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Rachel Atkinson

Spotlight

Rachel Atkinson is a busy musician, teacher and Mum. She's a great example of the city's fantastic musical directors who encourages her singers with a smile and a laugh at every rehearsal. We get to know her a bit better…

So, what do you do as a musician in Sheffield?

I enjoy teaching music lessons - piano, flute & clarinet from my home in S7, and also in Clifford infant school on Psalter Lane, where I'm responsible for delivering whole class music lessons too (which are soooo much fun!).

I'm also the MD for 2 North Sheffield choirs, Waldershelf Singers (SATB) in Stocksbridge & Millhouse Green Male Voice Choir near Penistone.

What's your most memorable musical experience in the city?

I took my daughter, who was then 4, to hear the Lindsay Quartet at Bradfield Music festival in 2013. She was completely transfixed for the whole 2 1/2 hours, and came home demanding to learn the violin! After much pestering we let her start lessons 2 years ago, and she absolutely loves playing! Apart from the fabulous music concerts that are always on at Bradfield, the views from the venue on a warm summer evening make the whole experience so special. It's one of my favourite spots in Sheffield. I can just 'breathe'.

Which 3 musical guests would you invite to your dream dinner party and why?

So hard!! I would love dinner with Jacques Loussier - I grew up loving the "Play Bach" LP's and have always wanted to have a go! Then there's some of my favourite female vocalists - Aretha Franklin or Eva Cassidy? Wouldn't want to eat any dinner at the party - just enjoy an evening of playing / singing with some inspirational musicians. 

If you had to play another instrument, what would it be?

I would totally play the cello. I should have taken it up when I was younger. It's my absolute favourite instrument to listen to. Such a beautiful tone and some of the best works have been written for it. When we performed the Benedictus from Jenkins' Armed Man last year in the Winter Gardens, and again at Bolsterstone church, on both occasions I was so absorbed in the stunning lyrical cello solo, that I pretty much missed the choir's entry!

What was the first record you ever bought?

No idea? As a child I loved my dad's 70s / early 80s LPs - Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits... I still know most of the 'Brothers in Arms' Album word for word. 

What’s your favourite music venue in Sheffield and why?

Got to be the Botanical Gardens (as I've already had Bradfield church!). 

I love the 'Music in the Gardens' event in June / July. There's something about a warm summer's evening, with friends, a picnic blanket and some yummy food & wine, and live music in such stunning surroundings.

What's your first musical memory?

My early piano lessons when I was 5. I found my old John Thompson books a few years ago, and I remember my teacher taping all the little duet parts onto a cassette so I could practice along at home. I loved playing the piano, but hated having to practice in the early days! I started to really enjoy playing when I was about 10, and suddenly I could find myself picking up books from around my house / at school and just being able to play what I wanted to, rather than what I was supposed to.

Who has been your most inspiring music teacher?

Without a doubt, my sixth form tutor at Wymondham College. He encouraged me to have a go, try new things, compose, arrange, work with different combinations of singers / instruments.

I got good at arranging music for both groups of instrumentalists and singers as part of the 'house music cup' competition. I am terrible at not ever finishing an arrangement before it goes live. Even now when I try arranging something, I am never sure whether or not I like it, and then wait to hear it being tried out at choir before I commit it to paper. My arrangements are constantly a 'work in progress' all due to me spending hours messing around with some fine musicians at 6th form. 

In your opinion, which other ensemble/musician in Sheffield is doing great things?

I've been lucky enough to work with a group called the 'Steel City Tremoloes' annually in a concert over the past 4/5 years. They sing for therapy and for personal improvement as all the members have Parkinson's. I cannot believe how much this group of singers has improved in confidence and capability in the last few years. They're a delight to listen to and always reduces the audience to tears. The singing coaches they employ are amazing! 

Sell your next concert to us in one sentence.

Look on our websites www.waldershelfsingers.org.uk or www.mgmvc.co.uk for more information on a busy Christmas season.

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