How long have you been with Holst Singers?
I have been with the Holsties (though subject to a regular and rigorous re-audition process) for about 20 years, and chose them for their interesting repertoire, innovation, and high quality singing - and because every rehearsal with Stephen Layton is like a mind-blowing masterclass in music and spiritual musicianship.
What is your day job?
I am a government lawyer specialising in driverless cars. But I used to be a Russian interpreter, and coached the Holst singers for some of their Russian CDs. I also used to be a jazz singer in a 1930s big band in the USA.
What is the best thing about being in Holst Singers?
Singing together with the most talented and wonderful people!
Tell us about your favourite choral piece to perform?
Schnittke Choir Concerto; Poulenc’s Figure Humaine, Rachmaninov Vespers, Bach Matthew or John Passion, or B minor Mass. Yes, they are all my favourite favourites!
Any pieces you've never sung but would love to?
All the Bach motets
What is your favourite moment of Brahms Requiem?
This is a JEWEL of a piece! What you get is not the fluffy padding of an orchestra, but the choir laid bare, standing and delivering nothing but Brahms’ Requiem! Pared down, just two pianists to accompany, and the Holsties sounding really wondrous,
This is heart-and-soul-opening music, making such rich modern sense out of some extraordinarily lovely selected biblical texts, affording glimpses of the sublime while illuminating our human condition with ever new relevance. I think a favourite moment - as an example of that - is in the middle of the 2nd movement “denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras”: That hushed lilting lullaby moment: “so seid geduldig” (“so be patient”). Geduldig is one of the most lovely words in the most “lieblich” of languages: German! And this moment is sung in a kind of listening awe: Stephen’s score marking here is “mouth hardly open”.
This music resonates and echoes up and down the ages: I keep noticing Eccard, Schütz, renaissance polyphony and Bach motets in it, and it feels like a prequel to Mahler and Schönberg too - yet all the time also sounding richly and gorgeously like good old Brahms, with his big beard and all his extra furniture and dark patterned wallpaper. But on 30 th October we will be giving you the decluttered version, where I hope you’ll really hear it in all its loveliness.