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15 Questions to Voces8

img  Tobias
Hi! How are you?
Great thanks, and you?

Excellent! Where are you?
Just heading out for a much needed glass of wine after a very long day!

What’s on your schedule right now?
Promoting our new disc, VOCES8:EVENSONG, is pretty much top, followed by a UK tour to sing with 20,000 children in December, our US Debut tour next Feb and learning Singet Den Herrn from memory by the end of Jan!

What is your earliest musical memory?
Holding my brother’s hand and singing the Snowman with a hat entirely covering my head – I must have been the scariest 4 year old alive in that performance! Barney was so scared that he stopped singing.

Was there a deciding moment, which made you want to become an artist?
Singing a solo in a concert in the Conservatoire in Moscow at the age of 12 was probably pretty close to that moment. I was so lucky to have an amzing opportunity and great teaching from a very young age.

How satisfied are you with life as an artist?

Very, I meet amazing people, and am constantly being inspired by my colleagues and those around me. I love being able to work with young people who have the same levels of energy, enthusiasm and optimism.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?

I think honesty and communication are very important. The audience needs to feel the emotion in the music, feel that VOCES8 is commited to the performance and engaging with them on an intimate, a personal level, if possible. Even in the big venues we try to show our personality on stage. Music should be entertaining and thought provoking, but above all, accessible to the people who are listening to it. Wherever we are we try to speak in the native language and engage the audience with everything about the performance – and obviously we have to sing technically to a world class standard! I always think that if we love being on stage, then the audience will be able to love the vibrancy and potency of our music and performance.

How do you balance your personal emotions and the intentions of the composer in your interpretations?
I think every composer needs to be given respect when you perform their music, but that doesn’t mean that you as the artist don’t sometimes drastically change how the piece is performed. Especially with our work in VOCES8, we are always interpreting music because it’s rarely written for 8 voices originally. We try to get to the core of what the piece is trying to say, then think about what techniques have been used in the past, and after that we think about what we want to do. Finally, when we have the piece technically accurate, we think about how it feels and how we want to bring it to life on stage.  With 8 of us all having an equal say in the group, this does mean that sometimes it’s hard to manage our personal emotions, but we always find a way through in the end!

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your performances?
We come from such a strong choral tradition that I think our performances are strongly linked with our upbringing. Our a cappella sound is quite unique, and I think shows that while we all have a strong background in classical and choral training, we’ve all been influenced differently by many other forms of music and media in society today. This is why, I think, we stand out from every other a cappella group that I know of – it’s really rare to find a group of people who all have a strong choral background, but have then developed individually in areas from Handel Oratoria to Minimalist House. All of the elements of our individuals make up our team, so we end up with a diverse and totally fresh sound and repertoire because of a vast array of cultural influences that have inspired us and filled us with a real passion for what we do.

How would you describe and rate the scene for classical music of the country you are currently living in?

There are some exceptional musicians and there is a strong education structure in place. I personally think that there could be a lot more being done to really inspire young people and get them into music at a young age, and at the top end there is a slight bias, I think, towards some of the major insitutions and the traditional forms of music making. On a personal note, I think there could be a lot more appreciation and time given to a cappella singing in the UK. We’re way behind the US in terms of getting youngsters into good quality a cappella singing. Saying that though, we’re way ahead in terms of our choral tradition – I suppose you can’t have everything!

Do you consider it important that more young people care for classical music? If so, how, do you think, could this be achieved?
I think it’s vital. I work in over 200 schools across the UK with my team in a programme called ‘Hatch My Ideas’ and we place a great stress on student-led learning and creative opportunities, rather than dictating what will be learnt. Of course young people should care for classical music, but they should do it because they want to do it, and that comes down to how the opportunities are presented to them. I think having inspiring, young, role models is very important, and we often train young leaders who are maybe only 16 or 17 to go and encourage 7 or 8 year olds to start enjoying music making. Another key for me is that classical music should not be dumbed down – let young people really fall in love with proper classical music, in whatever form that might be, and they will love it forever. If you treat kids like kids, then they won’t want to learn from you.

How would you rate the importance of the internet and new media for you personally?
We have to embrace it, and my new iphone is great! I managed to wipe all the music off it last night though, so I’m still a little bit angry!

What’s your view on the relationship between musical education and  music?
I think a more interesting question (sorry, I don’t mean to be rude!) is to look at the relationship between music and education. I think music can have a key role in learning programme for pretty much every aspect of the curriculum – and in a lot of schools we link music with maths, science, literature, history, drama, politics... the list is endless. I think music can, for those who don’t like it as an end in itself, be a great vehicle for learning. And beyond the curriculum you can begin to think about all the other non-academic learning areas such as creativity, teamwork, leadership, confidence, communication – music is truly a brilliant and unique tool for learning. And not just kids – I work with 65 year old CEO’s of major companies, and they come up to me after a day of training with their staff and confess that they had no idea that music could be such a great learning tool.

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
That would be amazing! Can you arrange it for me?! I think there would be some truly eclectic music, performed by performers renowned for being great artists and also great people. I would want an audience member to come to a concert of music they knew they would enjoy and then follow that up by coming to a concert they we perhaps not so sure about, but were intrigued and inspired to find out about. I would want education to have a central role to play, and not be seen as an add on, and I’d certainly want to introduce the UK to a cappella singing properly (that’s if this concert hall is in the UK!).  t would be a season that would capture the imagination and inspire all who were a part of it – music played by lovers of music for lovers of music, and yet with themes to draw in politics, art, literature, technology, current affairs and thought provoking debate. Music and the arts have, I think, a rare ability and a unique responsibility to do all of these things

How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?  
I’ve known me all of my life and it’s really easy to carry around with me!

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
I play the piano and the flute for the amusement of others.

Snowed In
From Gibbons to Gershwin

Voces8 at MySpace

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