How did you first become involved with the Cathedral?
Amusingly, I originally intended to join just one choir upon coming to University to keep my interest in singing ‘ticking over’. This very quickly became five and is now the focus of my life. I heard through the grapevine in University of Nottingham’s Music Department that the Cathedral was looking for choral scholars. I had imagined either that places would no longer be available after the start of term or that I would not be at the required standard, but luckily being an (almost) tenor can do you a lot of favours where skill might be lacking.
What did you get out of your experience with us?
I developed an interest in conducting around the same time I came to University. I managed to secure a couple of conducting opportunities with choirs during my first year, the summer of which Alex introduced me to the Association of British Choral Directors. I had a number of lessons and met many useful contacts at their summer convention, which led to Alex offering me the position of Assistant Director of Music at the Cathedral. I continued to sing with the Cathedral Choir, but was also given opportunities to conduct them, both in rehearsals and services. Since the Cathedral Choir were the most capable singers I had stood in front of at that point, imposter syndrome was at a high and confidence was at a low. The challenges I faced were compounded by having to simultaneously learn how to collaborate effectively with an accompanist. In conjunction with my ongoing piano studies, Robert kindly taught me the organ during my first year, so I knew enough about the instrument to have a head start in this area at least.
During this time, I also became involved in the running of the Youth Choir. I conducted them to begin with, but once Ellie joined us I accompanied from the piano instead while she led from the front. This adventure brought with it more new challenges: crowd control, the need to be even more engaging, and the requirement to explain complicated things simply, to name a few. I found working with younger people to be rewarding in a way that was slightly different to the satisfaction I derived from working with adults.
While it is probably my weaker suit, the experience certainly helped me figure out what exactly my career focusses will be and I have continued to enjoy working with the Youth Choir and seeing them thrive under Ellie’s leadership.
I am still stunned by the extent to which the Cathedral facilitated my education across so many fields (and even paid me for the pleasure). I have intended to pursue choral conducting as a career since that summer of my first year, and every experience the Cathedral has led me through has complemented this ambition. I will be forever grateful to the Cathedral’s Music Department, its sponsors, and the community we are all part of, for their support.
What have been your highlights?
The large scale concerts we have put on really stand out in my memory. One of the reasons I believe the Cathedral to be such a special place is the manner in which it unites the community through music. For instance, collaborating with the Youth Choir, children from the diocese, and Streetwise Opera in last summer’s production of Tobias and the Angel was a poignant experience and, for me, summarises what music is all about.
What other musical experiences have you had outside of the Cathedral?
External highlights include conducting the University Music Society’s chamber choir and symphony orchestra, holding a conducting assistantship for the University’s choral society and chamber choir, and being one of the lucky few who were flown out to Malaysia for the Tri-campus Arts Festival in the summer of 2016. I also write, record, and produce pop music as an ongoing hobby.
What does the future hold?
I am starting a two-year MA in Choral Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music this September with a partial scholarship and hope to enjoy quite a varied career afterwards. I have always felt called to education, but another of my aims is to found and conduct a professional chamber choir.
When you were a Choral Scholar here?
During my glory days: 2010 - 2012
What attracted you to be a Choral Scholar?
The promise of great music every week, excellent colleagues and all the incense I could eat.
What did you get out of the experience?
Fantastic friends, the ability to read plainchant and the knowledge to not say ‘sorry’ in the middle of solo lines (which unfortunately did happen once).
What did you go on to do after you left?
After I left Nottingham, I had a year off to learn new things and audition for music colleges. I went on to do a Masters in Vocal Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, followed by their opera course. After that, I spent a further year at the National Opera Studio before heading out into the real world.
What are you doing now and anything coming up?
For the last couple of years, I’ve been singing professionally and working around the UK and France.
I’ve been a Harewood Artist at English National Opera since 2017 and have performed several roles there. I’m about to start rehearsals for my largest role so far - Leporello in Garsington Opera’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni - which will be staged this Summer. I will make my Welsh National Opera debut early next year as Figaro in their production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro - a role I’ve performed once before during my student days at the University of Nottingham.
I have also a range of concert engagements including Gloucester: Three Choirs Festival in July singing the role of Brander in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust alongside Sarah Connolly (Marguerite), Christopher Purves (Méphistophélès) & Peter Hoare (Faust)
Further details can be found at www.davidirelandsings.com
When were you a choral scholar?
From September 2013 to June 2014, during my gap year.
What did you get out of the choral scholarship experience?
Amongst the wealth of benefits, I have to pick the massive increase in my sight-reading ability, the huge range of repertoire I sang over the year and wonderful social life within the choir! Moreover, the opportunity to perform in a variety of concerts and different performance situations. It was a vital part of my musical and social development!
Tell us about any musical highlights
A particular highlight of mine was the joint performance of Duruflé Requiem with St Barnabas and St Mary’s Choir and the Orchestra of the Restoration, performing the mezzo-soprano solo, as it was my first time performing as a soloist with choir and orchestra. It was so exciting to not only stand up in front of a large audience and perform such beautiful music, but to also see my name, picture and biography featured in the programme! Other highlights included the BBC Radio Nottingham Christmas Broadcast in 2013, the Cathedral Flower and Music Festival and performing Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia, which is a piece that has really resonated with me!
What have you been up to following your time at the Cathedral?
I studied Music at the University of York from 2014-17 and had the time of my life performing a huge variety of choral, operatic and contemporary music! I was a founding member of the York based Aspect Opera, performing Britten’s chamber operas The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring. I was an Alto Scholar with Genesis Sixteen from 2016-17, the training scheme run by The Sixteen’s Harry Christophers and Eamonn Dougan. Furthermore, since graduating I have been working as a Freelance Soloist and spending a year as a Fellow of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, receiving top quality training in performance and music education, alongside performing as an octet at various events, such as the London A Cappella Festival.
What does the future hold?
In September 2018, I shall begin my studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the MMus Performance Course, where I shall continue my studies to become an opera singer and hone my craft.