The Lea Singers represent an eclectic mix of musical backgrounds, ages and day jobs. These profiles should give you a flavour.
IZZY BLAIN (alto intern)
My name is Isabelle Blain and I have been an intern for the past two years. Having the opportunity to sing in the St Matthew Passion last February has definitely been the highlight so far; I had never done anything like it before and it was amazing to take part in a semi-staged performance.
I hope to continue singing with the Leas until I leave to study English at Oxford University on a choral scholarship in September 2017. I am currently studying Music at A-level and take part in many musical ensembles within school, including school choirs, chamber orchestra and a string quartet. Previously, I sang in the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir, where I was lucky enough to go on tours to America and Denmark and became Head Chorister. We sang services in St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and made two recordings, one of Mendelssohn and one of Rutter. I still remain involved in the Cathedral choirs, singing regularly with the Abbey Singers and sometimes as an honorary Lay Clerk. More recently I?ve sung with the National Youth Training Choir, on the Eton Choral Course and in the Rodolfus Choir performing the Verdi Requiem.
INGA WEST (soprano)
My love of music began unpromisingly with the cacophony of class recorder lessons, age 5. I took piano lessons, learned to play the cornet in the local silver band (trying not to get trampled by the bass drum player, who could not see a diminutive nine-year-old me over the top of his seemingly enormous drum during Remembrance Sunday marches). I also sang in the local church choir, where we used to giggle through the sermons behind the choir stalls in our stiff white collars, and get paid 20p for weddings. At senior school we were glared at by our very scary choir master if we didn’t watch ALL the time. It was there that I learned that all Italian markings should be translated as “Watch the conductor”. School orchestras and a half decent jazz band followed, as did a few wedding gigs and the odd session in pit orchestras for local amateur operatic societies. By university, music began to lose the edge in the competition between sport and music and I only managed the odd choral outing. But by Law College, I returned to singing as a minor back injury put paid to my sporting career. Later I started work in London and joined the City of London Choir until my children arrived on the scene. After ten years of singing mostly nursery rhymes and church hymns, a return to more challenging singing and the child-free social life a choir offers beckoned. I joined the Leas for the Christmas Concert in 2009 and immediately felt welcome and at home.
Memorable Leas Moments? Two short years but already so many moments: Monteverdi Vespers at St Johns Smith Square has to be a highlight, singing alongside such amazing musicians and soloists was such a privilege. The Winchester Cathedral trip for the atmosphere (I hope!) we created, and the great sense of camaraderie that existed even after about 15 hours of singing and 4 services in under 36 hours. The Victoria Requiem with Madeleine Lovell will also stick in my mind for a long time. But most of all it is just the enjoyment of making good music with like-minded, enthusiastic, fun and able musicians.
KAREN CARDY (alto)
I made my first public appearance singing at Butlins (age 4), then learnt violin from 11 onwards. Formative musical experiences range from Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to playing in Beds County Youth Orchestra under the baton of the amazing Michael Rose. Joined the Lea Singers aged 17. Completed a Music in the Community Dip HE at Dartington College of Arts, and a performing arts degree at Newcastle. Played in Forest Philharmonic, and sang in Lea Singers, and occasionally with the Woodmansterne Singers ad hoc. Have a career in classical music: Faber Music, BBC Proms and now at LSO and LSO St Luke’s. Debbie Miles Johnson is my singing teacher, and once a month makes me feel really pampered.
Memorable Leas moments? Best concert: St John Passion sung in German under Madeleine Lovell at St John’s, Boxmoor, Hemel 2008. We could hardly believe how good it sounded! Altos singing Abba at a fundraiser, and the many happy hours spent practising our smoove moves. Spine-tingling cathedrals. New commissions: I’ll let you in to a secret (I’m really proud of the Bingham). Alto sectionals at Asa Mann’s house in Redbourn, singing at her round table. Love ’em! Tours: singing in the amphitheatre in Vicenza, never-ending wine-tastings in Alzey and Cosnes, and swimming in Stockholm.
MIRIAM MCKAY (alto)
I sang a lot at school, partied a lot at university and returned to music as my children started to grow up. I started singing lessons after I joined the Leas and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of learning a lot of music, fast, singing with talented amateur musicians.
Memorable Leas moments? Watching how professional musicians pulled together the Monteverdi Vespers in the course of an afternoon’s dress rehearsal; the song school in Winchester cathedral; punting on the Cam during our recording weekend; a nostalgic return to Durham; the alto pyjama party in Wells; York Minster after closing time; welling up as I listened to Nina’s masterclass; being blown away by the Leas’ Vivaldi Gloria as I sat in the audience in St Martin-in-the-Fields. And of course, the semi-staged St Matthew Passion at St Albans Abbey, watching Tom Guthrie as Christus walk barefoot down the nave, and singing “Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden, so scheide nicht won mir” with my heart full.
CHRIS BURRETT (bass intern)
I’m Chris Burrett and I began singing with the Dunstable Priory Choir at age 7 as a treble, before moving to bass. I also used to sing with the St. George’s School Chamber Choir. I joined the Lea Singers in September 2015 as a second bass intern having attended many concerts, the Rutter Singing Day, and having worked with Ben on a composition project which was recorded by the Choir. I benefit through exposure to a wider, more challenging and varied repertoire, and from singing with experienced and talented singers who are committed to working with young singers. The environment is friendly and very supportive. Ben Goodson is a very inspiring conductor and I was privileged to sing under his direction. I am very much looking forward to working with Tori Longdon, our new conductor, in the new year.
NICKY TEENSMA (alto)
At school I never really sang. It was not the done thing in my Dutch secondary school. At university a friend dragged me to a rehearsal of the university choir and I never looked back. I sand with several small choirs in Holland and later in the UK. I took a year out from my teaching career to do a Tonalis Music Course with Michael Deason Barrow. Now, teaching at the Steiner School in Kings Langley, I love singing with the pupils and my colleagues. It was great to have the Leas at our school for a joint, African themed, concert with the children. I enjoy every moment of every rehearsal and concert. I have particularly enjoyed all the young, enthusiastic and inspiring people who have worked with us over the last few years as conductors, instrumentalists and soloists.
“My internship has helped me become inspired by singing again.”
Hugo Beardsall (Tenor intern 2010)