When did you join The Holst Singers and why did you choose us? I joined The Holst Singers in 2015. I had just moved to London and was looking for a good choir. Lots of people recommended Holst... My first concert was in Temple Church, singing the Martin Mass for Double Choir and Allegri's Miserere alongside works by Sanders and Messiaen. It was a fantastic programme and really atmospheric concert. What is your day job? I work in the Foreign Office. What is the best thing about being in Holst Singers? It is so rewarding singing for our Musical Director Stephen Layton. Wherever we've rushed in from on a Monday evening, Stephen creates an amazing shared focus and the most beautiful music. Tell us about your favourite choral piece to perform? I absolutely love the Rachmaninov Vespers - a stunning, moving piece of music from beginning to end. People often sing Bogoroditse Devo in isolation, but I have really enjoyed performing the whole work with the Holst Singers, both in St Sophia's Orthodox Cathedral, Bayswater and Merton College, Oxford. Any pieces you've never sung but would love to? I would love to sing more James MacMillan. His Seven Last Words from the Cross and Miserere are awesome, while The Gallant Weaver is a simply sublime little setting of Burns. I'm also hoping that Holst might perform A Garland for the Queen - a little known collection of ten secular songs for unaccompanied choir written by all the big names of the 1950s (Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Finzi etc.) in celebration of the Queen's coronation, emulating the Triumphs of Oriana written for Elizabeth I. Tell us about your most memorable performance with Holst? I will never forget performing Tavener's Veil of the Temple in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. We joined forces with six other choirs to perform this epic all-night vigil. Processing out of the cathedral at dawn after over seven hours was an intensely moving experience... and we had a great Norwegian breakfast to celebrate! What is your favourite moment of the Palestrina: Success and succession programme?
It would have to be Bach's Komm, Jesu, komm. This funeral motet moves through the stages of weary suffering and bitterness to an affirmation of faith in God and acceptance of death. It is in fact a very uplifting piece.
You can come and hear Helen singing in Palestrina: Success and succession on 5 March at St John’s in Wimbledon - book now