CHRIST­MAS BELLES

Ch­ester’s own Belle Voci re­turn to the city this Christ­mas for a very spe­cial con­cert

Cheshire Life - - Party Profession­als - WORDS: Kate Houghton

Young, beau­ti­ful and gifted. Three de­scrip­tors that suit the op­er­atic duo Belle Voci very well in­deed.

Add hard-work­ing, dis­ci­plined and am­bi­tious and you have a win­ning com­bi­na­tion that makes the only sur­prise of their in­ter­na­tional suc­cess that they have also man­aged to make opera cool, by trav­el­ling though ev­ery round of hit BBC show The Voice, un­til they made the fi­nal, where they joined global star Jen­nifer Hud­son in a ren­di­tion of My

Heart Will Go On that had the au­di­ence leap­ing to its feet.

So­phie Ro­han and Emily Bur­nette are bring­ing what has been an in­cred­i­ble year to a close with a con­cert tour, which vis­its their home town of Ch­ester on De­cem­ber 7th. The au­di­ence can ex­pect an ex­cit­ing mix of opera clas­sics and Christ­mas songs, from Oh Holy Night to The Snow­man.

Both grew up in Ch­ester and both came to their love of singing through choirs, So­phie at The Queen’s School and Emily as a cho­ris­ter at Ch­ester Cathe­dral. They met when both were work­ing at the Yew Tree Inn in Bun­bury, where they de­cided that ex­tra money could be earned as a singing duo, per­form­ing at opera din­ners and wed­dings, while com­plet­ing their mu­si­cal stud­ies.

Their voices com­ple­ment one an­other’s beau­ti­fully, soar­ing above and curv­ing be­low and en­twin­ing to cre­ate a sound that is just mag­i­cal, whether they are singing an opera clas­sic or a re-worked chart hit. The words barely mat­ter, the heart fol­lows the sound and knows ex­actly what’s be­ing said.

It is per­haps this power, this mag­i­cal blend of sound and emo­tion, that led to their suc­cess on The Voice, a tal­ent con­test that nei­ther Emily nor So­phie had ever con­sid­ered.

‘Emily en­tered us by ac­ci­dent,’ says So­phie. ‘We were look­ing for work and there are job boards for singers and she saw some­thing she thought was a job post­ing, and sent in in­for­ma­tion about us. It wasn’t un­til the pro­duc­ers called to in­vite us for an au­di­tion that we re­alised what she’d done. We were wary, at first. We weren’t ac­tu­ally go­ing to do it; it doesn’t re­ally lend it­self to the style of mu­sic we ac­tu­ally sing, but we thought we would go along and see what they said, did a cou­ple of au­di­tions and then, yeah, kind of ended up in the grand fi­nal.

‘It was all a bit of a whirl­wind, but we’re so glad we did it. It’s been re­ally, re­ally good for us. It was a huge learn­ing curve. As opera singers we’ve never sung with a mi­cro­phone be­fore, as we’re trained not to, and then all of a sud­den we’re in a big stu­dio with a sound team and a cam­era team and mi­cro­phones in our ears and all this tech­ni­cal stuff we’ve never used be­fore.

‘We also got used to singing in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and in front of dif­fer­ent au­di­ences – au­di­ences that don’t choose to lis­ten to what we sing. Be­fore this of course the au­di­ences we sang for were com­ing to hear opera, so this show put us in front of peo­ple who don’t think they like opera, or haven’t re­ally ever lis­tened to any opera be­fore. It gave us a plat­form and an op­por­tu­nity and ex­posed a younger au­di­ence to the genre.’

So­phie and Emily are wellaware of the need to ex­pose new au­di­ences to opera and seek to con­tinue this in all their con­certs. Each one of their Christ­mas shows this sea­son in­cludes a choir from a lo­cal school, a de­lib­er­ate act on their part, in an ef­fort to open chil­dren’s eyes to the pos­si­bil­i­ties that mu­sic can bring.

‘When so many schools are cut­ting mu­sic lessons and mu­sic fund­ing, we worry that this genre will die out, sim­ply be­cause peo­ple aren’t aware that it’s some­thing that they could do. We both started in school, but there’s a real dan­ger that these op­por­tu­ni­ties will die out.’

It’s a heart­break re­ally, to think of all those wasted voices that could be tak­ing young peo­ple on a jour­ney of ad­ven­ture and joy around the world. A jour­ney that Belle Voci are cur­rently en­joy­ing at full speed.

‘Af­ter The Voice it got busy quickly. We have per­formed all over the world – the USA, Ar­gentina, Canada… We’re re­leas­ing a sin­gle in De­cem­ber, a cover ver­sion of Cold­play’s The Sci­en­tist. It’s a full or­ches­tral ver­sion, with The Lon­don Con­tem­po­rary Voices choir, so opera, but with a con­tem­po­rary feel.

‘The most ex­cit­ing thing in

2019 how­ever was be­ing in­vited to per­form the na­tional an­them at the FA Cup Fi­nal at Wem­b­ley. We sang for a crowd of 90,000 and with over 80m watch­ing in more than 100 coun­tries around the world. It was a sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence – and all be­cause of Emily’s mis­take!’

‘It gave us a plat­form and an op­por­tu­nity and ex­posed a younger au­di­ence to the genre’

ABOVE: So­phie Ro­han and Emily Bur­nette

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