Our choral scholars form a crucial part of the Oxford Bach Soloists’ commitment to developing the talents of young aspiring soloists. In our first Choral Scholar Focus of 2023, I chatted with Charlotte Sleet about her experiences with OBS so far…

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and your musical training to date

I come from a non-musical family and fell in love with music at school completely by chance, playing flute and saxophone in youth bands and eventually joining the local girls’ choir. I won a scholarship to the Vocal and Operatic Studies course at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, graduating into the pandemic (not exactly ideal for a performer!)

I have recently relocated to London to continue freelance singing, having spent just over two years at Hereford Cathedral as a choral scholar and then an assistant lay clerk, the first female appointments to these roles in their respective histories. Alongside my OBS scholarship I am also a Student Singer with the Philharmonia Chorus.

2. How do you prepare when stepping out to perform a solo during a concert?

I always start with the text. We receive excellent German coaching as part of our OBS scholarship which allows us to dive into the mechanics and semantics of the language, informing the way we might approach a given phrase or even the work as a whole. Once I’ve got the words under my belt I turn to the notes. In terms of stepping out on the day I take a deep breath, trust that my preparation is embedded, and perform to the room!

Charlotte Sleet 3
3. What has been your favourite moment as an OBS choral scholar so far?

Two moments come to mind. One is our very first rehearsal where we were making music together for the first time. I immediately felt like OBS was a group of like-minded musicians and that we had a safe space to explore and learn together.

Another is our first rehearsal back in January (I had been unwell before Christmas and sadly had to pull out of our two December engagements) – returning to this safe space and hearing all the wonderful music we were creating together was so freeing and really reinvigorated me.

4. What do you see as the value of ensembles like OBS to young aspiring musicians?

OBS provides unending opportunities to learn and explore as a performer, practising one’s acting and platform skills with the step-out solos, as well as all the skills of consort singing. Something that sets this scholarship apart from other similar programmes is that you’re not apprenticed to an older singer who you might be tempted to hide behind, you have to dive right in and give 100% of your attention and devotion to every note, giving you the opportunity to really get inside the music and own your performance.

Charlotte Sleet 2
5. What do you plan to do after the scholarship has ended?

I will be continuing to develop my freelance singing portfolio, performing in ensembles and churches, and continuing my solo studies. Having had a couple of years out of the university environment I now feel more ready to apply for conservatoire Masters courses and I am beginning my research into this.

Bach Motets: Jesu, meine Freude

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