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