Christina Sandsengen is a classical guitarist who will be in Kusadası, Turkey for a masterclass in 26-29 August.
We talked about guitar in classical music, practising, masterclasses and her album Shades&Contrast. You can listen the album on Spotify link below, enjoy !
Here is the concert calender in Turkey;
16 August - Ayvalık
17 August - Altınoluk
22 August - Marmaris
26/29 August - Kusadası (masterclass)
EXCLUSIVE TO THEHEADPHONE.NET
First of all, thank you so much for this opportunity and your quick response.
Thank YOU! :-)
Guitar is used rarely in classical music. Since it is not included in the orchestra, you have to perform solo works most of the time. Is it a challenge for the performer?
Classical guitar is a wonderful solo insturment because it is like a whole orchestra in itself actually, and doesn’t really need to be part of a orchestra in order to sound rich. On classical guitar, the performer can play several voices with characteristic sound at once which makes it so rich and beautiful.
Can you tell us briefly about your debut album; Shades & Contrasts? How did you decide the repertoire of the album?
Classical guitar is the key to my unconscious world of emotions, where I explore the contrasts and shades of life, and all the pieces on Shades & Contrasts are pieces that have touched my heart in a special way and in which I have felt compelled to play. The combination of these pieces, with their wide contrasts in sentiment, creates a balance through which their individual shades become united into a larger canvass revealing my interior life. So this album is an instensely personal statement.
You visited Turkey several times. Do you have any comments on your performances here?
It’s always a great pleasure to visit Turkey! I love it there. The Turkish people are extraordinary nice, sweet and kind, and the Turkish hospitality is shown very clearly everywhere I go.
You will be in Kusadası at 26-29 August for a masterclass. You also have a school that you hosted masterclasses in Norway. What is your approach?
At masterclasses I listen to the player and we talk about what she/he played. Every player is different and has their own personal expression, and I want to encourage that and in the same time look at different musical perspectives. We can also talk about different kinds of technique issues, performance anxiety or anything else that comes up.
You are known with your Koyunbaba by Domeniconi performance which was inspired by Turkish music. How do you connected with the piece?
Koyunbaba captivates me with its wide spectrum of feelings and Turkish folk spirit, and I connect deeply with this piece. There is something in the atmosphere, sensitivity, and sorrow in this piece that resonates with my heart and it reveals a large specter of feelings.
How is your practice routine? Do you have any recommendation for the young guitarists?
Always use a lot of time on what you’re passionate about and what’s important to you. But the most important thing is not how many hours you practice every day, it is the quality of the practicing. Have your head with you and analyse what you do and why you do it. Having a practice plan can help, especially when you’re having a rough day. Also never give up, be persistent in what you do and always follow your dreams!
What projects you have in 2017/2018 season?
I am currently working on my new album and there will be a new music video coming out in the near future. I will also be touring. Stay tuned on my website, Facebook or Instagram :-)
Interviewed by Ece Demirel
We talked with Michel Lethiec - a great clarinettist - who will be in the UMA masterclass also this September. We talked about the masterclass, contemporary music, music education and many more. We are very excited to have him in Turkey. You can participate the masterclass and get information from here.
EXCLUSIVE TO THEHEADPHONE.NET
How did you decide you wanted to play clarinet? As a young musician, what was the essential point for you that kept your motivation for a musical career?
I was lucky to get very good teachers, not only for clarinet technic but to give me artistic taste. I understood quite soon music is a fantastic way to share life in a pleasant and useful way
I believe you perform lots of contemporary music and you performed at many premieres. How do you approach these pieces? What is different while performing contemporary music?
When you play music from our time you can know directly from the composers, or from the interpreters who played them, quite precisely what the composer wish or wished. If you have the chance to make the premiere, most of the time you participate a bit in the elaboration.
You performed with lots of different musicians and orchestras. Do you have any moments on the stage where you had or avoid a crisis? Or any other experience you wanted to share with us?
It can happen of course but it is quite rare. Chamber music group is like a society in reduction, you have to put ( strong ) personalities together. As a soloist you have to share ideas with the conductor, and sometimes to be ready to play the concert with few time of rehearsal.
You teach at the Paris Conservatoire. What are the challenges of teaching? Do you have different approaches you applied to different class/students? How do you approach to the different styles and the focused repertoire of each performer?
I try to develop the personality of each student, not to ask all to play in the same way. All the students are different ( traditions, schools, studies..) you have to constantly adapt your approaches.
I believe you are also a jury member of several international competitions. What would you suggest to the participants? Do you have a special case you want to share with us?
It is very hard to choose between the candidates, the level is technically very high. I have three criteria: to be surprised ( in a good way of course, new ideas..), to receive emotion, to wish to play with. I always suggest the students to play as they feel, not to try another way, many professors in the jury, you have to convince through your real personality.
You will be given a masterclass in Urla International Music Academy at September. Can you tell us a little bit about the masterclass? How important to attend these masterclasses for a clarinetist?
Master classes are very important, in a short period you receive a lot of information, most of the time the same as your regular teacher. But coming from another person confirms and develops. You can profit by the experience of a different professor, and share those experiences with other students. You also get the opportunity to approach various repertories.
How is your practice routine? Do you have any recommendations to the young musicians for their practice, performance or appreciation?
Practicing tech (scales..) but always with the feeling you play in concert… Always listening yourself (or recording yourself), always thinking you are an interpreter, so respect the author’s text, but also bring your own ideas!
What projects you have in 2017/2018 season?
Concerts in Europe, South Africa, South America, China and Corea… Another premieres by Maratka (clarinet quintet) and Penderecki, and some others, 2 CD recordings, teaching in France of course (Nice and Paris), Germany, Brazil, Finland, Poland.. to welcome many people and audience in the Pablo Casals Festival, I am the director, and always the project to use music as a peace message and an important part of the education.
Interviewed by Ece Demirel
EXCLUSIVE TO THEHEADPHONE.NET
You will be given a masterclass in Urla International Music Academy at September 5-9. Can you tell us a little bit about the masterclass?
Cellists will have a chance to play for me, listen to other participants, and there will be a performance opportunity. I will also perform something, I imagine.
How important to attend these masterclasses for a cellist?
When I was a teenager my whole summer was filled with master classes. I had lessons with most of the well-known teachers at that time and have learnt so much from those experiences. Some of them were a bit of a shock, others just a nudge in a different direction. But I think it’s a priceless tool of learning and growing up as a musician.
How do you decide the pieces that you will be studying in the masterclass? Is it up to the performer or do you choose the pieces in different levels of difficulty?
All participants can play whatever they like !
How do you approach to the different styles and the focused repertoire of each performer?
My role is to try to understand what the musician wants to say and a) help them achieve that and/or b) make them question ‘why’ and perhaps show them another perspective.
Do you have any story that you experienced in your earlier masterclasses as a participant that changed your view, style or appreciation?
Lots! When I was a teenager I was very fixed in my views and quite myopic. Getting immediate reactions from older, more experienced musicians often questioned and changed that view. Also, there were three teachers I started studying with as a result of masterclasses: Uzi Wiesel, Frans Helmerson, Gavriel Lipkind.
What other projects you have in the summer?
I am on a tour in South America - playing recitals and concertos, and also conducting- and I will record the complete Beethoven Sonatas. I also have a long holiday this summer!
EXCLUSIVE TO THEHEADPHONE.NET
First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to give an interview for theheadphone.net. I really appreciate your time, it is really a pleasure and great opportunity for me.
How did you decide to have a musical career? And more importantly, how did you achieve it? What was the turning point of your career?
When I was 11, in my first week at Yehudi Menuhin School, I asked another pupil whether they wanted to be professional. They looked at me like I was crazy for asking. Why else would they be at that school? That moment, I realized for the first time that music was not only a part of my life that it would be my ‘profession’, as well.
I started playing concerts at the age of thirteen but I always look back at the 2007/08 season as my first. I had just finished college, I was playing internationally, and many of the concertos I was playing with orchestra for the first time. Soon to be ten years now... Wow.
How do you decide the pieces you include in the recordings or concert programs?
When I release CDs, it’s only what I feel like recording and what I feel I can add something to. With recital programs, it’s similar but a little less restrictive. I always suggest new works to play with orchestras and sometimes they are keen but mostly I play the standards by Dvorak, Elgar, Schumann, Shostakovich, Brahms, Beethoven, Saint-Saens etc.
How often do you practice? Do you have any hints or advice you want to share with musicians?
I used to practice too much. I had a very Protestant view of practice connected with self-worth. That’s not useful for art. It’s important to find your own rhythm of off and on. I now only do about three hours a day but I spend a lot of time thinking about music, working mentally, lying down, letting the new decisions and information take root. That would be my advice to young musicians. Measure your practice only by results and try to do as little as possible to get there, not as much.
Can you briefly talk about your upcoming Schnittke CD recording? What other future projects do you have?
In June I will release an album of 100 years of French music, starting with the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto from the 1870s, via Ravel, Debussy, Messiaen, to the Dutilleux Concerto from 1970. With the BBC Scottish Symphony and John Wilson, and also with Alexei Grynyuk (piano). Then in January 2018, Alexei Grynyuk and I will release the complete Beethoven Cello Sonatas. We just recorded four of them and will complete the last two in April.
What was the most enjoyable and excited project you had?
From 2010-2012 I had conducting lessons in Vienna, and last year picked that up again. In 2016 I first started conducting orchestras and over the next two years there are a few things planned. It’s always been a dream of mine and I can watch it come true. Amazing.
Before you perform a piece, how do you approach the piece? Historical background, recording and performance history of the piece… How important are those for you?
In order for music to come to life there has to be an individuation by the performer. The performer is the subject and the composer is the object and to try and flip that, it just doesn’t work. The performer cannot be the object. The cellist plays the composer and the composer is the object of the performance. The more you inform yourself as the subject, the more you become aware of the context and the more referential you become in your approach to a composer. When you’re a child, you think that everything is about you but as you grow older other people fit into the bigger picture and the same thing applies in terms of an interpretation. As you grow older you realise, “I’m a person and Tchaikovsky is a person”. We both feel and we may be inherently similar in how we feel, but the historical or social context are so different that the more you know about the culture, the more you understand what Tchaikovsky was referring to. It’s important to have a feeling of that world. To better understand the work but you shouldn’t distance yourself from it, to the contrary, you should become more able to be subjectively connected with the music, otherwise it’s just a history lesson. It’s just someone saying ‘I know how Mozart played this, here it is’. But that wasn’t what Mozart was going through; he wasn’t thinking about those things. All those things were inescapable; they were just what his life was, what he was surrounded by and then he was thinking something subjective which brought into existence the piece we now play. I don’t think it’s possible to balance objectivity and subjectivity adequately, so “informed subjectivity” is the best way to interpret, I guess.
What do you think about the Western Art Music’s progression? Do you follow the modern compositions?
I commission and perform a lot of new music and always try to include it in my programs. For the tour with my trio this month we will play two works we commissioned. A trio by Arlene Sierra (2013) and a duo by Mark-Anthony Turnage (2015). In 2018 I will premiere a new cello concerto by Mark Simpson with the BBC Philharmonic. New music takes the same place as historic music does in my life, both as a player and listener. I really don’t differentiate and wouldn’t know where to draw the line. All good music was new once. Most of it ‘very new’!
Can you briefly tell us about the concert program of the concert in İstanbul which I believe it will be a private concert for Koç family?
Yes, it is a private concert at his estate. We are friends of Ömer Koç and have done a similar private concert in London once before. He is a fascinating and very kind man. His art collection is very specific and of the highest quality.
Do you have a funny moment / experience that happened during concerts? Or an experience you would like to share?
I fell asleep in the slow movement of the “Archduke” Trio once. I woke up while I was playing!
What do you listen mostly in your spare time?
I only tend to listen to music when I travel and it’s usually Norman Feldman or Ligeti, lately. If it’s late in the evening I can enjoy PND and Makkonen, too. To my classical music friends’ bewilderment.
Finally, what is your favorite piece nowadays?
The Beethoven Cello Sonatas and Brahms First Symphony.
Answered by Leonard Elschenbroich. Thank you so much :)
EXCLUSIVE TO THEHEADPHONE.NET
Transcribed from a voice recording from the all group members
First of all, thank you so much for responding my message. I believe you are very busy, I appreciate your effort for answering these questions. Also, thank you for inspiring us with your music !
Can you explain briefly the choral trend in Sweden ? The country mostly known for its electronic music but I believe there are a lot of choirs as well ?
Sweden has always been choir singing nation as well as countries like Norway and I think choir tradition has nearly been based on folk music and classical music. But now we have a trend towards more contemporary music. There are more jazz and pop choirs poping up everywhere in Sweden and around the Baltic rim, and that’s a facinating thing.
How did you choose your new members ? Can anyone participate in auditions ? Members are mostly from Scandinavia, are rehearsals in Swedish ?
We’ve had auditions for new members and we asked around for people that we sort of knew about, because if we have an open audition that would take too much time for us. So we had auditions and we picked Janis and Lisa. We try to speak in Swedish but eventually we talk in English as well, since Janis is working on his Swedish. And the rehearsals are in Stockholm, that’s where we are based.
What is your favorite moment in the group ? Do you have legendary moments on the stage that you never forget ?
It is impossible for us to compare and pick concerts. So it is a really tough question. We try to make each concert unique. It is a different experience each night.
How is the group dynamics ? Do you think the new members change that ? How do you adapt so quickly or is the group had different styles and stages on the progress ?
I could say that group dynamics definitely change with new members. It is very interesting that we are always developing as a group. For me, Morten, being a new singer in the group nine years ago – I really quickly adapted. I felt like I was embraced by family. Janis what would you say ?
Janis: I feel very good. I think I am adapting – I don’t know fast or slow. I’m just trying to be myself – as annoying as I can be :)
It is basically like a little family, sometimes someone is annoying and sometimes it’s the opposite, so I guess that’s the dynamic of the group.
And we always try to be open that people are people, and we are different. You have different modes. We have to accept that and sometimes you have a good day and sometimes you have a bad day. Being a group, we need to accept that and respect that.
How do you decide the repertoire ? Do you have pieces that one members hates and the other loves ?
We try to be involved in the repertoire all of us and do songs that we feel for. All of us are different so that’s why we have different kinds of styles also and repertoire. But we have democracy when it comes to deciding the program.
Do you try to come up with different concepts for each concert ? Try to make small changes on pieces etc. ?
Small changes happen if we decide to have them or not. Because each evening is different, each concert hall is different, each audience is different and every concert is different because of that. Of course, we also change the repertoire, stage clothes and choreography and other small things... You can sing the same songs but they will never sound the same.
What is the future projects, tours and concert schedules look like ? Is there a choir festival you will participate next year ?
We continue our touring, that means we go to the US few times next year and we will tour in Europe as we usually do. We have an upcoming Big Band project in Germany. We have some concerts with Rajaton, the Level Eleven project. So we try to keep ourselves busy like that.
What do the real group members do off the stage ? Do you hang out a lot ? Do you have any rituals before / after concerts ?
Each one of us usually have our on way to prepare. Each day is different and you might be a little ill sometimes and then you need another kind of preperation. But usually, we try to be very aware of how everyone else is doing just before we go on stage. So we know what to expect from the concert. Then we have a kind of a huddle together just before we go on stage, that’s it.
Can you tell us briefly about ‘’The Real Group Academy’’ ? What has been done and the is there any new future projects ?
The Real Group Academy is like our educational portal. Within that online hub, we try to arrange Skype coachings but mainly physical meetings between current and former members of The Real Group and pedagogs that we believe in and that we share our ideas with. So we definitely continue teaching, coaching with The Real Group Academy. That happens basically all the time during the year.
There are lots of a capella groups and choirs. What do you think is essential to be distinguished among them ?
I think that you have to stay true to yourself, and enjoy it, and have fun while you do the things that you’re doing. And don’t compete. Because we don’t believe in competitions, we don’t believe that you compete in making art, because that what you do when you sing. So just be true to who you are.
Finally, what is your favorite The Real Group arrangement ?
We love all our songs that are in the repertoire and that have been in the repertoire. But our favorite arrangements are the ones that we have currently in the repertoire. Because we have to love them, otherwise we wouldn’t sing them. So come to our concerts :)
Thank you so much for giving this opportunity for theheadphone.net, it was a unique moment when you had the chance to talk with a group you spent hours listening and performing !
EXCLUSIVE TO THEHEADPHONE.NET
Answered by Edward Randell, bass with The Swingles since 2012.
The Swingle Singers is an a capella group that is highly respected and loved. It is inspiring to see what human voice is capable of while they mesmerize us with their vocal quality, arrangements, performances and much more. There are a lot of choirs, a capella groups, choir festivals in Turkey nowadays and the number is rapidly increasing. The Swingle Singers, existing since 1960s, is always an inspiration for us. For these admirers and myself, here is an interview to get a glimpse of The Swingles world.
First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to give an interview for theheadphone.net. As your admirers, we are wondering about your rehearsal procedures. Do you have specific voice exercises you do? How often do you study together?
You’re very welcome! Our rehearsal time is precious, and we try to make rehearsals as focused as possible, whether we’re working on new music or refreshing repertoire. How often we rehearse really depends on what projects we have coming up, and when we’re busy with concerts most of our rehearsal is done in soundchecks. When we’re rehearsing in London, we aim to turn up with the music already learned and voices individually warmed up. Sometimes we’ll kick off rehearsal with a group improvisation to get us all in a listening, creative space. In terms of rehearsal techniques, one thing we really value is rehearsing on a metronome – and we always have a piano nearby too, to have an objective pitch and time reference.
How do you decide to the repertoire? Can members suggest songs or concepts for records or concert programs?
Absolutely, the group works democratically and we’re happy to try anything. At the moment we’re working on a new album and every member of the group is contributing ideas and arrangements, which is brilliant as it means we can be much more productive. Over time, certain pieces fall by the wayside while others become firm favourites – and you can never predict which ones they will be.
You also make arrangements of folk songs – for example; Gemiler Giresune. How did you find that piece? Was it a challenge to perform a piece that requires a different vocal technique? How do you study the pronunciation?
Yes, we love discovering international folk music, and in fact our next album is a whole collection of traditional music from around the world. As the group evolves, we’re becoming more and more interested in pushing ourselves to discover new vocal colours and techniques. Fortunately we have some Turkish friends who were able to advise us on the pronunciation.
What are the qualifications you search when you are looking for a new Swingle? I am sure there are a lot of applications, how do you manage the auditions?
We’re looking for a lot of different things! Great musicality and versatility, a specific (and demanding) vocal range, and a great soloist and performer. We don’t just want someone who can do the job, but someone who will take the group to new and exciting places creatively. We ask applicants to send in recordings of themselves, and from those we’ll pick a handful to take part in a live audition which requires them to learn a stack of our music. Auditions are an emotionally intense time for everyone involved! Obviously the applicants are nervous, and sometimes they’ve travelled from another country to audition, but it’s also a huge decision for us as we’re essentially choosing a new family member.
Is it hard to synchronize yourself with the new members? Each member has an outstanding voice, how do you study for adjusting your voice to the groups’?
It’s made easier by the fact that we choose new singers based on who we think will fit in best with the group vocally. Other than that, it just takes time and familiarity. But our newest member Jon did an outstanding job of blending in with us right away – we knew we’d chosen the right guy when we totally forgot he was new.
Do you think, for the dynamics of the group, it is important to spend your spare time with each other? What is the secret of your resonance with each other, if there is one?
There’s a healthy balance to be struck, I think. We love going for a drink after shows and rehearsals, and the social aspect is a huge part of what makes touring so much fun. (By the end of a tour, we can pretty much read each other’s minds.) There are groups who apparently never hang out outside of work, which is strange to me. Having strong chemistry together on stage is essential, and an audience can tell when you’re only pretending to like each other. On the other hand, we all have friends and family we need to see in order to stay sane!
You sing different genres like jazz, classical music etc. Is it hard to adjust yourself to these different styles? Do you have specific preparations for each project?
For me, the musical variety was probably the number one thing that attracted me to The Swingles. I absolutely love immersing myself in new styles and I love that I get to sing everything from Berio to big band music with this group. I think above all it’s a question of attitude, of fully committing yourself to the style. Between the 7 of us, we have different kinds of experience – some people are more comfortable with classical singing, others with jazz, and so on – and we work best when we share that experience and insight.
How do you cope with crisis on the stage (microphone related, forgetting lyrics and such)? Can you share one of these moments with us?
When mistakes happen, they can be pure gold for a performance. Especially on a long tour, suddenly everyone comes out of their routine and goes onto high alert. One of my favourites was when Sara suddenly forgot the lyrics to The Diva Aria (which she had probably performed 200 times by that point) and improvised a lot of nonsense Italian. We were dying trying to control our laughter, but no-one in the audience noticed. Another time we were doing an open air concert and a loud siren went off, and kept going for about 5 minutes. We improvised a piece around the pitches of the siren, and the audience loved it. If you can ride out those moments of crisis, an audience will love you for it – you’ve given them a completely unique experience.
Can you tell about upcoming projects? Is there a new record coming? Do you plan to come to Turkey again in the future?
I’ve mentioned above that we’re working on a new record of international folk music from places including China, the Philippines, Bulgaria, Portugal and the US. It should be coming out in the spring of 2017. That’s our main focus right now, but we have lots of other exciting projects on the horizon too. We very much hope to be back in Turkey soon, we’ve absolutely loved our trips there.
You gave concerts in different cities in Turkey like Denizli, Ankara and İstanbul before. Can you share these experiences?
We’ve had some very special trips to Turkey. One of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever sung with The Swingles was a New Year concert at the end of 2013. It was in an arena in Ankara with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra and the atmosphere was absolutely electric, especially when we started singing Gemiler Giresune. I also loved visiting Istanbul at the start of 2015 – I stayed out for a couple of days afterwards to explore the city, and it’s an incredible place.
Finally, what is your favorite The Swingles arrangement?
For me, it has to be Ward Swingle’s classic arrangement of Clair de Lune by Debussy. Every time we sing that, it’s a thrill. I never get tired of it.
As I am concluding the interview, I want to say special thanks for showing your feelings for recent events in Turkey. Let the music reach to those who didn’t find the respect and piece within themselves yet.
Thank you so much for enriching my blog with your sweetest response to my request that made my day!