12th September, 2018
Young Hertfordshire Songwriters shared the stage with Elena Tonra from Daughter at Watford School of Music on 16th August. Currently working on a solo album, Elena generously gave up her time to play her songs, speak about how she wrote them, and to listen to the young people play their own.
Opening the evening, Penelope Dunn from Mid Herts Centre for Music & Arts performed two promising songs.
Alanna Wilson from Stevenage Music Centre played a great 3 song set, accompanied by HMS workshop leaders Talena Cuthbert (ukulele) and Liam Amner (guitar), standing out as a highlight.
From St Albans, Charlotte Nairne accompanied her songs on guitar, drawing on influence from The Smiths, with her vocals displaying some nice melodic development.
Completing the young songwriters lineup, Lorna Thompson from Hitchin played her highly impressive “Hometown” accompanied by HMS tutor Victoria Port on Piano.
Elena then performed a combination of new songs and Daughter’s hits Youth and Smother, accompanying herself on electric guitar. Elena’s classical guitar-influenced technique created some effective textures underneath her direct, but understated delivery of some powerful melodies and lyrics, saying a lot with simple images.
“Setting fire to our insides just for fun”
Elena’s performance worked really well even without her band, creating a mesmeric, intimate effect perfectly suited for her very personal and lyrical songs.
Interviewed by Talena and the young songwriters, Elena described how she had joined a band when studying music in London, and had worked in part time jobs including in a clothes shop and a delicatessen until Daughter took off. She enjoys touring, though would like to have more time to see the cities they visit to play in.
Elena described how she moved from writing poetry into lyrics, and how this had offered a way to support herself at difficult times during her childhood growing up in Rickmansworth.
She said it was important for Songwriters not to edit their ideas… “That’s a bit like inviting everyone to dinner and everyone being polite!” She said originality and creativity come from expressing ideas and not worrying about what people think about your music.
Elena described how Daughter prepare themselves for performances, but also how she still gets very nervous before performing, and uses breathing exercises and a mindfulness app to help develop calm concentration.
Elena’s songwriting and performances suggest she develops a gentle strength by singing and writing from her heart. This approach has also helped Daughter and Elena become highly popular, one of a steadily increasing number of impressive young songwriters that have emerged recently from Hertfordshire.
Songwriter offers young people a chance to learn how to write songs in holiday workshops and at weekly sessions at Music Centres in Hatfield, Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead. Participants can also win feedback from professional songwriters, and opportunities to perform at the Hertfordshire Schools’ Gala at the Royal Albert Hall.
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Head over to our online chart here to take a listen to songs written by the young people.