On the 19th September and the 4th October 2013, Temperaments, was shared with a London audience. Here's a closer look at the inspiration behind the song recital...
The throws of autumn are upon us. In the pocket of South East London where I live, the leaves are desperately clinging to the branches of the trees with one last hope for summer. As this seasonal change happens all about me, I realise that it's taken two seasons for Richard Court (baritone) and myself (mezzo soprano) to co-create, co-produce and co-perform the song recital, Temperaments. It started in spring, it grew up in summer and now, in the autumn, it's ready for harvesting.
Temperaments is a collection of solos and duets of English and French song inspired by the four temperaments. The descriptors of the four temperaments are very detailed, but here's a quick summary:
Sanguine (playful, sociable, lives for the here and now)
Choleric (visionary leader, quick to temper,)
Melancholic (reflective thinker, takes on the world's suffering)
Phlegmatic (cool, calm and collected, fascinated by how the world works).
The origin of the four temperaments can be traced back to the Greek physician, Hippocrates. But they're not confined to the annals of Greek history, for over the centuries the four temperaments have evolved and continue to be used today to interpret human personality traits and behaviours. If you've ever done a psychometric test for a job interview, or a dating website, then the chances are you've been mapped against the temperaments criteria. Or if like me, you haven't done either of those things, you've come across a temperament when you've been described, or described others as; hot-headed, depressing, temperamental, still waters run deep, outgoing, party animal, or laid back, etc..
When the four temperaments are put together in a recital, the result is a varied collection of songs that give an engaging snapshot of the human experience through music: From the life and soul of the party to the reflective thinker, the visionary leader through to those who are cool as a cucumber.
As Richard and I have been collaborating on the recital, I've also been sharing some of my thoughts about repertoire and recital structure. To find out more about:
1. creating a song recital, see it's all in the hanging
2. how the stories all around us offer insight on repertoire, visit to be sung without bombast
3. the three good questions that start to uncover a song's perspective, check in with I don't wanna talk about it
Using the temperaments as a recital theme was a great way for Richard and I to build a recital around something that we cared about; people. We wanted to explore and celebrate the human condition; how we individually cope with circumstance, what we think about, feel about, get curious about. Admittedly, there's a hint of irony; the recital's structure celebrates individuality via a categorising system. But there's more to this juxtaposition than it being one of life's ironies. To explain further, I need to go back to my three year old self.
When I was three, my favourite toy was a red and blue shape ball. I would spend hours fitting the yellow shapes into their respective windows; square shape in the square hole, oval shape in the oval hole. One day my mum found me with my dad's hammer trying to hammer in the yellow star shape into the square hole. I was a little upset, I felt that if the star wanted to go through the square hole it should be able to. I tell this tale because we can build as many boxes as we like to fit Life neatly inside, and as humans we like to do this a lot, but we also like to take things out of boxes and move things around. It's the beauty of the human condition and the reason why we keep exploring and evolving.
Free Lunchtime Recital
Thursday 19 September 2013, 1pm, St George the Martyr
Friday 4 October 2013, 1pm, The Actors Church, Covent Garden
Songs by Duparc, Fauré, Berlioz, Beethoven, Butterworth, Purcell and Finzi
Louise Ashcroft (mezzo soprano)
Richard Court (baritone)
Mark Packwood (piano)
And if you're just a little bit curious as to which of the temperaments you might be, go here.
Temperament Emoticons, Emoticons by Mamoru Iriguchi, typography by Michael Burton & Michiko Nitta (2013)
The Temperaments, Bidstrup
Cool as Cucumber, Lorna Robinson (2006)
Cool as Cucumber, Lorna Robinson (2006)