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Meet the members... Baritone, Paul Suter

When did you join The Holst Singers and why did you choose to join?

I moved to London to complete my law studies and wanted to join a choir. I have loved singing ever since school but really honed it when I was at university. I had had the privilege of being conducted by Stephen Layton a couple of times when I was an undergraduate, so I sought out his London-based choir. I remember my audition being quite nerve-wracking – identifying the middle note of a 7-note cluster was not, and is still not, my strong suit! Despite this, I managed to get in and my first concert was in December 2008.

What is your day job?

For my sins, I am an insurance lawyer! All kidding aside, I really enjoy my job and it keeps my faculties sharp.

What is the best thing about being in The Holst Singers?

I cannot really identify a ‘best thing’. I joined the choir because Stephen Layton is one of the most demanding and rewarding conductors in the business, and the standard of singing is sublime. I stayed, though, because of the friends I have made here. I have always thought that there is no point staying anywhere (job, hobby, whatever) if you do not like the people you associate with. Well, that has never been any trouble in The Holst Singers!

Tell us about your favourite choral piece to perform?

My favourite choral piece is Durufle’s Requiem. I first encountered it at university and have been wedded to it ever since. There are so many strange corners in that piece, and moments of transcendent beauty that make one think: “how did he come up with this?!”.

Any pieces you’ve never sung but would love to?

Honestly, there are too many to list! Two in particular that spring to mind are Poulenc’s ‘Figure Humaine’ and Gesualdo’s ‘Tenebrae Responsories’. I have listened to recordings of these pieces any number of times and relish the challenge one day of performing them. Perhaps our Programme Manager will read this and do me a favour…

Tell us about your most memorable performance with Holst.

Again, many performances stick in the memory. A programme including Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir was a spellbinding concert at Temple Church, and another programme of Russian music at the Greek Orthodox Church in Bayswater was surprisingly emotional… but I think a concert we performed in Estonia, broadcast on the radio, was the one I enjoyed the most. The repertoire was a mixture of English and Estonian choral favourites. Two of the Estonian composers, Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis, were in attendance and decamped with us to the bar afterwards!

What is your favourite piece of Christmas music?

Without a doubt, Peter Warlock’s ‘Bethlehem Down’. On its surface it presents itself like a regular, 4-verse hymn. But there is such a depth of feeling, achingly beautiful harmonies and devastating lyrics, that it is elevated to something that is, to my mind, incredibly profound.

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