English Baroque with Circa: Soprano Jane Sheldon

Jane Sheldon

The Fame Reporter interviewed American-Australian Soprano performer, Jane Sheldon, she is about to star in Circa and Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s latest collaboration – English Baroque performing at QPAC on 21 May.

Jane Sheldon specialises in the creation and performance of exploratory chamber music.

Jane is internationally known for both her work in classical music and the performance and creation of exploratory chamber music and opera. She was soloist for the ABC Classics recording of Ross Edwards’ Dawn Mantras (written to celebrate the new millennium) and also a cult following in the UK after her recording of Elena Kats-Chernin’s Eliza’s Aria (from the ballet Wild Swans) was featured in THE JOURNEY series of animated ads for Lloyd’s TSB.

Jane recently moved back to Australia after a decade in the US. Her CV includes performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Camerata, and her upcoming projects include the world premiere of Elliott Gyger’s opera based on Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda with Sydney Chamber Opera, and the premiere of her own poem for a dried up river. Jane is the director of Symbioses, an Australian chamber music series focused on new duos and trios, and is the co-director of the Resonant Bodies Festival’s activities in Australia, with Jessica Aszodi.

In English Baroque, Jane will be performing music by Purcell, Dowland and Handel, as well as traditional tunes including Scarborough Fair and The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby.

We talked to Jane about her career so far, her experience working with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, what we can expect from this new show and more.

See our insightful look below!

English Baroque with Circa

Welcome to The Fame Reporter Jane, How did you begin performing and what is your favourite thing about chamber music and opera in particular?

I began performing as a child chorister with the Sydney Children’s Choir and Gondwana Voices, which provided a very rigorous training in performing challenging, newly composed music.

My favourite thing about chamber music is its scale. When I don’t have to think about creating a big sound to overcome a symphony orchestra, I can do very detailed, nuanced things vocally and interact with individual instruments in a very connected way.

Another consequence of its scale is the way the audience relates to the bodies onstage. With chamber music you get to witness up close the intricate, wordless communication that goes on among the musicians.

You can see everyone breathing together and thinking together… it’s a very exciting way to experience music.

Opera is special to me for its ability to portray and report on human experience in a way that’s extremely abstracted. The way we experience time and space in opera is very strange compared to everyday life and compared to many other modes of storytelling; I think this strangeness can activate memory in a unique and powerful way.

What does Circa and Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s latest collaboration, English Baroque entail and what makes the show unique?

The music takes in the English Baroque from a range of perspectives. There’s sacred music, folk music and operatic music and this informs the tone of the staging. The staging of course is built around the stunning feats of physical strength and grace presented by the CIRCA acrobats.

One of the special things about the show is that the musicians and the acrobats are fairly integrated.

I even get to take a ride on a big circus swing and I think I might be addicted. I’m itching to ask them to put me on more of their apparatus.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts about rehearsing this show?

For me the greatest pleasure of working on this show is to see the acrobats performing. They are such impressive athletes and it’s beautiful to watch them flying expertly through space. I’m deeply moved by the skill of these other artists and the main challenge for me in this performance is not to find myself too carried away by their stunning work, because I’ve got my own work to do!

You have joined forces with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra before as guest soloist in Bach Magnificat, what do you love about collaborating with the incredible company and what is something you have learnt whilst working with them?

The Brandies have a palpable generosity of spirit in their music-making. It’s something you can feel in the rehearsal room and also on stage.

Paul said to me last night, “The whole point of it is joy.” It’s a real pleasure to be working in that environment.

As for what I’ve learnt from them, I first worked with the orchestra when I was a teenager and I learnt a lot at that time about the stylistic conventions of performing Baroque music from the players.

What is your favourite moment in the show?

That’s a tough question! I love the feats of strength when a single acrobat is supporting multiple colleagues as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. Ela’s rope solo is beautiful too. One of the things I really find moving recurs throughout the show: the moments that display the level of trust required of an ensemble of acrobats.

Tell us a little bit about Symbioses and what is your favourite thing about being Director of the music series?

I created Symbioses because there’s a huge amount of really wonderful new compositions for duos and trios of instruments and voices, and lots of wonderful instrumentalists I want to perform with. These duos and trios are rarely programmed, so one way to ensure I got to do this repertoire was to program them myself. My favourite thing is actually getting to sing this rep!

Congratulations on all of your International success and performing all around the world, what is one of your proudest achievements?

Thank you! I’ve performed in some pretty amazing places with some wonderful ensembles, but I guess my proudest achievement is the very strong relationships I’ve built with my collaborators – singers, conductors, composers, stage directors, and designers – from which a body of work continues to grow, one that’s recognisably my own.

What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?

I’m inviting 4: Cathy Berberian, Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould and Barbara Hannigan. Gould is known for his somewhat anti-social eccentricities but apparently he used to call friends in the middle of the night and say in a warm, enthusiastic voice, “It’s Glenn Gould and I feel like talking!” How very attractive!

Can you reveal any upcoming projects that you are excited for?

I’m very excited about performing my composition ‘Poem for a dried up river‘ at the Resonant Bodies Festival in New York in September.

What do you hope audiences take away from English Baroque with Circa’?

I hope they’re as thrilled as I am by the feats of the CIRCA artists.

Fame Reporter Word Play

Spirit Animal?
Honestly, probably a cat.

Bucket list?
Becoming seriously good at Argentine tango.

Go-to Karaoke song?
I do a pretty respectable Ice, Ice, Baby by Vanilla Ice.

Any secret talents?
his isn’t really secret, but my dance floor game is solid.

Dressing Room necessity?

Place you want to travel to?
Buenos Aires

Future dream?
Composing more pieces myself.

Netflix Binge?
The OA

Finally, favourite thing about singing/performing?
The intense onstage connection it requires me to have with my colleagues.

Thank-you Jane for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for the run of English Baroque with Circa!

Get your tickets to the beautiful and daring Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s latest collaboration English Baroque with Circa performing in the Concert Hall at QPAC on 21 May.

Book your seats at QPAC here

Interviewed by Founder of The Fame Reporter, Ellen Goddard.

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Images – Supplied