Music College/University: National Opera Studio
Birthplace/Home Town: Bermondsey
Q.1 What or who inspired you to become a professional musician?
When I was adopted, one of the stipulations my birth mother made to my adoptive parents regarding how she would like me to grow up was that, if I showed a particular interest for something, I should be supported in exploring it. I became obsessed with a VHS tape of a live performance of Tubular Bells II by Mike Oldfield at Edinburgh Castle which, despite its length, I would watch in its entirety repeatedly at a very young age. Over time I acquired a small ensemble of toy musical instruments which I would then arrange in front of the television upon each viewing, and attempt to play each movement on appropriate instrumentation in real time with the video.
My grandad used to take me to the Royal Tournament every year at Earls Court, and I fell completely in love with military bands, the brass sections in particular. When I was seven, fortuitously, a couple of professional musicians moved in down our road. My mum had seen them carrying brass instrument cases and asked them if they taught, which they did! I began learning the trombone when I was seven, and never looked back. From that point on, I learned and practised numerous instruments and jazz, funk and rock music very much took over my life. With the exception of acting, I’ve never really been able to imagine doing anything else!
Q.2 What are the biggest challenges you face in the early stages of your career?
I’d say there are a couple. For one, I find the pressure of age limits for various things very difficult, and have worried about it for years. For those of us from working-class backgrounds, from non-musical families, and who went to normal, state comprehensives and couldn’t afford to attend junior departments at conservatoires or anything similar, the earliest days of one’s career often feel like a matter of ‘catching up’ with those of our peers who had a more thorough education in classical music, opera and languages from a younger age. I was encouraged with music from a young age, and even I didn’t really know what opera was until I was 18, when I saw my first one! I believe we would see even greater talent on our stages if age limits were replaced with ‘years since training’ limits.
I think finding one’s most authentic voice can sometimes be rather difficult for young singers; it certainly has been for me! Often, I think, one needs to grow in confidence sufficiently to begin to feel comfortable in one’s own skin (vocally speaking!)
Q.3 What would winning the New Voices Competition mean to you?
It would mean an immeasurable amount. Winning a competition judged by such a highly esteemed panel and with links to such amazing musical organisations would an amazing thing to happen at this stage in my career. I’m especially excited to be a small part of a festival which exists to bring high quality live music to people in rural areas who might not otherwise get the chance to come and hear it.
Q.4 What would you say to audiences to encourage them to come along, and hear you sing in Aldborough?
For me, the purpose of my craft is to use my musicianship and voice as totally as possible to the service of my craft as an actor and tell stories, with as much sincerity and truth as I possibly can. I hope I am able to communicate genuinely with the audience at the Northern Aldborough Festival and that I’m able to leave them with something memorable of myself.
Q.5 What would be your dream job in singing?
There are so many possible dream jobs that I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to one! Being able to play amazing characters in operatic masterpieces in the world’s best opera houses with the world’s best orchestras and the world’s best colleagues, as vague as that may sound!
Q.6 What sort of music do you listen to when you are not working?
I have quite a big vinyl and CD collection and I listen to lots of different things. I didn’t become particularly interested in classical music until, really, after I had left school. Before that, I was an avid listener (and player) of jazz, funk, rock, and old-school hip-hop, and I still am! Some of the artists I listen to most often are Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden, Sly and the Family Stone, Elliot Galvin, John Coltrane, and Fun Lovin’ Criminals.