EX CATHEDRA | Marianne Ayling - soprano

From our ‘Christmas Music by Candlelight’ programme, December 2016

Marianne developed a love of singing from the early age of three when at nursery school she was taught traditional English songs such as No John, Early one morning and The Oak and the Ash. She first performed in public at the age of seven as a mouse in Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. She loved Britten’s The Little Sweep and sang along to the part of Rowan in her bedroom. At 13 she was chosen to play a street urchin in Puccini’s La Boheme at the London Coliseum. As a teenager she was actively involved in the organisation Sing for Pleasure and at sixteen joined their national committee. She sang with the Young Singers of London and the Thomas Tallis Society and later the Tallis Chamber Choir with whom she sang for Ashkenazy at the Lucerne festival, for Yehudi Menuhin, Jeffrey Tate and Michael Tilson Thomas in London. Also the Ionian Singers and Phoenix Singers.

With the birth of her third child, Marianne and her partner decided to move to Shropshire where they have lived ever since. With their young family they went on adventures around the world including a ‘family gap year’ living and working in New Zealand where she later delivered the first overseas Singing Playgrounds project for Ex Cathedra. Marianne is one of Ex Cathedra’s lead Vocal Tutors delivering education projects including Singing Playgrounds and Singing Medicine, and she directs their community choir Ladywood Community Singers.

She also runs singing workshops and is a frequent guest conductor for the Shrewsbury Cantata Choir.

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

I joined Ex Cathedra in 1998 when a friend I was singing with suggested I audition, saying I had ‘just the kind of voice Jeffrey would like’. I did. I was a little taken aback by Jeffrey’s directness during the sight reading when he waned me to sing ‘German Latin’ (I’d never heard of it) and said my trill wasn’t very nice! But having simply asked him how he wanted it and done it like that, he must have decided I was ok because a couple of weeks later I was rehearsing for my first concert. It included Tallis and Striggio’s 40-part motets and Britten’s Sacred and Profane which meant I had to work hard! I loved it!

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

Well… apart from an early start to feed and let out the hens, my days don’t really look typical! I might travel to deliver a Singing Playgrounds day somewhere in the country or a Singing Medicine day in Birmingham. Or I might go to teach singing at a school. On a ‘day off’ I might dig the garden, look after my grandchildren, clear some woodlands on our new project, or train horses.

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

Such a difficult question. I have sung so many interesting and wonderful pieces but if I could choose for two different scenarios they would be Bach’s motets Singet dem herrn and Lobet den herrn which I sang with Ex Cathedra in Israel where the text and magical music held a special poignancy. The other would be for our Christmas Music by Candlelight to sing Górecki’s Totus Tuus which we sang a few years ago. It was mesmerizing to sing and created an almost trancelike stillness in the church.

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

I love dancing round the house to the bands Edward II and Manu Chao ( I’m not really a dancer!) and I can’t play the piano!