Tell us a bit about yourself, and your training to date.
As a recent(ish..) music graduate, it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I decided to pursue singing as a profession. During my degree I enjoyed a fair amount of choral training and took part in a shockingly large amount of Gilbert and Sullivan, but both mostly as a hobby. For a long time solo singing in particular was something I had on the back-burner; something I did because I enjoyed the singing fantastic music, usually just for myself. The eventual development of some crucial technique and a few accidental ventures into solo performance led me to realise a love for solo performance which now fuels my work with OBS.
What other musical ensembles are you involved with?
At this point in time―not very much. The last time I was able to give a live performance was over three months ago, a fact that is more than slightly unsettling, but we all hope to welcome audiences back to our concerts soon! Before current events took hold, my main occupation was singing daily services as a lay clerk at Magdalen College. I also take part in various choral ventures around Oxford besides Magdalen such as The Delius Singers, as well as taking on opera roles as part of the New Chamber Opera studio.
What attracted you to the Oxford Bach Soloists?
On the face of it is the obvious fact that OBS provides a wonderful opportunity to perform the works of Bach regularly with fantastic instrumentalists and other singers, creating thoughtful performances of a very high standard. One of the other, perhaps less obvious attractions to me was the layout of the OBS year. The monthly concerts and coaching sessions over the course of a year provide the perfect structure for developing as a singer. As scholars we always have new music to work on and an opportunity to perform, but enough time between concerts to really dig into the music we perform.
What has been your favourite moment as an OBS choral scholar?
One moment that will always stick in my memory is when one of the scholars was unexpectedly ill – I believe within the 24 hours preceding the concert – and another scholar stepped in as understudy. We all learn the other scholars’ solos for this exact situation, and it has happened on several occasions over my time with OBS, but what marks this occurrence out was that the understudy performance was, for me, the most engaging performance of the concert. Not only did it exhibit the virtues of preparation(!) but it also makes me consider what it is that makes an engaging and exciting performance. It’s also moments of sheer practicality such as illness which, perhaps strangely, make me feel closest to how Bach’s musicians must have felt, facing the same performance challenges we do nearly three hundred years later.
What do you see as the value of ensembles like OBS to young aspiring musicians?
Young singers face a multitude of struggles, but two of the greatest are consistency of work, and the opportunities for solo performance. OBS provides us with both of these, allowing us to feel secure in having a year’s worth of performances ahead of us, and have the opportunity to step out and sing in front of a large audience, developing that very important side to our abilities as singers. We can only get so far as singers by singing fifteen carol services over Christmas and struggling for the rest of the year. Ensembles like OBS create the possibility of a lifestyle as a young singer-in-training, whilst also giving singers the upwards momentum they need to go even further.