SOPHIE TAYLOR DENTON
Raised on a Croydon council estate to a white British mother and black Jamaican father, you could say I have a fairly different background compared to other professional classical singers. Having performed as Nancy in Oliver for the school musical and having to sing a solo (and liking it!), I began singing lessons aged 11, and primarily focused on popular music throughout secondary school. However, financial constraints at home meant that I was unable to afford lessons in Year 11, and had to complete my Music GCSE without having any peripatetic singing tuition. Luckily I still achieved an A*, and was able to study Music further. Perhaps the turning point into becoming a classical musician, I attended Coloma Convent Girls’ School for sixth form and was awarded free classical singing lessons for opting to take A Level Music. Initially I was sceptical, firmly rooted in popular music singing, but my Head of Music asked me to join the school Chapel Choir, where I discovered a love for choral singing.
I then went on to study Music at the University of Nottingham, with vocal tutelage under Caroline Trutz who completely reinvented my voice. I grew in confidence and was offered a choral scholarship throughout the duration of my degree at Nottingham Cathedral, despite having no prior cathedral singing experience. Bizarrely, at the time I was completely unaware of the stigmas behind cathedral choirs being male dominated; Nottingham Cathedral has had a mixed choir since 1979!
After a baptism of fire in Catholic choral singing with a lot of Renaissance polyphony, I graduated in 2013 and went on to sing with the London Youth Chamber Choir and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. A particularly notable achievement for me personally was singing with the Rodolfus Choir under the direction of Ralph Allwood, where singers were usually selected from the Eton Choral Courses - and I hadn’t been on one, but I successfully auditioned for Rods, and Ralph introduced me to singing my first choral evensong at St Gabriel’s Pimlico at the age of 21. This experience subsequently led to singing professionally for various churches in London, and Gareth Malone’s Voices where I toured around the UK, performing for television, radio, concerts and festivals, whilst juggling a corporate career in the travel industry.
I took the plunge and changed careers into academic music teaching in 2019. I studied at Homerton and Jesus College, Cambridge for my PGCE and Masters qualifications, and briefly sang with OLEM Cambridge and the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge before COVID hit. As well as a teacher, I am a choral leader, and trustee for the Rodolfus Foundation, helping to widen access for students of all backgrounds to attend the Choral Courses to benefit from a choral education. I am still singing professionally with the choirs of St Mary’s Bourne Street and All Saints Margaret Street, as well as other London churches when needed.
I am frustrated with the lack of diversity in the professional choral world, having personally been on several deputy lists for various professional choirs, yet never seeing diverse performers on the stage for said choirs. I am thoroughly looking forward to working with a choir who will not just have diversity on a ‘list’, and at the forefront!