Exciting news for our first Bursary Student as Serena sets her sights on Cardiff
Serena Jopson chats to fellow choir member, Carolyn.
You’ve been singing with Kington Choral Society for about 5 years Serena and come quite a way on your musical journey. Tell me more.
When I joined KCS I was new to singing in a choral society and not always the most diligent choir member, I didn’t even bring a pencil with me! After a couple of years, I started singing lessons with Roger Langford and performed my first solo in November 2015. It was a duet in a Purcell Motet and lasted less than a minute, just long enough to experience solo singing without leaving me feeling daunted. It went really well and gave me a lot of confidence. Eighteen months ago, I sang my first “big” solos in Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and Handel’s Messiah, Part 1. There was a lot of hard preparation work plus I even had to find a dress and write a biog. for the programme! Surprisingly I wasn’t really nervous, I just remember thoroughly enjoying it.
How important was music in your childhood?
I have always enjoyed singing and was very lucky that my mum played the piano, so we sang our favourite songs together. Apart from school choirs I’d never sung choral music and certainly couldn’t sight read! But my childhood gave me a love for music and a sense of musicality – learning would come later.
Last year you were the first person to be awarded the Kington Choral Society Bursary. What’s that all about?
The bursary is fantastic! It was set up specifically to support up-and-coming young singers and has really helped me to develop as a musician. Not only is there a very welcome £500 towards the costs of music study and expenses, there are also many opportunities to develop musical skills in a safe environment. Robert, KCS’s Director, the committee and all the choir members are so kind and respectful. Lots of little things that I have been asked to do have helped both myself and the choir. I’ve led choir warm-ups and have sat with new choir members to help them find their way around the score. If I’m uncomfortable about doing something then it’s OK to say so. It’s all about developing confidence and skills so the bursary is designed to be as flexible as possible to suit individuals.
What difference has the bursary made to you?
I’ve run sectional rehearsals in the lead up to concerts which has particularly helped my sight reading and understanding of music. Apart from the opportunity to sing solos in concerts alongside professional musicians I’ve taken part in a Masterclass with Julie Cooper which has been great. The £500 has paid for extra singing lessons with teachers from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and helped apply for music college and prepare for auditions.
Most of all, as a bursary student I feel very supported and cared for. Everyone asks for feedback on exams and interviews and there is an abundance of honorary grandmothers ready to listen, advise and assure you that they believe in you. Standing up to sing a solo you know that there are 70 people literally right behind you cheering you on. Afterwards people proudly refer to you as “our bursary student” and tell you that you made them cry. It means so much to know there are people who believe in you.
With a very commendable Distinction at Grade 8 Singing, you are off to Cardiff to study this autumn. Your choir will miss you terribly!
And I will miss them too! I am going to RWCMD to do a BMus in Singing. It’s a 4-year course covering a wide range of musical styles from Oratorio and Opera to German Lieder and Art Song, plus the theoretical side of music, ‘gulp’! But I’ll certainly be back to visit.
Thank you, Serena, it has been a privilege to sing with you and to see your progress over the past few years. We’re going to give you a supportive send-off when you sing solo soprano in our Monteverdi Vespers concert in Presteigne on June 1st! Then we look forward to your return as a professional guest!
Finally, looking back, what would you say to your 20 year-old self?
Work hard, find a good teacher and spend lots of time just enjoying the music. When you sing, remember that your job is to share with the audience how wonderful and powerful the music is, not to impress them by how good a singer you are. Sing on!