|"A boy sings ... a beautiful thing."|
I was brought up in a musical environment. My father, a music therapist and university professor, is always playing the piano at home. My mother is a violinist so I must have heard many concerts, operas, shows and violin lessons before I was even born, in May 1986.
I joined in with singing from the age of one and copied my brothers' piano pieces from the age of two. My two older brothers joined our local male church choir so from the age of three I listened to full choral services once or twice every Sunday (while I drew pictures).
I chose to play the violin at three, but never really felt at home until I changed to the viola. At five, I also played the piano, usually my own way!
At six and a half, I was allowed to join the church choir early as I was good at reading words (and became even better by reading two psalms twice every Sunday!). The choir was a marvellous musical training, learning to read music, to take a lead and to perform on only limited rehearsal.
My debut as a stage performer was at school, when at the age of eight I was chosen to take the role of Pharoah in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was apparently a great success, but I think it was probably because of my beautiful robe and the long curly hair I had at the time!
I have enjoyed taking part in various music festivals and at this time I won several awards for most promising young singer'.
At ten, I won the role of Amahl in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors with the local semi-professional St. Albans Chamber Opera group. This was great fun and fellow members of the cast put me in touch with Peter Kay, Children's Adviser to the English National Opera. Through him I have had numerous opportunities to sing in operas and concerts.
My first 'real' opera was probably the hardest I have sung. It was the world premiere of a new opera by Roderick Watkins called The Juniper Tree at the Munich Bienalle Festival of April 1997. The music was very complicated rhythmically and difficult to fit together with the other four singers. It was repeated at the Almeida Theatre in London.
Being on stage in the dark is not as nerve-wracking as my first concert appearance at the Royal Naval College Chapel in Greenwich at a charity concert in front of Prince Edward. I had to sing from the pulpit, high above the audience (at least they couldn't see my knees shaking!).
Autumn 1997 was a new experience with two operas for ENO. I sang the Shepherd Boy solo at the beginning of Act 3 of Puccini's Tosca as well as singing in the boys' chorus, and also First Spirit Boy in Mozart's The Magic Flute.
April 1998 brought another trip abroad, this time to Sardinia, to sing Miles in Britten's The Turn of the Screw with Teatro Lirico of Cagliari. That summer, I sang another charity concert in Greenwich and also the solo part of Soprano Knabe in Mahler's Das Klagende Lied with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall.
ENO decided to give the role of Fyodor in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov to a boy rather than a mezzo soprano, so I had a wonderful time crawling all over a map of Russia singing to my father, the Tsar, before I had my neck broken when he was usurped.
In October 1999, I won the title of BBC Radio 2 Choir Boy of the Year, which led to a very busy period before Christmas. There were several concerts with the BBC Concert Orchestra and appearances with the Royal Artillery Orchestra and at Music Clubs. Since then, I have appeared on television (Songs of Praise) and Radio.
I was also lucky enough to be selected by Paul Daniel, artistic director of ENO, to sing the solo in Sir John Tavener's A New Beginning in the Millennium Dome, leading up to midnight on Dec. 31st 1999. It was amazing to think that this was being watched, live, by millions of viewers all over the world!
In April 2000, ENO asked me to sing Yniold in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, which was a fantastic experience. Locally, I have also had the opportunity to take roles in productions such as Guys and Dolls (Benny) and The Wiz (Scarecrow).
As my voice begins to change, I can look back on years of singing with great pleasure and feel that I have used my talents well and broadly. Now I can play my viola in orchestras, my saxophone in jazz bands and enjoy my piano and drum playing while I wait to see what happens to my voice!
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This page was last modified on 31 August 2004