For day four of Audio Advent 2021, we interviewed award winning classical baritone Jamie Hall, to find out a bit more about his background, how he came into the professional music industry, and his recent crowdfunded recording of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin.
Hi Jamie, For anyone who hasn't heard of you before, would you mind briefly introducing yourself?
Hi Corin. I’m foremost a classical baritone and a full-time member of the BBC Singers, but - if I have the time - I conduct, compose and sometimes teach.
Let's start with a few quick-fire questions to get to know the man beneath the bathrobe.
What are your hobbies outside of music?
That’s a tough one… It’s pretty rare that I’m not involved in some form of music making or listening, and I don’t so much have hobbies, more a series of brief obsessions. Recent semi-successes have included allotment gardening, painting portraits and furniture restoration.
What was your favourite band/ensemble/group growing up?
Well I listened to a lot of my parents’ music, so I got Diana Ross and Tina Turner from my mum, and Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene and the like from my dad. Later on I went through a massive Lloyd Webber phase and could also do a passable Elton John impression.
And who is your favourite composer now?
That’s too tough to answer. Bach and Schubert will always be up there, along with Mendelssohn, and then there are the English composers… Vaughan Williams, Finzi… My favourite composer tends to be influenced by what I’m working on that day.
What is your go-to takeaway order?
Curry, hands down. Not too spicy with plenty of peshwari naan, popadoms and lime pickle!
What instruments fill a singer's house?
Well, I’ve just bought a 6’1” grand piano so that!
It was your birthday recently; what piece of music did you listen to/sing to celebrate?
My partner and I love drinking bubbles and smashing out the show tunes at the piano so there was plenty of that… I also had to practise a few carols because I might well have to play for our local Christmas Day service which is a little nerve wracking.
What is your favourite piece of music to perform publicly?
And importantly, what is your current HiFi/listening system?
Sadly I’ve yet to invest in a really good system. I have a pair of excellent noise-cancelling headphones for serious listening and then a little Sony sound system in my study. After a recent visit to the Expressive Audio Showroom I have some seriously beautiful speakers on my wish list!
So, moving on, how did you discover your love of classical music?
Well, at home I was only vaguely aware of classical music, preferring musical theatre. It was when I joined my university chamber choir that I fell in love with choral music and it’s been an obsession ever since.
When did you begin singing, and what have been your favourite or most memorable professional roles?
I didn’t train formally until I turned up at university so I had a lot of catching up to do, which means it was pretty extraordinary to join the BBC Singers as a fully fledged professional not quite 6 years later. There have been too many highlights since to list them all, but a seriously memorable one was singing the title role in Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde alongside my teenage singing hero, Michael Crawford, as the voice of God.
What advice would you give to young singers hoping to pursue a professional choral career?
Find a good teacher. Work on your sight-reading.
Your bathrobe recitals became a bit of a classical music internet sensation over lockdown. What inspired them, and more crucially, what is the significance of the bathrobe!?
The bathrobe was not really significant at all, more a result of my absentmindedly posting a video first thing in the morning without having dressed. I think people found it amusing and endearing, but I think it’s also good to see classical music happening without the usual formality. It makes it more human - more accessible.
We discovered your crowdfunding campaign to bring your dream of recording Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin to life while it was still fairly early on, and watched excitedly as support grew and grew. What gave you the idea to crowdfund your first CD?
People kept asking why I hadn’t recorded a CD and suggesting crowdfunding. I was reluctant because I wasn’t convinced it would work. I don’t think people realise just how much it costs to produce a CD and how difficult it is to even break even with sales. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who helped make it happen - including Expressive Audio of course - and to Convivium Records for their help, support and encouragement.
What was the process of recording a CD like, and when will the general public be able to get their hands on it?
It’s an incredibly intense experience. A total immersion in the piece. I can’t imagine having been able to do it without already knowing the piece inside out. It was fantastic and I can’t wait to do it again. The disc will be released by Convivium on February 4th 2022.
And finally, what is next for you in terms of future projects or recordings?
I’d love to record again but I’ve too many ideas and haven’t yet settled. Lots of my supporters are asking for English Song repertoire so I’m currently looking at wonderful things by Howells, Holst, Finzi and Vaughan Williams.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Jamie, and we're excited to hear what becomes of your future projects!
Stay tuned for tomorrow's Audio Advent article.