth’s very own SwanSongs. SwanSongs, presented at Perth Town Hall, is a series of concerts performed by some of Australia’s finest performers. Past highlights have included recitals by the likes of Lisa Gasteen, Gregory Yurisich, and the newly appointed Head of Classical Voice at WAAPA, Emma Matthews.
This year, David Wickham soared into 2017 with the help of Perth’s brilliant Emma Pearson in March. At the beginning of August, SwanSongs will continue to soar with the help of the sensational Caitlin Cassidy. Caitlin Cassidy, who wrote us the blog Mezzo in Manhattan about her time in New York, is a local Perth girl and has recently returned from Masters studies. Currently working with West Australian Opera and as a classical voice teacher at WAAPA, we sat her down and found out more about this up and coming mezzo soprano. Quick and snappy – this is Caitlin Cassidy in 20 questions.
- If you weren’t an opera singer, you would be a:
A Writer or a Florist
- Three musical idols:
Maria Callas, Judy Garland, Amy Winehouse
- Most underrated composers:
Massenet, Berlioz, Ravel
- Three pieces of music you love:
Piano Trio in A Minor by Ravel, Elgar Cello Concerto, Bach Violin Partitas
- Three pieces of music you’d happily never hear again:
Pachelbel’s Canon, Handel’s Water Music, Schubert’s Ave Maria
- The best show you’ve seen live was:
The Color Purple on Broadway with Cynthia Erivo
- Your greatest concert experience was:
Joyce DiDonato at Carnegie Hall
- An embarrassing or awkward moment in your career was:
There are so many and many I have put them out of my mind…I think it may have been the many times that I have fallen over in rehearsal!
- In your spare time you enjoy:
Reading, watching HBO programs and Rupaul’s Drag Race, NPR podcasts, food and wine with family and friends.
- Three guilty pleasures:
Mecca Cosmetica, gin, pizza
- Six historical people you would most like to meet for dinner:
Dorothy Parker, Bessie Smith, Kurt Weill, Oscar Wilde, Judy Garland, Frida Kahlo
- Since returning back to Perth, you’re favourite experience has been:
Spending time with my partner and family, particularly having breakfasts with my partner (who is a chef) and watching Jeeves and Wooster with my folks.
- What is it like teaching young artists Classical Voice?
It’s wonderful. It’s so lovely to see young people rise to the multi-faceted challenge of becoming a classical singer, how it challenges them and how it brings out the best in them.
- What would be your biggest bit of advice for these young artists?
Make sure that you do lots of SILENT and thoughtful practice. Think more and sing less. Develop as many performative skills as possible. Dance and inhabit your body. Learn the piano.
- What can students learn from watching performers, such as yourself and David Wickham, live?
Well I am not sure what they’ll learn from me… perhaps the value and place for humour in the classical music world? And what CAN’T you learn from David? He has incredible musicality, he has the best ears in the business, he has incredible stylistic knowledge and he has incredible timing (both musical and comedic).
- What is the benefit of live performance in comparison to watching it on YouTube or, in the case of some operas, at the cinema?
Live performance is a magic trick unfolding in front of you. When you watch and hear a performance the music vibrates through you. You see a performer’s breaths and the sequins on their dress and the spittle from their consonants. You see the lowly human transcend into the extraordinary. You see their mistakes. You can’t get that on Youtube.
- What is your favourite thing about singing Art Song?
I love the intimacy with the audience. I love the intelligence and humour. It feels like reading from the composer or poet’s diary. It’s life’s joys and complexities under the microscope. It’s full of beautiful detail.
- We are so incredibly grateful to have groups such as SwanSongs and Art Song Perth creating opportunities to watch Art Song performed live. Why is it important that we support these groups?
Because art songs are some of the greatest works of art and yet they are rarely heard. They also contain some of the greatest poems that may have lain in dusty volumes on a library shelf but instead were set by genius composers to beautiful music.
- What can we expect to hear repertoire wise from this concert and what will people love most about this music?
You will hear a very eclectic array of songs that are all linked by a love of cabaret and humour. I am delighted to present a large proportion of songs in French in tribute to the great French cabaret tradition. It’s also just a delicious language to sing in. I am also always happy to present songs in English as there’s always an immediate connection to the text from the audience.
- If you were talking to someone who had never seen an Art Song recital before, how would you ‘sell’ this concert for them:
If you have ever craved humour and connection from classical music, this concert is for you! There won’t be a scrap of starch, just fun and storytelling.
So what are you waiting for? Buy your ticket now to hear some brilliant music and see Caitlin Cassidy and David Wickham in action. Offbeat will be performed on Sunday 6th August 2017 at 3pm in the Perth Town Hall. Tickets are available here.