This interview originally aired on September 8, 2021. We rebroadcast it on January 26, 2022.
Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
For professional musicians, the involuntary time off because of the pandemic has been meet with mixed feelings. They all miss making music for an audience, but they don’t miss the traveling that goes with it. Many are grateful for the unexpected time at home with family and friends. Others did remote teaching, virtual concerts and digital music festivals.
Voces8 did the later. They took to social media producing over a hundred “Live from Home” webcasts to stay in touch with their fans, and creating an entire digital music festival, “Live from London.” They also found time to record an expansive, introspective new album, Infinity. Vocalist Katie Jeffries-Harris and Barnaby Smith help explain how it is inspired by the vastness of the universe.
How was it working with composers of electronic music?
Barnaby: “We're trying to make the sounds that these composers make using electronics. When we record, we tend to place the microphones close to us and then sing a bit softer, which takes out some of the individual quality and character of the voice. It makes us sound close to synthesized instruments. It enables us to take eight unique and individual voices and make them sound like one.”
What was it like for the group to sing in unison on the soprano line in Sophie Hutchings’ By Night?
Katie: “I like having the soaring lines as an alto. It's quite rare that we get to sing that high. It's a joy with these albums. You do use your voice in a very different way then with more traditional classical music. You even end up warming up differently for how you're going to approach the rest of the day. We work with a lot of vowels and trying to sustain a ethereal sound, which requires different muscles to what we'd use on stage.”
Is it more difficult to infuse a song with meaning when you don’t have lyrics?
Barnaby: “Yes, by a 150%. It's just another reason why these sessions were so challenging for us.”
In Nainita Desai’s My Mind is Still, there’s a sample of the Sputnik satellite that you mimic with your voices…is that correct?
Barnaby: “Yeah, that’s correct. Katie and I got the job of being the mmmmbop.”
Katie: “We got the fun bit!”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.