Profile: Lucy Gibbs, mezzo-soprano, and the Chichester Singers 

The Chichester Singers, along with Southern Pro Musica, will be performing J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor on Saturday 11 November in Chichester Cathedral, conducted by Jonathan Willcocks. Lucy Gibbs will be singing in this concert as alto soloist.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at this concert?

The B minor Mass is one of my favourite oratorio pieces. There are some great choruses in it. And I love how the gratias agimus tibi theme is repeated in the Dona nobis pacem: there’s a beautiful build-up of the singing, ending in a fine cadence.

It will be an honour to perform this work in the glorious setting of Chichester Cathedral under the direction of Jonathan Willcocks, standing alongside some fantastic soloists, in what will be, no doubt, a fantastic concert.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

Although my parents don’t play an instrument or sing, they’ve both always encouraged me: my Dad loves Wagner and Strauss operas, and my Mum loves both Baroque and pop music! My brother is studying music too. I learnt the clarinet but sadly don’t play it much these days.

I’m well-steeped in the English choral tradition, having sung both in my local church choir and the vast expanse of Liverpool Cathedral. Oxford University (in the Choir of Merton College, Oxford) and Chetham’s were both great melting pots.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Having the confidence to put myself out there on the performance stage. I have often suffered performance anxiety. I have to ask myself, “is my technique in check?” and “am I prepared well enough?” I need to keep these in check and focus on enjoying the performance.

There’s a lot of background activities that all professional musicians need to do to get themselves work, which naturally includes auditions (and being rejected at them!). Also, it is so easy to compare yourself unfavourably to other people when you’re launching your career.

I’ve been lucky to have had sessions with the RCM’s Creative Careers Centre. It’s a fabulous outfit which deals with all manner of progressing your career, from helping you write a CV through to self-management, self-employment, finance and entrepreneurship.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I think that it is essential for a singer’s development to mix with other instrumentalists. I did a module in contemporary music at RCM which was freeing and experimental. During that I performed new pieces that were well received, along with Oscar Ridout and Miguel de la Rosa. And since then I’ve collaborated with the pianist Daniel Adipradhana from Indonesia, and we were young artists for SongEasel curated by Jocelyn Freeman, going out to community groups and performing song in south east London. In joining up with someone else, you need to be open with and communicate your ideas to the other person.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

I love many works for voice by Brahms, Ravel, Debussy and Richard Strauss (encouraged by my brilliant lecturer Laura Tunbridge), but I’m also fond of the contemporary artists Jonthan Dove (Flight) and John Adams (Doctor Atomic), as well as Dobrinka Tabakova’s (Alma redemptoris mater) and Judith Weir.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why? 

I love performing all genres of works, however in particular I love the story-telling in oratorio.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

This summer’s positive reaction to The Pirates of Penzance at Buxton Opera House was amazing, coming as it did from a seasoned audience.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

If you are passionate about it, do it! As with other professions, you need to be prepared for rejections, even if you’re really good – it may be that you’re not a good fit. But I know that this is especially hard for singers, alone as they are in their craft. You can read about rejections in the writings of the great singers Joyce DiDonato and Sarah Connolly.

How would you define success as a musician?

Having a story to tell, getting behind the narrative and effectively telling it.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

As a singer, my voice continues to develop. In 5 years’ time I’d like to be continuing to perform at the highest possible level wherever that may be.

About Lucy

Originally from Shropshire, mezzo-soprano Lucy Gibbs is now based in Ghent, Belgium, studying at the International Opera Academy. Lucy graduated with distinction from the Royal College of Music, studying with Patricia Bardon and Sebastian Wybrew, where she held the Robert Lancaster scholarship and was supported by the Josephine Baker Trust. Performances at RCM include ‘La Duchessa’ in Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco, covering ‘Un Pâtre’ in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges as well as being in the ensemble, and covering the part of ‘Older Woman’ in Jonathan Dove’s Flight. Furthermore, she had the privilege to premier Asher Joyce’s Away for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, and Oscar Ridout’s Rugiada for mezzo-soprano, viola and double bass.

This summer, Lucy was a member of the ensemble in the National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, performing The Yeoman of the Guard, The Mikado, and The Pirates of Penzance in Buxton Opera House and Malvern Theatres. Lucy was a young artist along with Daniel Adipradhana for SongEasel, a project curated by Jocelyn Freeman bringing song to south-east London, and was a member of the tenth cohort of Genesis Sixteen. Previous oratorio performances as Alto soloist include Vivaldi’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Solemn Vespers with Grantham Choral Society, Mozart’s Requiem with the St Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Choir, and Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor and D. Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater with the Oxford Bach Choir.

Lucy previously read Music at Merton College, Oxford, where she held a choral scholarship, and studied at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.


Image credit: Helena Cooke

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