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Soprano Helen-Jane Howells joined us on Friday for the last edition in our Cantatas and Brandenburg Concertos series. We caught up with her after the show, for a chat about rituals and Ska music.
What do you fear the most?
Exams and tests of any kind. When I was a secondary school teacher (my profession until 2008) I used to hate invigilating- I’d get so nervous for the students and often ask to swap with colleagues so I didn’t have to do it.
When was your break through moment?
My time at Glyndebourne (2009 & 2010) gave me confidence to think I should pursue singing. I also believe that, as with so many things in life, it comes down not to one single event but many little connections and experiences that build up a bigger picture. But I think that in 2011 when I stepped in for an indisposed Susan Gritton (Gabrieli Consort) and later Carolyn Sampson (Royal Festival Hall) was when things really began to take off.
Which mobile number do you call the most?
I prefer texts and meeting up properly.
What – or where – is perfection?
I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled around some beautiful places in the world- South America and Vietnam being my favourites. But the place I think nears perfection is Kynance Cove in Cornwall.
Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Bishop Myriel from Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’. He has no idea what will become of Valjean after he helps him or if he will change but he gives him a chance and asks for nothing in return and that is wonderful
What’s your favourite ritual?
I just concentrate on having fun and don’t focus on the what-ifs or any rituals. If you’ve done your preparation it’s then all about the exciting chance to make music and tell a story.
Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
I couldn’t say one particular person but I hugely admire those people who give up their lives for others- such as carers and foster parents.
What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
I’d love to be able to draw- I have lots of ideas for children’s books and illustrations but I am terrible at drawing. I don’t know where it went wrong as I used to be quite good at school!
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
What a big question! If you give to life and love wholeheartedly you cannot help but live a happier, fuller life even if sometimes you make mistakes. Or, in the words of Tennyson: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’.
What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
I’m in the Mood for Ska. It’s so laid back and always makes me smile.