Michael grew up in Northern Ireland learning the bassoon and saxophone from a special collection of teachers and tutors in the area before eventually broadening out into piano lessons (so that he could be an effective music teacher himself) and self-taught guitar and singing.
He went to study at the University of Oxford where as well as getting access to an amazing degree programme, he fully enjoyed the extra-curricular life of orchestras, choirs, plays, open mics etc. The highlights were getting to conduct some major orchestral works, particularly the Grieg Piano Concerto and Tchaik 4, and joining and eventually directing a cappella group Out of the Blue. It was in this new a cappella context where he started to really love arranging and rehearsal directing – and of course the busy schedule of performances was the perfect lifestyle.
Next came 2 years in Edinburgh and a whole new set of inspirational people and mentors as Michael trained to be a high school music teacher, led a children’s choir, busked a lot, and did a bit more religious choral singing. Most pertinently at this time he started to invest some serious energy in writing songs.
He moved south in 2007 and took a teaching job in North West London, joined a second a cappella group In the Smoke and soon formed an acoustic trio with musical soulmates from university days. Now with more than 6 years teaching in the same school under his belt he is devoting more and more time to freelance music projects. His passion is to write songs, songs that are happy to show all of his overlapping influences, songs that are sometimes eager to please and other times wilfully quirky.
Ben Sawyer is quickly gaining an enviable reputation as a dynamic conductor and choir trainer, always able to draw the best from his singers. Having left his job as Head of Music at Tewkesbury School in August 2012, he has been in regular demand to lead workshops, start new choirs and conduct existing ones. He has been Chorus Master for Gloucestershire Music’s Massed Chorus of 500 students which performed at the Royal Albert Hall in the ‘Music For Youth’ in November 2012. This has led to him being a founder conductor of the new Gloucestershire Youth Choir. Ben was also Assistant Conductor for Cheltenham Festival’s production of Benjamin Britten’s community opera, ‘Noye’s Fludde’, as well as regularly conducting Hanley Voices, Tewkesbury Voices and Tyndale Choral Society. Ben is now the director of The Oriel Singers.
Aside from conducting, Ben sings countertenor. He is a member of the international award winning male voice a cappella group, The Songmen. With The Songmen, he has toured America, China, much of Europe and performs regularly in the UK. He is also the group’s composer-in-residence and has had a number of his compositions and arrangements played on national radio. Ben has been a lay clerk at Birmingham and Gloucester Cathedrals and sings with Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum, as well as being in demand as a countertenor soloist.
Ben is also in demand as an engaging adjudicator, having recently appeared at Tiffin School, Kingston and Magdalen School, Oxford as well as regularly for The Voice Festival UK, and for the Rotary Young Musician Competition 2014. In addition to this, he led a Masterclass for the Eton Choral Course at Malvern College in July 2014.
Emma Brain-Gabbott was born and educated in Cheltenham, before going on to read music at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she was also a choral scholar.
Since embarking upon her singing career, Emma has taken part in a wide range of musical activities, ranging from pop (she features on albums by such artists as the Pet Shop Boys, Take That, Bjork and Jarvis Cocker), West End shows, TV and film soundtrack projects (including Merlin and the latest Tim Burton film), through to opera, such as Peter Grimes in Salzburg, under Sir Simon Rattle. Emma also enjoys smaller scale vocal ensemble work, performing, touring and recording with such groups as the Sixteen, the BBC Singers, Academy of Ancient Music and I Fagiolini, among others.
Emma also works extensively as a soloist: she made her Proms debut with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and rejoined the CBSO as soloist in the first recording of Julian Anderson’s Four American Songs. Other recent oratorio work includes Mozart’s C Minor Mass in London, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Sweden, Haydn’s Nelson Mass in Tewkesbury Abbey, and solos in the UK premiere of Lindberg’s Graffiti at the Festival Hall. Future engagements include tours of France and Spain with the Sixteen, concerts in Versailles with the Dunedin Consort, and Bach’s B Minor Mass in Leipzig with English Concert. The autumn also sees a trip to China to perform Purcell’s Fairy Queen, and a tour of the United States with Tenebrae.