Artist Interviews: BBC Symphony Chorus – Part One

In the run up to the Summer Festival we’ve been speaking to some of our artists and composers to give us a taste of their performances. This week we talk to Beverley Howard, singer with the BBC Symphony Chorus, who tells us about why she enjoys singing and what it’s like to be in the choir with her daughter…

It was a cold November evening when I went to the BBC Studios to audition for the BBC Symphony Chorus. I had no expectations of getting in and when the panel offered me a place as a second soprano I was absolutely over the moon.

I have never been a professional musician but I have always played music. I started violin at seven so I had played choral music in orchestras but my singing at that point had been in choirs singing spirituals, sacred and show music rather than big choral works. My first experience of the BBC Symphony Chorus was seeing them on TV singing at the BBC’s iconic Last Night of the Proms. I thought how fantastic it would be to experience what they were experiencing.

The Chorus for me had provided lots of ‘firsts’. My first Belshazzar’s Feast (by William Walton) was at the Royal Albert Hall, which was fantastic. People tell me my voice has improved. Of course, the more I do the better I get and the more I enjoy it. I feel I’ve grown through the Chorus.

Bev and Lizzie BBCWhen my daughter Lizzie said she was going to audition I felt sure she would get in as she has such a nice voice. I get to see her once a week while she is at university which is lovely. She has her friends and I have mine but everyone in the Chorus gets on whatever their age.

It is wonderful to perform something new. Working on a new commission with the Chorus means everyone is seeing the score for the very first time so it’s a level playing field. At first it can seem hard and a slow process but as it starts to fall into place it is really satisfying. The harmonies aren’t always easy on the ears but there is a format to it that you learn. Having the composers there is great and hopefully they are pleased with the way it has turned out!

Sometimes the sentiment behind the music really touches me. Seek Him That Maketh the Seven Stars by Jonathan Dove piece is beautiful to sing. Somehow singing binds you together; it is so uplifting singing with such good people. There is warmth to it. There is nothing better to do after a hard day’s work and there is nothing I love doing more – it’s relaxation.

Keep an eye out next week for an interview with her daughter, Lizzie Howard. And don’t forget to book your tickets for 3 June at Shoreditch Church to see the BBC Symphony Chorus in action!


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