EX CATHEDRA | Paul Bentley-Angell - tenor

From our ‘Harmonic Spiritual Theatre’ programme, March 2018

Paul started singing at age 15 after moving to a new school and somewhat reluctantly auditioning for the school musical just because his only friend was doing so. Paul sang the Australian National Anthem in his audition because it was the only song he knew. Happily, the singing teacher, rather than laughing at him, suggested Paul take some singing lessons to develop the natural voice he obviously had, and so Paul did. From here, Paul went on to study at the University of Melbourne where he developed a love of early music, and eventually obtained his Bachelor of Music (Hons). Shortly after, Paul moved to Europe to study at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, while living in London and beginning a new life as a freelance singer. Nowadays Paul is fortunate enough to work with some of the most esteemed and well-loved ensembles in Europe, including Ars Nova Copenhagen, the Huelgas Ensemble, Collegium Vocale Gent, Theatre of Voices, the Gabrieli Consort, and of course, Ex Cathedra.

Paul currently lives in Chichester, West Sussex, his birthday is October 12 (don’t forget!) and his favourite colours are blue and purple.

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

I first came across Ex Cathedra in January 2011, not long after I had emigrated to the UK. I was just getting started on the singing scene in London, gradually getting to know people and showing my face here, there and everywhere, and a colleague mentioned they were working with this great group based in Birmingham. I went home and looked Ex Cathedra up and was immediately hooked by the dynamic and varied programming – the range of music that Ex Cathedra performs is simply unrivalled. I nervously emailed the office (back then the lovely Alice), asked to arrange an audition, and in the following July I went to Birmingham and sang for Jeffrey, and soon after was offered my first project with the group – the Rachmaninov Vespers.

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

I’m not sure a typical day really exists for any freelance musician – it’s part of the charm of this lifestyle I think, that no two days are ever the same, there is always something new and different to look forward to. It’s a double-edged sword, of course, because I think human beings often need and crave routine in order to feel settled, safe and secure, knowing exactly what happens, and when. But this can be hard to come by as a musician unless you have a permanent job somewhere, like in a cathedral, an orchestra or a radio choir (which I don’t!)

And so I try to create some routine for myself. Most days will (obviously) contain singing of some kind, whether it be a rehearsal, a performance or just personal practice and preparation. 3-5 days a week will include between 30-45 minutes of running – it’s a fantastic way to explore places, though I am very susceptible to getting lost! Every single day will contain at least a few coffees (and, as a Melburnian, I do a lot of research to find the best coffee near to wherever I am in the world!) Then of course there is always some admin to do, loved ones to FaceTime, meals to cook, music to listen to, planes and trains to catch, and 12 new shows on Netflix to watch. Rinse and repeat, in any order!

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

There are 3 pieces that really stand out in my memory from my time with Ex Cathedra, and being asked to choose just one, well that seems unreasonable, so I shall mention all 3 briefly!

The first is quite recent, only last year in fact, and that is the Monteverdi Vespers. It’s a piece I’ve performed many times in my career thus far, but Jeffrey’s interpretations and the superb musicians involved really brought it to new heights for me, and reshaped a lot of my understanding of the piece.

The second is the Rachmaninov Vespers. It was the first time I’d ever sung the piece in it’s entirety, and I remember being completely astonished (in a good way!) by the sound of the ensemble, totally in awe of the two soloists (Jeremy and Martha!) and, as my first introduction into the family of Ex Cathedra, I was pinching myself all day, utterly in shock that here I was making music among such extraordinary people.

And last but by no means least is Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht. This project had such a profound effect on me, as I think it did on everybody involved! It was a huge undertaking, and such a satisfying process and final result, with Ex Cathedra drawing great acclaim from the all the critics. And I still think of this project whenever someone says the word “Wednesday” or when I see somebody (Jeffrey on Wednesdays) wearing yellow socks!

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

Cheesy 90’s pop music – think the Spice Girls, Aqua, Backstreet Boys, etc. – and, during the festive season, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’.