Monday, July 30, 2012

Interview with Brendan-Keefe Au

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So I had a chat with Brendan Keefe-Au to discuss his upcoming recital Stories from the Garden on 17 August 2012. Brendan is always pleasant to talk to, and full of enthusiasm when discussing topics ranging from his upcoming recital to pursuing a full-time singing career. Here's what we discussed:

The Mad Scene: Why a garden-themed recital? How did this idea come about?

Brendan Keefe-Au: well, it presented itself I would say. I started off by looking all over the place for songs that fitted my voice and personality, and soon enough, I realised that I had a lot of songs about flowers, birds, trees, fields and interesting vignettes that happened in the garden. So I thought, why not? It has turned out to be beautiful so far and I'm immensely enjoying the preparation process.

The Mad Scene: are you a nature person?

Brendan-Keefe Au: I can be, but I'd say I'm more of a city person on the whole - I need a bit of hustle and bustle, buildings, bright lights and activity, but I also need my fair share of time walking in forests, nature reserves and parks. The city energises me, but nature refreshes me.

The Mad Scene: Why the decision to go solo this time?

Brendan-Keefe Au: It felt like the right time for it!

The Mad Scene: What do you hope to get out of this recital experience?

Brendan-Keefe Au: Ohh.. I've already gotten a lot out of working with my accompanist Hye-Seon Choi and my teacher Professor Alan Bennett. Because of them, I've discovered a whole lot of new things about my voice and music that I never knew before. On the whole, I hope to stretch myself as a singer and a performer. But I think it's really more about what I could give to the audience than what I could get of the performance experience.

The Mad Scene: What are your favourite pieces from this recital?

Brendan-Keefe Au: Wow there are so many. I like all of them for different reasons, but the one I find the most profound is Mahler's "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. It's a song about a boy who has to leave his lover for the war. He knocks on her door early in the morning to say goodbye and they exchange a sweet farewell. In the song are three voices representing him, the girl and a narrator, and I find the way that the story and dialogue plays out is very moving.

The Mad Scene: second favourite piece?

Brendan-Keefe Au: The other one I love is Schubert's Die Taubenpost which I always have so much fun with. That's about a messenger pigeon. The text is rather cute and funny, and I look forward to performing it.

I also like Chausson's Le Colibri, which is so hopelessly romantic. Oh dear, this is a difficult question. You've almost got me talking about my whole repertoire!

The Mad Scene: Haha, i guess it’s difficult to pick one since you chose all of them, that's like asking a mother to pick her favourite child...

Brendan-Keefe Au: exactly.

The Mad Scene: Anyway, next question: You have accumulated quite an impressive number of performances and masterclasses on your bio. Are you considering doing this full-time?

Brendan-Keefe Au: definitely.

The Mad Scene: any intention to go off to music college?

Brendan-Keefe Au: yes. The plan for now is to finish off my degree at the National University of Singapore and then go to a music college.

The Mad Scene: I see.

Brendan-Keefe Au: Are you going to ask me why not go now?

The Mad Scene: Well I wasn't going to ask, but why not?

Brendan-Keefe Au: hahaa oops. Well in the past few years a lot of people have asked me that question, and for a while I could never give a good answer. But think I can clearly say now that I love everything that I am doing now: singing, studying communications and new media and learning to deal with all the challenges that go along with juggling the two. I would hate to give up either one.

The Mad Scene: Well this isn't an interview about me, but I understand where you are coming from since I studied mass communications too, then worked in an agency for a few years before deciding to switch careers

Brendan-Keefe Au: oh did you! I never knew that, you must tell me more another time.

The Mad Scene: sure, but I feel that having studied another degree and spent time in a 'real job' has given my artistic life a different perspective.

Brendan-Keefe Au: indeed! I wholeheartedly agree with that. It's enhanced the way I think, deal with situations, and live my life.

The Mad Scene: It has also given me some ideas about how to strike a balance between arts and commerce, for example, and what purpose do the arts serve in society.

Brendan-Keefe Au: exactly! And, ahem… how to publicise a concert. Hahaha very practical skills I think.

The Mad Scene: yeah!

Brendan-Keefe Au: the interesting thing is - I think art can only be enhanced by these things. It's one thing to make good music, but you still need to know how to reach out to the people who will appreciate and value the music. Otherwise, what is the purpose of art, really?

The Mad Scene: what sort of artist do you wish to grow into? A sole operatic/classical singer? Classical and musical theatre? Classical-pop crossover?

Brendan-Keefe Au: My dream is to sing opera, oratorio and continue giving recitals in the future. But I don't rule out the option of exploring a little bit of jazz crossover on the side. I respect very much the work of artists like Kiri te Kanawa and Anne Sofie von Otter in crossover and wouldn't mind giving it a go.

The Mad Scene: Besides your own concert, which other shows are you looking forward to attending?

Brendan-Keefe Au: Annie, and of course Manon Lescaut because I've never seen it before.

The Mad Scene: Alright, last two: What CDs/DVDs have you bought lately? Care to recommend any?

Brendan-Keefe Au: I haven't been CD shopping lately. But I can definitely recommend Emma Matthews' CD In Monte Carlo which I love to play in my car. I love her interpretation of Proch's variation. That never fails to perk me up when I'm a little lethargic.

The Mad Scene: Who is this lady? Is she an opera singer?

Brendan-Keefe Au: Yes! She's an amazing coloratura soprano from Australia. I watched her sing Lucia in Sydney some years back and was absolutely bought over. Her voice is really warm and brilliant. She's definitely a singer I would keep an eye on. Her career has been growing quite quickly. Either last year or the year before, she made her debut at Covent Garden.

The Mad Scene: Cool, I'll check out her Youtubes if there are any. So lastly, tell us why we should all attend Stories from the Garden?

Brendan-Keefe Au: Because the evening will be fun and beautiful, with something for everyone to enjoy!

Stories from the Garden is on 17 August 2012. Check out the Events Page for tickets.

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