“Our collective passion for performance is powerfully released on stage” – interview with Amy Bebbington, conductor & choral specialist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I don’t think I could have pursued a career in anything other than the creative arts to be honest. I was encouraged to become a musician as it was seen as a more secure career choice than pursuing my love of dance! My A level teacher, Patrick Larley, was my greatest influence and my piano teacher, John Gough, also improved my technical playing and enabled performance opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I’ve been very lucky in my life and career, but not having a job that offers me financial security is my biggest frustration

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Working with Corra Sound, Harlequin Chamber Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 1 week before lockdown in 2020. I also loved the experience of winning Choir of the Year in 2000 with Choros Amici on the RAH stage. And being a part of the Rodolphus Parry Songs of Farewell recording. I suppose my two concerti as a piano soloist should also be up there too!

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

Corra Sound performed part of Ruth Gipps’ ‘Goblin Market’ with the RPO and I would like to pursue a recording of the full work some time soon. Her work demands more exposure. We have also just done a Music for Mothers concert series which suited us really well where we highlighted works by Sarah Quartel, Don MacDonald and Maya Angelou.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

Corra Sound are mostly working mothers so we have a close empathetic bond where it comes to balancing our musical work with motherhood. Our collective passion for performance is powerfully released on stage because we have mulitple plates spinning in other areas of our lives, so this is where we can finally shine and show our creative flair.

Corra Sound

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Usually through creative and collaborative discussions both within the ensemble and with external professional colleagues. The internet, of course, then provides much inspiration and connection when a creative thread appears.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

St Mary’s, Guildford has seen us perform there twice, including last year’s Christmas concert with Emma Johnson. The venue size and acoustic suits us well. We are accustomed to intimate venues such as the drawing room at Bracknell’s South Hill Park Arts Centre but also larger venues such as St Martin’s Church, Worcester, for last year’s Elgar Festival or Romsey Abbey, Hampshire for this year’s Ethelflaeda Festival.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

More dynamic approaches to how diverse and creative concerts can be. Family events, more interaction between performers and audience, breaking down barriers to inclusion and broadening the concept and expectations of what performances can be.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Feeling satisfied and fulfilled with musical outcomes in serving the ongoing needs of my choirs and our audiences. Having productive and happy musical relationships with colleagues all over the world. Having compositions published or bought also feels pretty successful!

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

I am often asked for advice on tricky situations within choirs and feel well placed and experienced enough to offer support and guidance on most of these topics now! Issues are usually around personality dynamics, committees and value for money! Sometimes it’s hard to be bold when you’re a young sole trader.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

How crucial and valuable the arts are (for all people to have access to and engage in) and how they need to be financially supported and secure. In South Korea it’s the Arts that bring in money and exposure, which in turn raises the profile of other large businesses and corporations such as Kia and Samsung. The UK government is massively short-sighted in how its treats, values and promotes its artists. And it’s looking more grim by the day in light of new ACE cuts.

What’s next? Where would you like to be in 10 years?

Alive, happy, travelling and free

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Autumn dog walks in the woods.

Amy Bebbington directs Corra Sound in their Christmas concert on 3 December, in a programme highlighting the power of female creatives, featuring glorious and rarely-heard music written for upper voices and harp by composers from Britain, Norway and Canada. Information and tickets

Graduating with First Class Honours and a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance (UK), Amy went on to be awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts, specialising in Choral Conducting, from Texas Tech University (USA). She is the Director of Training for the Association of British Choral Directors, an organisation that sits at the forefront of choral conductor training in the UK. She oversees and tutors on their extended courses, sits on its advisory council, was the Artistic Director of its festival in Winchester (2016) and established its notable webinar series.

Amy is a co-founder of the inaugural London International Choral Conducting Competition, and sat on the jury of its inaugural event, which took place in 2018. She is also a co-founder of Wavelength, an organisation designed to celebrate and serve women in all areas of choral leadership. Amy is proud to have recently become a founding member and the UK Ambassador of the International Choral Conducting Federation (ICCF). Amy has taught choral conducting for The University of Cambridge, Sing Ireland, The Sherborne International Summer School, The Royal College of Organists, the Military Wives’ Choral Association, the ISM and the Hallé Youth Choir. She has successfully established her own Choral Conducting Masterclass Series and has recently launched a brand new online Choral Leadership and Pedagogy course (CLP). Amy has worked closely with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain as Course Director, Musicianship Tutor and Guest Tutor. 

Amy has performed in award-winning choirs and has choral works published by Banks Music Publications and Multitude of Voyces. She has had the pleasure of adjudicating for both the Derry and Cork International Choral Festivals, Choir of the Year, Music for Youth National Festival and the Cheltenham Music Festival, among many others. As a teacher trainer/animateur, she has worked for Trinity/Open University, Glyndebourne Education, Sing for Pleasure, Youth Music and Music of Life.

Amy is in great demand as a choral clinician, mentor and teacher, and is currently Musical Director for Harlequin Chamber Choir, Corra Sound, Holmbury Choral Society, Nota Bene and the Sir William Perkins’s School Chamber Choir.

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