In conversation with Emily and Jenna, two of our longest serving female singers
How long have you been singing with Fitz?
Emily: I joined Fitz in September 2019 when I moved to Bristol.
Jenna: On and off for many years as both alto and sop, but regularly again in the past couple of years as a sop.
How long have you been associated with choral music?
Emily: Since I was at school, I was a music scholar at Glenalmond College and was lead Soprano (!) in the Chapel Choir there. We attended Chapel every morning and did regular concerts and tours in Europe.
Jenna: Since I was 7 and joined the Bristol Youth Choir. A few years later I was among some of the first girls to join the girls’ choir at Bristol Cathedral. It’s amazing that I still get to sing with the cathedral choir, and I am also now an assistant conductor and vocal coach at Bristol Youth Choir, coming full circle! I hope that I can inspire the singers there in the same way that I was all those years ago.
What first drew you to choral music?
Emily: I got the buzz from being in the first National Girls’ Choir of Scotland in 2007 and from then I progressed through their choirs. In 2011 I was in the main choir NYCoS as a Soprano 2, in that year we learnt Walton’s- Belshazzar’s Feast for the 15th Anniversary of NYCoS, Durufle’s Requiem EIF, and Tippet Child of Our Time. It was a lot to learn in a week, but we had the most amazing time, I remember thinking after the concerts in the Usher Hall for Edinburgh’s International Festival that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Jenna: The feeling in your body when you sing – it’s freeing and joyous. And the sound of voices coming together in harmony just can’t be beaten.
How did you first become associated with choral music?
Emily: My previous school music teacher Mrs Joan Taylor really cemented a sense of belonging through choral ensembles. It is great to perform solo, however, the thrill of excitement when singing with others, was what captivated me the most. She pushed me a lot for projects such as Scottish Opera Connect and NYCoS choirs, and I’m forever grateful that she did. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without her guidance.
Jenna: I had an amazing music teacher at primary school called Mark Hoskin who gave me so many opportunities to sing and encouraged me to have fun with music. It was thanks to him that I joined the youth choir. Then at secondary school my music teachers, especially Barbara Rusbridge, were amazing and showed me that you really could make a career out of singing – one of them had been in the BBC singers before taking up her teaching role.
What have been some of your personal choral highlights?
Emily: I’ve been lucky enough to be included in some wonderful concerts and ensembles over the years. Singing with the Genesis Sixteen programme was a wonderful year in 2016/17, I really learnt a lot as a performer and met some incredible singers who I have called my colleagues in various projects since then. Singing Mozart and Verdi Requiems at the BBC Proms has been another highlight. There are too many to note, it really depends from concert to concert…!
Jenna: Goodness, there are so many. As a child I was totally inspired by opportunities like singing for the Queen, opening the music for youth concert at the Albert Hall, leading worship at Notre Dame in Paris. Singing at the Lennon Memorial in New York was amazing!! I also still have a golden cazoo given to me by lord Sainsbury at the choir of the year festival – a very random momento from a wonderful experience. As an adult, it’s been being able to work with so many amazing conductors, composers, and singers, many of whom have become great friends.
What have been some of your personal Fitz highlights?
Emily: Singing Durufle Requiem in Bristol Cathedral is a particular highlight with Fitz, it’s such a fabulous requiem and coupled with the acoustic in the building it was pretty magical.
Jenna: Fitz under the moon was brilliant fun and a fantastic way to resume singing post lockdown.
What would you like to see Fitz doing over the next few years?
Emily: I think I have already mentioned this to a few people before, I would love to do James MacMillan’s Tenebrae Responsories. I think they are gorgeous, and I believe Fitz would do them justice. Also being Scottish, I have a massive soft spot for the contemporary Scot composer.
Jenna: I would love to take Fitz on tour and I am really excited to see how we can expand our outreach and get people singing who have perhaps never had the opportunity to do so before.
What does choral music mean to you?
Emily: What a loaded question! It’s almost difficult to put into words, it’s such a strong emotion to be able to connect with music. No matter what sort of a day you have had, I always feel better singing/playing and making music. I think the simplest way of putting it is that music is a part of my soul, and choral music is a piece of that as cheesy as that sounds…
Jenna: That’s really hard to answer as it means so many things. Choral music has really shaped me as a person in so many ways. I think for me fundamentally choral music is a way for me to connect my singing experiences with the emotions, experiences and interpretations of myself and, importantly, others – those I am singing with. And in doing so, it creates a community for me to be a part of and nurtures friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise. My dearest friends are mostly those I met singing – some going right back to my first concert aged 7! – and it’s also how I met my husband, so really choral music has played a major part in all aspects of my life and for that, I am very grateful.