James Holt, BMus Baritone
When did you start singing?
I started singing when I was eight years old, as a member of my local Church Choir. We rehearsed every Friday evening with services on Sundays and Festival Days. I was a member of the choir until I was 16 years old. The school I attended, Stockport Grammar School, has a really vibrant large music department and my singing teacher suggested that the next step for me was to go to Junior RNCM, which I attended for two years. This was really helpful and I gained an insight into what the Undergraduate course may be like. It definitely made me realise that studying musical performance was the path I wanted to take.
Peter Wilson is my current singing teacher at the RNCM. He was recommended to me by friends from the Royal Northern, so I had a consultation lesson with him. Our personalities just clicked and within half an hour he changed my voice. It’s been great ever since.
Do you have a favourite type of music?
Obviously having come from a Choral background I love that style of music. However, singing with both the National Youth Choir and Continuum (a small London based Consort) has broadened my knowledge to a greater range of repertoire. Coming to the RNCM has opened my eyes to a lot of operatic repertoire and that’s the route I want to take going forwards. I absolutely love the mix of singing, drama and performance.
What are some of your musical highlights?
Being in the operas at RNCM has definitely been a highlight. I just played the role of ‘Envy’ in the College’s spring production of Vaughan William’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Last year I was in the Semi-Chorus of Massenet’s Cendrillon and the Chorus in Handel’s Theodora the year before that.
Being a member of the RNCM Chamber Choir is great as well; I’ve been a part of the choir for three years, we perform numerous concerts throughout the year, both at internal and external venues. I also enjoyed singing at last years Open Day, passing on the knowledge I’ve gained to prospective students.
My professional placement with Opera North last November was also very exciting. I co-directed and supported a Community Creatives Project to run alongside Opera North’s production of Kevin Puts’ Opera ‘Silent Night’ (which I’d been asked to sing in as part of the Chorus along with 15 other RNCM students.) In my role as Co-Director, I coached members of the project in how to sing and recite war poems. It was a lot to get my teeth into and I really enjoyed the experience.
How is being a student in Manchester?
It’s not too bad [laughs]. I love it. Manchester is where I was born, it’s where I call home. It’s great, the student life in Manchester is vibrant. There’s such a broad range of things to do, I don’t feel bored even though I’ve been here virtually all my life. I’m still finding new things to do because it’s ever-changing.
What would you like to do after graduation?
I’d like to go straight through and complete a Postgraduate Course. My dream is to make a living from performing opera. In 2016 I went to Verona on holiday and I saw Aida and Carmen at Verona’s Coliseum and I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s where I want to be’ … to be on stage performing opera would be amazing. For me nothing else comes close.
Do you have a favourite thing about the RNCM?
I think the atmosphere sets it apart from elsewhere. It’s not just the fact that it’s physically such an open space; it feels like a big inclusive family. Everyone, both the staff and pupils, look after and support one other to the best of their abilities. There’s a real sense of positivity and community here.