Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Artist spotlight - Soprano Bethany Seymour

Our soprano soloist for our upcoming December performance of Haydn Creation is Bethany Seymour.  Bethany pursues a successful career as a solo and consort singer throughout Northern Europe. Bethany sings regularly with Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists with whom she has sung soprano solo on three recordings for Signum Records: Bach St John Passion, Bach B minor Mass and Bach St Matthew Passion.  Recent concert engagements include Mozart Requiem and Exulatate Jubilate, Purcell Dido and Aeneas and CPE Bach Du G√∂ttlicher.


I began by asking Bethany about The Creation. There is a huge part for the soprano soloist and I wanted to know some more about her thoughts on the piece:

For the soprano soloist the music of Creation is a gift which above all gives you the wonderful opportunity to soar vocally.  I love the expansive musical lines and all the expressive things that Haydn asks you to do, for instance, the imitation of birdsong when ‘cooing’. I also get to be two different characters (Gabriel and Eve) which is great.  With both characters you get to interact not only with other soloists but with the choir too.  I particularly love the moment in ‘The Lord is great’ where I weave my voice around the choir ornamenting what they have just sung.  That kind of moment is really exhilarating.  

You performed as a soloist with Yorkshire Baroque soloists in concerts and recordings tell us a bit more about what it is like to sing with them.

When performing with other orchestras it is difficult know what to expect. Performing with YBS is like coming home from a long journey because I know all the players and I feel supported and part of the team.  If I choose to react to the music 'in the moment' and do an extra ornament or change my speed they will come with me. This means I can take more risks as a performer.  

Is there any piece of music or repertoire that haven’t had the opportunity to perform yet but would like to?

I’ve always wanted to sing in a staged Handel opera. The arias are so exciting and there are lots of arias for impassioned and strong female characters. A role that I’m particularly drawn to is Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare as you get the opportunity to be a truly three dimensional operatic character.  Cleopatra has a huge range of emotions.  She is angry and empowered for all the right reasons.  It is clear from the music that Handel understood the singers and voices that he wrote for.

Which living musician do you most admire?

I’ve always admired Emma Kirkby.  First and foremost because she created her own sound. When she began to make recordings and sing in the public eye she had the strength and foresight to sing in a way that she saw as correct for the music whether it was Mozart or Hildegard. I’ve grown up listening to her sing in a variety of repertoire and she
Bethany pictured with Emma Kirkby and Stephen Varcoe
always captures people’s attention. Audiences want to hear the ‘Emma Kirby’ sound. If you talk to Emma about singing she always encourages you to sing with what you have been given naturally.

What was your worst musical experience?

When asked to do some newly composed music at university I was asked to stand in a bucket of leaves and improvise random notes with no assistance in terms of finding pitches or ideas. Whilst I’m always up for a challenge, I couldn't see how this created a musical experience and with nothing to grasp on to there was no meaning.  Worst of all there was no opportunity to connect with other musical performers which is something I enjoy. Having said all that I still enjoy performing modern music, most especially music that reworks old ideas (such as Steve Reich or Max Richter) or other composers who are more original (such as Eric Whitacre). 

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
From mid-November essential listening for me is Christmas with the Rat Pack.  I love the individual singers and the sheer warmth that comes across in their singing. 

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for young singers / musicians?

You can never stop learning.  No matter how much perform or who you’ve performed with there is always more to learn from each musical experience.

When you’re not practising or performing, how else do you like to spend your time?

I love cooking especially as this gives an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. I have a huge library of cookbooks.  Friends and family might describe it as a slight obsession. But despite that, I’m not a slave to the cookery book as I enjoy to add my own flavours and love growing my own herbs. 

What would your superpower be?

I think JS Bach seemed to think that all singers had a third lung so that would useful for all those long phrases…..

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Frank Sinatra, French & Saunders (do I get pick a comedy duo?), Benedict Cumberbatch and J.S. Bach.

We look forward to hearing Bethany singing  in what will certainly be a popular performance of Haydn’s great masterpiece with Yorkshire Bach Choir, Yorkshire Baroque Soloists alongside a stellar lineup of soloists.

Tickets are selling fast and are available in advance at the National Centre for Early Music by clicking here: bit.ly/YBCreation 

The York Early Music Festival runs from 4-12 December 2015 and further details can be found here: http://www.ncem.co.uk/xmas

Further details on Bethany Seymour can be found on her website: http://www.bethanyseymour.co.uk/

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