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Buying music is a little like buying a TV; for installing a big black screen in our pride of place, we usually chose a brand we recognise - Panasonic, Sony or Samsung. If you went into your local UK shop ‘Dixons Whoever Put Their Phone Into A Car Warehouse’ or USA store ‘Best Buy Except That It's Cheaper On The Net’, you would always gravitate towards Asian electronic company names. I have never met a person who bought a British branded TV, because although they exist, they are not famous or well-known. The same phenomenon could be said for classical composers; hence my post on 3 Incredible Composers You’ve Never Heard Of.

We all know our Beethoven to Beatles (the band, not the insect) and Mozart to Madonna (the singer, not the depiction of the little baby Jesus's Mother); but just like the TV market, we are scared to try an unknown brand, or in this case composer. We live in a world of celebrity; so if the composer is not well-known, then they're not a ‘celebrity’ and often overlooked or dismissed.

I thought it was time to change that, so here are three incredible composers you’ve never heard of - until now:

  1. Leopold Godowsky

You’ve heard of Chopin - the composer who wrote not a single opera, no symphonies, nothing for a choir; just piano music, a couple of concertos, a few songs and the odd chamber piece. One of his most successful compositions were a set of Études, also known as studies. It’s these Études that Leopold Godowsky decided to play around with, and turned Chopin’s original twenty-four into over fifty pieces.

The complete Studies on the Chopin Études have been recorded by the Canadian ‘super-virtuoso’ Marc-André Hamelin. Zoom along to 7mins 47secs, close your eyes, and try to believe it’s just the left hand playing…

Hamelin plays Chopin/Godowsky - Etudes (Selections) - YouTube

And to hear clearly how Godowsky used Chopin's music, listen to original here:

Vladimir Ashkenazy: Chopin - Etude Op. 10, No. 1 - YouTube

and now listen to Godowsky’s version:

Chopin-Godowsky: Etude No.1 (Op.10 No.1) - YouTube
Leopold Godowsky 1870 1937 Chopin Nocturnes - YouTube

Godowsky (who died in 1938) was also an incredible pianist, but sadly left only a handful of recordings to remind us of his genius. Have a listen to these Chopin Nocturnes:

Back in 1933, Albert Einstein, aside from discovering the theory that relatives can be tricky, was a keen amateur violinist. He was eager to meet Godowsky to play some duos, and the story goes that Einstein kept making the same mistake, which made the gentlemanly Godowsky a little twitchy, eventually shouting to the great physicist ‘What’s the matter with you - can’t you count?!’ Any man who stands up to Einstein deserves to be heard!

2. Étienne Nicolas Méhul

Da Da Da Daaaaa!! Name the symphony?

Yes, yes, it’s Beethoven’s Fifth, but how many of you said, ‘oh, that sounds like the First Symphony by Étienne Nicolas Méhul’? Probably not a lot. Remarkably, this now unknown composer was hotter than a George Foreman grill in Europe during his lifetime. He was even writing his piece at the same time as Beethoven in precisely the same year - 1808.

Let’s just remind ourselves of a bit of Beethoven’s Fifth (start at 2mins 57secs):

Beethoven "Symphony No 5" Karajan - YouTube

And now listen to the end of Méhul’s First (start around 24mins 50secs):

Mehul - Symphony No 1 In G Minor - YouTube

So which one ‘creatively borrowed’ from the other? Well, undoubtedly both composers knew each others work, but it’s probably more a case of shared influences: Beethoven was taught by Haydn, who Méhul revered, and the technique of obsessively developing a motif like Da Da Da Daaaaaa! has its roots in Haydn. Here’s an example from a Haydn’s B Minor Piano Sonata, played here by my dearest friend from my Royal College of Music days, Alisdair Kitchen (listen from 7mins 7secs):

Haydn: Sonata in B minor, Hob.XVI:32 - YouTube
 
Ouverture: La Chasse du Jeune Henri - Etienne Méhul - YouTube

No-one is going to say that Méhul trumps Beethoven, but the French chap is worth a listen. If you’re interested in more Méhul, check out his overture to La chasse du jeune Henri, which has some amusing horn-y bits - the french horns are used to sound like yelping hunting dogs. Mrs E as a horn player approves, so it must be OK:

3. Leo Ornstein

The latest money-making industry, apart from legalising Cannabis, is the art of longevity. People predict this will be the worlds most significant sector in one-hundred years. Far too late for me and thee, but Leo Ornstein seemed to do well without this new technology. To be composing ground-breaking music at the age of 109 is more jaw-dropping than the idea of me running a marathon.

Probably born in 1893 (the exact date is unknown), Ornstein quickly developed a reputation as a child prodigy in his native Russia. His family fled to America in 1907, where he became a renowned pianist and as a composer was spoken of in the same breath as Schoenberg and Stravinsky, frequently shocking audiences with daring, avant-garde pieces with titles like Suicide in an Airplane (inspired by a newspaper article):

Ornstein - Suicide in an airplane - YouTube

You can, quite terrifyingly, hear the plane rumble in the distance, fly deafeningly overhead, and disappear back over the horizon.

You might take this as a metaphor for Ornstein’s own career. Around 1925, he withdrew almost entirely from the scene, preferring to compose and teach in virtual isolation; he was the John Deacon of the classical world. His son, Severo (himself a fascinating man, and an early pioneer in developing the Internet!) describes the reasons for his father’s abrupt falling-off the map:

“Along with more radical, atonal works he also composed relatively conservative music, and this confounded his audiences. Having learned to accept him as something of a musical freak, people found such works a retreat. When some of his more lyrical compositions produced accusations of "backsliding," he concluded that listeners were more interested in novelty and sensation than in what he considered musical substance. He began to feel increasingly remote from the direction modern music was taking, in particular, the search for novelty for its own sake. Ironically, having been irrevocably labelled as a radical, he was now unwilling to bend to the demands of his own image. Instead, he insisted on writing in whatever style seemed demanded by the music itself.”

When he wrote Suicide in an Airplane, aircraft were pretty much made of paper and held together with spit. But Ornstein was still composing incredible, unique works in the Concorde age. His Eighth (and final) Piano Sonata from 1990 is the perfect summation of what he stood for musically; the fierce, atonal spirit sitting next to lush Rachmaninoff-like harmonies. This may be a little like marmite, but love it or hate it, it shouldn’t be forgotten…

You can read more about Leo Ornstein on the dedicated website his son maintains PlaylistMusic recommendations fROM OUR THREE UNKNOWN COMPOSERS

Great Pianists of the 20th Century - Leopold Godowsky - forgive the quality of the recording (made nearly a 100 years ago!), this is still amazing playing.

Godowsky: Complete Chopin Studies - 53 études for piano/Marc-André Hamelin, piano.

Godowsky - Piano Music, Volume 1 - a good recording of other Godowsky compositions.

Mehul: Symphony 1-4, Overtures La Chasse, Le Tresor - a great recording of some great symphonies.

Méhul: Uthal - a fascinating and important part in the history of opera.

Leo Ornstein: Complete Violin Sonatas, Hebriac Fantasy, Three Flute Pieces - this 2CD set contains the complete music for violin and piano and for flute and piano.

Ornstein: Piano Music - the incomparable Marc-André Hamelin is in the driving seat for this amazing recording, which is just as well since the multi-stave scores of some of these turbulent works are almost black with notes.

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THE Backstage with Robert Emery PODCAST
“The emerging picture is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything”
— neurologist Daniel Levitin

In this special episode of the 'Backstage with Robert Emery' podcast, RDCE discusses the reason learning a musical instrument is so hard, and how to overcome these issues.

Covering the skillsets needed to play an instrument, techniques to keep playing, the differences between adult and child learning and the importance of setting goals. This episode is designed to be short and informative for parents of children who play, or indeed an adult who is learning.

Listen Now



Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherOvercast, or on your favourite podcast platform. 

SHOW NOTES
  • 10,000 hours [00.52]

  • Adult vs Child learning [02.20]

  • Skills [06:27]

  • Teacher [08:10]

  • Commitment [09.34]

  • Practice regime [11.28]

  • Understand how we learn [14:54]

  • Goals [17.12]

Selected links from the episode

thebackstageblog.com

The 12 Week Year

Outliers: The Story of Success

Lat_56 

Ep.#7 Why is learning a musical instrument so hard - and how to solve it - YouTube

This episode is bought to you with the help of Lat56. Lat56 are a sharp, smart and efficient baggage company that help you take off relaxed, and arrive ready to take on the world. In 2011 I completed 122 flights, and without their NASA-spec materials making such a solid travel system, the hours spent with my luggage being thrown from one plane to another would have caused me a big headache.

With their bold and strong aesthetics, they make no compromises to achieve the balance between performance and style. With a lifetime guarantee, you'll be safe in the knowledge that their products will stand the test of time. When I bought my first travel bag from them, they only sold their flagship garment bag; an ingenious suit carrier that's stylish, compact and crucially for me going from gig to gig, didn't crease the suits. Since then, they have branched out to carry-on luggage, backpacks, duffel bags, laptop bags and even washbags!

I'd only mention the company if I used and approved of them, and I do both. And you know what, the thing I love about them the most, is that after seven years of wear and tear, my first bag still looks as new as the backpack I bought six months ago. So if you're a busy traveller and want something that is stylish and secure, click here to grab yourself something special.

Books that feature INFORMATION ABOUT MUSIC EDUCATION

Music Lessons: The Collège de France Lectures - Boulez book publishing his extraordinary Collège de France lectures

THE Music Lesson - From Grammy-winning musical icon and legendary bassist Victor L. Wooten comes The Music Lesson, the story of a struggling young musician who wanted music to be his life, and who wanted his life to be great.

How to Play the Piano despite Years of Lessons: What Music is and How to Make it at Home - an adults guide to learning music

I Wish I Didn't Quit: Music Lessons - A great little book helping you to inspire your child with tips from world-class musicians

Help Your Kids With Music: A unique step-by-step visual guide - Are your children struggling with music theory? This book by Carol Vorderman might be just what the need. Newly released in 2019.

A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra (Revised): Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! - an interactive, bestselling introduction to the world of classical music.

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If you've read any of my other hotel reviews, you'll think I'm a well-travelled snob; and you'd be right. When I'm working abroad, I have over generous promoters and producers who pay for me to stay in the worlds best digs - but when I'm working in London, they are not so generous. So if I don't fancy my two-hour commute home, I spend my pocket money and search for the best cheap hotels in London, where I swap Lanesborough's £26,000-a-night new Royal Suite for something which I can afford to do regularly without worrying out it. This is a simple list of hotels in London I have frequented below £150 a night.

St Giles Hotel

The St Giles hotel is located in London's West End near the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. If you are planning to stay on a hot evening, don't. The rooms (unless you upgrade, in which case just find a better hotel) have no air-con, some are internal facing with no windows to open, and the radiators seem to pump out heat regardless of the time of year. Rooms are clean and functional. Be aware though, for some of the bathrooms you need to be Harry Houdini to get in and out due to their odd shape. There is a bar downstairs equivalent to Asda; does the job but perhaps not the best experience in the world. You'll be hard pressed to find a cheaper hotel with your own bathroom in such an excellent location. It is usually possible to pick up a room for under £90, but only do so if you're immune to the equator simulation and if cost is the main priority.



Booking.com Strand Palace

The Strand Palace is a hotel of yesteryear. It opened in 1909, and the lobby is still fairly nice, as are the drinking facilities downstairs. But as the old saying goes; don't judge a hotel room by its lobby. The rooms feel like they haven't been touched since 1909; although their website now proudly proclaims they have had a refurbishment - which means if you do choose to stay in one of the 785 rooms, make sure you are guaranteed one which has been refurbished or find another hotel. They seem to be moving away from the 'budget' category, offering new services like Afternoon Tea and a Gin Palace. But please, if you are to visit London for an Afternoon Tea, go for a real experience with one of the great options on offer, like the Palm Court at The Langham or one of my favourites, the Hotel Café Royal on Regent Street. Finally, due to its phenomenal location, if you can get a refurbished room under £140, this would be my top tip out of all the hotels on this list. If they increase the prices to pay for the refurbishment and the hotel is no longer below my £150 a night target, I wouldn’t bother.



Booking.com Grange Lancaster

The Grange Lancaster hotel is situated in Holborn and is part of the Grange group. It calls itself a 3-star hotel with "36 quiet guest bedrooms with modern in-room conveniences and both en-suite and semi en-suite bathroom facilities." This translates to 36 bedrooms with modern things like, wait for it, a kettle and a TV; and it's down to Mr Luck if you get a bathroom in your room or not. Note how they say the 'conveniences' are modern - this is a smart way of saying the actual rooms are about as modern as Buckingham Palace, without the luxury. With no air-con, and appalling breakfast, I would only advise a stay here if you can grab a bargain of under £75, turning up late at night intoxicated, and leave at 7 am. This is by far the best way to experience this hotel.



Booking.com Grange Beauchamp

Read the review of the Grange Lancaster. Now imagine the Lancaster is Tesco Basics Builders Tea, this makes the Grange Beauchamp the standard Tesco Builders Tea. Still not the best in the world, but a little better. Just add a touch a acceptability to the Lancaster and ta-da; you have the Beauchamp. And please remember, it's pronounced 'Beecham'...



Booking.com The Rathbone

The Rathbone Hotel in London's Fitzrovia is a boutique hotel just off Charlotte Street. It's in a quiet location, has a very cute lobby, dated but very well kept rooms, and excellent staff. It's not substantially different from the Beauchamp, with the exception that this place is looked after by caring, intelligent and well-trained staff. It's definitely not luxury, but the family who owns this property clearly want their clients to have a value-for-money experience without feeling dirty after you've had your shower. I would recommend this hotel if you can get a room for under £110.



Booking.com The Bedford Hotel

The Bedford Hotel near Russell Square is a horrible 1960's monstrosity, with a relatively modern, clean and up to date interior. Think Ikea type furniture instead of 'antique' (translated as old, smelly and not well kept) - so the design is as dull as it gets, but for a cheap date, that doesn't matter so much. The bar is adequate, as is the breakfast - although if I were you, go to one of the local cafes for breakfast. The hotel is excellent value for money, but don't spend any more than £120 per night.



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The Backstage with Robert Emery Podcast
“There are things I can easily worry about. The good thing is, I can go on stage and be happy.”
— Willemijn Verkaik

Robert Emery talks to Willemijn Verkaik, the singer and actress best known for her stage role in Wicked and singing the voice of Elsa for the German and Dutch versions of Disney's Frozen. Willemijn talks about how she keeps on top form, her experience of playing Elphaba on Broadway, the West-End, in Germany and in the Netherlands, and how her stage confidence doesn't always translate to real life.

A true leading-lady, Willemijn is the only person in the world to have performed Wicked in 4 countries over the space of 7 years and over 2000 performances. But there is more to her CV than turning green, and this conversation takes us through some of her hidden stories; what she likes to do away from the stage, and her predictions of the status of musical theatre in twenty years.

Listen Now



Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherOvercast, YouTube or on your favourite podcast platform. 

SHOW NOTES
  • Bat out of Hell [00.58]

  • Being a 12 year old [02:30]

  • Conservatory Rotterdam [07:57]

  • Stamina [14.30]

  • Self belief [19.22]

  • Willemijn’s travelling and CV [29.55]

  • We Will Rock You [35.55]

  • Auditioning for Wicked [37:18]

  • Playing Elphaba [40:40]

  • Bat out of Hell Alex Melcher [49:25]

  • Leaving Wicked with an injury [50:30]

  • The status of musical theatre in 20 years [54:28]

  • What Willemijn would still like to achieve [59:48]

Selected links from the episode

thebackstageblog.com

Willemijn Verkaik Wiki

Willemijn Verkaik Website

Willemijn Verkaik Insta

Willemijn Verkaik Twitter

Bat out of Hell

Wicked

We Will Rock You

Conservatory Rotterdam

Lat_56 

Books, Music and Videos that feature Willemijn Verkaik

Let It Go (From "Frozen" / Multi Language Medley) - a nice medley that features Willemijn amongst others

Lass jetzt los - the German version of ‘Let it go’ sung by Willemijn

Wicked - a 15th Anniversary Special Edition of this amazing show (recorded with the original Broadway cast)

Wicked Piano/Vocal book - if you want to learn to play some of this score, this is the perfect book to start

Jim Steinman's Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical - although not a recording of the German production that Willemijn was in, this is the original London cast recording, conducted by me

Frozen - this is the Dutch recording featuring Willemijn

#6. Behind the scenes with Willemijn Verkaik: It’s about believing in yourself - YouTube

This episode is bought to you with the help of Lat56. Lat56 are a sharp, smart and efficient baggage company that help you take off relaxed, and arrive ready to take on the world. In 2011 I completed 122 flights, and without their NASA-spec materials making such a solid travel system, the hours spent with my luggage being thrown from one plane to another would have caused me a big headache.

With their bold and strong aesthetics, they make no compromises to achieve the balance between performance and style. With a lifetime guarantee, you'll be safe in the knowledge that their products will stand the test of time. When I bought my first travel bag from them, they only sold their flagship garment bag; an ingenious suit carrier that's stylish, compact and crucially for me going from gig to gig, didn't crease the suits. Since then, they have branched out to carry-on luggage, backpacks, duffel bags, laptop bags and even washbags!

I'd only mention the company if I used and approved of them, and I do both. And you know what, the thing I love about them the most, is that after seven years of wear and tear, my first bag still looks as new as the backpack I bought six months ago. So if you're a busy traveller and want something that is stylish and secure, click here to grab yourself something special.

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Easter has inspired some of the greatest works in classical music. First of all let’s get the whole religion thing out of the way; YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE RELIGIOUS TO ENJOY THIS MUSIC! Right. Now I’ve said that, in my humble option, here are five incredible Easter pieces you need to listen to before the boulder is moved for the 1986th time…

 
  1. Lotti: Crucifixus
Crucifixus (Lotti) - King's College, Cambridge - YouTube

The Crucifixus is Lotti’s best known work, and comes from the Credo in F for choir and orchestra. The Concise Oxford Dictionary summaries his life rather neatly: For a time he was organist of St. Mark’s, Venice; composed important church music, over 20 operas, etc So we now have the same knowledge about Lotti, I can tell you this piece was written in Venice between 1717 and 1719.

Robert’s Recommendation: I’d recommend a glass of red, a dark room, and savour the atmosphere whilst your better half is preparing your favourite three course meal in the kitchen.

 2. Allegri: miserere
Allegri's Miserere Mei - YouTube

A devout catholic, having been trained as a priest, and worked with the Vatican’s Papal Choir right up until his death, Allegri composed this piece for two separate choirs at Rome’s Sistine Chapel: one of four voices, and the other of five. Written in the 1630s and originally only sung in the Chapel, it wasn’t until 100 years or so later that transcriptions of the Miserere were made and the work spread from Rome across the world.

Robert’s Recommendation: I prescribe moving from the dark atmosphere of the Lotti to enjoying Allegri’s wonder during the starter that your other half should now have put on the table!

 3. Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Festival Overture
Rimsky-Korsakov Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 Gergiev - YouTube

Some may say a strange choice. I was going to put Mahler Symphony 2 in this spot; however, I just can’t sit and concentrate to a piece of music for 90 minutes without getting a little bored! I’m sure I’ll get criticism for saying that, but the famous Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov keeps me listening intently (all the way through), so made it to number three instead. The piece was rather oddly premiered not at Easter, but in December of 1888; and was dedicated to the memories of Mussorgsky and Borodin. An avowed atheist, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that he wanted to capture 'the transition from the solemnity and mystery of the evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious celebrations of Easter Sunday morning’. This proves that you don’t need to be religious to enjoy and appreciate this wonderful music.

Robert’s Recommendation: This perfectly accompanies your main course…

 4. Stainer: God so loved the world (Crucifixion)
St Pauls Cathedral Choir: God So Loved The World John Stainer - YouTube

This is where I should possibly put the most famous piece of all Easter works, The Messiah by good old George Handel. The only issue I have is that I can’t stand the piece. I’m all Hallelujah’ed out. Therefore one naturally moves over to another composer writing in London 150 years later; John Stainer and his seminal Easter work, the Crucifixion. The issue though, is that as a complete work, I don’t particularly rate it. I find Stainer’s writing a little bit like sponge cake; perfectly nice, but would be so much more delicious with some chocolate icing and a dab of cream. I therefore can’t put the whole of the Crucifixion onto the number four spot - but I can put ‘God So Loved The World’. I used to play the church organ, and with that came conducting the church choir. From the first performance in Marylebone Church in 1887, I’m sure conductors around the world have enjoyed this little gem as much as I have.

Robert’s Recommendation: Not right for dessert, so take a break from eating, close your eyes, and enjoy.

 5. Trad: Were You There?
King's College Cambridge 2014 Easter #20 Were you there arr James Whitbourn - YouTube

Can you say this is a masterpiece like the Pergolesi Stabat Mater, or the Bach Easter Oratorio? I’m not so sure. But music is there to move you, create emotions, make you feel something - and this arrangement by James Whitbourn does that. I remember singing this in primary school and the haunting melody has stayed with me ever since; so it goes into the number five slot. Sadly no-one knows who composed it, but we do know it was an American spiritual that was first published in 1899 and think it likely by an enslaved African-American. Simple music, but effective.

Robert’s Recommendation: Again, it doesn’t feel right to chow-down on your sticky toffee pudding whilst they sing ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’, so perhaps just continue the break of food and finish of your glass of red!

 Bonus: Brackett & Carter: Lord of the Dance

I’m aware this is called ‘5 incredible Easter pieces you need to listen to’, but as you haven’t eaten dessert yet, I feel it’s only right to give you a bonus sixth piece so you can enjoy the best bit of a three-course meal. Rather selfishly, it’s one of my arrangements; Lord of the Dance.

The shaker tune ‘Simple Gifts’ was written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett, with the famous hymn set to words by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1963. I liked this piece so much, I thought I’d arrange it for a capella choir back in 2016. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, this is sung by Arts Voices - with a solo by Mrs E non the less!

Lord of the Dance: Arr. Robert Emery - YouTube
PlaylistDVD & Music recommendations for Easter

Easter from King's (The Choir of Kings College Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury) - 'Easter from King s' is the first DVD release of the regular BBC broadcast, which forms a cornerstone of the BBC s Easter programming. This service was first broadcast at Easter 2014 from the College s awe-inspiring Chapel.

The Story Of King's College Choir - Not specifically Easter related; but if you haven’t guessed by all the videos above, King’s College Choir are one of the best, if not the best choir in the world for choral music. This DVD shows their story.

Easter-Hymns Carols & Anthems - Fascinating, unusual, and beautiful repertoire, all beautifully presented and beautifully sung!

Handel: Messiah - If you like this piece (which if you read above you’ll know I don’t) then this is one of the best recordings ever made, plus it’s captured on DVD.

We're Going on an Egg Hunt - If you have a little one in your family, this is a wonderful book (well, so says the three-year-old Master T).

Mr Impossible and the Easter Egg Hunt - Again, if you have a bundle of toddler-trouble in your life, this is a good old classic

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THE Backstage with Robert Emery PODCAST

Robert Emery: What does a Musical Director actually do?

“During a preview, I had the assistant director run up to me whilst I was conducting and said “you do know we cancelled the next piece for tonight?” And I thought, you’ve got to be joking...”
— Robert Emery

In this special episode of the ‘Backstage with Robert Emery’ podcast, RDCE takes you through what a Musical Director actually does; and it involves a lot more than arm waving...

Discussing everything from conducting technique through to some scary real life stories in theatre; he covers it all with the odd funny story along the way.

Listen Now



Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherOvercast, or on your favourite podcast platform. 

SHOW NOTES
  • Rehearsal Process [01.06]

  • Musicians [02.51]

  • Technical Rehearsals [05:00]

  • Previews [07:10]

  • Conductor [10:05]

  • Stamina [11.07]

  • Maintenance [13:45]

  • The Headmaster [14:58]

  • Resident Team [18:17]

  • Producers [18:44]

  • The Crew [20:20]

  • Musicians [22:19]

  • Deputy Musicians [23:17]

  • The Sound Department [26:50]

  • Technical Aspects [29:30]

  • Keyboards [30:57]

  • Monitoring Systems [31:40]

  • Podium [32:50]

  • Click [34:15]

  • Strange Stories [35.57]

  • Advice [38:11]

Selected links from the episode

thebackstageblog.com

Bat out of Hell

London Coliseum

Dominion Theatre

Apple Mainstage

Lat_56 

This episode is bought to you with the help of Lat56. Lat56 are a sharp, smart and efficient baggage company that help you take off relaxed, and arrive ready to take on the world. In 2011 I completed 122 flights, and without their NASA-spec materials making such a solid travel system, the hours spent with my luggage being thrown from one plane to another would have caused me a big headache.

With their bold and strong aesthetics, they make no compromises to achieve the balance between performance and style. With a lifetime guarantee, you'll be safe in the knowledge that their products will stand the test of time. When I bought my first travel bag from them, they only sold their flagship garment bag; an ingenious suit carrier that's stylish, compact and crucially for me going from gig to gig, didn't crease the suits. Since then, they have branched out to carry-on luggage, backpacks, duffel bags, laptop bags and even washbags!

I'd only mention the company if I used and approved of them, and I do both. And you know what, the thing I love about them the most, is that after seven years of wear and tear, my first bag still looks as new as the backpack I bought six months ago. So if you're a busy traveller and want something that is stylish and secure, click here to grab yourself something special.

Books, Music and Videos that feature Robert Emery

The Rhythm of Life - Joanna Forest, Arts Symphonic, Arts Voices & Robert Emery

Stars Are Rising - Joanna Forest, Arts Symphonic, Arts Voices & Robert Emery

4Colors - Seven, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

The Art Is King - Seven, City of Prague Symphony Orchestra & Robert Emery

Bat out of Hell (Original Cast Recording) - Cast and band of Bat out of Hell Manchester 2017 & Robert Emery

Singing My Dreams - Carly Paoli, José Carreras & Robert Emery

That Is His Story - Olga Thomas, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Royal Platinum Love Song - Olga Thomas, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Imagine - Angie Ott, City of Prague Symphony Orchestra & Robert Emery

Return of the Voice - Russell Watson, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Anthems - Russell Watson, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Only One Man - Russell Watson, Claude-Michel Schönberg & Robert Emery

Robert Emery: Live In Concert - Robert Emery

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I am often asked what it's like to be a musician, and with respect, that's almost as broad as asking what it's like to be a human. I'm pretty confident that a day in the life of Robert Emery will be radically different from Puff Diddly, or Simon Cattle; yet we are all musicians, allegedly. So if the making of music is the only thing that connects us, what is it like to be this musician?

 

Right now, frustrating. We are taught not to wear our heart on our sleeves but to restrain. We are shown the stiff upper lip, and as someone in the media, we are coerced to give off the image that all is perfect in the world. If you know me, you'll know I like going against the grain, so this article should be no different.

I'm currently in a phase of what I call pre-planning; effectively deciding upon ideas I'd like to push forward to fruition, and then start the real planning on those ideas. And believe me when I say that the only thing more frustrating than pre-planning is parliament trying to deal with the Brexshit situation.

 

I've had two years of working on Bat out of Hell, producing albums and writing a musical, and in that time I was so busy I didn't have the common sense to think ahead. So the clock strikes, the new year came in, and all the projects I have been working on are complete. A golden opportunity appeared, and I had time and freedom to push my own projects.

I'm an ideas man. I generate ideas every second of every day. This is my mindmap of ideas, I call it ‘The Idea Factory’, and it’s for my work in TV, radio, podcasts, musicals, business opportunities, compositions, education work, charity work, albums, and concerts. And these are the things that never, ever get started when I'm paid to do another job; making a living from someone else's financial risk always takes precedence.

So why frustration?

Well, have you ever been in twenty meetings knowing only one may lead somewhere?

Have you ever been told 'we love this idea and will absolutely be in touch', only to never receive that call?

Are you your own boss, and therefore have to motivate yourself every morning to get your lazy bottom out of bed, to your desk and start the battle of making those phone calls you've been dreading?

I'm sure you have all experienced some of these elements at one time, so I'm not anything special here. It doesn't make it any easier though.

Some musicians practice for four hours a day. Mrs E would like to do that if she had the luxury. I, however, find practising one of the most boring things known to man; that's one of the reasons I could never be a concert pianist. I'm a very impatient person, and I don't want to practice doing, I want to DO. So this musician doesn't practice unless necessary.

When on the road, I can easily spend 24-30 hours a week travelling. This is the perfect time to catch up on the gift that keeps giving - emails. Sarcasm aside, I have never had life without email, but I can't help thinking without these dreaded things we would have more time to work.

And when I have to go out to work, the day of a gig falls typically into five sections:

A typical gig day

How the schedule looks

Travelling to location - about as exciting as learning geometry in school

Rehearsal - usually a three-hour session in the afternoon. This is where the fun starts, and as long as the leading artist or guests are happy and not stressed, things usually go well.

The Inbetweeners - the time between the rehearsal and gig. If you've ever seen the TV show 'The Inbetweeners', this little space of time can be a bit like the famous comedy series; unpredictable, funny, stressy, and generally trying to keep everyone calm while the excited teenage boy inside me comes alive.

The gig - the best bit of the day. Making music in front of an appreciative audience; what more is there to say.

Travelling home - even less appealing than learning the periodic table.

If I am conducting an orchestra without a soloist, life is, honestly, easier. It's just the musicians and me. The musicians in the orchestra are paid to do what they are told; if they are given the Messiah, the little baby Jesus will be happy as it's the Messiah he will hear. No argument. If there is a soloist, the control shifts and the soloist usually has the final say, especially (and rightly so) if it's their name above the door. If they change their mind about a piece of music and want to swap, I will always try and find a way to do this. Hence life with a soloist is often more challenging; which is the reason you should never marry one.

Talking about soloists, singers are the worst to deal with. If you are cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, as long as you remember to bring that large wooden instrument to the gig, there is little unpredictability. Likewise, James Galway can pop his little disassembled flute into his backpack, and providing it's not stolen en route, there is little that can go wrong. Singers, on the other hand, have a distinct disadvantage that their instrument is human; and we all know how unreliable humans can be. So it's not their fault they are the worst to deal with, and to be clear it has nothing to do with the possibility of a diva element - because all musicians have a little diva inside them - but if your soloist happens to have a sore throat, life gets interesting pretty quickly!

 

The poet William Cowper said 'variety is the spice of life', in which case my life is akin to a Vindaloo. Music isn't really my business. Communication is. When I'm writing music, I want to communicate my love, fear or happiness. When I'm performing music, I want to feel the love, fear or happiness in the hope I pass that emotion to the listener. Sometimes, I want to talk about music; radio and TV presenting, podcast, this blog, interviews, they are all communication of equal importance to me, and all keep my day sufficiently interesting that I don't stagnate like the brand 'classical music' has over the past thirty years.

Since I started in this game, I've never had time to twiddle my thumbs and wonder when the phone will ring next. Is that luck or to do with talent? Neither. It's business.

 

You can look anywhere on TV, and from Phillip Schofield through to Gareth Malone, Carol Vorderman to Piers Morgan, they all have one thing in common; they are a business. A product. We all, to some extent, have a team behind us steering the ship. Agents, Artistic Managers, Business Managers, Social Media Managers, Publicists, Stylists, Strategists, Publishers, etc. These people don't just work for the love of life; it's their way to buy the Heinz Baked-Beans, and not the essentials own brand; which means the 'Talent' needs to earn a shed load to be able to keep the entourage happy and working successfully. This, in turn, generates more business for the Talent, which means the entourage gets paid more. This perpetual system continues until the public or producers don't like the talent, the talent retires, or excerpts from the Messiah are sung in commemoration.

 

The entertainment industry is run, like life, by the Pareto principle. This 80/20 rule (if you don't know it, please find out about it) means that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So I'll keep having meetings, happy in the knowledge that only one-fifth of my time is helping this musician, and the other four-fifths I shall leave my entourage to Handel.

 

Finally, business is a fickle thing, and as I started with frustration, I'll end with it too. Without this emotion, I would be numb to the fact that I make good money out of my passion, that I get to meet the most incredible people, and that my vocation is one of the few constants in life - that the humans love of music from birth to death. So perhaps the odd dose of frustration is a bit like the essentials own brand Baked-Beans; nasty, but nevertheless, at times essential.

BookS & Podcast recommendations discussing working in the music business

The Bulletproof Musician - an excellent blog and resource useful for all musicians. Fantastic advise that will help any aspiring or professional muso to learn how performance psychology can help you play your best when it counts.

The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness - Veteran performer and educator Gerald Klickstein combines the latest research with his 30 years of professional experience to provide aspiring musicians with a roadmap to artistic excellence.

The Alexander Technique for Musicians - This is a unique guide for all musicians, providing a practical, informative approach to being a successful and comfortable performer.

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less - Twenty years after its first publication, this book is a global bestseller read by millions of highly effective people around the world; plus recommended by Tim Ferriss.

Mind Map Mastery: The Complete Guide to Learning and Using the Most Powerful Thinking - Tony Buzan invented the Mind Map technique five decades ago. Seeing the transformational impact it had on people, he has been spreading the thinking tool across the world ever since.

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Sarah Miles & Robert Emery (picture: Ian ‘Jeeves’ Hollis)

The Backstage with Robert Emery Podcast
“The only person that knew (about her affair with with Laurence Olivier) was my Mother, as she caught us together.”
— Sarah Miles

Robert Emery talks to Sarah Miles, the English theatre and film actress who was nominated for four BAFTA's, two Golden Globes and an Oscar. Sarah talks about her biological connection with the British Royal family, finishing RADA and going straight into the West-End where Sir John Gielgud famously said "Did you know you have a bottom just like a boy? Two poached eggs in a handkerchief."

Sarah was catapulted into the limelight at a young age, starring opposite some of the greats including Dirk Bogarde, Vanessa Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Margaret Rutherford & Robert Mitchum; she had two marriages to the same person - the screen writer Robert Bolt (winner of two Oscars, two BAFTA's, three Golden Globes and a Tony award) and an epiphany three years after filming Ryan's Daughter that changed her life forever.

This sometimes intense conversation takes us up to 1973, just before she filmed 'The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing' opposite Burt Reynolds, where her life took a turn for the worse and tragedy struck. For reasons we don't need to go into, this part of Sarah's life story will feature in part two, released later in the year when I gain permission.

Listen Now



Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherOvercast, YouTube or on your favourite podcast platform. 

SHOW NOTES
  • Sarah’s Manor House, with the first private window in England [02.10]

  • Sarah being left-handed [04:06]

  • Not being able to talk as a child due to a serious stammer [05:43]

  • Meeting the Queen Mother resulting in being expelled from school [08.24]

  • Memories of RADA [12.46]

  • Being born out of wedlock [14.40]

  • Being related to the Royal Family [15.20]

  • Auditioning for RADA [21:02]

  • Sarah’s first film part [24:15]

  • Term of Trial (Film) and meeting Laurence Olivier [29:24]

  • Energy and how it’s so important for Sarah [36:14]

  • Sir John Gielgud quotation [39:20]

  • Marrying and meeting Robert Bolt [45:27]

  • The attitude which has harmed her career. [52:10]

  • Sarah has an epiphany which changes her life [54.10]

  • Exorcism [1.05.20]

  • Splitting up with Robert Bolt [1.04.46]

Selected links from the episode

thebackstageblog.com

House of Teck

RADA

Term of Trial

Laurence Olivier

Robert Bolt

Sir John Gielgud

Lat_56 

Books, Music and Videos that feature SARAH MILES

Blow Up DVD - classic film starring Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles and David Hemmings

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea - Film from 1976 starring Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson

The Servant - Film from 1963 starring Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles and James Fox

Ryan's Daughter - 2 disk special edition starring Sarah Miles and written by Robert Bolt

Bolt From The Blue - With courage and humour, Sarah reveals Robert Bolt, the man and the brilliant writer

A Right Royal Bastard - This is the first volume of a two-volume biography and it’s an incredible read

Serves Me Right - The second volume of her acclaimed autobiography

#4 - Behind the scenes with Sarah Miles: I've got quite a few odd stories - Part I - YouTube

This episode is bought to you with the help of Lat56. Lat56 are a sharp, smart and efficient baggage company that help you take off relaxed, and arrive ready to take on the world. In 2011 I completed 122 flights, and without their NASA-spec materials making such a solid travel system, the hours spent with my luggage being thrown from one plane to another would have caused me a big headache.

With their bold and strong aesthetics, they make no compromises to achieve the balance between performance and style. With a lifetime guarantee, you'll be safe in the knowledge that their products will stand the test of time. When I bought my first travel bag from them, they only sold their flagship garment bag; an ingenious suit carrier that's stylish, compact and crucially for me going from gig to gig, didn't crease the suits. Since then, they have branched out to carry-on luggage, backpacks, duffel bags, laptop bags and even washbags!

I'd only mention the company if I used and approved of them, and I do both. And you know what, the thing I love about them the most, is that after seven years of wear and tear, my first bag still looks as new as the backpack I bought six months ago. So if you're a busy traveller and want something that is stylish and secure, click here to grab yourself something special.

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The journalist Jeremy Clarkson has his gargantuan stomach and the pianist Glenn Gould had his wooden chair. Novelist Mary Shelly (think Frankenstein) wrote with a Boa Constrictor around her neck, and artist Salvador Dalí carried around a piece of Spanish driftwood. Nigel Kennedy performs in an Aston Villa t-shirt and Robert Emery, yes that's me, conducts barefoot.


Jeremy Clarkson
Glenn Gould
Mary Shelly
Salvador Dali
Nigel Kennedy
Robert Emery

Most creative people have a little foible or two. But over the years I've had more people ask me about my bare feet than I've had hangovers; and now you know what a large-scale problem this is, I've decided to address it.

Is it because I can feel the music more with my naked skin touching the ground and feeling the vibrations?

No. I'm not that clever. Dame Evelyn Glennie can do this - but even though she is a percussionist, she is actually very clever; and also profoundly deaf, so she had a good reason to learn that skill.

Is it because I connect more with the music?

No. That is just a silly idea and anyone who says that is more pompous than Jacob Rees-Mogg - and that's a difficult task to achieve.

Is it because I get hot waving my arms around, so this helps cool me down?

No. I mean, yes I do get hot, and yes, it probably does keep me slightly cooler than a pair of Church's formal black patent leather shoes with Paul Smith formal black cotton socks - but that's not the reason.

Is it because it's cheaper?

Now we are just getting to the ridiculous; of course having no shoes is cheaper than having shoes; especially Church's - but that's a silly answer to a stupid question.

Is it to gain attention?

No. I can do that without my feet thank you very much. I've never been very good at dancing, and I don't have especially beautiful feet, so I wouldn't naturally highlight them.

At this point, I imagine the hot water is starting to boil in a quest for a simple answer. So here you are:

Back in 2010 I was young and foolish. I was also conducting the Sinfonieorchester Basel. It was three performances of a European band called the Lovebugs, fused with one of the worlds great orchestras, resulting in a hybrid of rock energy with classical and filmic excitement. To make myself comfortable in long, arduous rehearsals, I often took my shoes and socks off; and I'm afraid to say, even wore shorts. I know you're disappointed and can't understand how someone could be so careless, but it's incredible how scruffy and Hagrid-esq performers are when they don't have an audience to play to.

Cool & Relaxed

The Best Way To Work…

Now, fast-forward to three minutes before making my big entrance in front of a screaming, excited audience who range from the pre-pubescent through to the odd octogenarian. I'm doing my side-of-stage ritual. It's not a superstitious thing, and occasionally I don't need to do this, but sometimes I lack the energy to go and do my job. My theory is that a couple of hours before a performance, my body and mind start to go into a slumber of subconscious relaxation. I don't want to eat. Don't want to talk. Don't want to move. Actually, I don't want to do anything; especially go on stage. And that's the irony - because I love being on stage. I've learned by now that it's just my way of conserving the massive amount of energy needed to perform like a lunatic version of Jiminy Cricket. It's the calm before the storm. And with any storm, there needs some brewing time, like a good cuppa.

My brewing time involves jumping up and down on the spot. Waving my arms in circles, and generally trying to make the stage management as uncomfortable as possible with my psychedelic movements. That puts a smile on my face and also fires up the starter motor for the energy I need.





So back to the side of the stage and pre-pubescent octogenarian folk. I'm waiting to make my entrance when the promotor looks at me with horror. "What on earth are you doing?" he screamed at me. I froze.

For the first time in my life, I thought I was going to be fired. I imagined Alan Trump or Donald Sugar peering around the corner with their wagging finger, but I didn't know why.





"Why are you wearing shoes" barks the promotor. At this point, I'm more confused than my cat, who is called Penguin. "Why am I wearing shoes? Because I'm about to go on stage and conduct the Basel Symphony Orchestra" I retort. And then, he composed the fateful sentence that has plagued me all my career:

"If you conduct in rehearsals bare-foot because you feel most comfortable, why don't you conduct in concerts bare-foot. Isn't it about time concert halls were less formal? Take those shoes and socks off right now and go have fun!"

So I did. I went on stage and had the biggest buzz not only when the mixed-aged audience erupted, but with the second wave of applause that came when they saw my little bare feet. The next day, the front page of the Basler Zeitung had a photo of my feet, with a caption of 'the cool barefooted conductor'.

Lovebug: The Key conducted by Robert Emery - YouTube

I had no idea back then that feet were like Marmite. People either loved me conducting barefooted or hated it. There seemed to be nothing in between. Of course the attention it gave me with the second applause and the newspaper cover massaged my ego, so one could say I told a little white lie when I said I didn't do it for the publicity. But scouts honour, I didn't know that publicity would arise from something we all do at least once a day!

Lovebugs Me Astronaut conducted by Robert Emery - YouTube

Nevertheless, I'm not a fan of stirring up things (unless it's on the last Sunday before Advent), so I've decided, here and now, that I'll stop with the whole barefoot thing in concerts. I can't be bothered with the negativity around what should be a fun, laughable little quirk. So I'll say good luck to Clarkson with his beer-barrel and Kennedy with his football shirt; I hope they can continue with their fanciful follies. As for Dali, Shelly and Gould, it's interesting they are remembered not for their oddities, but for the creations they left us. Perhaps I should have learned from this, but then I wouldn't have been called 'the cool barefooted conductor'; and with all that patent leather and cotton, I'd be too hot.

Lovebugs: Highest Heights conducted by Robert Emery - YouTube

Orchestra: Sinfonieorchester Basel Conductor: Robert D.C. Emery Band: Lovebugs Orchestration and arrangement: Arts Festivals

Book & Music recommendations discussing Conducting & Sinfonieorchester Basel

The Conductor - A fascinating novel; not the story of Shostakovich. This is the story of a man caught in the white heat of obsession. A man who inspired an entire city, much less a ragged orchestra of half-starved musicians, to an act of resistance and hope in a time of war. Karl Eliasberg. The Conductor.

The Great Conductors - Most Popular Symphonies and Orchestral Favorites - A remarkable 30-CD collection brings together 30 world-class conductors representing the cream of crop - including Herbert von Karajan, Arturo Toscanini, Otto Klemperer, Pierre Monteux, Eugene Ormandy, Bruno Walter, Sir Thomas Beecham, Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, Sir Georg Solti and George Szell.

Weingartner: Complete Symphonies [Marko Letonja, Sinfonieorchester Basel] - Marko Letonja and the Basel Symphony Orchestra set out on this adventurous journey of discovery with devotion and virtuosic skill over these 7 disks. Felix Weingartner an internationally acclaimed conductor and a highly influential figure in Basel's music world he also bequeathed to posterity an extensive compositional oeuvre marked by timeless freshness.

Stravinsky:Petrouchka [Sinfonieorchester Basel; Maki Namekawa, Dennis Russell Davies] - A beautiful recording of this incredible piece.

Brucker: Complete Symphonies [Tapiola Sinfonietta; Northern Sinfonia; Sinfonieorchester Basel, Mario Venzago] - 10 CD’s and a DVD of Mario Venzago conducting.

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THE Backstage with Robert Emery PODCAST

Robert Emery: The secrets of making an album

“All of a sudden, our twelve year old boy status came back...”
— Robert Emery

In part II, this special episode of the ‘Backstage with Robert Emery’ podcast tries to discover and delve into the secrets to making a number one album. To turn things on their head a little, he has swapped seats and is being interviewed by the soprano, Joanna Forest.

Working closely with RDCE for a few years, Joanna works hard to find out exactly how he produced her two albums and made the first one go straight to number one. Discussing everything from money and mixing through to orchestrating and editing; they cover it all with the odd funny story along the way.

This is a continuation podcast, so if you haven’t listened to part I, please click here to hear that episode first.

Listen Now



Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherOvercast, or on your favourite podcast platform. 

SHOW NOTES
  • Orchestration [01.46]

  • Strings [03:30]

  • If I rules the world [05:15]

  • Piano in orchestrations [08:42]

  • Counter melody [12:148]

  • Overdubbing [16:35]

  • Recording a choir [17:36]

  • Recording the lead vocals [21:16]

  • Vocal recording technique [26:00]

  • Recording an orchestra [3407]

  • How to budget an album [25:01]

  • Creating a new orchestra called Arts Symphonic [33:11]

  • Mixing [35:41]

  • Mastering [38:55]

  • Distribution [40:20]

  • Sound effects [44:57]

Selected links from the episode

thebackstageblog.com

Joanna Forest

The Rhythm of Life

Stars are rising

Pickwick

Arts Symphonic

I’d like to teach the world to sing

Lat_56 

This episode is bought to you with the help of Lat56. Lat56 are a sharp, smart and efficient baggage company that help you take off relaxed, and arrive ready to take on the world. In 2011 I completed 122 flights, and without their NASA-spec materials making such a solid travel system, the hours spent with my luggage being thrown from one plane to another would have caused me a big headache.

With their bold and strong aesthetics, they make no compromises to achieve the balance between performance and style. With a lifetime guarantee, you'll be safe in the knowledge that their products will stand the test of time. When I bought my first travel bag from them, they only sold their flagship garment bag; an ingenious suit carrier that's stylish, compact and crucially for me going from gig to gig, didn't crease the suits. Since then, they have branched out to carry-on luggage, backpacks, duffel bags, laptop bags and even washbags!

I'd only mention the company if I used and approved of them, and I do both. And you know what, the thing I love about them the most, is that after seven years of wear and tear, my first bag still looks as new as the backpack I bought six months ago. So if you're a busy traveller and want something that is stylish and secure, click here to grab yourself something special.

Books, Music and Videos that feature Robert Emery

The Rhythm of Life - Joanna Forest, Arts Symphonic, Arts Voices & Robert Emery

Stars Are Rising - Joanna Forest, Arts Symphonic, Arts Voices & Robert Emery

4Colors - Seven, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

The Art Is King - Seven, City of Prague Symphony Orchestra & Robert Emery

Bat out of Hell (Original Cast Recording) - Cast and band of Bat out of Hell Manchester 2017 & Robert Emery

Singing My Dreams - Carly Paoli, José Carreras & Robert Emery

That Is His Story - Olga Thomas, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Royal Platinum Love Song - Olga Thomas, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Imagine - Angie Ott, City of Prague Symphony Orchestra & Robert Emery

Return of the Voice - Russell Watson, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Anthems - Russell Watson, Arts Symphonic & Robert Emery

Only One Man - Russell Watson, Claude-Michel Schönberg & Robert Emery

Robert Emery: Live In Concert - Robert Emery

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