Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

When I was a student at university I was expecting to begin a career as a classroom music teacher.  It was only through watching fellow choral scholars begin their professional lives in London choirs that awoke me to the idea that you could sing for a living.  My colleagues and I often have people ask us, post concert, “so what’s your day job?” but that could so easily have been me asking that question.  It was when I observed the early career paths of ex-students like John Mark Ainsley and Paul Agnew that it dawned on me that this was an actual profession and that I might have a go at it.  I have my wife to thank for giving me the impetus and courage in my early twenties to give up my teaching job and try becoming a freelance singer.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My musical education has been fairly sponge-like and I have been happy to learn from anyone.  My earliest singing teachers gave me a grounding which I never forget: Valerie Heath Davis was a chorus member at ENO who gave me my first singing lessons outside school and taught me how to breath for singing.  She prepared me for my choral trials.  Janet Edmunds looked after me during university and introduced me to this thing called Lieder.  One of her mantra’s was ‘Sing for the joy of singing’.  I never understood it at the time but I most certainly do now.  Then came David Mason and David Pollard, the latter introducing me to the idea that I could be a soloist and that I might consider retraining at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.  All these people have had a huge influence on the direction of my life and career.

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

I don’t feel my career has been that full of challenges in all honesty.  It’s not that I’ve taken the easy road, but that I have enjoyed myself in practically everything I do.  I try not to commit to work that I think I am unable to fulfil – something that is too high, too low, to heavy a voice type or whatever – and so far I think I have sung within my comfort zone. I have been surrounded by people who support what I do, especially my family, and this has made my life pretty easy, in the scheme of things.  I have no complaints.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I have very warm memories of Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress at Sadlers Wells with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hickox.  The cast was magnificent and made up pretty much of my friendliest colleagues.  I hugely enjoyed that experience.  I also treasured being Billy in Britten’s Billy Budd at Opera North last year, directed by my sister-in-law Orpha Phelan and conducted by Garry Walker.  That was also a perfect storm of artistic elements.  I try not to listen to my own recordings in general; I’m very glad other people enjoy them but it’s too much like listening to your own voice on your answer-phone message.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I like the ambiguity of this question because it implies that, although you might think you play or sing something especially well, others listening might shake their head in disbelief.  One’s own perception of a performance is often at odds with how others witness it.  Sometimes I have been in vocal difficulties, have managed to make it through a show on a wing and a prayer, and people have come up afterwards and said how wonderfully they thought I had performed.  On the other hand, times when I’ve thought I was in glorious voice have sometimes been met with a friendly nod.  I have no real answer to this question otherwise.

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

Repertoire choice is not always something over which one has final control.  In terms of recital programmes, I can offer promoters my current choice (and my Schubert cycle project at the moment is very palatable, it would seem) but even then music societies and festivals often have a particular theme or composer’s anniversary that they would like you to match and I do my best to accommodate that.  As for opera roles, I have very little choice in what is offered to me.  I can accept or decline the work; that’s where my power ends.

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

There are two recital venues I have sung in recently that have stood out in my mind as being exceptional and for different reasons.  One is the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, one of the wood-panelled, upstairs officers’ quarters that are used for recitals.  The acoustic was so generous to me as a singer, without being too washy, that I hardly felt I needed to sing at all.  The other is the small studio at the Crucible, Sheffield, home of Music-in-the-Round where I am singer in residence.  I love the intimacy of this venue and its re-invention of the concert space.  It re-defines one’s relationship with the audience.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The 2014 Last Night of the Proms was very memorable although, when I think back on it, my time on stage was a bit of a blur.  What I remember most is finishing my last item, rushing back to my dressing room as the post-adrenalin hysteria began to kick in, changing out of my tails and into normal clothes and slipping back into the hall, high up in the audience, so that I could witness the last few pieces on the programme.  The atmosphere was electric.  I also vividly recall Peter Sellar’s semi-staging of Bach’s St John Passion at the Philharmonie in Berlin, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.  I didn’t have all that much to sing in fact but the experience of performing Christus right in the centre of that drama was overwhelmingly intense.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

This is a question I sometimes ask of conservatoire students – otherwise we may not always be sure what it is we are aiming for.  I’ve decided my goal is to be happy, to be able to work with wonderful musicians at a high level, enough to live comfortably but not so much that the stress becomes a burden.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

All the predictable things, really: professionalism, which means decent preparation, time keeping (as in one’s diary rather than being on the beat!), being an open, supportive colleague, self-discipline, that sort of thing.  Those things form the basic grounding that I would hope any musician, any person, would value as being important.  The idea that being an extraordinary artist allows one to overlook these ‘because you’re special’ doesn’t really wash with me.  Other than that, for singers especially I would promote honesty of communication with one’s audience as being something worthwhile fostering.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Still working at the highest level I can manage but also ready for approaching retirement, whatever that may mean.  If that means teaching/coaching a little more, perhaps writing more music, then so be it.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The knowledge that the people I love are safe, comfortable and happy.  A beautiful view on a glorious day with me striding through the middle of it.  I don’t even need to be with my loved ones, I am happy to be on my own in peace and quiet, but to know that they are content while I’m out and about puts me in my best head-space.

What is your most treasured possession?

I thought a lot about this question; in the end, I guess I’m not so keen on the idea of a possession being that important to me.  People are important but of course I do not own any of them.  So my answer has to be my voice.

What do you enjoy doing most?

This is a really hard question too; doing something for fun, like hiking a beautiful trail in wonderful scenery or doing professionally?  The most enjoyable thing?  I don’t know.  But It’s very likely to be singing, especially in rehearsals.

What is your present state of mind?

I’m content.  That’s what Billy says in Billy Budd and it struck quite a chord with me then.  “That’s all right, Sir, I’m content”.  Yup, that’s me right now.

RW: Here’s an extra question for fun.

If I weren’t a singer, what would I like to have been?

In my next life, I want to come back as a dancer.  I wish I could move like those amazing dancers, classical ballet, jazz, tap, latin, I don’t mind what.  And I wish I could lead my partner with confidence rather than have them tut, give up on me and just take over.  Happens every time!

RW: And another – is there anything you wish you could do better?

I can’t hula-hoop.  Every time I try, it has my wife in stitches of laughter.  It just drops off my waist and round my ankles.  Very embarrassing.  Also, when I try to swim front crawl but legs alone, with a float or whatever, I go backwards.  My wife finds this hysterically funny also.

Roderick Williams’ new CD, with Susie Allan, piano, ‘Celebrating English Song’ is available now on the SOMM label. Further information here

 

Roderick Williams encompasses a wide repertoire, from baroque to contemporary music, in the opera house, on the concert platform and in recital. He won the Singer of the Year Award in the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards and was awarded the OBE for services to music in June 2017.

He enjoys relationships with all the major UK opera houses and is particularly associated with the baritone roles of Mozart. He has also sung world premieres of operas by, among others, David Sawer, Sally Beamish, Michael van der Aa and Robert Saxton.

Roderick Williams has sung concert repertoire with all the BBC orchestras, and many other ensembles including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta, Manchester Camerata, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hallé, Britten Sinfonia, Bournemouth Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Russian National Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Academy of Ancient Music, The Sixteen, Le Concert Spirituel, Rias Kammerchor and Bach Collegium Japan. His many festival appearances include the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, Bath and Melbourne.

In 2015 he sang Christus in Peter Sellars’ staging of the St John Passion with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle – a performance now available on DVD.  He will sing this role again with both the Berlin Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in 2019.

Recent and future engagements include Oronte in Charpentier’s Medée, Toby Kramer in Van der Aa’s Sunken Garden and Don Alfonso/Così for English National Opera, the title role in Eugene Onegin for Garsington Opera, Van der Aa’s After Life at Melbourne State Theatre, Van der Aa’s Sunken Garden at Opera de Lyon, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and with Dallas Opera, the title role in Billy Budd for Opera North and at the Aldeburgh Festival, Papageno Die Zauberflöte and Ulisse  Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a concert performance of Ned Keene/Peter Grimes with Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Last Night of the 2014 BBC Proms, as well as concert performances with many of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles. He is also an accomplished recital artist who can be heard at venues and festivals including Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, LSO St Luke’s, the Perth Concert Hall, Oxford Lieder Festival, London Song Festival, the Musikverein, Vienna, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and on Radio 3, where he has participated in Iain Burnside’s Voices programme.

His numerous recordings include Vaughan Williams, Berkeley and Britten operas for Chandos and an extensive repertoire of English song with pianist Iain Burnside for Naxos.

Roderick Williams is also a composer and has had works premiered at the Wigmore and Barbican Halls, the Purcell Room and live on national radio. He was Artistic Director of Leeds Lieder + in April 2016.

 

(Artist photo: Groves Artists)

Who or what inspired you to take up​ singing and pursue a career in music?

I was crazy about Beethoven as a child and I listened to everything. My Dad taught me and my brother the piano and we learnt simplified piano transcriptions of some movements from Beethoven symphonies. I also was transfixed by Elizabeth Soderstrom’s voice, and after hearing her in ‘Capriccio’ my brother smuggled me backstage to meet her. She was so nice. I was lucky enough to study with her. I didn’t really choose to do music, I just assumed that’s what I would do. The moment that blew me away was at school hearing ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’. I used to like frightening myself by listening to it with the volume up in the dark! Also’s Ligeti ‘Lux Aterna’ and ‘Requiem’. I was totally transfixed by the colours, textures and extremity of the vocal writing.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I wanted to be Freddie Mercury. I still want to be Freddie Mercury. I also loved The Jackson 5, such great performers. I especially loved the horn section in the Jackson 5 songs. When I was growing up my mum listened a lot to the African band Osibisa and Leonard Cohen, as well as Mahler and Mozart.

My brother was an Astro-physicist so keeping one eye on the cosmos was to me a normal thing to do and there was really no separation to me between pure scientific experiment, and music and sound as experiment. My dad was an engineer specialising in radar and brought home loads of bits of equipment to play with that made all these great sounds: there was always for me an awareness of pure sound.

Rabbi Rosenblum at our synagogue had a completely amazing high tenor voice and used to make beautiful complex vocalisations from liturgical tunes that I later recorded him singing and memorised. This particular influence led me to a musical trip around the Middle East where I became fascinated by Yemenite and Iraqi Jewish music, and I really enjoyed tracing song lines from the most ancient liturgical chants I could find to present day Christian hymns that began every morning at junior school. I continue to be fascinated by forms of music such as Bosnian Sevdah that combine scales and forms from several different cultures to make a new form.

Then of course there was the classic situation of a really amazing music teacher at school, Mrs Ellefson, who with seemingly insouciant ease created loads of opportunities for a young sound freak to freely explore all kinds of music. When I came to London, I studied at City University where music could be read as a science: you could choose to study sound recording and the physics of music, ethnomusicology and aesthetics and criticism. They called it the ‘consciousness transformation department’! My first professional experiences were with Complicite, then called Theatre de Complicite. That experience really opened my eyes to what was possible physically with regard to singing. My work with Richard Thomas and exploration of comedy in music has been an underlying constant. I love comedy, I love its form. I think it’s one of the noble arts. No one seems to takes it seriously enough.

Rather short-sightedly I’m afraid I never really thought of music as a career in the conventional sense of the word. If I had, my choices and behaviour might have been very different.

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

Too many to write here, I suppose the biggest challenge is the daily battle with myself. Also the eternal battle with finances.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

I’m very proud of my latest CD recording of ‘Lore Ipsum’ by Frederic Acquaviva. It’s an experimental piece based on my voice and the cultural news of the day because culture is the barometer for all that is going on in other areas of the life. ‘Lore Ipsum’ took several years to come to fruition and has I think really benefited from being slowly cooked.

I’m very happy with the collaboration I have with violinist Aisha Orezbayeva. We have been performing concerts of ‘Kafka Fragments’ that have been going really well. However, on the whole I’m usually unhappy with everything I do. When I listen to recordings of myself I want to kill myself. I always try to persuade people to let me re-record.

I find it easier to be pleased with things I’ve done as a director as there is a bit more distance involved. I directed the UK premiere of Kagel ‘Staatstheater’ at Durham university and the Sage and I was really pleased with that. All the details were just right, the timings, the individual performances. It was really great.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Works that are written in the true spirit of creation and experimentation.I think I’m best in repertoire that require a huge range of colours and where the vocal range itself is wide. I enjoy music where the vocal writing is instrumental if it’s a living or dead composer, i.e. Bach, Furrer, Okegham, Aperghis, Barry. I like it when the composer knows traditional vocal technique but consciously reaches for something beyond it. Messiaen is incredible because he combines the spirit of experimentation with spiritual transcendence. I love birdsong and I love the texts he uses. I often work with conceptual artists who experiment in sound which is fascinating because they often have a very strong ideas that can be very pure.

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

I have a list of pieces I want to perform and a personal schedule for a year of when I want to perform/record them. Often seasons are artist-led so it’s more who I want to work with, performers and composers, then choices are made in collaboration.

Some seasons have an element of ‘chance operation’! In other words a strange and fabulous project can appear seemingly out of the ether.

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

I like Wiltons Music Hall, the Philharmonie Berlin, Peckham car park, CBSO centre, Venice fish market, Musikverein and Stefansdom. All these places have a very specific acoustic that I really like.In stefansdom the acoustic changes according to where you are.

I also love to perform in art galleries and churches because the space is more flexible.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

My first response to this question is I love to sing things that are totally new, experimental, hot off the press! I like to sing things in Russian because that language has such a wonderful mouthfeel. To listen to, a big treat for me is a massive orchestral concert, maybe Messiaen’s Turangalila symphony, or the concert version of ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’ in a huge venue that can really contain the sound. For similar reasons I love singing orchestral song cycles where the full throttle of the orchestra is right behind you, rather than in opera where it is contained in the pit.

I love to perform ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ because it is a groundbreaking piece in every way. In the same way I like to perform John Cage’s ‘Aria’ which is another piece that is way ahead of its time and set the bar for solo vocal pieces that came after it. John Cage between 1952 and 1975 I think is fabulous. I love the texture virtuosity and ranginess found in Aperghis’ vocal music such as the ‘Recitation’, ‘Monomanie’ and ‘Tourbillons’. For similar reasons I enjoy singing Mahnkopf.

I like to listen to music where the composer is clearly on a creative quest and where you can hear the struggle and process. Also where the composer has embedded codes and secrets within the music. I’m still a Beethoven fan: I wish he had written more vocal music. I’m also a fan of Chopin’s piano music: he has a totally original voice, his use of harmony is really amazing and I love that he concentrated mainly on this one instrument.

I listen to Carnatic music. It’s fascinating the way the tuning up process is included in the form and isn’t separated. It’s interesting that the music is both spiritual and functional with set times of day to be performed. I also relish the extraordinary length of time over which these ragas develop. It’s one of the reasons I also explore the operas of Wagner or the films of Tarkovsky and also Kubrik’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. I really enjoy that these creators allow the images to hang for a very long time that allows you to completely absorb them.

At the moment I’m listening a lot to the Notre Dame school.

Both Charles Ives and Varese get my imagination going as does Nancarrow.

As a listener and performer, of course Bach is fantastic. I like to try and sing his solo instrumental pieces. I went through a phase when I was a student of transcribing instrumental solos to sing, such as the Brecker Brothers and also Anthony Braxton because I enjoy practising music that really stretches the technique and forces me to expand my technique. I also enjoy singing Sorabji for its insane complexity and sensuality.

I have been really lucky in having composers write for me, who have written especially for my voice. I have a ‘marmite’ voice – people love it or hate it. So for singers with marmite voices, having rep written especially for you is doubly important. I’m incredibly grateful to composers who take on this strange instrument.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Cathy Berberian, Françoise Kubler, Leo Slezak, Kim Borg, Karita Mattila, Pascal Galois, Christopher Redgate, Anton Lukoszevieze, Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Pappano, Sylvia Hallet, Samer Totah, Natalie Stulzman, Scott Ross, Roger Norrington (especially conducting Beethoven), Glenn Gould, Mark Simpson.

All the performers in the Occupy the pianos’Pierrot Lunaire line up – I nearly fainted when I saw who was playing.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

An audience member crawling into the stage and trying to set fire to me

 What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I usually advise young musicians to do everything in the opposite way that I did.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
To be performing ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ on KEPLER – 452b.

I would love to be curating and performing in a contemporary/electro acoustic opera season at the Menaus Opera House.

Also I would like to be in a position to realise projects much faster than I can now.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Endless time discussing ideas with the people I trust the most.

Endless time in a recording studio.

Endless time.

What is your most treasured possession?

My instrument (my body) – though strictly speaking I suppose I don’t really own it, it’s more on loan until it dissolves back into the sub atomic flow.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Listening and eating but NEVER together.

What is your present state of mind?

Totally confused.

Lore Lixenberg performs in Occupy The Pianos at St John’s Smith Square. Details here 

 

(photo credit: Ruairi Bowen)

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and make it your career? 

In common with a lot of singers, I’ve been singing for most of my life – first as a chorister for my dad at St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, then at St Paul’s Cathedral. The latter part has come much more recently and still takes me a bit by surprise: for my whole teenage years I was working towards a career as a jazz pianist, but singing took over during my undergraduate degree.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

An insultingly short list would have to include my parents and extended family; my singing teachers to date – Ulla Blom, Susanne Carlström, Philip Doghan and Ryland Davies; Ralph Allwood, Nick Goetzee and Jim Wortley at school; at Cambridge, Stephen Layton, the director of music at Trinity College, Paul Wingfield, my director of studies, Maggie Faultless, who took over performance at the music faculty, and Alice Goodman, chaplain at Trinity; hosts of generous teachers, colleagues and friends.

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

As I’m still a student, I’m hoping sure the biggest challenges are still to come, but a fair answer for now might be the two roles at Cambridge which were my operatic baptisms of fire, Pelléas and Tom Rakewell.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

When often working on the maxim that “you’re only as good as your last gig”, I’m going to go with the positive version: each project or concert, whether it’s months or hours long, is something worth taking pride in, and I wouldn’t particularly like to pick between them.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

My musical first love is Bach, and I’m lucky to have a voice which fits some of his occasionally specific challenges – all human life is there, I think, even if filtered through potentially arcane theology which is a fascinating area in itself. I need a new music fix quite frequently, and have been lucky to work with some brilliant friends in that regard – new operas by Kate Whitley and songs by Joel Rust & Jude Carlton are some recent things which have stayed with me.

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

Within vocal reason (sadly I see little Wagner in my imminent future), I’ll jump at anything which leaps off the page, makes light work of all the defences daily life throws up, and goes for the guts: recently that’s been Ives and Messiaen in the 20th century, Rameau and Handel in the early 18th, Mozart Mozart Mozart. The rhythm of the year gives a natural shape with regard to concert work – the Passions in Lent, the Messiahs and Christmas Oratorios in December, and summer throws up interesting operatic projects.

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

Not particularly: currently I’m enjoying the Duke’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Music, where I’m studying, which affords a mixture of grandeur and intimacy. But every venue has its ups and downs – I can’t recall any real shockers, however, which is perhaps tempting fate.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

A tricky one – I’ve mentioned the Passions, which are inexhaustibly wonderful masterpieces, but very often it’s whatever I’m involved in at the moment. Listen to is a very different matter – the last concert I went to was the LSO’s Turangalîla-Symphonie, which is up there for its extravagance, visceral thrills and blinding virtuosity, but day-to-day between me, the tube and my iPod, it’s mostly jazz, funk, soul.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

An endless list, but the letter J is a good start: JS Bach, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, John Zorn, an expensive vocal quartet of Jessye Norman, Joyce Di Donato, Jonas Kaufmann and John Tomlinson.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Turangalîla again, actually, at the Proms in 2008 with the BPO and Pierre-Laurent Aimard. I’d queued my way to right in front of Aimard, and could see every single intention between score, eyes, hands and whatever else. Then in the outrageous piano cadenza in the fifth movement I fully lost track of time – that 12-second shower of notes seemed an ecstatic eternity, which was something. Seeing Dave Brubeck when I was eleven was pretty influential for the next decade, and I was lucky to see Ravi Shankar at the Proms in 2005 – I’d just started playing the sitar, and to see the global master incredibly close was wonderful. As a treble, a run of concerts with Oliver Knussen on Louis Andriessen and Elliott Carter made a lasting impression, both in terms of loving new music and having the nerve to get out on a big stage and deliver – much harder to start from scratch as an adult, I’m sure.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

I’m still very much an aspiring musician, but hard work, keeping a childish enthusiasm, and a streak of punk aesthetic seems a good mix.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’ve been working on two different productions of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, in a tour with Ryedale Festival Opera and on the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme in Aldeburgh – a work which could take a lifetime to unpick, let alone a summer. In between those,  plenty of work preparing for my first year in the Academy’s opera school, with Gianni Schicchi, The Rake’s Progress and Lennox Berkeley’s A Dinner Engagement.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

Hopefully doing more or less what I’m doing now, at as high a level as who’ll have me, and 10 years into my project of writing about every song written by Schubert in chronological order, 200 years after the fact – 1824’s a fairly quiet year, actually, but doing any kind of justice to Die schöne Müllerin the year before might take a bit of work.

Born in Hereford, Gwilym Bowen is a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music, having graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2011 with a double First class degree in Music. He studies with Ryland Davies and Jonathan Papp, and is due to take up a place at Royal Academy Opera from September.

Gwilym’s full biography

Interview date: 19th July 2014

 

http://www.gwilymbowen.com/

Jane Wilkinson

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and make it your career?

As a child I went to dancing class at a very early age. I would often get picked to sing solos in the annual dancing shows and I discovered that I was a better singer than dancer! So I started singing lessons at the age of nine and never looked back.

Who or what were the most important influences on your singing?

I was always a big musicals fan, and I would go to see West End shows and would be desperate to join in! I also loved Phantom of the Opera. To play Christine would have been a dream! Consequently, many years later, I auditioned for the role and was told I was too tall!

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

One of the biggest challenges for a singer is that you have to wait for your voice to mature and as an impatient teenager that can be very frustrating. There is no rushing nature but at the same time you seem to be wishing your years away. Not anymore! I still feel as though my voice will improve with age, but I’m no longer in any hurry!

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my concerts in South Africa in 2011. I went on a tour for 2 weeks and did 10 concerts in the space of those 2 weeks. I was part of a trio – The Nightingale Trio – which was voice, flute and piano. We flew the flag for English Songs and the audiences loved it. The travelling was amazing and I was so thrilled to just get through the concerts without any sore throats or illnesses.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Generally I love performing in churches and cathedrals. They always have amazing acoustics which are fantastic for the voice. They also have a great sense of stillness about them which is so calming. They are fascinating places full of history and are like little museums of the local area.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

One of my favourite pieces to perform is Da Tempeste by Handel from his opera Guilio Cesare. It is like gymnastics for the voice. It’s such a showy piece full of runs and acrobatics. I also love playing around with ornaments. It’s a real chance to stretch the voice to the extreme. Sometimes the ornaments are different every time I perform them. It just depends on the day and I like to keep my accompanist on their toes! I also love the other Cleopatra arias, especially Ah! Mio cor. It’s beautiful in many ways and just shows the versatility of Handel’s compositions. They are a real work out for the voice but so rewarding to sing.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I really admire Renée Fleming. She has such a shimmering voice with so much depth and body to it. She is extremely charismatic when she performs and never fails to deliver. She has had a wonderful career and deserves all of her successes.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I once did a concert in a restaurant and the owner had two big Great Dane dogs. I am not the biggest fan of dogs and so I was very nervous when they lumbered into the room and came to sit at my feet. I couldn’t concentrate on performing for the fear of being licked!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

My most important bit of advice to aspiring singers would be to enjoy the journey. Training can be frustrating but it’s also a time for experimentation. Use the training years as a time to explore a vast array of repertoire. You will then hopefully find your niche which will eventually allow yourself to carve out a career based upon your area of expertise.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working with a composer called Andrew Keeling on a new album. It has a rocky feel to it which is totally new for me! We are in the middle of recording it and it is all very exciting. Then I’m back to opera with a new production in the Autumn.

What is your most treasured possession?

The article that has been with me throughout my career to date is my black leather music bag. My mum bought me it when I started singing lessons at the age of nine and I still keep music in it. It was my pride and joy!

 

English soprano Jane Wilkinson grew up on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire and began her vocal training with singing teacher Brenda Waddington. After a year studying with Barbara Robotham, she was accepted in 2002 to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow, on the Bachelor of Music course with Helen Lawson. Jane then studied as a post-graduate at the Royal College of Music, London, with Jennifer Smith. Her current teacher is Jane Irwin.

Jane is an experienced performer in all aspects of singing – opera, recitals, concerts, choral singing and competitions. She currently sings and teaches in London.

Jane recently was short listed for the BBC Radio 2 Kiri Te Kanawa Prize. She was lucky enough to sing for Dame Kiri in a masterclass at the Royal college of Music.

www.janewilkinson.co.uk