EX CATHEDRA | Harriet Hougham Slade - alto

From our ‘Mozart’s Women’ programme, February 2018

Harriet Hougham Slade began singing with Ex Cathedra in 2014. Originally a clarinettist, she first performed in Birmingham in 2009 as a member of the National Youth Orchestra, playing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring at Symphony Hall. After spending a year in Dublin singing at Christ Church Cathedral, she moved to London, studying at King’s College London. She sang in the renowned chapel choir, directed by David Trendell, and regularly appeared as a soloist for concerts including Bach’s St John Passion and Mozart’s Requiem. As a consort singer, Harriet has sung and toured with groups such as Ex Cathedra, Tenebrae and Reverie, as well as recording for Metro Voices and the Cambridge Singers. Recent engagements have included Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Ex Cathedra and CBSO, Mrs Noye in Noye’s Fludde for Hampton Court School, Dvorak Stabat Mater and Saint Saens’ Christmas Oratorio for Sloane Square Choral Society. Venturing outside choral music she sings on the latest Radiohead album and also featured as one of four vocalists on EMI’s recent disc release of the Anarchy Arias, a collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on classical arrangements of Punk Rock songs!

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

As a singer trying to establish myself on the choral scene, Ex Cathedra was on my list of choirs to audition for. My audition was in October 2014 and I remember it like it was yesterday (I got lost on the way to the CBSO centre having gone the wrong way out of New Street station) but it seemed to go quite well and I was booked for some Candlelight concerts that December!

My first experience of Candlelights was absolutely terrifying. Coming in towards the end of the patch, where everyone else knew what they were doing, the total darkness, ‘choral-ography’, and a genuine fear of setting myself and other people alight made for a heady mix of fear!

Now, having done three complete Candlelight Decembers, I think I feel a lot more savvy! I’m not quite sure whether I should give away my trade secrets but I would advise adapting your music folder so that it can hold the candle for you….

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

I don’t really have a typical day… however, there are particular things that punctuate each week! Sundays start with church singing in Holy Trinity Sloane Square. Having been a choral scholar at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin and a choral scholar at University, I really miss the routine of regular church singing so being able to still sing some liturgical music in London is really important to me. On Mondays, I have the choral society that I help run in London, Sloane Square Choral Society. This is a choir that I helped set up in 2011 and it’s been really exciting to see the choir develop. Last year I performed as a soloist with them for Saint Saens’ Christmas Oratorio: it was really special, but I wouldn’t advise performing and concert-managing – it’s a bit stressful!

The rest of my week consists of various performing (church services, rehearsals and concerts) and teaching commitments. Teaching has always been an important part of my work and I’m lucky to have some very inspiring students. The best excuse I’ve had to date for no practice is: I’m not sure where my piano is!

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 find that my favourite pieces are often ones that are tied to memorable experiences and there have been so many of both! For example, In my first Consort concert (Douai Abbey in May 2015) we sang Tomkins’ setting of When David Heard. I had previously never sung the piece (criminal!) and so it now triggers lots of fond Ex Cathedra memories whenever sung.

If I had to choose one piece overall, it would have to be James Macmillan’s Seven Angels. When we started rehearsing the piece in 2015, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the sprechstimme and Shofars. However, there is no doubt that the premier, and then again when it was resurrected for the 2015/16 season at St Giles’ Cripplegate and Tewkesbury Abby, were some of the most moving concerts I have ever performed in. The hauntingly beautiful last section, where Macmillan sets Revelations 21: 5-6, was so powerful every time and, whenever I hear that text in church services, I am still reminded of the music. I really hope I get to perform it again soon!

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

The William Orbit remixes of classical pieces such as Barber’s Adagio for Strings…