I was really lucky to attend a live recording of BBC's This Classical Life live at Alexandra Palace back in June. It was 90 minutes of epic performances from a number of musicians including Ella, who I caught up with to ask a few questions:
El: Tell us about yourself
E: I’m Ella – I’m a classical soprano working freelance, often described as a trans trailblazer as I happen to be both trans and doing my job to a good standard!
El: The art of classical music seems very binary and attached to precedent and tradition - what’s it been like to be a trans person within classical music?
E: Being trans in classical music is a unique experience I suppose. Often times there’s no need for it to be brought up as I’m turning up to rehearsals and concerts to do my job, not present my life story. This means however that it’s only generally brought up because I’m being misgendered/misrepresented, and that’s something I won’t stand for. In a rehearsal room everyone is owed respect and dignity, and my identity is also owed that. It also helps me do my job better, unsurprisingly. I personally have no problems playing women on stage – I played one for 20 years! My mind is most at peace when I can show up to work and know that I don’t have to be anxious about anything to do with my gender, because everyone respects it, even if they may not understand it!
El: You were my favourite find of the live recording of BBC3’s This Classical Life at Alexandra Palace, where does that sit on your list of amazing gigs?
E: I think it was honestly one of the highlights of my career so far! I absolutely adore the pieces that I sang and it’s a real treat for me to work with an orchestra like the BBC Concert Orchestra, as so often I’m practising at home with my terrible piano skills. The sound is unreal!
El: What does your practice routine look like?
E: It entirely depends on how busy I am/how I’m feeling if I’m honest! My ideal practice day looks like getting up and going at 10am and take breaks when I feel intuitively that I need them until about 5pm. All the time definitely isn’t taking up with singing, as I think that might be impossible (!) but I’ll be memorising, listening, or anything that’s useful to the current project I’m on. Sometimes though my brain is just at capacity and I can’t do as much work as I like, and that’s fine too. I’m very strict about taking weekends – it’s important as a freelancer not to overwork. Ie: if I work on Saturdays, I’ll take Sunday/Monday instead.
El: What tip would you share with an aspiring musician?
E: I’m sure most people might say practise, listen, work hard, and that is probably true. But I would say it’s most important to find a balance that’s right for you to avoid burnout. Work on who you are as a performer and what you’re trying to put into the world, and you’ll probably find the hard work a little less hard. Also see my above point about weekends…
Thank you Ella!