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Meet the Musicians: Stefanie Kemball-Read - Soprano

Stefanie in Die Fledermaus

Dramatic coloratura soprano Stefanie trained at Trinity College of Music, London. Having initially trained as a banker in the City of London, she realised that her path was truly in music and left finance behind for a varied and eclectic performing career. As well as performing extensively throughout Europe and the UK, Stefanie had a brief foray into conducting as Musical Director for the Portsmouth Military Wives Choir recording with them for their number one album ‘In my Dreams’. Stefanie is also currently the Artistic Director for the Asociación Arturo Darch, directing, producing and performing in a series of productions in Spain. She teaches privately and in schools, and is a vocal coach to the Junior Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral.

And of course Stefanie juggles her professional music career with her two children!

"I have two wonderful children - a boy of nearly 10 who is heavily into drumming and writing his own raps and a daughter of 6 who adores dressing up, glitter, unicorns and singing (not unlike her mother really!). They keep my feet firmly planted in reality and remind me that the glamour of performance means nothing when there is sports kit to be washed and times tables to be practised. My husband is an officer in the Royal Marines - we've moved many times over the years and spent much time apart for both of our travelling careers. We have often joked about writing a book called 'The Royal Marine and the Opera Singer' to chart our varied lives!

The children adore Christmas, the festivities and the music and like my husband, are completely unphased by finding me wafting around at home in various grand performance frocks preparing to record online. Music is a part of our family life in its many varying ways and this past year has only reinforced the fundamental value it plays in normal life. We usually end our days having a kitchen 'disco' after supper, dance moves optional. Though they understand all too well what Mummy's 'opera voice' means and it's not limited to singing! Their biggest excitement currently is for the arrival of kittens in the New Year, although I've warned them there will be then be several opera voices!"

Stefanie has managed to make some music this year and last month performed Poulenc’s one-woman one-act opera La voix humaine as a live-streamed production on the internet, but the pandemic had a profound affect on Stefanie as for so many of us: "It is difficult to describe in words the affect that the pandemic has had on my life this year. Music isn't just part of my life, it is who I am and to suddenly have that summarily removed from your existence so abruptly was devastating. Everything cancelled indefinitely. To be forced to stay at home, to find yourself entirely separated from your family, your friends, your work; the void that this leaves in one's soul has been unimaginable. Watching the destruction of The Arts across the board and the lack of support for the industry only enhanced those feelings of loss. However there was no time to dwell on this, being suddenly thrust into home schooling, creating 4 areas in the house for school and work stations, attempting to decipher technology enabling me to instantly switch to teaching singing online!

Certainly I learnt that home schooling particularly whilst trying to work and still feed the family was a very large challenge! Whilst I found it difficult personally to jump on the band wagon of online performing during the Lockdown period, I channelled my focus into enhancing my learning as a teacher of singing, into spending time outdoors by the sea with my children and husband, and into a lot of exercise sessions which kept the endorphins flowing! I used music to help me find peace in the dark moments.

The delight and empowerment created by participating in this project with fantastic fellow professional musician mothers and by finally feeling the camaraderie and creativity of collaborative music again (albeit in a very different way online!) has been utterly restorative and joyous! As music always does, it is showing us how to heal and how to move forward and that no matter what life throws at us, it will always be a constant and will help us rise again like the proverbial Phoenix."

Musician Mums Christmas Quiz!

Can you tell us what you'll miss most about performing this Christmas?

The joy in making music, the collaborative atmosphere of sharing the hope and positivity of the festive season, the music itself and the joy in expressing it to the audiences. The magic of togetherness that music fosters.

What's your favourite hymn/Christmas song?

Hark the Herald Angels sing and In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst).

And what are you hoping for this year for Christmas?

It would be amazing to be able to be with my family and feel some sense of normality after this difficult year. I do hope Santa might bring me a lovely new diary for 2021. Who knows maybe with something to put in it too...

Do you have a favourite Christmas memory - musical or otherwise?

The feeling of going home for Christmas. My parents lived abroad for much of my life and going home for Christmas was always a huge event and a plane ride. It was precipitated by the cheesy Christmas songs on repeat everywhere you went, the smell of mulled wine and singing carols at our home Christmas party every year around the piano. My sister and I would sing all the descants and she and I would also do a duet performance of Silent Night. The happiness felt in the room during these moments is something I still feel whenever I take my mind back to the memory. Such peace and warmth.

And what's your absolutely favourite thing about Christmas ?

The family traditions. Decorating the Christmas tree, the Christmas music, the preparations, the bringing together of people - we would always spend it with others and have a big table of friends as well as family. The feeling of warmth and togetherness it brings, the excitement of seeing the stockings bursting with wrapped goodies. A glass of something bubbly on the morning as we sit around to open our gifts to each other.

Finally, give us a hint towards what you're performing on the advent calendar?

With joy being my key festive ingredient for Christmas it might just be something reminding us all to have joy in our hearts at this time of year!

Thanks so much Stefanie!


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