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Eleanor Penfold and Elena Toponogova - Serene Sounds Wandsworth Fringe Interview

In a series of interviews, we are chatting to artists involved with the 2024 Wandsworth Fringe. The Fringe Festival runs from 7th until 23rd June.

In this interview, we chat with
Eleanor Penfold (Soprano, Founder of Transposed and creator of Serene Sounds) and Elena Toponogova (Pianist and collaborator for Serene Sounds).

Where did your arts career begin?
Ellie: I always sang in choirs at school and went on to join the National Youth Choir. This was a huge eye (and ear!) opener for me as I’d never heard music or music making like it before. I went on to study Music at Durham University and later did a postgraduate degree in Vocal and Opera Performance at the Royal College of Music. I had the pleasure of performing a role at the Paris Opera house and have been performing with various opera companies since.

What can you tell me about your show?
Ellie: Serene Sounds is a Classical Sound Bath Experience. It is a fusion of classical pieces for voice and piano with the sounds of traditional sound healing instruments you would hear at a Sound Bath.

There will be works by Ravel, Strauss and Debussy among others and each piece has been paired with a specific theme or mood of a particular sound healing instrument. The instruments in the show will often imitate the sounds of nature or even have an other-worldly quality that takes you on a journey through unique sounds.

Where did the idea for the show come from?
Ellie: The idea all came about from attending Sound Baths with my Mum!

We tried one for the first time before the pandemic and it was amazing. It was a magical experience and so different from anything else I’d been to. Each sound bath offers something different and feels new each time and I have always left them thinking that I would love to explore that experience through classical pieces. We are so used to the formality and structure of the contexts that classical music is usually presented in, that I became really interested in giving classical music a context that allowed it the same freedom and space as the sounds healing instruments have in a sound bath. There is so much beautiful classical repertoire that you may only hear in the concert hall or on a recording, that offers a unique and deeply moving experience to the listener.  It’s also been very liberating as a performer to explore these pieces in this new context as it focused my attention more on the emotional connection of the piece and what I hope the listener will be able to experience.

How do you prepare for a performance?
Ellie: After practicing for many, many hours, lots of listening and singing, I try to focus on calming down! It isn’t always easy, but you need to remember that you’ve done the work and you are ready to share what you love about the music.

What is the message of your show?
Ellie: That classical music can be liberating and offer a freedom and escape. More than anything Serene Sounds is a chance to unwind and let the sounds around you take you on a journey. Each person will experience something different, but the show gives everyone room to relax and see where the journey takes you. From my own experience, I feel both relaxed and more tuned in to what is happening around me during and after a sound bath. Whether that is the sounds of the wind through the trees, birdsong, or the way the light shines through the leaves. It is a chance to switch off racing thoughts, but it can also heighten your senses and provide a new appreciation of the music.

If you were a biscuit, what would you be and why?
Ellie: I think I would be a gingernut…I’ve enjoyed dyeing my hair many shades of red and a David Bowie orange in the last few years so I think this would best resemble me in biscuit form!

Elena: Butter coconut biscuits, I'd love to enjoy a couple after our event :)

Can you describe the show in three words?
Ellie: Relaxing, freeing, restoring.
Elena: Tranquillity, experience, music.

When can people see the show and follow the journey beyond?
Ellie: Serene Sounds: A Classical Sound Bath Experience is on Friday 14th June 19:30 at the National Opera Studio in Wandsworth. Bring a yoga mat, pillow and whatever else you would like to settle down and enjoy!

Follow us for more details and offers! :
Instagram @transposed_ensemble
Facebook @TransposedEnsemble
Twitter @_Transposed

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