It’s an exciting time of year as we look forward to our new TPC Scholars’ recital, Echoes of the Heart, on Friday 1 December. Apart from the few occasions when pounced on by Music Director Harry Bradford to deliver a few solo lines to help the Choir prepare their choral entrances, this will be their first opportunity to showcase their talent by performing to the Choir and audience of friends and family in a way that reflects their individual sound, tastes and personality. The recitals are open to all – and all donations go straight to the musicians.
The TPC choral scholarship scheme, devised by Harry Bradford and Accompanist James Orford is now in its third year and we’re in the lovely position of having helped a total of 12 talented young singers negotiate their route to life as professional singers. We enjoy the satisfaction of watching each year’s cohort grow in confidence as performers – and as their voices and performance technique develop. We benefit from the scholars’ strong sight singing ability and vocal leadership, and our scholars benefit from the opportunity to take paid solo and step-out roles at prestigious London venues. In preparation for their recitals the young singers receive expert help and coaching from Harry and James and gain an introduction to the network of professional musicians that will help their careers blossom. Many of the scholars who spend a year with us are already studying at London Conservatoires – and at least three have successfully auditioned during their tenure with us.
We stay in contact after our scholars leave and continue to support their careers. We were delighted to hear recently that Alex Bower-Brown (Bass) has made his first recording and Will Hester has been successful in auditions to join various dep lists around London, including those of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. Emily Beech (Soprano) directed Home Fires for Tête-a-Tête Opera Festival at Cockpit Theatre in September; and this weekend, Maya Colwell (Mezzo Soprano), who has been working regularly in the chorus at the Théatre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels, was selected to take part in the Concours Opera Jeunes Espoires Raymond Duffant in Avignon. It’s thrilling that they are all doing so well.
All the scholars talk about the importance of the friendly welcome they find at TPC – particularly appreciated when at the same time negotiating the gruelling nature of courses at the conservatoires or competitive audition circuit. Lottie Day, one of this year’s Soprano scholars suggests: “Singing with TPC is one of the highlights of my week, not only due to the genuinely warm, kind nature of the group, but musically as well. For a professional church singer, this is a rare opportunity to fine-tune musical repertoire week-to-week, perfecting it for a final concert. I know this has already improved my musicianship.” For current Bass scholar Allyn Wu, “Being a choral scholar at TPC is an incredible journey. We’re united by our passion for music – and the chance to learn and evolve with such a warm and welcoming group in rehearsals and performances, fills me with joy … not to mention the scrumptious cakes, of course!"
It’s not only musically that the scholars flourish. There are opportunities to develop skills in social media, publicity, marketing and promotion. Allyn has enjoyed designing the recital posters and Soprano scholar Natalka Pasicznyk recently took over the TPC Instagram account with style and sass. She says, “Not only has singing with TPC built my confidence as a musician, but we get opportunities to practise self-marketing, a useful skill in a professional music career. In the lead-up to concerts we do Instagram take-overs where we come up with new ideas to engage with the Choir’s followers and friends. Online engagement is such an integral part of the modern musician’s image and by involving classical music fans in this way, we can boost sales and create more of a public profile.”
Auditions for the scholarship scheme take place each year in June and applications are welcome at any time until the end of May. It is important to all of us at TPC that the audition process is fair and welcoming, so we advertise the scheme to schools, conservatoires, drama and music schools, and universities, and on the Arts Council Jobs website. Applicants are invited to sing two pieces of repertoire, to do aural and sight-singing tests and complete an interview; there is also a chat with Choir members to make sure that the singers understand the nature of the scheme. Harry and James give full feedback to all the singers who audition and will sometimes suggest other schemes or dep work for suitable candidates. "We are always blown away by the high standard of applicants we receive for the scheme and we are extremely happy with our choices for the 2023-24 cohort. Our previous scholars have proved to be a fantastic asset to the Choir both musically and socially and we are very confident that this year’s cohort will be no exception. We look forward to seeing them grow and develop as musicians over the coming year."
Please come along and support current TPC scholars Lottie Day, Natalka Pasicznyk, Rachael Simone Best-Babayeju, Matthew Cooke and Allyn Wu for Echoes of the Heart with Harry and James on Friday 1 December at St Margaret’s Church Putney at 7.00 pm. You’ll be in for a treat.