Blog: Louis Hurley on pursuing classical music
If you ever ask an opera singer about why they chose to pursue classical music, most will tell you of a moment in their life that solidified that this is what they want to do. It is usually being absolutely transfixed by an opera for the first time, or hearing an aria in a movie one day and listening with such wonder. I’ve often come back to my musical beginnings and tried to pin down that exact moment for me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a single, significant moment like that never occurred for me. Rather the recipe for my continued fascination and interest contains two core ingredients: instinct and trust.
As a child I decided one day that I wanted to play the flute. I don’t remember why that was, but I came home and said “I would like to play the flute”. This was the first ingredient, instinct. My family, with not a single musical bone in their collective bodies, had no idea how to go about sourcing music lessons in a small Victorian country town. So my mum did some research and found a small private music academy, where I started group music lessons under the Orff method. After a couple of years I began piano lessons, and then singing lessons, and my musical development was well underway. I moved across the country to Western Australia, and I finally had the opportunity to learn the flute, so I jumped at the opportunity. I even eventually gave up singing in order to focus on flute during high school. After six years of flute lessons, I found it increasingly difficult to actually enjoy practicing, and took this as a sign to give it up. And just in time for my last semester of high school, I was able to switch to voice and I started singing again.
Everything started to just feel right. Practicing was no longer a chore, I loved singing classical repertoire, and my marks dramatically improved with no extra effort - fancy that!
This is where the second ingredient comes into play, trust. I can credit every big decision I have made to trust. Trust in my gut instinct, but most importantly, trust in my teachers. I had a singing teacher in early in high school that told me my voice lent itself towards classical repertoire, and I trusted that. When I started singing again in my final year of high school years later, my new teacher also said the same. I was led by my teachers down a safe and sensible path of development, through WAAPA, and here I am, about to fly to the
U.K. to go to my dream school - all of this without that moment of realisation. I guess in place of that moment was a series of small moments and experiences where I slowly fell for this genre of music. Whether it be studying the beauty of German romantic poetry, the drama of Wagnerian opera, or the excitement that is offering all of yourself on stage to a crowd largely made up of strangers. I’ve now found myself all caught up in this beautiful, increasingly rare art form in the best way possible - hook, line, and sinker.
I had pretty much decided by the end of my second year at WAAPA that the Guildhall School of Music & Drama was where I wanted to go. I had been to London years earlier on a music tour during high school and experienced how different the culture was there. But I had also done my research. I searched through all of the international music schools and everything pointed towards the Guildhall: the graduates, the lecturers, the opportunities. I hope you can imagine my delight when I was surprised by an email the day after my audition to the Guildhall with an offer of a place and a scholarship (for those who are struggling to imagine, think a high pitched squeal accompanied by an energetic leap onto the bed).
It is now five weeks until I fly to London to start this next chapter of my life, and I can’t help but imagine what is in store for the next two years. I will start with the things I know. I know it will not be easy. It is going to be hard to uproot my life entirely and start again - to meet new people, to be the smallest little fish in a massive pond. I know it will be exciting for those exact same reasons as well. I know it will be an opportunity that is unlike anything I could find in Australia, so I know I am jumping at the right opportunity at the right time. And most importantly, I know that in the hands of the Guildhall, hard work can only be rewarded with opportunity and improvement. As for the things I don’t know, well I guess there are too many to list. The only one worth mentioning is that I don’t know where I will be at the end of two years - so you’ll just have to stay tuned!
In the meantime I am preparing for a very special event, my benefit concert. It will be my last hurrah in Australia for the near future and I am working hard to make it special for everyone that attends. Together with the endlessly talented Mark Coughlan, the recital is filled with all of my favourite music, from Schubert to Tosti. But what makes it truly special is the inclusion of new music from two young Australian composers that happen to be very dear friends of mine, Alex Turley and Christopher Milbourn. I’ve known Alex ever since high school, and we both met Chris whilst studying at WAAPA. Chris has been slowly working his way through the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and Mark and I will be performing Four Poems of Emily Dickinson, a song cycle which I’m sure will grow in size as time goes by. I also decided to commission a brand new work for the concert, a piece called Stars Alone by Alex Turley, with words by another very dear friend of mine, Caroline McAllister. There is a story behind the poem by Caroline, which made it so fitting to include in the concert. A few weeks before flying to London to audition for Masters programs at the end of last year, a card came in the post. It was a card to wish me well in London, but what was extra special was a handwritten poem that fell out when I opened the card.
Dilly dally longer darling For the world awaits
Piled with roses, blue skies and cups of coffee to be savoured with summer's sleep.
Dillydallyfurtherdarling Cherish long Sunday afternoons, Sunshine and water lillies
We are so often whipped into frenzies, stumbling breathless and blind, earthquakes contained in cages of flesh and blood.
It is so wonderful when time seems to pause… and hold,
the air tingles with crackling coolness, molecules suspended in frozen air.
Heaven lies in smiles of friends, shared secrets at midnight, sea salt spray and worn piano keys.
Dilly dally a little longer darling
And see, can you see? What awaits? Greatness lies within you.
Endless winding paths waiting to be found, explored, conquered.
Dilly dally darling then Breathe,
For the stars alone cannot count your limitlessness. by Caroline McAllister
If you are in Perth on the 13th of August, please come along to this concert. I would love to share this with as many people as possible before I go.
Until then, Best,
Louis Hurley, Tenor, Guildhall Studies Benefit Concert
4-5pm Sunday 13 August
Government House Ballroom, Perth
We'd love you to join us for a glorious afternoon of song, from the greatest lieder by Franz Schubert to Ravel's Popular Greek Songs, and featuring world premieres of new works by young Australian composers Alex Turley and Christopher Milbourn. Accompanied by the inimitable Mark Coughlan, please don't miss your last chance to hear Louis Hurley before he leaves to study at London's world-renowned Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
A reception will be held directly after the concert. This event is free to attend, donations will be encouraged on the day.