When were you a Choral Scholar here?
2011-2013 - I started part way through my first year - after the lovely Fiona Spencer (Alto) recommended I go for it (and after being rejected from Viva Voce!)
What attracted you to be a Choral Scholar?
I had attended a Catholic school, and a few girls from my school were actually scholars at the time (Emily McDonald & Lucy Ashlee). The Cathedral is also one of the only cathedrals that has a mixed voice choir - so women get a lot of opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily happen in cathedrals elsewhere. Neil Page also had a great reputation in Notts as an educator, ABRSM examiner, and DoM having been ex DoM at Uppingham School - so I knew I would learn something.
What did you get out of the experience?
Musically: the ability to sight read, read plainchant, a huge knowledge of liturgical repertoire - and being able to lead a section with confidence; the choir is a mix of scholars and very good volunteers but it is expected that the scholars are the driving force of the choir. It’s also unique that you are actually employed by the church and being paid to sing to a high standard (rather than it being a university scholarship). At the time, we were also fortunate enough to have Alex as the composer-in-residence before his DoM days and whilst he was studying at Birmingham Conservatoire, so we got to sing a lot of Patterson world premieres!
Also, many friends were made, and the appreciation from the Nottingham Catholic community was great - they really made the choir feel welcome and you were a valued asset (the Cathedral was full for all choral masses).
What did you go on to do after you left?
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, so I built up a database of places to sing back at home in London and depped for various churches on a regular basis whilst I figured it out, and worked in the travel industry alongside singing where I could fit it in. I also sang with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, the London Youth Choir and Rodolfus Choir as my main youth organisations whilst I still could - which brought many more opportunities my way.
I then began to work with Gareth Malone and was a part of his Voices Choir for a couple of years, going on a UK tour, doing various TV appearances with him and album recordings - and helping with various workshops that he ran (one being getting all Football Association workers to make up their own song and sing it!!).
All this whilst also working full time in the corporate world for Mr & Mrs Smith hotels, and Travelzoo as a hotel account manager...
What are you doing now and anything coming up?
I’ve just been staffing on the summer Rodolfus Foundation Choral Courses (previously the Eton Choral Courses), but now based in Cambridge where I’ve just started studying for my Secondary Music PGCE at Homerton College.
The Cathedral Music Department needs very little excuse to celebrate the artistic inspiration that is our Cathedral Church. Each year, the musical programme is always trying to explore new avenues of repertoire to engage, stimulate and, perhaps most important of all, be relevant, and so the opportunity to mark 175 years of music making here in the Cathedral was too good to pass up.
Our performance of Spem in Alium back in March was the first of our events, designed in a way to really use the Cathedral building to its maximum and to encourage the audience members to explore the parts of the building you can’t see from the back. Smaller motets were sung in the Lady Chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to great effect, before the Choir engulfed the audience in full surround-sound for the 40-part motet itself. The following morning saw the first performance of Amy Summers’ Missa Brevis, which was an important acknowledgement of our commitment to supporting new music and showcasing underrepresented female composers in order to reflect the society we live in.
Holy Week is always a highlight in the choral calendar, and the Chrism Mass, in particular, is a very important platform to demonstrate what the Music Department is all about. Traditionally, the music is lead by the Diocesan Choir and our Cathedral Choral Scholars, who this year sang a range of motets, from Brahms’ ‘How lovely are thy dwellings fair’ from his German Requiem, and the atmospheric ‘The Deer’s Cry’ by Arvo Pärt. They were joined this year by our Vivace and Cambiata groups who combined specially for the occasion to sing a new setting of ‘Blest by the sun’ by our Director of Music, Alex Patterson, during the Procession of Oils.
For the Cathedral itself, the focal point in celebrating the 175th Anniversary was on St Barnabas Day – Tuesday 11 June 2019, when our Youth Choir and Choral Scholars joined forces to lead the Mass, singing motets by Christopher Tambling, John Rutter, Amy Summers, Bob Chilcott, and a new ‘Mass of St Barnabas’, again written by Alex Patterson. Also featured was the hymn ‘A man to Christ committed’, Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn about St Barnabas, set to a new hymn tune composed by Robert Gower, who finished the Mass with Handel’s ‘Overture from Saul’. The occasion was a great celebration and the singers were on top form. The previous Friday, 7 June, the Cathedral held Ecumenical Choral Vespers led by the Cathedral Choir. Parry’s ‘I was glad’ opened the Vespers with great fanfare, with Howell’s ‘Behold, O God, our defender’ providing suitable intimacy and reflection on Psalm 84 – ‘for one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand’.
Our choral celebrations continue through to the end of 2019, with notable highlights being An Evening of Britten on 22 November (both composer Benjamin Britten’s birthday and St Cecilia’s Day) and our popular Carols by Candlelight on 13 December. Hopefully see you there!