THIS is a rare opportunity to focus on a Classical artist…
and a step into foreign territory. I have reviewed Classical artists before and always find something new – every time I come across an artist from this genre. Today, I get to talk to Christina Johnston and her album, Blessing. It is released on 22nd September (through Tadlow Classics) and is a stunning work. Johnston discusses the songs included and what one can expect from the record.
I ask about Johnston’s influences and how she got into Classical music – and whether it is hard maintaining a staggering, wide-ranging coloratura soprano voice. She has a range of tour dates throughout September and October (one can see here) and will bring her incredible music to new crowds.
Christina Johnston talks about her new video, The Nightingale, Alabiev, and why she tackled that song; what it has been like touring continents – and performing to various presidents and esteemed representatives – and what her touring schedule looks like this autumn/winter.
Hi, Christina. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, I am very well, thanks.
My week has been very busy but productive.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I am a Classical singer with a very high range - I can sing over four octaves. I trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London and then went onto debut at the Prague State Opera. Since then, I have sung in many operas, musicals and on film-scores.
I want to bring Classical music to the general public and show how beautiful it can be.
You are a coloratura soprano. Can you explain a bit about that vocal-type and when was it you first realised you had such a beautiful and powerful voice?
The literal translation is ‘to colour the notes’. My voice type is quite rare: I am part of the few coloratura sopranos that are able to sing above high F (F6) with great ease. These coloraturas are sometimes referred to as sopranos acuto sfogato.
I found out I could sing this high when I moved to Prague and was studying at the Opera House there.
Does it take a lot of hard work and training to maintain your vocal prowess? How many hours a day will you sing, typically?
It does take a lot of hard work and training...
Being a singer is like being an athlete. I am a vocal-athlete and, if you don’t train, your muscles get weak. On the other side, if you train too much, you over-work your muscles and wear them out. It is all about balance and understanding your body. I make sure I have rest days but when I train I can sing up to six hours in a day.
However, I try to rest as much as I can not to over-strain the voice.
Who were the artists you grew up listening to and inspired you to go into Classical music?
When I was little, I listened to so many genres but, when listening to Classical music, I loved hearing Maria Callas. I wanted to be as great as she was. I then began listening to Natalie Dessay, Rita Streich; Joan Sutherland and Mado Robin.
I want to know about the album, Blessing. What kind of songs can we expect on the album? Are there originals or will it be interpretations of operatic numbers and classics?
The songs on this album are ones I have performed over the years and fallen in love with - or that have really touched my heart and made me feel something. I chose pieces that I felt would make people feel at-peace and fill them with joy. There are two new songs that are crossover songs - almost film-like.
My producer James Fitzpatrick and I chose these because I wanted there to be a range of styles on the album - to give people a collection and I also fell in love with them the moment I heard them.
What was it like recording the album and will there be any singles/songs released ahead of time?
I had so much fun recording the album. The orchestra was amazing to work with and most I know from the opera. There was a huge sense of comradery and togetherness. We were a team trying to create something beautiful.
There are currently no plans to release a single ahead of the album release but you never know - perhaps next year…
I saw a video of you performing The Nightingale, Alabiev. Where was that filmed and what is about that piece that inspired you to perform it in that setting?
This was a part of my concert in Framlingham Church, Suffolk in June this year.
The song is actually one of my favourites as I can show what my voice can do. It is a tough song but fantastic to perform. I really love performing in churches as they have such wonderful acoustics and I believe there is something magical about the setting of a beautiful church building.
Like Ed Sheeran and Laura Wright; you attended Framlingham College. What is it about the college that produces such great artists? Did you learn a lot from your time there?
The school is a fantastic place and gave us all such encouragement and support. They also help the students by giving them so many opportunities to perform not only in the school but outside - so you can get a lot of experience and develop as an artist.
The most important thing for me was how wonderful the teachers were: so supportive and encouraging and really helped build my confidence as a singer.
I know a lot of Classical artist’s cross genres and tackle Pop/mainstream songs. Is that something you will go into – or do you want to retain a sense of purity in your music?
To be really honest, I love singing any genre - as long as it touches people’s hearts.
I have actually already sung for a Trance artist in the past and I sing for film-scores too. I will, though, keep the genres separate and maintain a sense of purity in each genre I sing.
You have toured Europe, Asia and South America – Presidents and State Official are some your biggest fans. How does that make you feel and what has it been like taking your music to different continents?
It is an honour and humbling feeling to be liked by the general public or Presidents.
My job is to make people happy and to entertain so, when people are pleased after I sing, I feel happy that I have done a good job. It is wonderful when you sing in another country and you get such positive reactions!
I am just so happy that people like what they hear!
Are there any live dates and performances coming up?
I have my tour starting the day after my album, Blessing, is released. I will be doing ten concerts from September 23rd to October 14th - singing in beautiful churches and cathedrals in cities from Norwich down to Chelmsford.
IN THIS PHOTO: NAO
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
Definitely NAO! She is a fantastic singer and writes all her own music!
Classically-wise; I would recommend violinists Vladimir and Anton (I hope I can sing with them one day soon!).
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Michael Bublé – Crazy Love
Because it was the album my husband and I listened to during our first few months together. He was in Prague and I was in London - and we used to listen to it at the same time
Delirious – Deeper
This album means a lot to me because I listened to it a lot after my father died.
Maria Callas – Popular Music from TV, Film and Opera
This album, because it was the first album I got for my twelfth birthday - to do with Classical music - and I loved listening to it! It is the reason I love Classical music and wanted to be a singer like Maria.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Never give up on your dream...
It is such a tough business and sometimes you feel like you are running at a brick wall - but keep working hard, keep getting better at what you do; be patient and never give up.
The door will open at the right time.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Bright City - Maker of the Moon
Follow Christina Johnston