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Choral Notes

25/02/24

We caught up with Ellie Slorach ahead of the Spring Concert

Ellie – we are really enjoying working with you again! You last led us in our Round the Tree concert in the melting heat of June 2023. What projects have you been involved in since then?

Well, I’ve been quite busy since then, I think that’s fair to say. Highlights, well, I performed with Matthew Bourne’s dance company, New Adventures. Their show Edward Scissorhands was in Sadler’s Wells at Christmas, and I had the real privilege of conducting a number of the performances over that period. I did a performance of Handel’s Messiah with my choir Kantos and Manchester Camerata, and I also performed The Snowman at Christmas for the very first time with orchestra and live film, so that’s just a little snapshot of what I’ve been up to in the winter months.

 

The music you’ve chosen for A Glimpse of the Light is beautiful, transcendent and thought-provoking, yet accessible. How did you choose the music?

The concert title itself, A Glimpse of the Light, comes from the piece that we’re performing by Rory Johnston, which is also called A Glimpse of the Light and that casts together a number of different poems, and some of the Requiem text in Latin. As a partner piece to Mozart’s Requiem, which is why Rory wrote it, it has exactly the same orchestration.

The idea is to sort of conjure up this ‘glimpse of the light’ in musical sounds, and that got me thinking: how else can we conjure up this ‘glimpse of the light’ in the first half of the concert, to complement Rory’s piece and, eventually, the ‘glimpse of the light’ that we see and hear with Mozart’s Requiem? So, I got to listening!

I think everyone in Huddersfield Choral Society knows that I love Hildegard von Bingen – I’m always keen to get a little bit of Hildegard into a concert – which is why we’re starting with my arrangement of O Choruscans Lux Stellarum. That piece ends with a glimpse of Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus, which we will flow straight into. The following work by Roddy Williams is a reimagining of the William Byrd piece, so the first three pieces have this segue and a glimpse of each other, if you will.

 

What is the common theme that unites the pieces which span the centuries?

I think all of the pieces have, as you said in your previous question, this somewhat transcendental quality. What I’m quite interested in is anyone being able to feel that, whether they’re religious or non-religious, however they think and whatever they believe. I like the feeling that the music can move you and lift you beyond where you are sitting in your audience seat on the night of the concert.

 

What rehearsal techniques do you use to ensure a successful performance?

I guess with the Mozart, we’re really thinking about phrasing and creating a unity of sound. You can perform Mozart’s Requiem in very different styles so we’re trying to come to that same style. It’s less about learning notes, because a lot of the choir members have sung it before, and it’s more about finding this consistency.

With the more contemporary music, it’s fair to say we needed to learn some (lots of!) notes to start with. We’re also thinking about logistics, like moving into three smaller choirs for one of the pieces, so we’re already practising that in rehearsals. We’re standing in three separate spaces to get used to the feeling at the performance.

We’ve just generally been getting used to the flow of those first three pieces, and the feeling of going from one to the next to the next. We should end up with a flowing, segued feeling to the first half.

 

And finally, what is next for you on the musical horizon?

I’m heading up to Scotland to work with the Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for a concert called Starcrossed Lovers; I’m with the BBC Singers and I’m performing with them on International Women’s Day in London; and I’m also doing a commission with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choirs by Joanna Marsh called A Plastic Theatre.

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