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Women in Song: Zoë Beyers in conversation with four members of Trust favourites Ex Cathedra.
In Episode 4 of The Music Room, Zoë Beyers talks to four dynamic members of Ex Cathedra, one of Britain’s foremost choral groups. Marianne Ayling, Gemma King, Ros Crouch and Samantha Lewis discuss their love of singing, their immersive community work, and the impact of lockdown on choirs and singers. Join them for an hour of enthusiasm and refreshing candour as they share their stories.
Marianne Ayling – Soprano
Marianne developed a love of singing from the early age of three when at nursery school she was taught traditional English songs such as No John, Early one morning and The Oak and the Ash. She first performed in public at the age of seven as a mouse in Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. At 13 she was chosen to play a street urchin in Puccini’s La Boheme at the London Coliseum. As a teenager she was actively involved in the organisation Sing for Pleasure and at sixteen joined their national committee. She sang with the Young Singers of London and the Thomas Tallis Society and later the Tallis Chamber Choir with whom she sang for Ashkenazy at the Lucerne festival, for Yehudi Menuhin, Jeffrey Tate and Michael Tilson Thomas in London. With the birth of her third child, Marianne and her partner decided to move to Shropshire where they have lived ever since. Marianne is one of Ex Cathedra’s lead Vocal Tutors delivering education projects including Singing Playgrounds and Singing Medicine, and she directs their community choir Ladywood Community Singers. She also runs singing workshops and is a frequent guest conductor for the Shrewsbury Cantata Choir.
Gemma King – Soprano
Gemma is a soprano from Sunderland in the North East of England. She studied singing at the Birmingham Conservatoire where she graduated with First Class Honours, under the vocal tuition of Margaret Field. Whilst at the Conservatoire, Gemma performed in a variety of Operas and Musicals, including Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, Rusalka by Dvorak and Merrily we Roll Along by Stephen Sondheim. Now living in Shropshire, she regularly appears as a soloist with local Choral Societies. Recent works performed include: Fauré’s Requiem (Leominster Choral Society); Mass of the Children by Rutter and Dona Nobis Pacem by David Fanshawe (Birmingham Festival Chorus 2011). Her solo work has included performing with The Royal Shakespeare Company in A Midsummer Nights' Dream (2005 and 2008), which included a tour to Japan. She recently recorded a song by Paul Englishby released by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Gemma is also a member of the Birmingham based choir Ex Cathedra, with whom she has toured in Europe and the newly formed Hereford based choir, Ensemble Sine Nomine.
Samantha Lewis – mezzo-soprano
Samantha Lewis, mezzo soprano, was born in Shropshire and began her singing career as a chorister at St Oswald’s Parish Church, Oswestry, where she went on to become Head Chorister and then, Assistant Choir Trainer. Samantha gained her LTCL Singing Diploma with Distinction in 2018, and is in her second year on the MMus Vocal Performance course at the Conservatoire, where she studies with Yvonne Sandison and Paul Wingfield. She has recently appeared as Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, Second Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Fanny Price in Jonathon Dove’s Mansfield Park and was the winner of The English Song Prize, 2019.
Ros Crouch – soprano
Ros began her musical life at the age of seven by learning to play the cornet and joining her local church choir. She studied music at the University of Liverpool, with the trumpet as her first instrument, and it was here that she had her first singing lessons. Moving to Tunbridge Wells after graduating, she sang in a number of choirs including the Corydon Singers with whom she made over 30 CDs. After working in a number of fields outside music, in 2007 she followed her husband to Dubai and began teaching singing and brass instruments. Whilst there she took over the Dubai Singers and discovered a love of conducting. Since coming to Shropshire 10 years ago, she has started a number of choirs including the Corvedale Choir, Edge Chamber Choir, Blue Hills Choir, Voces Intimae and the Mayflower Choir. Ros also conducts the Friday Singers, a ladies' choir based in Shrewsbury. She sings with Ex Cathedra, one of the UK's leading choirs, and with Take Note, a Jazz a cappella group.
The conversation – to be broadcast on YouTube or on Vimeo from 19:30 to 20:30 on Friday, 7th August – will be followed immediately by a Zoom Q&A session hosted by the four singers. If you would like to take part, please email