EX CATHEDRA | Felicity Rogers - soprano

From our ‘Bach, Magnificat’ programme, Octobber 2017

Felicity went to school in Malvern, where she was a chorister at Malvern Priory before becoming a founder girl chorister at Worcester Cathedral. It was here that her love of choral music really began. Felicity read Music at Durham University where she was a member of the Chamber Choir, Opera Ensemble, and several chapel choirs. After graduating she became a choral scholar at Birmingham Cathedral, singing in radio broadcasts and tours to Notre Dame, Alhambra Palace, and Sadler’s Wells with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She subsequently gained a scholarship at Birmingham Conservatoire for a Postgraduate Diploma in Vocal Performance. During her time there, she sang in the Chamber Choir and took part in the opera productions.

Felicity now enjoys freelance work and is a choral scholar at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, a voice coach and choir librarian at St Philip’s Cathedral, and one of Ex Cathedra’s four inaugural graduate scholars (2017-18). Her choral work has included recordings of both sacred and secular works, including new commissions. Last year Felicity sang, played flute and percussion (!) in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Cymbeline in both Stratford-upon-Avon and The Barbican, London. Felicity currently studies with Maureen Brathwaite and Matthew Venner.

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

After graduating from Durham in 2011 I had a year living at home to apply for music college and my Head of Music from school, Iain Sloan (an Ex Cathedra member), recommended I audition. I knew I loved ensemble singing and wanted to join a professional choir. I remember my audition quite well. Somehow, Jeffrey thought I was auditioning as a professional, which I definitely wasn’t, coming straight from university! Whilst I was singing there was a soprano really going for it in the warm up room and Jeffrey just raised an eyebrow at me, which put me at ease. I was worried I’d blown it after sight reading some Poulenc! My first concert wasn’t until January 2013 – the piece, Britten’s A Boy was Born, was new to me and I found the concert very atmospheric. Everyone was so welcoming – I probably looked quite nervous a lot of the time! I’m very happy to now sing with Ex Cathedra as a 2017-18 scholar.

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

Being a freelance musician, it’s a bit varied. On a non-concert day I’ll learn new repertoire, get some admin down and try out a different gym class, or go for a run if the weather isn’t foul! I’m currently rehearsing with a lutenist from the Conservatoire to perform recitals locally. Lots of gorgeous music including Dowland and Purcell. I teach the choristers twice a week at St Philip’s Cathedral, which makes me nostalgic about my chorister days! Sunday is always singing at Mass in the morning and Vespers in the evening. A couple of times a month I travel to London for a singing lesson or rehearsal. I’m still trying to improve my languages and of course develop a better singing technique all the time! On days off I love to explore a different city, maybe with some shopping too. Eating out with family or friends after a concert is always a treat – perhaps with a drop or two of dry white wine!

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

This is such a hard question! I’m lucky to have performed music from a wide range of eras and genres with Ex Cathedra. We’ve collaborated with Birmingham Royal Ballet, performing Carmina Burana at The Coliseum and Birmingham Hippodrome, and The Nutcracker with the Ex Cathedra Academy of Vocal Music. The Rachmaninoff Vespers at Southwell Minster were incredibly moving. In the Marie Fel programme, Carolyn Sampson was just amazing, not to mention she had a different dress for each aria! Despite favouring Baroque I think my favourite piece has been James MacMillan’s Seven Angels. The shofars did take some getting used to, but there were times when you could have heard a pin drop. There were some huge choral moments, setting text that hadn’t been put to music before from The Last Judgement, but also vocal techniques such as whistling and a type of Sprechstimme. It’s always exciting performing a new commission!

4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?

I’m a bit obsessed with Christmas in general so I’d say allowing myself in the summer to listen to one carol to keep me going! Hark the Herald is a great one! There’s some beautiful choral music at Christmas and if you haven’t been to an Ex Cathedra Christmas Music by Candlelight you must – they’re very special. Also, the cheesy stuff like White Christmas and Wham’s Last Christmas, I can’t get enough of those!