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Meet the Artist – Elena dtm Lorenzi, singer

Singer Elena dtm Lorenzi conceived and performs in three 7 Star Arts shows – Classic Cabaret, Cabaret Beyond Borders and now Voices From The Golden Era, a new show which celebrates iconic singers and songs from the 1940s and 50s, with its first performance at The Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head Barnes on Sunday 27 October (details here)

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and pursue a career in music?

It was life itself that showed me music as a path.

I’ve been singing since I was a child. I won my first competition at the age of three, but I started to approach and studying singing in a serious way after the death of my father, when I was 13 years old. After a few years of suffering, I began to study opera singing, and this was truly therapeutic for me. The use of the opera voice, with its power and the need for technique and control, gave me a way to process pain. Singing for me has always been a necessity, something very cathartic. Singing has always been a way to shape my energy, it has given meaning to my life. I love the fact that I am my instrument, my voice is my instrument.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I am an eclectic singer who loves many different musical genres and as a result I have been influenced by many singers, musicians and composers.

When I started singing opera, I was actually a little girl in love with symphonic metal, in particular a Finnish band, “Nightwish” and their singer Tarja Turunen. I was fascinated by the use of the opera voice and orchestral parts in such a strong genre. Growing up and falling in love with Opera, especially the composers Wagner and Puccini, I loved the angel voice of Renata Tebaldi, but my favourite opera singer is the Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Obratzova. In jazz I am a fan of Ella Fitzgerald, and in the music of my country, Italy, I owe a lot to the singer Mina.

As for the vintage repertoire and cabaret, in which I have specialized in recent years, the whole world of French music is essential for me, from Lèo Ferrè to Dalida, Juliette Greco, Edith Piaf….the list could be endless. The interpreter who today most reflects the path I have undertaken is undoubtedly the German actress and singer Ute Lemper, but I also love the great performers of the past like Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra. Honestly, there are so many other musicians and performers who have given me such a lot.

In general I love the energy that a singer transmits, the depth of the interpretation and the truth of what is told through music.

Furthermore, art is a source of inspiration for me (I am a fan of painting), nature and people too. Life itself is a constant source of inspiration for me, for better or for worse. I try to capture every little thing or great teaching and to tell it through my voice in the songs I sing.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Surely the life of the musician is full of challenges? The musician’s unstable lifestyle forces you to continually find new ways. But for me my singer’s life is such a wonderful journey that I adore new challenges and getting out of my comfort zone, even if it’s not always easy. The only difficulty, when I started to study singing, was to make my family understand that music for me is not just a passion, but that it would become my job. My family has always imagined another kind of path for me, more stable and safe, so for several years I did not have their support.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I have a lot of concerts in my heart and it’s hard to choose. I remember with satisfaction the first time I played a program of French songs, in 2013, on the occasion of the festival “Le X Giornate”, in Brescia, my home city. From that moment I totally fell in love with this kind of music, I began to study the world of cabaret, French and German music, songs of the vintage world. That concert really changed my musical life. During the same festival, always with the pianist Stefano Marzanni, I performed the RückertLieder (Songs after Rückert), a song cycle of five Lieder for voice and orchestra or piano by Gustav Mahler, based on poems written by Friedrich Ruckert. The concert, of which I have a beautiful memory and I am very proud of, was dedicated to the city of Vienna and its music and it was magical.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

As a classically-trained singer, I’m in love with opera, and I really love to sing it. Also because being a mezzo-soprano, I love the roles for this vocal register, for example Carmen. But I never felt part of the world of opera, I preferred to choose my path and create something of my own. I feel totally comfortable when I sing repertoire of old songs, as I said before. I can use various vocal registers, experiment with the voice using lyric, pop, jazz voice. I can create my own style. I love the music of the early 1900s; I think the lyrics are very deep, beautiful to interpret.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I always look for something new to study and interpret in a personal way. Surely the choice of the repertoire depends on the request, but for me it is really important to never stop and continue to create new shows.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

My favorite venue is definitely the Crazy Coqs in Brasserie Zedel, Soho, London. I love the atmosphere which links directly back to the vintage world of the Parisian bistros of the early decades of the 1900s. It’s perfect for cabaret shows, for French music and vintage repertoire. I have a funny memory of a very special venue for a concert of contemporary music in Holland in 2014, in the city of Den Haag. The venue was a beautiful ….. cemetery.

As a musician what is your definition of success?

Success for me is simply being able to do what I love, and to be able to express myself. Being able to experiment and see that the public appreciates it. For me, real success is knowing that I have given all of myself in the music I sing, in the best way possible.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I think that an aspiring musician should know first of all that the work of the musician is a wonderful job but it requires many sacrifices, much study and a lot of passion. We need a lot of determination to overcome the challenges and obstacles, a lot of patience, because the results do not come immediately. But I believe that humility is fundamental above all. We have to really focus on the goals, do not give up if the road is not easy. A little advice: be yourself.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I live for music so I can only imagine my future singing in theatres. I dream of taking my shows on tour in the most beautiful cities in the world. I love traveling, visiting new places and meeting new people.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

For me happiness is not lack of pain or suffering, but the ability to understand that there is a reason for everything. True happiness for me is something very profound, which goes beyond sensory experiences: it is a way of being. In this I am close to the Buddhist philosophy. I am a happy person, because I love life, I love my job, my family and my friends. I have learned to always see the positive side of everything and not to worry too much about the problems. I learned to be happy for any gift life gives me, even the smallest. It is not always easy to follow this path, but I am convinced that it is the best way to face life, which for me is something extraordinary. I “love to spread love”

What is your most treasured possession?

I could answer this question in several ways. For me the most precious thing is life itself, the experiences I do, so health is fundamental. Obviously as regards my person, my most precious asset is my voice, without that I can not work, but above all I can not express myself and elaborate the experiences. But I can also say that my greatest treasure is the people I love, family (including my four dogs) and friends. The moments spent with the people I love are something that enriches me, something that for me is very important and that I want to enjoy because unfortunately I learned as a young person that people can be taken away at any moment.

What is your present state of mind?

At this moment I am extremely grateful for the wonderful opportunities and the possibility that life is giving me. I am full of joy and I hope I can share it, in life and through music. Thank you so much for this interview.

Meet the Artist – Alex Hall

Our first event of the autumn at The Jazz Room features the songwriter and trumpeter Alex Hall. We caught up with Alex to find out more about his musical influences and inspirations, and how he makes sure his repertoire suits the audience and venue….


Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Difficult to say. Probably a combination of lots of small factors. Having good mentors, being surrounded by music/musicians growing up, always having a fascination with music – and trying other things and realising that I wasn’t much good at the them!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I think picking up my first professional tour at 26 was some sort of validation that I needed which gave me the confidence I could pursue music (also for my family – the road has been long!), so it was hugely important I got some kinda break – albeit it wasn’t doing my own thing. What I’ve learnt from those experiences is beyond that what goes on in the practise room. 

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Losing my voice for an extended amount of time was really horrible. I was like an injured athlete. I was very very restricted with work and it was emotionally and psychologically difficult. I ended up busking some classical guitar over in Bath that summer!

I think for any musician living in London who is starting out (or a little bit further down the line even) it is a great challenge and I commend anyone who is pursuing it. Especially with the housing market now. 

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

I’ve done so many things in different genres it’s difficult to say. There are some recordings which are to be released later this year which I’m excited about and maybe it’s a good thing that I’m probably most proud of this as it shows I’m progressing! 

I’ve done some avant garde improvisations sets at The Union Chapel as part of their Saturday music sessions which have been hugely, hugely challenging and fun. The natural resonance in there is magic! 

How do you make your repertoire choices?

I’m quite meticulous about repertoire. I take into account venue size, who I’m performing with, even the day of the week, promoters, general audience etc. I think people are collectively much more in an upbeat mood on a Friday evening compared to Monday so it’s important I don’t ‘offend’ them with a 250BPM aggressive bebop track on a Monday evening, for example!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Nathan the owner has done wonders there cultivating a community space, retaining the integrity of what it is, but at the same time developing the venue. I’ve done about half a dozen gigs there now with Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. I think it might be the only social club in England that is on the international touring circuit now.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Cheltenham Jazz festival. We played the afterparty in this beautiful manor house – it was totally impromptu too, and I think because of that people were going crazy. We all looked at each other afterwards and just said “that was unreal!”. I felt like I was playing at a lavish Victorian banquet! Very surreal but beautiful. 

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being able to make a living in music has to be considered a success. It’s getting harder and harder and I think any musician should be, and probably is humble enough to say that! 

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Learn your musical language. Listen relentlessly. Be as original and intuitive in your personal practise as possible. Collaborate. Write. Learn the business side of things (YouTube, Photoshop, Instagram), accept no one is gonna give you anything and that you have to go out and get it.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I like the idea of living abroad for a while but we’ll see!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness to me is a transient thing so I don’t think ‘perfect’ can ever be equated to it – but being able to creatively do music on my terms all the time would make me very happy! 

What is your most treasured possession?

My trumpet!

Alex Hall plays West Coast Jazz with his quartet on Tuesday 10 September at The Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head. More information and tickets


Known predominantly as the moniker Alec Sala, Alex Hall is a London based songwriter, touring musician and music producer based in North London.

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Meet the Artist – Natasha Hardy, singer-songwriter

I just love performing wherever I have an audience

We talked to Natasha Hardy about influences, inspirations and more ahead of her Lost in Love concert at The Jazz Room on 20 May…..

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

The thought of singing and acting appealed to me from a very early age. I was always the performer in my family and as the middle child, it was the best way to get attention! Singing was a part of normal family life. I enjoyed singing at home, (although most of the time my brothers wanted to shut me up!) My parents always had music playing and were always singing. We sang regularly at our church, so it always felt quite normal to sing. I started to write songs from the age of 13 and had piano lessons from around age 9.

Singing always made me feel good, although I hadn’t ever considered it a career choice.  When I started to pursue my acting career, I took up singing seriously. Singing was originally to add a feather to my bow as an actress. However, unexpectedly, I completely fell in love with the classical technique; I had found a medium that would let me fully express myself. I was able to use my body in a way that allowed me to channel my energy and emotions. I could pour my heart and soul into it. It felt inevitable that this was going to be my career.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

The most important influences on my career have to be my voice teacher Maryliese Happel, Mark Crayton and my mum.  Maryliese introduced me to classical repertoire and opera.  I had no idea about singing in this genre before I met her and to her I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude.  She taught me solid technique, taught me about my own voice and has always been an inspirational teacher.  She helped me ‘free the beauty of my voice’.

Mark Crayton (Roosevelt University, Chicago) who over the years helped me find my inner confidence through technique and performance master-classes. He has helped me find freedom of expression in my voice.

My wonderful mother, who calls me her little songbird, always wants to hear me sing. From the moment she wakes up, she is always singing around the house. My mother always made it feel really normal to just sing.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Self-belief and self-doubt. I have done lots of work to help myself through these challenges.  My top tips that have helped me include; meditation, positive affirmations, healthy diet & keeping fit.  I am a great believer in healthy body, healthy mind.

I always come back to a couple of sayings, allowing yourself to be both a work in progress and a masterpiece simultaneously, and my favourite quote from Martha Graham:

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”  
― Martha Graham 

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

Puccini; I love his songs, his operas, and his characters.  On the surface they can seem simple, but underneath there is a complexity and strength to them.  The way he writes is inspiring. There is always a leading melody, and long beautiful lines.  As a songwriter, I know how hard it is to make something sound ‘simple’ and that is what I love about his compositions.  I also think I perform my own compositions pretty well, because I have written them. I know every feeling and every memory that has gone into the writing of every line, lyric and melody.  I do hope one day that other singers will want to perform them.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season? 

I try to choose pieces that are well known with the audience, combining them with unknown or rarely-performed works

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

Not really, I just love performing wherever I have an audience.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, Prince, George Michael, Faithless, Massive Attack, Andre Previn, Richard Rodney Bennet, Michael Nyman, Gabriel Yared, Hans Zimmer, Eric Serra, Puccini, Bellini, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu and Maria Callas.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

My first ever concert.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Practice smart, know your words/notes, know yourself.  Get trained in the business side of things. This can take up a lot of your time!  Be determined. Don’t give up. Try to get a little bit better every day. Make time for family & friends, and most importantly, have fun!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

In my beach house in Bermuda.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Any of the following: Summer barbecues, listening to old LPs on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends, roast dinners, long beach walks, my poodle every time I look at her, getting to sleep in a bed with my favourite pillow and a duvet, waking up to another sunny day, the sound of rain, the smell of a forest, the touch of my grandmother’s hand, skiing, ice-skating.

What is your most treasured possession? 

An 18th-century French dressing table which has been ‘dipped and stripped’ about three times, it was my mum’s dressing table from when my parents first got married, and it has finally been restored and I use it everyday.

What is your present state of mind? 

Excited – relaxed – grateful.

‘Lost in Love’ is on Sunday 20 May at 7.30pm in the Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head. Tickets here

 

www.natashahardy.com