GILLIAN HUMPHREYS' BIOGRAPHY
GILLIAN HUMPHREYS OBE ARAM HonRCM
Founder & Artistic Director of the Concordia Foundation
In true Renaissance style international soprano Gillian Humphreys combines her love of the Arts with her admiration for her audiences and brings her innovative range of performances and lectures to theatres and platforms worldwide.
Welsh-born (Pontypridd) Gillian studied with Dame Eva Turner at the Royal Academy of Music and worked in London and California with Sir Tyrone Guthrie. A principal soprano with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, Gillian has sung in major opera houses across the United States and Europe and performed with the Glyndebourne Festival and Welsh National Opera Companies.
Gillian sang at Californian Pops Concerts with Nelson Riddle and appeared in TV shows with Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. In the UK, Gillian appeared on television and in concert with Dick Emery, Morecombe and Wise, the Two Ronnies, Stanley Baxter, Ken Dodd, Bruce Forsyth, John Inman and Max Bygraves. For the Millennium, Gillian appeared with Michael Ball in a Gala Concert with the Italian Symphony Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A leading actress in operetta, Gillian’s theatre career continued with performances in Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream, The Dancing Years and Raymond GubbayViennese Galas at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank.
Television appearances include her one-woman show, ‘Home Sweet Home’ – the tempestuous life of one of the world’s greatest prima donnas, Adelina Patti, who sang at all the world’s great opera houses including the Teatro Amazonas at Manaus and the Teatro Colon at Buenos Aires.
Gillian recorded ‘Shakespeare and Love’, which was performed at The Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London and on an official tour of the famous castles of Romania. There she also gave her ‘Young Audiences’ workshops to orphanages and hospitals in Bucharest and had the honour of being invited to meet Mother Teresa in London, who endorsed the importance of the healing power of music.
Since 1995 the ‘Concordia Foundation’ and it’s objective of ‘Building Building Bridges through Music and the Arts’ has become an important aspect of Gillian’s international work. The Foundation sponsored a seventeen day concert tour for the ‘Cantorino Children’s Choir’ from Zalau, Romania and gave two concerts with the Kuala Lumpur Symphony Orchestra in Malaysia in September 1997.
The 1998/99 season included an exciting orchestral concert at the Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle at the invitation of the Windsor Festival and four concerts at the Purcell Room in London.
Concordia Theatre Company regularly presented international gala shows and lectures on the Cunard Seabourn Cruise Line and produced a Gala Concert in aid of Save the Children at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Events in 2000 included two theatre companies touring the world with Cunard Seabourn. Gala concerts were given at British High Commissions in Sydney, Wellington and Hong Kong. The opening of the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City withCavalleria Rusticana, and a highly successful production at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington of ‘Patti Patti Patti’, her musical biography of the 19th century Queen of Song, ADELINA PATTI.
A further world tour took place in 2001 and another successful charity concert was given in Sydney. Gillian launched the Concordia Concerto Series of concerts with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi in May. The Concordia Foundation and English Singers and Speakers prize competition was held at the Purcell Room in June.
In December 2002 Concordia presented a candle-lit concert at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden and a ‘Stars at Christmas’ Carol Concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
The Concordia Theatre Company, toured the Far East in 2003; the highlight of the tour being a performance of ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ for guests of the British Ambassador in Yangon, Myanmar. A Gala Banquet at the Tower of London with music from The Yeoman of the Guard was held in June of that year. The AESS/Concordia Song Prize and an autumn series of lunchtime Concerts took place at St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden – The Actor’s Church.
‘Love from Ivor’, a musical evening recalling the life and music of Ivor Novello, written for Gillian by Richard Stirling, was launched at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool in April 2003 and further performances took place in Hastings, Worthing, Aldeburgh, culminating with performances at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London and the Lincoln Center, New York.
A highlight in 2004 was the production of ‘Winter in Majorca’, the life and music of Chopin and George Sand presented in London and at Valldemossa, Majorca.
The Concordia Theatre Company has travelled the world for Cunard and has presented international performances at British Embassies worldwide. Concordia regularly presents recitals in London at St James’s Piccadilly, St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Purcell Room and the National Portrait Gallery.
The Concordia Foundation’s tenth anniversary was celebrated with a Gala orchestral concert ‘Bach to Bernstein’ at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in February 2005. Concert series promoted by the Foundation have provided platforms for hundreds of performers worldwide. In July 2005 Concordia Sinfonietta was invited by the BBC to present ‘Peter and the Wolf’ to open the Proms in Trafalgar Square. In August Gillian hosted a seminar on ‘Music in Film’ at the Off/On Film Festival in Warsaw and she adjudicated the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera in September.
The Foundation was delighted to return to Vietnam in October 2005 with their production of Pagliacci at the Opera House in Hanoi, directed by Jeff Clarke.
Further events in 2005 include Concordia’s annual Candlelit Christmas Concert at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden on Saturday 10 December and a production of A Dickensian Christmas at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday 16 December.
Concordia Foundation is the brainchild of Gillian Humphreys, international soprano, broadcaster, artistic director and producer. Following an extensive professional career in the field of opera and international music productions, Gillian has directed her energy and skills towards the encouragement and nurturing of young musical talent from school children to qualified musicians and singers on the brink of artistic careers. In addition Gillian has harnessed her real concern and passion towards building bridges of friendship through music and the arts on a world-wide canvas.
Gillian Humphreys has excelled in the arts, not only as a professional singer herself but also in promoting and showcasing the talents of young performing artists through the work of the Concordia Foundation, the registered charity that was established in 1995. Reg. Charity No. 1045967. Concerts organised by her through the Concordia Foundation have reached out to audiences from all walks of life not only at London concert halls, churches, museums, hospitals and deprived city areas. Her geographic reach is extensive. Overseas tours have been arranged to Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Romania Spain, Switzerland and Cuba. Performances, often to support local charities have been made at British Embassies and High Commissions in Argentina, USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mayanmar and Kenya.
THE FOUNDATION’S AIMS ARE:
1. YOUNG AUDIENCES -To develop music and art educational programmes with school children in Tower Hamlets and to present specially written children’s productions at Wilton’s Music Hall.
The Concordia Foundation’s first aim has a strong educational component that originally emerged with the creation of ‘Young Audiences’ a music appreciation class for young school children in Bedford Park, Chiswick in 1981. Gillian was assisted by Nicola Frizell and Sandra Lissenden and between 1981 and 1986 the children gave fundraising concerts at the Church Hall of St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park, introducing the children (aged 6 to 11) to the world of live music; giving them the confidence to perform for their parents, friends and audiences on stage and television. Highlights for Young Audiences – Chiswick was a guest appearance before a capacity audience in a Stars Organisation for Spastics Christmas Charity Concert at the Royal Festival Hall in December 1983; appearing in a Children’s Cantata ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’ performed on 16 June 1984 at the Bedford Park Music Festival to an appreciative audience, with lyrics by Michael Richmond, Musical Director David Allen and Narrator Gillian Humphreys; and on 22 April 1985 a group of young Chiswick school children had the excitement of appearing and performing with Gillian on a Harlech TV programme from Wales. Songs for the children were commissioned from local composer Cecilia McDowell but once the children went off to secondary schools the music and props were stored in the attic and only retrieved again for the excitement of later generations of Young Audiences. These included a tour of Romania, visiting Transylvanian orphanages in 1992.
‘You may not be able to do great things, but do little things with great love . . . Doctors can heal the body but music uplifts the spirit.’ - Mother Teresa at a meeting in London
In 2006, the Concordia Foundation re-focused its Young Audiences productions bringing together children of all nationalities and faiths to inspire a new generation of musicians and artists. The productions combine music and the visual arts and encourage participation by the children in the audience. Artists paint on large canvases whilst musicians engage the children with mesmerising storytelling, live music, singing and dancing. The presentations have delighted and inspired children to continue to explore and enjoy all forms of art and music. For instance, one child said to Gillian “Thank you Miss Gillian. It was much better than a DVD!”
Productions at Wilton’s Music Hall since November 2006 – A Journey to meet Peter and the Wolf; May 2008 -The Rhythm of Life . . . Our Musical World; October 2008 –The Spotted Cow and the Pianoforte, written and Directed by Jeff Clarke; April 2009 –Let the Children Sing – Street Cries of London; October 2009 – Around the World in Sixty Minutes; November 2010 – The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and The Pied Piper of Tower Hamlets was performed in November 2011.
As part of the Young Audiences project, Concordia invited over 200 young children from six East London schools to the final orchestral rehearsal at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the 15th Anniversary Gala celebrating the work of the Foundation worldwide. Not only were the children treated to a performance of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra presented by Paul Smith and Andrea Haines of VOCES8, an a capella singing sensation, but the children were also given the opportunity to perform a piece they had collectively written over the previous six weeks with the full symphony orchestra. Gillian’s guest for the afternoon was the Honorary Patron of Concordia, Barbara Bear, the former Lady Mayoress of the City of London.
Prior to each performance, music and art classes are given by Concordia Artists at various mixed race schools in London, including St Paul’s Primary School, Shapla Primary School, Harry Gosling School, Christchurch Primary School, and Osmani Primary School (all in Tower hamlets) together with Sebright Primary School (Hackney) Mayes Park Primary School (Redbridge) Henry Green Primary School (Dagenham) Rotherfield Primary School (Islington) St Clement Danes C of E Primary (Westminster) and St George the Martyr (Camden).
2. EMERGING ARTISTS -To encourage, support and provide platforms for aspiring young musicians and singers through an established concert series in prestigious central London venues.
The second aim of the Concordia Foundation is the provision of public platforms for young singers, musicians and artists at the beginning of their careers, allowing them to demonstrate their potential in front of discerning audiences in Britain and abroad. Concordia has promoted and showcased a range of talent that has emerged in the last fifteen years. Many have been helped to achieve their full potential.
These concerts are arguably the only way for a young talented person to perform in public for the first time. Concordia arranges the venues, provides modest bursaries for coaching, lessons and travel, and acts as a promoter, encouraging each individual artist to look their best – being members of a profession where presentation and style are highly prized. Regular lunchtime concerts are arranged at St Martin-in-the-Fields and St James’s Church Piccadilly.
Gillian has also initiated and developed the creation of a range of new art forms such as: Shakespeare in Love, an anthology of verse, prose and music that she and Edward de Souza devised in 1992; the commissioning of the cantata Every Winter Change to Spring from composer Cecilia McDowall in 1996 and through the Foundation, Gillian created a number of concert series at the Barbican, St John’s Smith Square, Purcell Room, St Paul’s Covent Garden and the National Portrait Gallery. Two major productions to celebrate the tenth and fifteenth anniversaries of the Foundation were presented to capacity audiences at the London South Bank Centre Queen Elizabeth Hall on 10 February 2005 and 21 November 2010 respectively.
All this work has been accomplished by Gillian who is a tireless fund-raiser for her Foundation. The generosity of individual friends has been so important; business supporters, sponsorships, donations and fund-raising via public concerts have been a vital source of funds.
3. CONCORDIA INTERNATIONAL ENSEMBLE -To initiate and develop exchange visits and educational links between the UK and other countries through opera productions, concerts, master-classes and educational workshops and developingCultural Diplomacy at the invitation of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Michael Bear in 2011
The overseas objectives and productions of the Concordia Foundation have had an enriching impact on the musical and artistic life of such countries as Vietnam – providing avid audiences with western style opera productions and a range of new talented singers and musicians. Exchange visits by young artists of the Concordia International Ensemble have been an important facet of Gillian’s work in Vietnam, commencing in June 2000 with a production of – Cavalleria Rusticana – at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House, to a large, enthusiastic audience in excess of 500.
Five years later a production of Pagliacci at the Hanoi Opera House in October 2005, directed by Jeff Clarke. Graham Sutcliffe MBE sourced Vietnamese artists, including local costume and set designers. The Vietnamese Orchestra was conducted by Graham Sutcliffe MBE and cast members included John Rawnsley, Fiona Hammercott and James Cleverton.
Principals for each production were rehearsed in London and loyal Friends of Concordia joined the Vetnamese tour and sponsored the Concordia Opera Singers. A young Vietnamese student was invited by Concordia to visit the UK to study stage production and theatre management during a period with Lady Freud at her summer season at Southwold.
Since 1995 the Concordia Foundation and it’s objective of ‘Building Building Bridges through Music and the Arts’ has become an important aspect of Gillian’s international work.
Gillian achieved critical success in the US with a highly successful production at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington of ‘Patti Patti Patti’, her musical biography of the 9th century Queen of Song, Adelina Patti. The performance was followed by a dinner at the British Embassy.
In 2007 Gillian was invited to present a Gala concert The Still Voice Sings Within at the Teatro dei Rossi, Siena. A revised version of this concert for world peace was performed in Switzerland with members of the Concordia International Ensemble and a scenic artist who illustrated the themes of the concert on a large canvas on stage behind the musicians.
In March 2009 the Concordia Foundation visited Cuba. Workshops were presented to schools and academies. Performances of the Still Voice Sings Within introduced by Gillian were given at the Teatro Amadeo Roldan, Havana.
In 2010 Concordia celebrated their 15th anniversary. A link with Gillian’s Livery Company – The Worshipful Company of Musicians – had been established, supported by the Concordia Foundation Awards Fund. The first Concordia prize-winners’ recital took place at the Wigmore Hall on 11 January 2010 as part of their Monday evening series. The fourthprize-winners’ recital will take place at the Wigmore Hall on 7 July 2014.
In February 2010, to honour the work of Young Audiences music and art projects at Wilton’s Music Hall in Tower Hamlets, EDF in association with the Concordia Foundation held a Children’s Art Competition to select paintings for 10 windows on a new EDF building off Brick Lane. The ceramic windows were unveiled on 18 December 2013. Concordia is very grateful to Adrian Salt and Annie Pang of ASAP for this wonderful opportunity.
Our overseas mission in 2010 took us again to Vietnam with performances of theVerdi Requiem at the Hanoi Opera House. Master classes were also presented at the Conservatoire in Hanoi and Young Audiences projects in schools.
On July 27 at 7.30 pm the Concordia International Ensemble presented Vivaldi to Verdi at St Martin-in-the-Fields.
The 15th anniversary of the Foundation was celebrated with a Gala OrchestralConcert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Monday 22nd November 2010.
Sir Michael Bear, the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 2011 and Lady Bear, recognising the work of the Concordia Foundation, wrote to the Foundation in November 2010 proposing a collaboration and partnership whereby Gillian and Concordia would organise cultural diplomacy with concerts in Hanoi, Vietnam (March), Shanghai, China (April) and Nairobi, Kenya (September).
For almost ten years the Concordia Foundation has presented concerts at the National Portrait Gallery, sponsored by Dasha Shenkman. The first, on 29 October 2004, entitled Winter in Majorca was based on the sojourn of Chopin and writer Georges Sand at the monastery at Valldemossa. Other concerts in this series included The Streets of London, Musical Director Jeff Clarke; A Dickensian Christmas, directed by Richard Stirling; Love from Ivor based on a Concordia Foundation production first given at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden in 2002; Shakespeare and Love an anthology of verse, prose and music; On Wings of Love a romantic journey of love and desire with James Cleverton, baritone, Laura Mitchell, soprano and Irmina Trynkos, violin. Musical Portraits were presented in December 2008; Street Cries of London with VOCES8 in July 2009; Every Winter Change to Spring with Annie Yim piano Tanya Cooling soprano Nicky Spence tenor and Timothy Connorbaritone. Later productions included The Musical World of Charles Dickens in June 2012; Streets of London, a programme devised by Gillian of prose and music celebrating early residents of Craven Street WC2 – Benjamin Franklin, Heinrich Heine and Herman Melville was given on 14 June 2013. Later last year on 13 SeptemberThe Quintabile Brass Quintet presented A Journey from the Tudors to the 20thCentury inspired by portraits at the Gallery. Our most recent presentation featured the alternative-folk group Tir Eolas under the title of Music through the Seasons.
The Foundation has presented 14 successive annual Candlelit Christmas Concerts at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden (The Actors Church).
Gillian became an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Music in May 2005 and Freeman of the City of London and Member of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in October 2005.
Gillian Humphreys OBE ARAM HonRCM
Founder & Artistic Director, Concordia Foundation