12 July, 2010

Confessions of a Chorus Member: Nikki Thomson

Festival Chorus member Nikki Thomson talks about going from choir to chorus and realising her childhood dream...

I discovered the Festival Chorus by happy accident in December 2002. I’d just moved back to Edinburgh and was keen to join a choir. My brother was working in the Hub CafĂ© and told me there was a choir that rehearsed upstairs on Tuesday nights. I auditioned after a rehearsal in January 2003. It was at that rehearsal that I realised this was far more than I’d expected – I think it was sight singing Act Two of Lohengrin that did it. I’d only ever sung in church, school and college choirs before and this was very different.

Much of my life revolves around the Chorus, and when I was doing a part-time Masters degree a few years ago I even persuaded the University to let me swap classes around so I didn’t miss rehearsals. I love the discipline of working week by week in a large group that seeks to be the best it can be.

In August there are several step changes as the chorus prepares to perform. First Christopher Bell, our chorus master, corrects anything we’ve forgotten over the summer break. Then he hands us over to whoever’s conducting the piece, that’s exciting as we have just a couple of hours to learn what they expect of us and for them to learn what we can do. Then the orchestra’s added to the mix and the sound becomes much bigger. Sometimes we find that a piece really doesn’t sound like we thought it did when we rehearsed with the piano. Finally the soloists join the rehearsal and we get to hear the finished piece for the first time, which can be quite moving.

After that step-by-step build-up, we’re primed and ready for the performance. The first time I stood in the Usher Hall choir stalls I remembered I was realising a childhood dream that one day I wanted to be up there performing, and now I was.

There’s been something special about every year’s Festival. I’m looking forward to singing El Nino this year but before that I’m really excited that I’ll get to realise another dream by singing in the Albert Hall at the Proms with the rest of the Chorus ladies in August.

To find out more about the Festival Chorus go here.

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