About the artist(s)
Sarah is a barrister in civil practice, specialising in clinical negligence. She has enjoyed singing throughout her life in choirs, madrigal groups, and musicals at school and then at Oxford University as a soprano in Schola Cantorum of Oxford. Sarah is now a member of the Academy Choir, Wimbledon, and she sings with them when she can fit it around work and family. She also sings regularly in her church choir of St Stephen’s, South Dulwich.
Here are highlights from Sarah’s conversation with The Enormity of Now.
Who are you and what do you do?
I suppose I am a member of my family, a mother to my girls, a friend to my friends. I feel that my friends know who I am. I’m also a barrister. That would be most people’s starting thing – one of the big issues for me. I’ve ended up doing something I don’t feel defines me. Being a barrister is all about being bullish and decisive. It’s a stressful job – it’s all about a front. When someone asks me who I am, I stress that being a barrister is what I do, not who I am.
How did you get here?
I was a swotty, bright little girl and my life became defined by performance. I don’t think my parents intended it, but as a child, it’s difficult not to associate academic or other performance with love. I played the violin really badly, the piano okay and sang nicely in tune, and had quite a pure little voice. Early on it became clear I was also terrified of performance. My mother pushing me a little bit gave me something valuable; thereafter, I did a lot of singing, acting, choirs. I loved it but always with an element of fear.
How has the journey of your art/career engaged your voice – personally, artistically, politically?
My journey with singing has clearly engaged my voice. At least in court, it’s all about speaking. My voice is a sympathetic voice. I like to support my clients. I’m not a conventional barrister. I don’t think women can be at the Bar. I’ve never been someone who has launched in with an aggressive approach. I’ve been good with dealing with the psychology of the court and tribunal and engaging them in a personal way.
What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?
To hear the applause was lovely and is great, but it’s balanced with fear and a sense of obligation. My voice has been quite small and choir-girlish. But to release my voice, I’ve always been inhibited. My voice is still withheld and reflects something about my journey, not quite committing to it all. It’s complicated. I have a confident voice… but in some ways, my journey as a barrister is not dissimilar to that of me as a singer. For me, it’s still a fluctuating thing. It’s all versions of myself.
Sarah is a barrister in civil practice, specialising in clinical negligence. She has enjoyed singing throughout her life in choirs, madrigal groups, and musicals at school and then at Oxford University as a soprano in Schola Cantorum of Oxford. Highlights of her time with Schola included singing solo in the Bach Magnificat and in Tippett’s A Child of our Time in St John’s, Smith Square. She sang occasionally with other ad hoc choirs at University and was a member of the Lotti Consort Madrigal group that won first prize in their category in the Concoroso Polifonic Guido d’Arezzo in Arezzo Italy in 1989. Sarah also sang at various Oxford Balls, either accompanied by a friend on guitar or as part of a “barbershop” group.
While at Oxford, she re-met her old family friend, Ian Bostridge, who introduced her to Allyson Devenish. Allyson accompanied Sarah and Ian in a concert of Schumann in the Holywell Music Room at Oxford in which Sarah sang Frauenliebe und leben. After University, Sarah had singing lessons with Marion Studholme and sang for a number of years with the Holst Singers, conducted by Stephen Layton, which rehearsed in the Temple Church. As a member of the Holst Singers, she took part in the premiere of John Tavener’s all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple in 2003. Sarah is now a member of the Academy Choir, Wimbledon, which is conducted by Matthew Best, and she sings with them when she can fit it around work and family. She also sings regularly in her church choir of St Stephen’s, South Dulwich.