Our choral scholars form a crucial part of the Oxford Bach Soloists’ commitment to developing the talents of young aspiring soloists. We chatted with Lizi Vineall about her experiences with OBS so far…
Tell us a bit about yourself, and your musical training to date
I have been a choral scholar at the Queen’s College, Oxford for the past four years, where I study German and Linguistics. Last year, I spent my year abroad studying singing with Julian Pregardien at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, München.
My time in Munich was a particularly good opportunity to work on my solo singing as well as bringing my language back up to speed after two years of reading books about German rather than actually speaking it! Whilst in Oxford I have learned with both Carys Lane and Giles Underwood, as well as singing in Magdalen’s Consort of Voices.
How do you prepare when stepping out to perform a solo during a concert?
I always start with the text. First, I try to make my own personalised translation and then I check it against an official source, to make sure I haven’t got anything too wrong. Then I recite the text so that I can get my head around the syntax and sounds of the language.
I find approaching repertoire in this order enables me to more easily map the linguistic features of a poem or text onto the music, whilst also ensuring that my musical ideas arise primarily as a way of serving the meaning and expression of the text.
The hard part is getting round the technical challenges posed by a piece (which are not infrequent in Bach’s music) so that, in performance, I can be free to focus on the meaning of what I am singing.
What has been your favourite moment as an OBS choral scholar so far?
I think it has to be singing Singet dem herrn one to a part in our December concert. It was possibly one of the most stressful concerts I’ve ever had to prepare for, as the motet demanded so much of me technically and when you’re on your own on the very top part, there is really nowhere to hide.
Having said that, the stress was far outweighed by the musical liberty facilitated by the small consort style, combined with the feeling of really knowing the piece due to the amount of practice I had to do to feel on top of it.
What do you see as the value of ensembles like OBS to young aspiring musicians?
I think generally, the benefit of this kind of ensemble for young singers is the rare opportunity to work on, and really get under the skin of, one kind of repertoire. Particularly, when that repertoire is as prolific and profound as Bach’s music.
More specifically, I have really enjoyed the level of detail we put into the music under Tom’s leadership, with plenty of focus on the text and enough rehearsal time that it doesn’t feel like we’re just trying to ‘get it right’. It has also been wonderful to work with such great instrumental players and in a space as beautiful as New College Chapel. It really lifts the music to another level.
What do you plan to do after the scholarship has ended?
The end of my tenure with OBS coincides with the end of my time as an undergraduate at Oxford and I have no plans to remain amongst the dreaming spires, for now at least. That is, however, about as far as I have got!
I am planning to spend a month doing an Italian language course in Sicily and possibly audition for UK and German conservatoires in December and March respectively. Beyond that, I would like to go and spend some more time in Germany next year and whatever I end up doing long term, I would love to keep up some kind of small ensemble singing as well as deepening my relationship with Bach’s Music.
OBS Choral Scholarships 2023-24
As we say goodbye to our current Choral Scholar cohort in June, we are now opening our OBS Choral Scholarships 2023-24. You can find all the details on our website. We would be very grateful if you could help us spread the word about these scholarships by sharing this opportunity with anyone who you think may be interested. Our goal is to reach as many talented individuals as possible.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the scholarship program, please do not hesitate to contact us.