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Guest blog: Tom Lilburn – Associate Artist

Posted on 2nd September 2017

Tom talks about his experiences over the past year while being our Alto Associate Artist 2016-17.

The Associate Artist scheme began with a three-day residency at St John’s School, Leatherhead. The residency consisted of rehearsals, workshops and a concert at the end. It was a tough start, as we covered a lot of repertoire in a short space of time. I didn’t go on the tour to America in October, but I did sing in all of the Tenebrae concerts leading up to Christmas. It was a pleasure to sing similar programmes in successive concerts, as such continuity is quite rare, and it culminated with a very special performance in St John’s Smith Square.

My second term as an Associate Artist was broken up, as I had an operation in February which put me out for about a month, but I still managed to do the majority of the concerts. A concert in Oslo in March stands out as a particularly fine one. In a spectacular acoustic with a very appreciative audience, performing a programme of Victoria, Allegri, Reger, Brückner and Brahms was a very satisfying experience. 

The Holy Week Festival at St John’s Smith Square was an intense but enjoyable time. Tenebrae sang a concert in which the Fauré Requiem followed some mesmerising Bach violin solos by Max Baillie, and also sang three late night services. I found these services, at which we sang Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah, Allegri’s Miserere and Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories, very atmospheric, and I particularly enjoyed performing the Responsories in a liturgical context. The Associate Artists also sang the solos in a ‘Come and Sing’ performance of Handel’s Messiah. It was challenging to sing solo arias from the Messiah and then the whispered pianissimo of many parts of the Tenebrae Responsories on the same evening. I am also a Lay Clerk at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, so this week proved very challenging both vocally and physically as I was singing extensively with both the Chapel Choir at Windsor and with Tenebrae. I was certainly glad for a rest after Easter!

Holy Week Festival 2017 at St John’s Smith Square. Tom stands on the far right of the front row of the choir.

The tour of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles, which began in Hull on the 18th May, has been a highlight of this year. The work is truly remarkable, and I don’t think I’ve ever sung anything else quite like it. Before the tour began we had twelve hours of rehearsal on the piece over two days, but rather than growing tired of rehearsing the piece I enjoyed it more and more! Tenebrae have since performed the piece in Bath, St David’s, London, Tewkesbury, Menorca and Cambridge.

The venue in Menorca, an old sandstone quarry which has been redeveloped into a cultural centre, was stunning. It is very rare to perform a concert outdoors, and the acoustic was fascinating; when singing more quietly it felt very intimate and fairly dead, whereas louder chords would sometimes resonate all around the quarry, really giving a sense of the huge space into which we were singing. Performing the last two movements of Path of Miracles as the sun set was a magical experience. I am very much looking forward to future performances of Path of Miracles, both in Britain and abroad, with trips to Australia and America lined up in October and March respectively.

Our venue in Menorca, July 2017.

Throughout the year I have been involved with workshops through the scheme. This is not something which I had much experience of at all before this year. These workshops, some led by Nigel, some by the Associate Artists, have been with both children and adults. Many have focused on teaching children their part in Owain Park’s Footsteps, a piece written to be performed alongside Path of Miracles and premiered in Hull on the 18th May. I like to think I have improved a lot throughout the year at leading workshops, and I certainly feel more confident about standing in front of a group of people and getting them to sing than I did before the year began!

The most valuable part of the scheme has been the frequency with which I have been able to sing with Tenebrae this year. Regular concert work alongside experienced professional singers enables musical development whilst also learning how best to cope with life as a freelance musician. I don’t think there is any substitute for such practical experience, and I am very grateful that I  have been afforded it by the Associate Artist scheme.

Our 2016-17 Associate Artists.
Photography: Sim Canetty-Clarke

We have now announced our 2017-18 Associate Artists. Click here to read more about them.

Associate ArtistsEducationFootstepsHoly Week FestivalJoby TalbotOwain ParkPath of Miraclesworkshops