You may know that I’m a keen choral singer. I sing in 3 different choirs currently and have been singing since I was 5 years old. I was lucky enough to be spotted by a great singing teacher at school and stuck with it ever since then. I feel much better in myself when I’m singing compared to times when I don’t if I’m too busy or something. There are so many benefits for me: using my brain in a different way to sight sing and learn new music, the great feeling of having learnt that music and being able to perform it to concert level, as well as working and achieving something together with a group. Singing can be hard work but for me it’s also social and fun. Being able to perform with other musicians and in different venues is also always a treat.
Now, according to contemporary choral composer and musical director Eric Whitacre, (who I wrote about here) the health benefits of singing have been scientifically proven. Whitacre has collaborated with a scientist working in the centre for performance science at the Royal College of Music to monitor stress hormone levels in singers when they are rehearsing and performing. The audience was also monitored. The conclusion was that for singers and audiences, after singing or listening to singing, stress hormone levels went down and all involved felt more relaxed.
“Singing is something that many people inherently feel is good for them and relaxes them. But to actually show biologically (and demonstrate scientifically) that it can reduce stress is very exciting.” – Eric Whitacre
I agree with the study as even at times when I don’t feel like going to rehearsal, I’m always in a better mood after having a good sing! I also know that listening to live or even recorded music relaxes me.
On the subject of choirs, I’m looking forward to Dustin Hoffman’s new film The Choir. Hoffman plays the part of the musical director of a boys choir and the film follows the journey of one troubled boy to becoming the musical academy’s best singer. Dustin Hoffman is in the press at the moment for bemoaning the state of the film industry in terms of money-making being at the top of the list and the lack of time that can be spent on making movies. Hoffman did however say about music,
“I love it more than anything, but I can’t play well enough to make a living out of it. If God tapped me on the shoulder right now and said ‘no more acting, no more directing, but you can be a decent jazz pianist’ … I could never read music gracefully. I don’t have a good ear. I still want to do it. I would love to do it.”
Well I think he could do anything!
I have spent two fun evenings this week singing at London’s magnificent Royal Albert Hall as part of the English Chamber Choir for performances of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. We were part of a set up including full orchestra – (strings, wind, brass, percussion sections), 2 solo singers, electric guitar, bass guitar, drum kit and Rick Wakeman – the glitteringly cloaked wizard in charge of us all playing on a variety of NINE keyboards! It was a brilliant experience to be part of such a big show with really incredible musicians. There was a great atmosphere at the shows from the audience and the performers too. It also made a nice change to sing different styles of music.
The shows celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the landmark concept album Journey to the Centre of the Earth and were part of a tour consisting of other show dates around the country.
For the performances I decided to wear my mum’s dress from 1969 (by KATI at Laura Phillips) which I thought was fitting for a 1970s revival show! The photo was taken in the dressing room at the Royal Albert Hall.
Based on the novel by Jules Verne, which also marks its 150th anniversary in 2014, the album is one of the rock era’s landmark achievements – a record that sold 15 million copies and rewrote the rules.
”This is the start of a new Journey” says Rick Wakeman, “the original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible. but after it turned up without warning , we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop it into this tour, but I can’t wait to take Jules Verne’s magnificent story on tour again.”
Rick Wakeman’s 15 million selling Journey To The Centre Of The Earth sits alongside the most successful concept albums of the rock era including The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. Its release in 1974 was arguably the high watermark of the progressive rock genre.
Rick’s original album featured the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, conducted by David Measham.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was first performed and recorded live at London’s Royal Festival Hall in January 1974. Issued three months later, its success defied everyone’s expectations, including those of Wakeman’s label. The album went on to enjoy gold and platinum sales across the globe. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was also nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.
For many years, the original conductor’s score for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was thought
to have been lost, making any attempt to revive this seminal work impossible. However, in 2008,
Wakeman took delivery of a box that arrived out of the blue from Australia. At the bottom, he
found the original Journey To The Centre Of The Earth conductor’s score that had suffered severe
water damage. With the help of conductor Guy Protheroe, (musical director of English Chamber Choir) he repaired and revisited the
compositions and put them in a form that enabled him to celebrate its anniversary in an appropriate manner.
Engaging the Orion Symphony Orchestra (whose members comprise The New
World Symphony Orchestra for the UK tour) and The English Chamber Choir as well as actor Peter
Egan (best known for both his Shakespearean work as well as his role as Paul in the British sitcom
Ever Decreasing Circles) he recorded a new studio version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth at
London’s famed Abbey Road Studios. In November 2012, the expanded work was published as a
limited edition in a fan-pack, together with a copy of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert
programme, and has since became a collector’s item.
The Guest Director for this year’s festival is actress Vanessa Redgrave who is also involved in many human rights activities. The festival programme consists of music, theatre, dance, film, literature addressing topics of interest to the Guest Director, including
acting and politics to memory and nostalgia to homeland and story-telling, to humanitarian concerns and economic and social issues
The first Brighton Festival was held in 1967 and it has now become the largest arts festival in England. The inaugural Guest Artistic Director in 2009 was Anish Kapoor, in 2010 Brian Eno and in 2011 Aung San Suu Kyi was Guest Director of the festival.
Harrison and Co and have designed the festival artwork year and the brochure cover which I think stylish and eye catching.
Inspiration for the brochure cover image was taken from Victor Skrebneski’s iconic image of Vanessa Redgrave from the 1960s as well as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The general design has been influenced by vintage posters and has an Art Nouveau feel to it and the wave shaped lines are a reminder of Brighton’s location by the sea.
English Chamber Choir will be singing the World Premiere of Ivan Moody’s Sub tuum praesidium and António Teixeira’s Te Deum (1734)
António Teixeira’s ornate and vibrant baroque masterpiece, Te Deum (1734), lay neglected for almost two centuries, until the Gulbenkian Foundation commissioned a modern performing edition in the 1980s. The forces required to bring this brilliantly colourful music to life are themselves baroque in their extravagance: five choirs, sixteen solo lines and a full instrumental ensemble. The concert also features the world premiere of a specially commissioned companion piece by British composer Ivan Moody, who was involved in the reconstruction of Teixeira’s original score.
Information and concert details at http://brightonfestival.org/event/618/english_chamber_choir/
You can hear and see English Chamber Choir singing another Ivan Moody piece, When Augustus Reigned here
English Chamber Choir is also featured in the Classical Music section of the launch film for this year’s Brighton Festival
I am very much looking forward to singing a demanding and beautiful piece of music and to be back in Brighton for the festival, as I lived in Brighton for three years during my undergraduate studies at Sussex University.
I have always loved singing and was lucky to grow up in a household where music was important whether it was The Beatles, pieces of famous classical music or ‘world’ music from other cultures – something was always playing in the car or at home.
I am into a really wide range of music and I don’t understand when people seem bemused that I like opera, classical, reggae, dub, ska, klezmer, folk, 60s pop, grunge, retro close harmony a cappella and much more!
I was lucky to start singing lessons from the age of 6 through school and I haven’t stopped singing since then, in choirs at school, universities and then semi professionally in chamber choirs.
I have been classically trained in singing and completed the 8 grade examinations. Singing in a choir is brilliant – there are so many benefits! Working on a piece and getting it to performance level can be challenging and is very rewarding. Performing balances adrenaline and nerves and it’s a great feeling of pride when the audience shows their appreciation at the end! Singing in a choir involves many skills and also means that you are part of a team and are involved in a wonderful community of creative, talented people.
Having sung in choirs throughout my schooling, entering solo and choral competitions including at the Eisteddfod as well as singing in choir tours in Spain and Italy, I have sung in University Chamber Choirs at Sussex and Leicester and Pisa. A memorable singing moment from that time was singing with many other Italian University choirs in a private part of the Vatican, inside St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
I now sing in the English Chamber Choir which involves weekly rehearsals in the City and frequent performances at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square as well as other London venues,. We make recordings of our work and have a wide repertoire ranging from classical crowd pleasers like Mozart’s Requiem to prog rock singing for Rick Wakeman! I get to sing in fantastic venues for all different kinds of events with a variety of creative people.
Hear and see English Chamber Choir singing
I have sung solos including ‘The Mouse’ from Benjamin Britten’s ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’ at St James the Great in Leicester, ‘Tecum Principium’ from Handel’s Dixit Dominus at St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in the City, London and most recently I have sung the Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London.