Gemma King is one of the newest members of Chamber Choir Ireland, having joined the Soprano section earlier this year. Here she tells us a little about herself and also discusses her first two projects with Chamber Choir Ireland
My name is Gemma King. I am 33 years old and I live in Ludlow, Shropshire in England. I married my musician husband, Simon King in The Lake District in 2010. My first child, Miles was born in 2012 and my second child, Isla was born on Christmas Day 2016. Our two dogs Sapphire and Rex complete the family!
I was born in Sunderland, where I also attended school. As a child at Ryhope CE Primary School, I was encouraged in my desire to sing and play musical instruments and often accompanied assembly on the piano. However, I fear, my piano playing has not advanced much since then! Throughout my childhood, I sang enthusiastically with my sister, whether it be on long car journeys to Cornwall or in local concerts. I continued my education at St. Anthony’s RC Girls’ School and Sixth Form, where I started taking singing lessons and took part in annual productions of Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas. It was through the encouragement of music teachers at this school that I decided to look seriously into the prospect of becoming a professional singer. I began to work on developing sight reading and choral singing by joining a good Parish church choir. I was delighted to be offered a place to study singing at Birmingham Conservatoire in 2002. I studied in Birmingham for four years and graduated with First Class honours in 2006.
Prior to joining Chamber Choir Ireland, what projects did you work on?
I am fortunate to have had a variety of different jobs. In 2009 I qualified as a Secondary Music Teacher in England and so taught in the classroom full time until 2013. At this point, I decided I needed a more flexible working situation, as our family had started to grow. So since leaving full-time teaching, I have immersed myself in an array of different educational projects. A project I am most proud to be a part of is Ex Cathedra’s Singing Medicine, a project for children who are long-stay patients in the hospital, based primarily at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The project runs weekly and aims to bring distraction, entertainment, education, respite and fun to children and families facing difficult and challenging times. With Ex Cathedra, I also work on a variety of educational and social projects. I am currently a singing teacher at a Prep School in Worcestershire as well.
In addition to all of this educational work, I sing in a variety of choirs and consorts in the UK, including Ex Cathedra, Armonico Consort, Proteus Ensemble. I also perform regularly as a soloist for Choral Societies and Welsh Male Voice Choirs. Between 2005-2008, I was a singer for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
I am very proud to work as Assistant Director of Music at my local Parish Church, St. Laurence’s in Ludlow where I have the opportunity to support young people in their singing and help to encourage them onto greater things.
How does it feel to work professionally again with your sister? (Gemma’s sister Sarah Ledwidge also sings with Chamber Choir Ireland).
I am delighted to be singing with Sarah again. As teenagers, we were often called upon to perform together in concerts, singing duets, such as Lakme and The Cat’s Duet. Once we both went our own ways, professionally, we performed together less and less, which I was always sad about. Working with her now is such a privilege as she has always been a bit of a hero to me. Also, I now get to sing with my fantastic new brother-in-law, Jeffrey as well! Double bonus!
Your first project with Chamber Choir Ireland was A Letter of Rights and you are currently mid-project on The Great Mystery, how have you enjoyed Chamber Choir Irelands repertoire so far?
They have been two very different projects, both challenging in their own rights. A Letter of Rights was a great way to start my CCI career. Beautifully composed music by Tarik O Regan combined with the elegant Dixit Dominus by Handel. It was thrilling to perform with such an array of talented singers and the musicians of the Irish Chamber Orchestra. The most recent project, The Great Mystery was thrilling to learn and it was fantastic to work with Paul on trying to achieve his artistic vision for the project. I’m looking forward to developing the performance further in Belfast and Dublin later this month.
And how was the first performance of The Great Mystery?
It was thrilling! The audience were so responsive and enthusiastic. The concentration involved in performing the Lassus in particular, left me quite exhausted, but feeling positive and exhilarated as well.
What can audiences look forward to hearing in the Belfast and Dublin concerts?
We are performing music by Lassus and Peter Maxwell Davies as a full choir. The men take the stage with a fabulous piece of Luther Madrigals by Bernd Franke, originally composed for The King’s Singers. The concert also includes a great new commission for the choir, Ne Reminiscaris by David Fennessey, which includes soloists and a tutti choir.
Tell me something unusual about you that people might be surprised by?
My husband and I moved to Ludlow, Shropshire in 2007 when we set up a business called The French Pantry. Originally a shop selling imported French produce, it morphed into a café and shop, and is now a Michelin listed French Bistro serving traditional French food 6 days a week.