lyric dialogues of mignon

A workshop exploring creative intersections between singers, instrumentalists, actors, and directors in live performance.

DATE: 8 JULY 2013, 9.30-18.00
VENUE: West Parry Room, Royal College of Music, London

The 4th Annual Meeting of the SongArt Performance Research Group took the form of a workshop for invited performers and guests on the theme: “The Lyric Dialogues of Mignon”

Convenors: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music); Professor Paul Barker (Central School of Speech and Drama); Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)


The precocious but fragile adolescent singer and acrobat Mignon is written to be a uniquely creative creature – one whose spontaneous and insightful singing appears to ‘voice’, or to bring creative insight and meaning to, the unfinished musical fragments of the struggling composer Harper in the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Cast by Goethe as ‘poet-(composer)-performer’, Mignon’s singing profoundly alters those who hear it, offering a powerful model for viewing the ‘lyric’, or live creative core of performance, through the lens of the creative individual in action. In Mignon, Goethe proposes two intriguing ‘truths’ about performance: 1. that musical and dramatic meaning is dependent on expert live performance; and 2. that the creative contribution of individuals is necessarily incomplete: whether musician, poet, actor, director, or composer, one’s contribution is only ‘completed’, or made meaningful, in collaboration with others in the form of joint creative action.

Taking the character of Mignon as a starting point, our meeting will explore the creative potential of collaborative groupings in performance, both conventional (i.e. singer and pianist, director and actor, poet and composer) and provocative (i.e. instrumentalist and poet, director and pianist, jazz singer and classical singer). In a workshop that will combine short paper presentations with a series of experimental creative performance sessions featuring mixed groups of collaborators, we aim to investigate the nature of creative collaboration, the extent to which training and professional activity may delimit creative responses, and how far atypical collaborative pairings may provoke a spontaneous extension of both creative vocabulary and interpretive responses through live experimental performance.

The character of Mignon will be present throughout the workshop as a model of the ideal performer as primary creative partner. But she will also lead us to consider the role of performance itself as the ultimate creative partner – a space within which all partnerships may access and explore their lyric potential.


09.30Welcome: Professors Amanda Glauert and Paul Barker
10.00Maria Setiardi, Norbert Meyn, Amanda Glauert:
Beethoven "An die ferne Geliebte"
10.50Paul Barker, Alban Coombs, Kathryn Whitney:
Schubert and Wolf settings of "Kennst du das Land?"
12.10Alban Coombs and Paul Barker:
Rzewski's De Profundis (Oscar Wilde)
14.00Rhoda Dell with Geoff Colman and Paul Barker
You Don’t Know This Man (Words & Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown)
Don’t Rain on My Parade (Bob Merrill & Julie Styne)
14.50Louise Gibbs with Sam Leak, jazz piano
Gluttony and Envy from Seven Deadly Sings (words and music by Louise Gibbs)
Louise Gibbs and Alban Coombs, piano
'The Fault' from The Ballad of My Nipple, words and music by Paul Barker.
16.00Round Table Discussion