A couple of months ago, the Musical Director of Synergy Vocals sent out an email asking for our availabilities to do a photo shoot – the logistics of this are always very difficult.
Synergy Vocals is a pool of singers who specialise in Classical, Contemporary Music on microphone. We have a lot of concerts coming up where singers will be used in different combinations. This is because Micaela Haslam (the MD) picks her singers very specifically for the particular piece of music the group has been asked to perform. Berio’s Sinfonia is one of the pieces that Synergy Vocals specialises in. We are invited by orchestras all over the world to take part in performances of this very difficult piece of music. It was originally written in the late sixties for the a cappella group, The Swingle Singers. Nearly all the current Synergy members have sung with the Swingles at one time or another. I wasÂ the second alto for ten years.
We have performances of Sinfonia coming up with the LSO and Daniel Harding (click on his picture to visit his website), the Concertgebouw Orchestra and London Sinfonietta. Micaela needed some publicity shots for the various orchestras. We also have quite a few concerts of Steve Reich’s music, which can range from two to four female singers in different combinations. Micaela asked us to give our NAs (when we are not available) over a two month period and after much juggling of dates it seemed impossible to get all the correct people together on the same day. Four of the girls had a day they could do and the boys had a different day. Micaela decided to try to take our photographs against a background where she could fix a place for us to stand and the try to merge the two groups together in Photoshop.
The day before the girl’s photo shoot, she headed off to the Barbican Centre to experiment with it’s urban walls as a backdrop. I know the Barbican very well as I was a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama which is right in the heart of the Barbican. It’s a very grey, concrete piece of architecture with a lake in the middle. It’s much more overgrown with plants than when I was a student but it’s still not really to my visual taste. The LSO is the Orchestra in Residence there, so one of our Sinfonia concerts will be held in the Barbican Hall.
When we all turned up, our trusty assistant William took plenty of photos of the different combinations of singers. It was a bit overcast but it was still hard to get a shot without one of us squinting against the bright light. I have a theory that it seems much harder for people with contact lenses to keep their eyes open in photos – just an observation from many photo shoots over the years – not scientifically proven. Notice in this picture thatÂ I’m not touching the other three – that’s because Micaela needed to have the option to add my picture to another singer’s photo – she wasn’t free that day either.
First, in casual clothes, we tried a brick wall, then various concrete backdrops but eventually we changed into black and went into the street where Micaela had found an unoccupied restaurant which had some soft green, large, marble-style tiles on the wall.
A few days later I did a session at Air Lyndhurst and ran into two of the men who had just come from their photo shoot at the Barbican. I asked Micaela to send me a copy of the merged photo – and here, thanks to the wonders of Photoshop, is the finished article – and if you click on the image it will take you to the LSO website to buy tickets for the concert.
The Synergy Vocals team from left to right are: Michael Dore, Andrew Busher, Amanda Morrison, Rachel Weston, Heather Cairncross, Micaela Haslam (MD), Gerry O’Beirne and Simon Grant.