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Ardentinny Residential Rehearsal Success

Last week was our annual residential week at Ardentinny Outdoor Centre. It was a fantastic intensive course to get Carmen brushed off for Edinburgh Fringe and there were so many positive experiences for our community. Please read on to see how Aria Alba member, Amber got on during her first time away with us:

Group photo of Aria Alba members dressed in black for a Carmen performance. Everyone is smiling and laughing in the beautiful green scenery of the centre.
Aria Alba at Ardentinny Centre 2024

Singing. Hiking. Green hills, fresh air, clear waters. Friends. What more could one ask for? 

I’m one of the newbies here at Aria Alba. I am not new to acting, singing, or hiking but the Aria Alba rehearsal retreat is not like any opportunity I’ve had before in the performing arts. 

A week of music in the green countryside under the direction and guidance of the most wonderful music team was a week of both growth and discovery; discovery of one’s own voice and, of course, a discovery of Scotland’s hidden gems. 

The Aria Alba retreat to Ardentinny is a time for focussed, in-depth exploration. Each day began with a group warm-up and a practical study of vocal anatomy and technique led by director Jake, covering topics such as breathing, vocal fold closure, the varying changes of tension with pitch, and of course, playing at sheep and shepherds (Aria Alba readers will know what this means). Speaking as a largely self-taught singer, I’ve found these exercises invaluable in understanding my voice in greater detail and could already feel/hear a difference in my performance as the week progressed. Experiencing such positive change has truly generated a buzz of excitement in myself; I am keener than ever to continue learning and practising this newfound understanding of my own voice. 

The remainder of the day can best be described as a mosaic of Carmen with each room of the Ardentinny centre bringing a different scene to life. Some of this time called for the entire cast in one room but was often a rotation of some cast called for specific scenes or truly transformative 1-1 sessions with our wonderful director Jake. In the meantime, other cast members worked alongside our delightful conductor Suzanne and accompanist Max, supported each other, or worked independently on their own parts. As the week progressed the imaginative world of Carmen became ever more vivid; we attended bullfights, climbed mountains, danced in taverns, and admired the talent of our featured guest performers Charlie Morris as Escamillo and Moira Lewitt as the spirit of Carmen. 

While the week was certainly full-on with learning and developing the opera, there was still plenty of opportunity to escape into the surrounding greenery. I for one seized every possible chance: a short hike into the woods after breakfast followed by the occasional foray out to the beach during the afternoon and a late-evening hike further afield (word of warning for future attendees: learn from my mistakes and bring the midge spray). 

Amber singing Michaela in the end of week performance

Ultimately, as an Ardentinny first-timer, I can say that it is a worthwhile experience for any singer seeking to develop their voice and learn from the best. Live theatre is, after all, about community and connection. Singing is a full-body experience that can only be helped with a bit of fresh air. And in the case of an opera like Carmen, this experience is elevated even further with a score that is exciting, powerful, and fantastic fun. We are immensely lucky to experience it all under Jake Zualski’s innovative and powerful direction and wonderfully insightful guidance.  

This past week was an exceptional learning opportunity that culminated with a full run of the opera in front of a delightfully enthusiastic audience. But the fun is only just getting started: 

Melrose: 3-4th August 

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: 14th-17th August

Huge thanks to: 

The Ardentinny Outdoor Centre team. As a tragically picky eater I could not have been happier or better fed with (no joke) some of the best food I’ve had in a very long time. With Ardentinny’s isolation from the rest of the world and the nearest supermarket being who knows where, this was an incredibly important detail!  

The Aria Alba music team:

Director: Jake Zualski

Conductor: Suzanne Godet 

Accompanist: Max McWhirter 

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