EX CATHEDRA | Sarah Colgan - Soprano

From our Byrd to Bacharach and Bach, Scholars Ensemble programme 2023

Born and raised in Australia, Sarah’s love for singing found its roots when she moved to Ireland in 2013. Her musical talent blossomed when she served as a Head Chorister and Choral Scholar at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Dublin, setting the stage for her future in music. Sarah is currently a third-year scholarship student at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where she studies Vocal Performance under Jonathan Gunthorpe. Here, she is an ongoing member of the Conservatoire Chamber Choir and has had the opportunity to perform many solos and duets during her time with the choir. Sarah was an Ex Cathedra Student Scholar in 2022/23 and is currently a Soprano Lay Clerk at Birmingham Cathedral, progressing on from her former role as a Choral Scholar. In her free time, she deputises at Birmingham Oratory, St. Chad’s Cathedral and has recently worked with King’s College London Choir. In addition to her vocal talents, Sarah is a skilled flautist and possesses a keen interest in conducting. Her conducting experience include leading Choral Eucharists in Dublin to gaining conducting experience at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and most recently, Sarah conducted an Evensong at Birmingham Cathedral. She has also ventured into conducting orchestral pieces, displaying her versatility and enthusiasm while she studies conducting as her second study at the Conservatoire under Julian Wilkins.

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

In 2018, I was living in Ireland and singing as a choral scholar at a wonderful church in Dublin where we had started working on a new set of canticles, Roth’s Hatfield Service. My conductor played a recording of the music for us as we’d never sung anything like Roth’s music before and I instantly fell in love with it and that specific recording of the service, downloading it onto my phone and always listening to it but never knowing who the choir was! Fast forward a few years later to when I moved to Birmingham in 2021, I met Jeffrey in my first year at the conservatoire where he conducted my first Chamber Choir concert. Jeffrey talked about his choir Ex Cathedra and being interested, I wanted to listen to some of their music so I browsed through the website and that’s when I found out that Ex Cathedra had been the choir from the Roth Hatfield Service recording all along! Then in November 2021, I went to watch my first Ex Cathedra concert in Town Hall. It was a consort performance programme titled “Our First Love: Music of the English Renaissance” and I was absolutely enthralled by the consort and the music. After the concert had ended, Jeffrey turned to the audience and spotted me in the third row and gave me a wink! I still have the ticket to the concert taped to my wall two years later. In January of 2022, Jeffrey gave me the opportunity to sing with Ex Cathedra as a prospective student scholar and then in my 2nd year at the Conservatoire I was lucky enough to have been granted one of the Student Scholarships. Now I am in my 3rd year at the Conservatoire, I am still singing with Ex Cathedra and I think back to how far I’ve come since listening to that Roth recording in 2018.

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

Being a musician and a student, my days are usually varied and very busy! For example, an average Thursday would consist of back-to-back Italian and German classes at the Conservatoire where we learn diction and IPA and then followed by Vocal performance class where we sing our practised repertoire and receive feedback and coached by either Paul Wingfield or one of the many wonderful singing teachers. Once that class has finished, I run over to Birmingham Cathedral to rehearse where I sing as a Soprano Lay clerk to then turn around and run back to the Conservatoire just in time for Chamber Choir!

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

Tough question! While it’s hard to pick, it would definitely be Tallis’ ‘Spem In Alium’ which we sang in February 2023. ‘Spem In Alium’ has been my favourite piece of music for as long as I can remember and growing up, I always dreamt of getting to sing it one day. When I got the opportunity to sing it in a professional capacity surrounded by incredible singers and instrumentalists, I was overwhelmed with emotion, even had happy tears in my eyes while singing it during the concert at one point! It was absolutely one of the highlights of my musical career and a reminder of why I love choral music so much.

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

Not so much of a secret anymore but when I was a child, every Saturday morning I would rush to boot up the Nintendo Wii (in an effort to play before my siblings woke up) and switch on Wii Music. Always selecting the “Les Toreadors” from Carmen, I’d secretly stand up on our living room table (which my parents forbade me from doing so) and would close the door to prevent anyone from interrupting my performance. I would then fervently fling my arms about ‘conducting’ the Bizet, ignoring all tempo advice from the game and I would conduct as fast as my 7-year-old arms could swing, nearly resulting in me falling off said table on numerous occasions (I can understand my parents’ reasoning now!)