EX CATHEDRA | Frances Brindley - soprano

From our ‘In 40 Parts’ programme, October 2018

Frances Brindley has sung and played piano for more years than she cares to remember (65 so far). After completing an ARCM (piano), a Modern Languages degree and PGCE, she did VSO for 2 years in Laos, where she met David, her future husband. She then worked in France, married David and subsequently went with him to Malaysia, where she taught English in a Malaysian secondary school and enjoyed training the choir. On their return to London in 1971, she studied singing at the Guildhall School of Music, gaining her LGSM. Frances worked as an EFL teacher and sang in numerous groups, such as the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields, joining Ex Cathedra after moving to Coventry, where she continued to teach and sing. In 1993 Frances moved with her family to Buxton in the Peak District and worked for 16 years at the University of Sheffield as a language support specialist. Now retired, she combines singing in Ex Cathedra as an amateur with choral singing and the occasional solo in Buxton. She directs a church choir and Buxton U3A choir, both diverse, lively groups who’ve taught her a lot! Frances particularly enjoys singing with close harmony group, Susie and the Bad Habits, whose music-making helps to raise funds for various charities.

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

I think I’ve been a member for about 33 years. I first sang with Ex Cathedra earlier, when my brother was staying with us in Coventry and took me along to sing in the Monteverdi Vespers 1610. I really enjoyed the experience and was so impressed, not only by Jeffrey and the professionalism of the choir, but also by the friendliness of the singers. In 1985 I had an audition with Jeffrey which I remember well, since my sight-singing was appalling, and he kindly provided me with this mantra as I floundered ever further away from the music: ‘Now, don’t let’s panic…’ Still very useful.

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

Now I’m retired, there’s quite a variety of commitments. I’m a Christian and like to pray first thing. Breakfast is always a shared meal – a treat after our working days, although we do have to shout to understand each other! Pilates exercises help me get moving. A musical spot usually features in the day – a session directing the U3A group, a rehearsal, singing practice, playing piano duets. Then there’s talking with our daughter in Australia, cooking (yum), gardening, possibly going for a shortish ramble with my husband, or we may be travelling in the VW camper to a not-so-rainy spot…

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

I always love singing Bach, so the St John Passion would be in my list. But my main wish would be to sing again Francis Poulenc’s 1943 cantata Figure Humaine, a setting of 8 electrifying war poems by Paul Eluard. It’s a passionate and bruising piece, with moments of lyrical tenderness that are heart-melting. I find in it a level of intensity that is extraordinary.

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

Letting my hair down singing songs like ‘Rock, rock, rockin’ round the Christmas Tree’ in my local female close harmony group ‘Susie and the Bad Habits’…