Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Happy New Year! I am very glad to be in a new year, with a fresh start and new beginnings, 2012 felt like quite a slog. There are lots of lovely things in store for 2013, particularly for Metamorphic; the second Metamorphic album, Coalescence, is coming out on the F-ire label in April and we're also doing a UK tour in June with the wonderful Norwegian vocal trio Royst (www.myspace.com/roystmusic), both of which will be supported by Kerstan Mackness of Riotsquad Publicity, who also looks after Roller Trio; there are some other really nice gigs coming up for Metamorphic before that too, such as at the Jazz on 3 night Jazz in the Round on January 28th alongside Gary Crosby's Groundation (feat. Nathaniel Facey) and Matt Bourne, a double bill with one of my favourite bands, Snorkel (www.slowfoot.co.uk) at the Vortex on February 24th, and a gig at Jazz at the Oxford on April 1st. Also very much looking forward to doing a gig with the improvising big band I run with bass player Seth Bennett at Seven Arts in Leeds on March 1st, with vibes player Corey Mwamba sitting in, alongside Martin Archer's improvising anti-choir Juxtavoices (in which I sing too, when I can get over to Sheffield). 

The women in music theme is gathering steam: Seb Scotney posted a link to it on his excellent LondonJazz blog (londonjazz.blogspot.com) which was very kind. See below for post #3 by vocalist Sarah Dacey, who sings in Juice Vocal Trio. It is very interesting to read about Sarah's experiences within the Classical Music industry, especially as it is an area I don't have much involvement with personally as a musician. 

Here is Sarah's response to my question: As female musicians/composers/radio presenters, how do you feel your experiences as women in the UK music industry have contributed to or influenced - if at all - your music, creativity and career choices today? 

'I work primarily in the Classical Music industry, an industry which has always felt to me to be in constant battle with itself, having to please different generations of listeners in different ways. It also has to cover such a vast time period of musical styles. Marketing all this to the modern listener is extremely difficult. The ‘Classical Brit Awards’ are the worst case in point for how marketing exploits the female image in making classical music palatable and ‘approachable’. I have actually had people say to me things like ‘oh, you should try and market yourself like Kathryn Jenkins’. Needless to say, these are not people who work in the industry but it seems as if society accepts style over substance. I’m not sure that men come across the same barriers, although it’s true that Il Divo probably wouldn’t have done quite so well were they not the classical version of the Chippendales…

I’d like to say that those I’ve had to audition to or request work from would have always seen me as a musician foremost. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I was once in the middle of an audition to one conductor, whose response to my apologies for sounding a little ‘chesty’ (I’d just recovered from bronchitis) was to look directly at my chest and reply ‘hmmm, well you look alright to me.’ Criticisms of some early music ensembles resembling “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/prom-26-royal-albert-hall-londonsusanna-ilford-festival-wiltshireprom-21-robert-albert-hall-8007527.html) are not entirely unfounded. I was once warned by another singer that once you took time off to have a baby, one director just stopped hiring you or would just never think to ask you again in the future as he assumed that you had other priorities. 

Reputations of directors/conductors certainly influence my career decisions. If I have heard rumours about somebody’s terrible behaviour towards the opposite sex (sexist comments for example) I tend to avoid working for that person. That may seem naïve and counterproductive considering I’m self-employed but if I can find other work with somebody who respects everyone equally, then I’d rather work for them. 

Being a member of juice vocal ensemble, I think that we sometimes come up against preconceptions of what’s expected of the ‘female voice’. Audience members often come up to us after a concert to say that they were blown away, saying things like ‘I wasn’t expecting that!’ I think people see three young women and expect us to sound feminine, pretty and delicate. They don’t expect us to do impressions of rats, play Vietnamese mouth harps, smash crockery, pop balloons, stamp, shout and generally sound fairly raucous! I’m not sure they would think the same way if we were three young men. 

I’m not saying it’s not fun challenging all these preconceptions. I enjoy the work that I do immensely. I enjoy singing music that provokes extreme reactions from people and stimulates discussion and debate. But I do think it is hard to work as a self-employed musician in a seemingly unregulated industry. You cannot speak out against the behaviour of others for fear of not being booked again.'

Vocalist Sarah Dacey studied at the University of York and the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with Distinction. Awards include the Lady Lyons Millennium Scholarship, Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust, the Arthur Bliss Prize and the Van Smit Prize. She performs regularly with professional ensembles including the BBC Singers, Synergy Vocals, Philharmonia Voices, Okeanos Ensemble and The Octandre Ensemble. She has performed in the Tete-a-Tete Opera Festival, at the NT Studios, Sadlers Wells, Bauge Opera Festival, Purcell Rooms, QEH and RFH. Recent projects include ‘Nixon in China’ at the Proms and in Berlin, conducted by John Adams, collaborations with ‘Fretwork’ Viola da Gamba player Liam Byrne and performing in an ‘Aphex Twin’ gig at the Barbican. An advocate of new music, Sarah has worked with many of today’s finest composers including Robert Fokkens, Anna Meredith, Paul Mealor, Gavin Bryars, Errollyn Wallen, Mica Levi and Dai Fujikura. She has sung in countless UK premieres including those of Stockhausen’s Litanie and Xenakis’ Idmen. In 2010 she performed in the Macedonian premiere of Xenakis’ Nuits.

Operatic roles have included Amor (Orfeo ed Euridice – Opera Baugé), Abra (Juditha Triumphans – En Travesti), Belinda (Dido and Aeneas – Kingston Festival) and Sister Constance (Les Dialogues des Carmélites – RAM). Oratorio performances include The Creation with Benson Choral Society at Dorchester Abbey, Poulenc’s Gloria with the Thames Philharmonic Choir, Handel’s Messiah with Derby Choral Union in Derby Cathedral, Mozart Vespers in Merchant Taylor’s Hall, Bach’ s Christmas Oratorio , B Minor Mass and Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri with the Sweelinck Ensemble, Bruckner’s Te Deum and Dvorak’s Mass in D Minor with Kingston Grammer Choral Society, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with St. Helen’s Choral Society, Hadyn’s The Seasons with Hillingdon Choral Society and Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the De Montford Hall, conducted by Karl Jenkins.

Sarah is a member of ‘Juice’, a critically acclaimed female trio specialising in contemporary music. They have performed at the Purcell Rooms, the Wigmore Hall, the Roundhouse, St. John’s Smith Square, live on Radio 3 and Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour. As well as commissioning new works, juice also write music for themselves. Sarah’s own arrangement of a traditional ballad, Cruel Mother, described by the Daily Telegraph as “musically ingenious”, features on their debut album, ‘Songspin’, which was recently awarded Best Contemporary Classical album in the Independent Music Awards in the U.S. 

Sarah is currently Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent and also teaches singing at Junior Trinity Greenwich.