Ellie Slorach – Conductor

One of the great things about working as an opera singer is that I get to collaborate and work alongside so many amazingly creative and artistic people, who like me are passionate about what they do.   

Whilst working on The Fire Of Olympus with Radius Opera this year I have had the opportunity to work under the baton of Ellie Slorach, a wonderful conductor who brought the opera’s music to life.

Ellie Slorach

During a break in rehearsals, I asked Ellie if she wouldn’t mind answering a few questions so that I could share a little of her insight into the world as a conductor.  I hope you enjoy what she had to say.

1   How did begin training as a Conductor?

I began training aged 18 at University of Manchester because they had a student conducting program and I auditioned for that and managed to conduct all of the student music society ensembles in my time there, which was amazing as the best way to learn is just to do it, with people in front of you, much better than standing in front of a mirror or alone in your practice room.  Then I went on to do my Masters at the Royal Northern College of Music.

2   So how did you know you wanted to specialise in conducting before you started University?

I didn’t really know I thought it looked fun and I’d done a tiny bit at school with primary aged children, I’d led the rhythm sticks group rehearsals and warm-ups for chamber choirs, it was on my mind to do it as I really enjoyed it.  I am naturally a leader so I thought that was a good aspect of it.  When I got to University it had a great conducting program so when I auditioned for that at the end of my first year I didn’t look back.

I used to play the piano, the oboe and I sang, playing and singing in ensembles – Mark Herron and Justin Doyle were my conducting tutors at the time and they were the heads of choir and orchestra at the time and very inspiring teachers.

3   Who were your musical influences?

My teachers at University I mentioned and definitely my teachers from where I studied at High School Anne Boult (Piano) and Jenni Phillips (Oboe) they were real influences on me at the time.  I guess the big music world right now, we were really lucky at the RNCM to have Sir Mark Elder who came in to do masterclasses, he is very inspiring.

4   I saw on-line you were involved with New Adventures can you explain your role in that company?

My role is for the production of Romeo and Juliet, a new production, I was the young associate conductor so I shadow the main conductor on tour to see how he worked with dancers and had little bits and bobs for myself, such as rehearsals, rehearsals with the cover Romeo and Juliet dancers in the different touring locations.

During Rehearsals

5    Now you are working with Radius Opera on the Fire of Olympus what would you say are the major challenges or differences between conducting for contemporary dance and conducting for opera singers?

I think there are many similarities. For a start you are standing in the pit with the orchestra who can’t see the dancers or singers and you are the messenger. So the music isn’t the only focus of what is going on, it is the whole drama or the whole dance that is going on so the whole of the arts as a collaboration.  So I feel that the role is similar in trying my best to accompany what is going on stage and equally, I have my own musical ideas to add to that and the dancers and singers bring their own ideas so I have to respect that too.

The artists also have logistical things such as the singers need to breathe, dancers need to breathe too and sometimes they need longer to take a breath, the logistics are similar but the main difference is that in the opera world the music Director has a say about what the singers are doing and will coach the singers, in the ballet world the music director is not a director and I’m not expected to tell the dancers how to dance.  So, in the contemporary and ballet dance world, I’m more accompanying the dancers in a helpful role as a vehicle to help them dance better without coaching them.  I can breathe well like a singer and in the opera world, it is more of a coaching role I can feel when a singer needs to take a longer breath.  To see if dancers are falling out of turns etc. ballet conductors sit in a studio and watch for weeks and weeks.

6. What is your view on this opera we are doing now, what challenges did it bring and what do you like about it?

The challenge of a brand new opera is there are no recordings and no-one has ever done it before so the good thing about that is we have some ownership over it as the first people to do it. This Opera is a kind of pastiche of Handel’s operas. So there are stylistic traditions but we’re not quite sure what traditions to keep and what to break. From a musical directors point of view, the music is quite complicated and hard for singers to memorise so I am trying to be as clear as I can with queues and word entries and I have to think about that more than an opera people know such as the Magic Flute.

7. As a conductor how do you bring the story alive through the music?

I’m driven by the drama in Opera, so when the orchestra arrives I have already had the privilege of sitting through the three-week rehearsals so I know what the drama requires from the music. For example where I need to shorten notes because there is a bang on stage or we need to lengthen a note because the singer needs time at that point to express their feelings more slowly and so on. So when the orchestra arrives I have formed my opinion of the drama so I know what needs to be done. The orchestral rehearsals are actually quite practical and become expressive as we build on our understanding of the on-stage action.

8. To finish what is a fun fact about you?

My hobbies aren’t that cool I have very standard hobbies, running and I really enjoy baking. I’ve just started bread making so fresh bread each week is my new thing I love the smell of it.  I guess that’s a fun fact to finish on.

On 28th September 2019 at 7:30 pm you can catch our performance at the Royal Northern College of Music

34 thoughts on “Ellie Slorach – Conductor

    1. Thanks John, I should have added some of her achievements, she is very impressive, just one of which she is the Assistant Director of the Hallé Youth Choir and training choir which is Manchester’s orchestra since 1858 and ranks in the World’s top symphonic ensembles.

      She has also been very supportive and helpful.
      Best wishes

  1. Conductors I find very intriguing with all their musical knowledge and abilities.
    Are you familiar with “The Complete Book of Opera” by Gustav Kobbe? I just found out that a blogger friend of mine, Rosalinda, that her husband’s grandfather. I told her I would ask you if you were aware of the book.

    1. You’ve left me hanging there GP. .. I just found out that a blogger friend of mine, Rosalinda, that her husband’s grandfather…..

      Is he Gustav Kobbe? I’ve seen a book of his about operas. you’ve reignited my curiosity I must get it out of the library again.
      Best wishes

    1. Not long now until you get to see it on 30th October – I’m excited to perform in Stoke for the first time.

      Best wishes

  2. Super interview, Charlotte. This reminded me of a music enthusiast named Enrique we met while living in Madrid, Spain. For over 20 years at that time, he had gone to every performance by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid (I think it was), and at end of every concert he would find the conductor and have him or her sign his program. Enrique had a room in his flat with floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with bound volumes of signed programs by each concert season. We went to several concerts with him while we were in Madrid, and he showed us how to make our way back stage to get our programs signed. He had also taught himself to conduct, and he invited us to his flat a few times to watch him conduct. He pulled out a score, put on a symphony, and conducted the symphony to the record. He was highly entertaining, and greatly appreciative that we were a willing and engaged audience. A lot of people thought he was crazy to be so obsessed with classical music, conductors and conducting. I thought is was great. It was much better than the drinking, smoking and carousing his critics were into.

    1. I like the sound of Enrique, I like to get programs and scores signed too (which reminds me!). I have had the opportunity of working with lots of skilled conductors during my training and list first year out of University. I like carousing but I don’t drink and smoke so it has to be dancing parties hehe.

      Best wishes

      1. I’m not very good at carousing (I don’t drink or smoke either), but if there is dancing, I’m in.

  3. Wow, very interresting !!! bravo et un grand merci Charlotte ! J’adore tes interview, c’est super de pouvoir découvrir ainsi le monde de l’opéra !!! C’est très éclairant et ça donne des idées de projets – Meilleurs pensées pour Toi ma chère talentueuse amie !

    1. Merci beaucoup Pascal. I have spent the day today singing through my next role as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet it was our first music call. It is a big sing and three weeks of rehearsals start next Monday but first we are filming ‘The Fire of Olympus’ on Friday which is cool and a new project for me and I have a performance on Saturday in Manchester at the Royal Northern College of Music which is where I started my training in their junior division’s Saturday college for two years.

      All my best wishes

    1. Thank you, Lavinia. I must start getting more tech savvi and attempt to record some podcast interviews, I’ve done some great interviews of interesting personalities over the past six years I must put them all in one place on my blog.

      All my best wishes

  4. My previous comment didn’t appear so I will repeat myself!
    I really enjoyed this insight into a conductor’s world, Charlotte. Ellie seems to be a very knowledgeable and talented conductor. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Clare, she is a very talented lady and I love that she is so busy.

      All my best wishes

    1. Thank you Rev. Tim I need all the blessings I can get at this busy time.

      All my best wishes

  5. Fascinating, Charlotte! Great interview. I’m thinking that Ellie is one of a few Female conductors on the planet? Best! Resa

    1. It’s not as rare as it used to be Resa but I read a report a few years ago that of the top 150 conductors only five women made the list, I truly believe women like Ellie will start to turn this around in the next few years.
      My best wishes

  6. Hi Charlotte, interesting to think that you could have an emotive sequence cut short or extended by a conductor in the operatic form when that form is so expressive. I can imagine the interaction can be quite dynamic.

    To a sense of symmetry and emotion, I loovvveed your post.

  7. I like bread ..toasted. ..with Boysenberry jelly. Or peanut butter. 😀 Charlotte, have you worked with a female Conductor before? I’m trying to recall, but this seems like a first or rare occasion to me. Anyhow, I’m happy to see it and wish every one well. This process reminds me of Film-making because you have to get a small Army of people to work in harmony. I’m amazed at how you all do it. Cheers..

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