From our ‘Summer Music by Candlelight’ programme, June 2016. Updated 2019. Rebecca’s photo is from the BBC Children in Need Bearfaced campaign.
Rebecca started her working life as a primary school teacher and then vocal teacher for Birmingham Music Service having graduated from the University of Warwick with a BA QTS in Music and Education, and also having gained a postgraduate certificate in performance from Birmingham Conservatoire. She is Director of Education for Ex Cathedra’s education & participation programme where she has been creating and leading the projects for schools, hospitals and community settings since 2000. Rebecca also conducts Ex Cathedra’s Junior Academy, and the Children’s Choir.
Rebecca leads a team of 23 vocal tutors and accompanists in the programme which each year brings the benefits of singing to thousands of people of all ages, trains singers and singing leaders, and includes the award-winning Singing Playgrounds and Singing Medicine which have taken her to New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore and Belgium. Rebecca has been bestowed with Honorary Membership of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and awarded outstanding contribution to the field of arts and health by the Royal Society for Public Health. In 2014 Rebecca was invited to be one of seven women heading up Children in Need-funded projects alongside seven celebrities to represent the BBC’s Children in Need Bearfaced campaign, hence the Pudsey paw print on her photograph!
1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?
I joined Ex Cathedra in January 1998. I was a part-time postgraduate student at Birmingham Conservatoire while working part-time for Birmingham Music Service. I got to know Jeffrey through his Early Music group at the Conservatoire and he invited me to join. Had I, however, had to audition and do the infamous sight-reading tests I’m not sure I would be where I am now!… A couple of years later Ex Cathedra advertised for an Education Coordinator and I knew immediately that was what I wanted to do alongside the work I was already doing with singing in schools.
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t have any day that is the same and I love that. My weeks often comprise meetings with prospective and project partners, team members, time at my laptop writing proposals, project reports and funding applications, and project planning, as well as rehearsals, workshops and Singing Medicine and Singing Pathways sessions. Working with the team in the development of the projects and the musical activities are what I really love. Currently I am particularly enjoying the creation of our new schools’ resource, ‘Can you sing it?‘, and an interactive CD for Singing Pathways to help people who have had a stroke. I am also really enjoying planning our forthcoming SingMaker and Singing Playgrounds events – mostly because the team writes such fantastic music that it is a joy to imagine how children will love singing their songs! When I am at my laptop, working at home I love receiving texts and emails from the team from wherever they are containing what we call “Golden moments”. The most recent one was about a child who was blind joining in a Singing Playgrounds Song Leader training day.
When I’m not working I am often still thinking about our projects. Sometimes… I could do with turning it off! But my job is all-consuming for me and I am really passionate about how, as a team of people together, we can make a difference to individuals and communities through singing.
3. If you could choose to perform again any piece you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and & why?
I love the Candlelight concerts for many reasons. They are moving and very special, with glorious music that we surround the audience with. But I also love them because we get to sing the repertoire several times over several performances, not once as can often be the case in the choral world. For a specific piece from that repertoire set I would have to choose Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium because the writing just envelops the listener and the singer.
4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?
If a musical guilty secret is something you really, really love, then I can’t beat the hour in October 2015 when I was on the stage in the Memorial Hall of Shrewsbury International Bangkok with my friends and colleagues Ula Weber, Suzzie Vango, Rob Challinor and Dan Ludford Thomas. 400 children were singing, laughing, jumping, and dancing while we led them in our songs. The wave of euphoria in the room was palpable and we didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves when the hour came to the end. If a musical guilty secret is what you sing in the car then it’s got to be Lady Antebellum. It is happy music and my husband and I and our daughter sing to the CD at the tops of our voices, or I sit back and quietly listen to my daughter enjoying her singing.