Kate Marlais sang with the National Youth Choir from 2002-2005. She now lives in London.


When were you in NYCGB and what part did you sing?

I was a Soprano I in the National Youth Choir from 2002-2005.

Where do you now live, and what do you do?

I live in London and am currently Resident Composer at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. I am also a singer and actor in theatre, songwriter and vocal coach. I write music for theatre, and write books/music/lyrics for musical theatre. All of the really lucrative career paths, basically.

Do you still sing, and if so, in what capacity?

Yes – as a performer in plays and musicals for many years. Right now I am dipping my toes into the music industry and recording an album of experimental-synth-pop music (blimey, what a mouthful), which I am also making into a piece for stage.

What is your standout moment from your time in NYCGB?

I made good pals in NYCGB, especially on my first course in Yorkshire. We stayed in these school dorm rooms, and we’d spend every night cackling ourselves to sleep on creaky old bunk beds. I hardly slept – from giggling too much - but also the room was really creepy in the dark, so I was mostly quietly sweating under the covers. But I remember it all very fondly. Another standout was the 21st birthday gala concert at Birmingham Symphony Hall, in which all the various echelons of NYCGB joined together. The sound of all those voices blew my socks off – it was incredible.

What is the one piece that if you heard it again would remind you of NYCGB?

Walton’s ‘A Litany': ('Drop, Drop Slow Tears’,) which Greg conducted on my first course. That piece is still one of my go-to examples of superb vocal harmonic writing.

If you were to design a tour for the current National Youth Choir where would you take them?

It’d be cool to do a road trip across USA. Although, I always suggest road trips as holiday options… and I can’t drive. Funny that.

What skills did you gain in NYCGB that you still use in everyday life?

Singing a choir is one of the best feelings in my opinion - total escapism and camaraderie in the middle of walls of sound. But NYCGB raised the bar, demanding meticulous detail to vocal craft and musicianship. I always aim for that level of precision in music now. Also, it taught me the skill of reading and learning very difficult music very quickly. Learning Bach’s Organ Fugue (arranged for voices) off by heart in an hour on a bathroom floor in Birmingham is one of my greatest achievements to date. Don’t say I don’t know how to party.

You are having a fantasy dinner party: who's invited? 

I’d get Elvis, Daniel Johns, Björk, FKA Twigs, Françoise Hardy, John Cage and Mozart round and we’d write a musical over fondue.

Your house is on fire. Your family and pets are safe, but you have time to save just one possession. What do you save?

My grandpa’s watch. It’s just a cheap Timex but it's travelled with me everywhere.

What is the theme tune to your nightmares/ dreams?

All my dreams are pretty vivid and weird. I’d underscore with a bit of Spice Girls, Alisha’s Attic and ABBA for some upbeat vibes alongside excellent outfits. My nightmares are full of M People songs.

Kate Marlais was speaking to Julian Forbes.


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