Our choral scholars form a crucial part of the Oxford Bach Soloists’ commitment to developing the talents of young aspiring soloists. In our second Choral Scholar Focus of 2022, I chatted with Jessica Edgar about her experiences with OBS so far…
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and your musical training to date
I am an MPhil student in Musicology at Oxford and one of the soprano choral scholars in OBS this year. I sing in the chapel choir at Queen’s College and I’m a member of the Consort of Voices at Magdalen College. I began my musical training as a pianist, but my musical theatre background brought me to singing. I did my undergraduate degree at Columbia University where I dabbled in opera and choral singing around New York City and decided to come to Oxford to take my third year abroad. It was that year and this institution which really confirmed my love for singing.
2. You will be stepping out to perform a solo for our concert, Festival of Joy. How do you prepare?
I begin with the text, to really frame my understanding of the piece. I create a translation and then have a session with our German coach, Gerhard, where we really dive into the meaning and work on how my singing of a line can optimally present the text. Then, I make sure to sing it in enough that I could perform off copy because I feel that my best performances are when the music feels like a part of me. I will ask for technical advice from my singing teacher and receive feedback from Tom in rehearsals. I’m very excited to be singing a duet with Ben Davies, the bass concertist, on ‘O wie wohl ist uns geschehn’ from Cantata 194 and look forward to making some wonderful music.
3. What has been your favourite moment as an OBS choral scholar so far?
I would say my favourite moment has to be my first concert with OBS. Meeting the singers and players and working with them for the first time really made me excited for the coming year. My solo in that concert was an experience I won’t forget, I was incredibly nervous, but I so enjoyed the feeling of elation after having made wonderful music with incredible players. I remember losing myself in the music, a feeling that I aspire to but don’t often experience. A close second, however, was singing the St. John Passion this Easter. It was one of my first times performing the piece and working through the meaning and the text with Tom really made the performance powerful for me.
4. What do you see as the value of ensembles like OBS to young aspiring musicians?
At this stage of my path with singing, OBS has given me a foundation to produce professional-level work, not only in the process of working towards a performance, but also in terms of mindset. Working with such talented musicians while still having the educational wisdom that Tom and Gerhard offer create a combination which sets singers up to succeed.
5. What do you plan to do after the scholarship has ended?
Next year I will continue my studies at Oxford with a DPhil in Musicology! I will continue my work in music and psychology, looking at vocal physiology and hearing impairment in the context of voice studies. Alongside this research I hope to use the skills I have gained from OBS to continue singing around Oxford and London.