EX CATHEDRA | Jeff Sutherland-Kay - bass

From our ‘Rachmaninoff Vespers’ programme, October 2019

Jeff Sutherland-Kay has been a musician since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Never more than an average pianist, it was as a violinist that he made real progress, getting as far as diploma level. “I was preparing for the ARCM when I decided I had really had enough of doing violin exams.” He took up singing instead and won a choral scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford. He read music but on leaving Oxford took up a career in the financial services industry, initially as a branch manager for the Leicester Building Society but going on to become head of marketing for Alliance & Leicester plc and finally director of their intermediaries division. “I eventually persuaded the Alliance & Leicester to give me a voluntary redundancy package and founded my own company as a provider of consultancy and interim management services.” This took Jeff all round the country, working with both large and small organisations, with his last interim role being at HSBC writing and implementing a new global risk policy. But he also spent time in the not-for-profit sector as a director/trustee, including being a member of Ex Cathedra’s board for a number of years and later joining the board of the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust, the former county youth music service.

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

I first met Jeffrey Skidmore in the music faculty at Oxford in the early 70s. Some years later, I bumped into him in a pub in Lichfield (no surprise there) and he asked me if I would like to join his choir. This was in 1979 and my first Ex Cathedra gig was a choral evensong in Lichfield Cathedral.

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

I have retired as a consultant and interim manager but I still work as an independent director. My main focus at the moment is as a director/trustee of Music of Life Foundation, which aims to improve the life skills, well-being and confidence of disabled children through music-making. My role involves planning the development of the charity over the medium term, building an appropriate risk framework and working with other board members on our fundraising strategy. It may all sound rather dry but it is an amazing organisation delivering extraordinary value and is great fun to work with.

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

Having been part of Ex Cathedra for over 40 years, I have sung some wonderful music and learned a lot about the performance of music from different periods. I can remember a very satisfying Messiah in Oxford with just 24 singers, a memorable Bach B Minor Mass in Lyon, the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers performed in Birmingham Oratory which just seemed the perfect place and, more recently, emotional performances of Gerontius. But I always enjoy coming back to Bach, in particular the B Minor Mass and the St John Passion.

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

There’s no guilt attached to being a jazz fan. Whether it’s mainstream, bebop, West Coast or modern; big band, solo piano or combos – I have a fairly wide taste. And I’ve been to jazz gigs in various parts of the UK as well as several visits to the Cork Jazz Festival. Favourite performers? Oscar Peterson, Michel Petrucciani, Dave Holland, the Charles Mingus Big Band – this could end up as a very long list!