Saturday, 13 March 2021

Next December in Berlin: I chat to Timothy Wayne-Wright, artistic director of Choralspace's Winter Festival 2021

Choralspace brochure image

Choralspace is a new initiative that combines both online and live choral performance for amateurs and professionals alike. Amongst the organisation's new projects is a Winter Festival in December 2021 of which the artistic director is Tim Wayne-Wright; Tim spent ten years singing counter-tenor with the King's Singers, and I caught up with Tim by Zoom to find out what Choralspace has in store for us.

Timothy Wayne Wright
Timothy Wayne Wright
Choralspace is the idea of Gent Lazri, who worked for ten years for Interkultur (an organisation that has organised international choir competitions and festivals since 1988). Lazri felt that the choral community was changing and that there was room for further artistic innovation, more social inclusivity and collaboration. So Choralspace is intended to be an international space to address these issues. The new organisation has three complementary strands.

Learning: there will be a Choralspace Academy intended to be an online vocal university which, from September, will be offering 38 weekly workshops.

Creating: there will be workshops on broadening the scope of choral music, and inspiring choral musicians to develop fresh ideas and reach larger audiences.

Performing: this is the strand that involves Tim as he is programming the Winter Festival, which will involve live performances in Berlin, as well as concerts in March 2022.

Tim has three colleagues looking after the organisation, Gent Lazri, who is the founder, Myguel Santos e Castro, the programme director of the Choralspace Academy who is looking after the online workshops, and Kristine Sheroyan, the president of the Armenian Choral Directors Association who is head of membership operations responsible for getting choirs on board with the project.

The idea behind the Winter Festival is to make the end of this year a real celebration of singing together. Choirs from all over the world will be coming to Berlin to perform, from amateur choirs to semi-professional ones to professional groups. Tim will be creating clusters of three groups who will give performances together, with Tim working with the groups to create interesting programmes which will mix different styles of music.

Leading up to the festival in December, Tim will be moderating on-line sessions with the choir and having repertoire meetings with them. After the event, there will be a legacy meeting to de-brief, to talk about what worked and what did not, to talk through plans which can feed into next year's festival.

The festival runs from 9 to 19 December 2021 in Berlin and choirs will be coming for some or all of the time period. The line-up of choirs is still being finalised, but Tim has been going through his book of contacts, and all the ensembles that he did King's Singers workshops with, the idea being to have everything from children's choirs to professional ones. And the idea is to have a live festival so that choirs will be able to sing in the same room with each other, and with an audience!

The festival is in Berlin partly because that is where Choralspace was born, and partly because it is very much seen as a classical music hub, and they had major venues interest.

Tim hopes that the audience and the choirs will take away from the festival something of the joy of live sung music. But for the choirs, there is also the idea of collaboration and the hope of a two-way relationship developing between the different groups, amateur, semi-professional and professional. They will be spending time together, and Tim feels that groups can learn from each other. Not only the amateurs, but he sees the profession singers seeing things with fresh eyes as a result of spending time with the amateur singers. And Tim cites his time with the King's Singers when the group learned a huge amount from the amateur groups that were involved in their workshops.

The performance programmes should be an engaging time for the audiences, so Tim is hoping to put contrasting and complementary groups together in the clusters on the same programme. He would like the repertoire to not be just typical pieces, but looking for repertoire outside the box. This means that ensembles will be encouraged to look for lesser known composers or lesser-known works by familiar composers. And there will be a wide range of repertoire for the audience to listen to from chant right through to more popular. Tim hopes that for individual concerts he will be able to have contrasting groups so one which performs Renaissance repertoire performing alongside ones which sing more modern. He wants not only to have music that you don't hear very often but to have a great variety of styles.

Tim trained at Trinity Laban and then went on to be an alto lay clerk at St George's Chapel, Windsor. From there he went into the King's Singers, where he stayed for ten years. Whilst in the King's Singers, Tim had a lot of exposure to education work, which was a big part of the King's Singers life. Tim found that he enjoyed the education work, and this is an area that he is still involved in. Whilst in the King's Singers he found that off-stage he was very much involved in programming, looking at ways of growing and speaking to audiences, with the need to think about fresh ideas. He feels that it is this sense of fresh thinking and innovation that he can bring to Choralspace, the idea of always questioning and thinking about things differently. Also, both his project management and artist management experience feeds into the festival.

He left the King's Singers in 2018, which was the ensemble's 50th anniversary year which ensured that he went out with a bang. Offstage with the King's Singers, he was often involved in looking after jobs that demanded project management skills and organisation.

Wanting to look for a new role that built on this and on the many contacts he had made in the choral world, he spoke to the ensemble's then general manager who asked if he had thought about life 'on the other side'. This led to talks with Hazard Chase and the offer of a position on the vocal team, which seemed a good fit, especially as his time as a performer meant that when working on artist diaries he has a good feel for what is required, what schedules should be like.

He continues teaching singing to individuals and vocal ensembles. Tim is relocating to NZ this month with his family, and is looking forward to setting up his own artist management agency there in due course.

For more information about CHORALSPACE and the Winter Festival, please see their website, and to register your choir’s participation in the Winter Festival, see the registration page.


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