EX CATHEDRA | Myriam Toumi - soprano

From our ‘Monteverdi Vespers’ programme, December 2017

Myriam began her musical journey by playing the viola and singing in her local French Conservatoire. In 2000, she joined the Maitrise de Radio France in Paris, a professional French Radio’s youth choir which gave her the opportunity to sing under inspiring internationally acclaimed conductors. There, she studied singing and conducting under Toni Ramon and later Sofi Jeannin. Myriam obtained her Masters in Choral Conducting under the tuition of Paul Spicer at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where she first met Jeffrey Skidmore. She became a member of Ex Cathedra and not long after joined the office team, becoming Education Coordinator. Passionate about the organisation’s education work, she regularly works as an Ex Cathedra vocal tutor. Myriam has also been Director of Music at the Birmingham Oratory since July 2016.

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

During my time at the Conservatoire, I sang alongside Ex Cathedra after Jeffrey had invited some students to take part in Ex Cathedra’s performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. I decided to audition after I graduated, in 2011.  I first met Jeffrey when I was a student in 2009. Coincidentally, the first piece I ever sang under his direction was Monteverdi’s Vespers! The following year, we sang some De Lalande. I have always loved French Baroque music and singing it with Jeffrey was a great opportunity. I still listen to Ex Cathedra’s De Lalande CD regularly with a bit of nostalgia! These projects at the Conservatoire were really inspiring and I knew that Ex Cathedra was a great choir so I was very keen to join as soon as I graduated. I quickly realized how lucky I was, being able to sing with a group of friends at such a high standard.

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

My days change quite a lot depending on what is going on within the organisation. Usually, I get to the office for about 8.30am where I have my much-needed black coffee. I then either spend the day in the office, or I go out to our projects. On Tuesday, I could be at Birmingham Women’s Hospital singing to newborn babies; on a Friday I could be at Birmingham Children’s Hospital working on Singing Medicine, or in Solihull joining the Singing Pathways team. Every Wednesday in term time, I sing with our Academy of Vocal Music members. Occasionally, I’ll go and conduct at the Oratory in the evening too. The Christmas period gets even busier with our Christmas Music by Candlelight concerts, and our Academy being busy singing in the pit at Birmingham Hippodrome for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performances of Nutcracker!

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

Although it is not a simple question to answer, it has to be our Good Friday Bach Passions. The St Matthew Passion is probably one of my favourite works, so performing it with Ex Cathedra has always been a wonderful experience, with our Baroque orchestra or recently with the CBSO. Another highlight was the Marie Fel concert and recording. I had worked with Jeffrey when he was doing some research for that project of French Baroque music, so I had seen a little of the building process, which was very interesting. Some of the repertoire overlapped with the De Lalande Conservatoire project I mentioned earlier, so I was looking forward to singing some of it again very much. I also have to say that I can’t answer this question without mentioning Christmas Music by Candlelight. Every year is a surprise for the choir. Some old favourites, some new pieces, commissions, readings. It is such an exciting time!

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

I love cheesy pop songs, some Disney songs too. The cheesier, the better! I like singing them loudly at home when no one is listening!