Meet the Artist: Neil Ferris of Sonoro

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Meet The Artist

Neil Ferris of Sonoro

by SMIF Young Reporter Kristopher Leask
One of our series from Young Reporters for the Year of Young People 2018 #yoyp18

Neil Ferris is co-founder and conductor of Sonoro, Director of the BBC Symphony Chorus and former Head of Choral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He conducts Sonoro’s Orkney debut, opening this year’s Festival in the full glory of St Magnus Cathedral with the breathtaking Rachamaninov Vesper’s. 

Q: How are you feeling about your first performance in Orkney at the St Magnus Festival as a choir?

We are so fortunate to be involved in such a prestigious festival and in such a beautiful place. A few of our colleagues came last year with the BBC Singers and returned raving about the festival and Orkney, and Orcadians! I managed to get a foretaste if the festival when I visited to work with the Festival Chorus last month - I am really looking forward to the Rossini that we will perform together.

Q: What inspired you to co-found Sonoro in 2016? And how has the journey been so far?

Michael Higgins and I wanted to set up a professional choir that allowed the singers to use the full range of their voices, expanding the expressive qualities in a choral context. We’re still very young but the baby steps are becoming more confident strides as time passes; we’ve learned a lot in a short space of time but the reception to our artistic aims and quality of our sound has been very positive.

Q: What is it about choral conducting you enjoy rather than singing?

As a conductor I get to sing every part! Well... hear every part at close hand at least. To work with singers you have to understand the voice but I’d much rather let my wonderful colleagues do the singing...

Q: As Sonoro's Artistic Director, what drives you to chose the music for the choir to perform?

Having two artistic directors (Michael Higgins is my co-director) is invaluable for the creative process - we knock ideas about and longer term it will prevent anything from becoming stale. We choose repertoire that we know will work for the voices at our disposal and will show them in a good light. We also try and balance the familiar with the new and look for creative and collaborative projects. 

Q: What do you think it is about music and singing which captures the imagination and attention of young people?

Singing is great for the body and soul! And I think it is something to do with the fact that your instrument is inside you: every fibre of your being is involved with singing. It is also a completely natural and instinctive way of communicating (humans sang before they spoke), and there is something extraordinary about singing in a choir at whatever age. The shared music through our voices, straight from our soul.

Singing is so important for your health and well-being. The BBC Symphony Chorus rehearses every Friday night: normally you would think everyone is tired after a working week but they say that it helps them de-stress and sets them up perfectly for the weekend.

Festival Chorus in Rehearsal by SMIF Young Reporter Rachael Batty


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