We're now just over a month into the new choir year and so it seems high time that we got to know some of the newer faces in the Music Foundation. This week we learn a little more about our three new Choral Scholars.
Finn Lacey (alto) was born at home in Twickenham. Despite living spitting distance from the world-renowned Twickenham rugby stadium, Finn enjoyed kicking a football as a pastime and hence began a youth career, albeit a brief one, with Brentford FC Academy at the age of 7. Shortly after, Finn auditioned to be a chorister at Hampton Court Palace with secular classics such as ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson 5 and ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’ by Jimmy Ruffin. Despite this questionable programme, Finn was successful and he became a probationer at the Palace, but this was again short lived.
In 2008, Finn auditioned to be apart of Wells Cathedral Choir. After his successful audition came the beginning of a demanding and often challenging yet equally rewarding treble career at Wells Cathedral. Finn was given the opportunity to sing on CD recordings, in live broadcasts, and on tours to The Hague, Hong Kong and China. Shortly after the trip to the Far East came the inevitable voice change that left Finn a treble no more.
The lack of choir commitments allowed time for both free weekends and sport which Finn found refreshing but, finding that the large void left by choristership being replaced with only unwelcome exams and teenage angst, it was only a matter of time before Finn re-entered the choral world. Finn knew he wanted to be an alto; artists such as Art Garfunkel, Plan B, The Bee Gees and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys had all used their falsetto, thus making the alto voice that bit more appealing over the perhaps more traditional tenor or bass parts for Finn.
In 2016 Finn became the alto choral scholar at Portsmouth Cathedral and promptly fell back in love with singing. After a so-so set of A-level retakes, Finn began looking for a new choral endeavour after Portsmouth. For old times’ sake above anything else, Finn auditioned for Matthew Owens once more (now as a 6ft tall, hairy countertenor!) and was pleasantly surprised at his success for the second time!
Finn is an avid Liverpool fan and film fanatic but above all he is a fervent (verging on psychotic) listener to music. Finn’s favourite album is the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’, with perhaps the only LP to rival this being Brian Wilson’s follow up album and swansong ‘SMilE’. If only it were finished... Finn is enjoying being in Wells for another year and is rediscovering the place he calls his home.
Oliver Chubb (tenor) has recently completed his undergraduate degree in Music at the University of Bristol, specialising in composition and performance. He began his musical life as a chorister at Portsmouth Cathedral, which founded a lifelong love of choral music. Though he didn’t realise it at the time, being a chorister would play a huge part in his musical education and his appreciation of cathedral music.
In addition to singing, Oliver is also a keen trumpeter; he began playing at the age of six with the sole intention of “making people’s ears explode”; residents of Vicars’ Close will be pleased to know he has long since abandoned this desire! His time at Portsmouth Cathedral also had a part in his education in trumpet by giving him the opportunity to play The Last Post while still a chorister and, after his voice took its natural downward course, he continued to play as a trumpeter for larger services, including on the 2014 BBC Radio 4 Christmas Morning Broadcast.
During his time at the University of Bristol, Oliver has performed in many ensembles; he was the principal trumpet of the University Chamber Orchestra for two years and as a singer has sung both as choir member and as a soloist, most notably while on tour with the University in Prague last year (Schubert's Mass in F) and Barcelona this year (Mozart's Requiem). In his final year at Bristol, he was awarded both the JH Britton Award and the Performance Prize by the Music Department. As well as his studies at University, Oliver was a choral scholar at Bristol Cathedral, with whom he performed live on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC One TV in the 2016 Christmas Morning Service, as well as taking part in the recording of the choir’s new CD.
Oliver’s favourite musical experience was singing in the BBC Proms Youth Choir in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle at the BBC Proms, closely followed by Verdi’s Requiem Marin Alsop the following year.
Another reason for Oliver pursuing a career in music is that it serves as an excellent travel agent - recent excursions have been to places such as Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Bordeaux, Barcelona, Cornwall and Brittany.
Since leaving the university, he has given two public recitals in his native Hampshire accompanied by his former choirmaster, and one in Bristol accompanied by former Wells Cathedral Assistant Organist, David Bednall.
Oliver is active as a performer in the Bristol music scene and has played and sung for many local orchestras and choirs. Other pursuits have included conducting a small choir specialising in 20th-century repertoire, and founding a Bristol-based function band (now available for booking!). Like his alto counterpart Finn, Oliver’s days consist of waking up in the afternoon and eagerly waiting for the beginning of evensong, a plight common amongst the choral scholar species. Readers who take pity will be relieved to know that he is readily available for hire as a trumpeter for lessons, weddings and funerals (the bar tab won’t pay itself...).
Harry Guthrie (bass) has been singing for ten years; he joined Bedford School’s Chapel Choir at the age of nine, and he’s been hooked ever since. Aged 10, he joined the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, singing in many of the main concert venues and cathedrals across the UK, including the Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Birmingham Symphony Hall, and many others. He’s also been on some pretty good holidays (aka music tours!) singing in Notre Dame, Paris, St Mark’s, Venice, and Chartres Cathedral.
A few years ago, Harry’s school choir was the only robed choir to take part in the annual Festival of Remembrance in the Albert Hall – made unforgettable by standing just a few feet away from the star of the show, Pixie Lott! However, what was forgettable was falling down the Albert Hall's stairs in cassock and surplice - thankfully no harm done!
Harry is also co-founder (and arranger) of the ‘Bedford Sharps’, an a cappella group of Bedford School students who perform concerts in their local area. When he’s finished his choral scholarship at Wells, Harry is off to read Music at Trinity College, Cambridge. Outside of music, he’s a passionate Manchester United supporter and likes to play golf with friends.