vivien hamilton - biography
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Vivien Hamilton - soprano

Short Biography

Scottish born soprano Vivien Hamilton is one of Australia's most versatile singers. She studied piano, bassoon, violin, singing, dancing, gymnastics from a young age and knew she wanted to be a professional singer from the age of 7 years. Vivien played percussion with the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra and for the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra whilst undertaking her Bachelor of Music (with honours) degree at the University of Western Australia.

Vivien has recorded for ECM, ABC Classics, Move Records, and has appeared in TV broadcasts including the ABC 7.30 Report and the ‘Classical Destinations’ TV show.  Vivien has performed throughout Australia as oratorio soloist, stage singer, recitalist and early music specialist and has been heard in recital on 2MBS-FM, 3MBS-FM 6UVS-FM and ABC Classic FM.

Vivien is currently Director of the Early Voices Ensemble, at the Early Music Studio, The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne and regularly gives masterclasses throughout Australia.

Medium Length Biography

Scottish born soprano Vivien Hamilton is one of Australia's most versatile singers. She knew she wanted to be a professional singer from the age of 7 years and studied the piano to support her aspirations. Vivien completed a Bachelor of Music degree (Honours) at the University of Western Australia in musicology with Professor David Tunley, and singing with acclaimed Australian Soprano Molly McGurk. 

Vivien regularly performs throughout Australia, in recital, on radio and television.  Her career covers a wide portfolio of musical styles and genres: Early Music; 20th-century vocal ensemble work e.g.  Kosky's Voice, Jam and Videotape for 4 singers, Steve Reich’s Tehillim; French, American, Australian, English Artsong and Contemporary song recitals with piano; theatre e.g. A Little Night Music with MTC;  and opera. Currently Vivien works with e21, consort eclectus, Rosemary Hodgson  (lute), Len Vorster (piano), and Glenn Riddle (piano).

Vivien has recorded for ECM with The Hilliard Ensemble in Passio by Estonian composer Arvo Part;  TER Classics with  New Sadler's Wells Opera in Léhar's The Merry Widow; ABC Classics with Rosalind Halton Olimpia: Cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti and Move Records Tyrannic Love: Choice Songs and Ayres of the Restoration Stage  "Vivien Hamilton is the star of the show. Words are subtly coloured .. an approach which is in sympathy with the music."  Vivien’s most recent CD Burns and Beyond: Songs of Robert Burns pays tribute to Scottish poetry and was released in the Scottish Year of Homecoming, 2009.

Vivien is the director of the Early Voices Ensemble at the Early Music Studio, The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

Full Biography

Scottish born soprano Vivien Hamilton is one of Australia's most versatile singers.  She studied piano, bassoon, violin, singing, dancing, and gymnastics from a young age and knew she wanted to be a professional singer from the age of 7 years. She was one of the youngest members to be admitted to the ranks of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus (at 14 years old), played the Bassoon in her Wind Ensemble at school, sang in the choir and madrigal group, played percussion with the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, and also for the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra whilst undertaking her Bachelor of Music (with honours) degree at the University of Western Australia,  in Perth.

She was a finalist in the ABC Young Performers Award (1984) singing JS Bach's Wedding Cantata BWV 202 under the baton of Albert Rosen, a semi-finalist in the 1st Marianne Mathy Opera Scholarship competition, 1983, a finalist in the Robert Stolz Scholarship, 1984, and Awarded 2nd place in Illawarra 3rd National Aria Competition, 1983.

Vivien studied musicology (with a particular focus on French baroque music) with Professor David Tunley, and singing with acclaimed Australian Soprano Molly McGurk. Visiting artists to the University of Western Australia - English Baroque Tenor Nigel Rogers and English Contemporary Music Soprano Jane Manning - encouraged her to study in England and further work (on Tudor music) with Professor John Stevens and concerts with viola da gambist Oliver Brookes (of The Early Music Consort of London) further fuelled her ambition to move to London.

In 1985 Vivien studied with David Mason and Joan Carlyle, sang for the English Festival Baroque and participated in the ground breaking masterclasses in audition technique with Thomas Hemsley and Anthony Legge, as well as classes in Early Music with Anthony Rooley and Emma Kirky.  Vivien earned her living being employed by Kent Opera and New Sadlers Wells Opera as chorus/understudy and soloist, whilst also working with the BBC Singers (Albert Hall PROMS Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Jessye Norman and Pierre Boulez conducting) and touring and recording with early music specialists The Hilliard Ensemble. Vivien also enjoyed a brief stint with the London Savoyards in a production of The Mikado at the Barbican.   On her return to Australia Vivien undertook postgraduate studies at The University of Melbourne, where she now teaches, and studied with Australian Opera soprano Margaret Haggart.

Vivien's performances have taken her throughout the country, in recital, on radio and television.  In 1995 she sang the Australian National Anthem for the opening ceremony of the National Disabled Persons Games in Perth which opened the doors to corporate work in music theatre and opera themed events in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Vivien's career includes projects which encompass a wide portfolio of musical styles and genres: Early Music with Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque instruments; solo soprano work in Baroque oratorio; 20th/21st century vocal ensemble work, Barry Kosky's Voice, Jam and Videotape for 4 singers for the Adelaide International Festival; French, American, Australian, English Artsong and Contemporary song recital with piano; theatre and opera. Currently Vivien works with e21 (dir. Stephen Grant), consort eclectus, Rosemary Hodgson (lute), Len Vorster (piano), Glenn Riddle (piano). Previously Vivien has sung for groups such as Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Chacona, Collegium Musicum Symphonic Chorus, Convivio, the Collins Street Promenade, Ensemble Gombert, La Compania, Musica da Camera, Trio Jacquin, Troubadours, the Melbourne Theatre Company, Ormond College Choir, The Orpheus Ensemble, The Royal Philharmonic Society and The Australian String Quartet, and with lutenists Samantha Cohen, Thommie Anderson and Simon Martyn Ellis.

Early in her professional career Vivien sang with the Western Wynde Choir (dir. Paul Hillier) and The Hilliard Ensemble on the ground breaking recording Passio by Estonian composer Arvo Part. She also sang on the  New Sadler's Wells Opera recording of Nigel Douglas's production of Léhar's The Merry Widow (TER Classics) and on a recording of  5 part English madrigals and art songs With Wine and Song  with Mosaic (Tower Records, London). Since then she has released several solo recordings, including Tyrannic Love: Choice Songs and Ayres of the Restoration Stage (Move) with The Orpheus Ensemble  - "Vivien Hamilton is the star of the show, and she amply fills this role.  Her diction is excellent. Words are subtly coloured and weighted where appropriate…there is no hesitation to overdo the theatricality of the texts, an approach which is in sympathy with the music." (J Weretka). Vivien shared the soprano duties with Miriam Allen and Jane Edwards in Rosdalind Halton's mammoth project Olimpia: Cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti (ABC Classics). Her most recent CD is a tribute to the power of Scottish poetry and song which was released in the Scottish Year of Homecoming, 2009, Burns and Beyond: Songs of Robert Burns (Move). 

Under the baton of Richard Divall AO OBE and the choir of  Newman College Chapel Vivien sang the soprano solo in the Australian Premiere of a recently discovered oratorio by Antonio Vivaldi Dixit Dominus (by Australian musicologist Dr Jan Stockigt). In 2009 Vivien performed the role of Clorinda at the Sydney Opera House in a production of Il Combatimento do Tancredi e Clorinda with Ludovico’s Band and e21.  Her theatre/opera career has also included roles of speaker in William Walton’s Façade; Miss Tina in Michael Hurd’s The Aspern Papers, Michael Smetanin’s opera The Burrow (Chamber Made Opera),  and Mrs Andersson in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (Melbourne Theatre Company).

Early in her career Vivien was introduced to Choral conducting by Dr Margaret Pride and was introduced to American pedagogue Dr Rodney Eichenberger.  For the past 25 years, alongside her singing career, Vivien has been director of several choirs and vocal ensembles.  To date she has conducted and/or tutored Loreto Primary School Choir, Perth, WA, the Melbourne Youth Choir, Australian Festival Singers, and for Monash University she has directed/conducted the Monash University Women's Choir, Rock n'Jazz Swingers ensemble,  and Viva Voce Choir. Currently Vivien is the director of the Early Voices Vocal Ensemble at the Early Music Studio, The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (VCAMCM) at The University of Melbourne.

Future singing plans include: several recordings featuring French music from both 17th and 20th centuries; a screening of a performance of music by Percy Grainger recorded with Glenn Riddle, piano for the “Classical Destinations” special about music in Australia (on SBS); and a performance of the Messiah at the Perth Concert Hall in December.