BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
This month, four young singers will join the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs to present Vaughan Williams’ Five Tudor Portraits. We touch base with each soloist ahead of the gig to learn about their passions.
Canberra tenor Evan Kirby is studying a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and is the recipient of scholarships from the conservatorium, St. Andrew’s College, the Sydney Eisteddfod, and the Patim fund. Credits as soloist include Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor and Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt, Haydn’s Harmoniemesse and Nelson Mass, and Stainer’s The Crucifixion.
Opera credits include the roles of Reverend Mr Jones and Dr Wilkinson in Malcolm Williamson’s English Eccentrics; King Kaspar in Menotti’s Amahl and The Night Visitors; Elder Hayes in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah; and Monostatos in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Why I am passionate about choral singing
Choral singing will always hold a special place in my heart as it’s how I, like many singers, began my journey with singing and music. I still love singing in choirs and ensembles because it’s a good training ground to refine skills in listening and holding your part within an orchestra and choir. What I love most is that being part of choral works opens up fantastic repertoire that’s rarely performed or heard in a live setting. It’s a real privilege to prepare and perform great works with so many fine musicians.
How I prepare to perform a solo part
To perform as a soloist, you need to have prepared your part months before even the first rehearsal because there are so many forces at play when it comes to rehearsing with the choir and orchestra. You can’t cram, as muscle memory is so important in playing an instrument or singing. You have to know your part so well that you could sing it in the same way that a child sings Row Your Boat or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Mentally, I find it helpful to be familiar with your part’s place in the interesting harmonies – especially with Vaughan Williams – so that when you hear the full sound from the orchestra, nothing that could otherwise sound foreign will throw you off.
How I would like to see the Australian arts industry supporting young singers
I think it’s important that singers gain as much experience with conductors and orchestras as possible. I’m very lucky to have been part of many performances throughout my undergraduate studies with fantastic choral societies and their orchestras. I think continued support from choral societies will continue to go a long way in giving young singers these opportunities.
As someone that is about to finish their undergraduate studies, I’ve seen that, aside from expensive masters studies, there’s very little formal training available in Australia to bridge that gap from student to professional musician. Any support that the industry can provide young singers in this capacity would also go a long way.
Advice I have for other young and emerging singers
As a young singer, you’ll receive lots of advice on how to sing, how not to sing, what you should do, what you shouldn’t do and so on. If you believe it all, you’ll find yourself an emotional wreck. If you staunchly believe everything one of those people says, you won’t be able to make your own decisions or learn from others. It’s important that you read a lot about the paths musicians take, and listen to a lot of good singers to develop your critical thinking as a singer, musician and person! That way, when you do cross paths with the handful of gems that are still out there, you will know it. I’m lucky enough to have found mentors throughout my studies who I know I want to continue to learn from. Finding the people who genuinely care for you as a singer and person is the most important thing.