EX CATHEDRA | Anna Semple - Alto

From our Baroque Passion programme 2024

Anna Semple is a mezzo-soprano and composer based in London. Having finished her Masters in Composition at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2021, she currently freelances alongside her position in the choir of All Saints, Margaret Street, and as a Teacher-Singer with Pimlico Musical Foundation, where she also teaches violin and music theory. Anna sings for a number of concert groups including Tenebrae, Ex Cathedra (where she was a Graduate Scholar 2021-22), Alamire, Siglo De Oro, SANSARA, The Carice Singers, and HEXAD Collective, and is an alumna of Genesis 16 and the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge. As a composer, recent commissions include works for Roderick Williams, the Royal Opera House, Waterperry Opera Festival, The Sixteen, The Marian Consort, and St Paul’s Cathedral.  

1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?

I started singing with Ex Cathedra as one of their Graduate Scholars in 2021 and since then have continued to sing with the group as a professional. I’d been to one of Ex Cath’s Christmas Music by Candlelight concerts back in 2019 as my partner was doing the Graduate Scholarship at the time – I was really impressed by the standard of music making along with how much fun I had heard it was, so was very keen to get involved!

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

There’s not really a typical day-in-the-life for me at the moment, and I feel really lucky that every day and week can be madly different! On a quieter day I might have the morning at the home to do some of the admin (emails, invoices, timetables, travel etc.) that I’m always about a month behind on (sorry Melissa!), a bit of composing (my other freelance activity) and if I’m really lucky I’ll get a chance to clean the house (the glamour!), then I’ll head off in the afternoon for a London-based rehearsal and/or concert, or for evensong, or to see my violin pupils, or some combination of those things! When musicking is happening further afield it can mean a dreadfully early start (I have to check into an airport this weekend for a tour at 6.30am…), a morning of travel, a rehearsal and concert, (maybe) a few drinks afterwards, then flights home dreadfully early the next day – all back in time for evensong or the next concert!

3. If you could choose to perform again any piece that you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and why?

I think I would choose Monteverdi’s Vespers. We did these during my Graduate Scholar year, and it was my first time performing the piece, which I already loved. Despite the alto part being ultimately the least interesting (in my opinion), and grumblingly low a lot of the time, the time off it affords us in performance meant I got to enjoy my colleagues doing some really impressive solos with the period band. It really made me realise how lucky I am to get to do this as a job and share the stage with such amazing singers! I’d love to do it again!

4. What’s your musical ‘guilty secret’?

I don’t know if I believe in ‘guilty’ musical secrets – no one should feel guilty for their musical habits! However, I can occasionally be found in my kitchen making up dance routines to the soundtrack of The Prince of Egypt (I challenge anyone to find an animated film with a better score), which is probably quite objectively strange, or sometimes doing collaborative sound improvisations with fellow composer-performer types which is also quite strange but maybe in a more interesting way? In the absence of non-musical hobbies (is knitting a hobby?), I’ve got engaged in January this year so much of my time is  currently spent wedding planning!