Isabella Cheevers has a fine voice and a great sensitivity in
her singing. And for someone who is only fifteen years of age
she is quite remarkable.
Unfortunately, she will be compared with Charlotte
Church. However she is completely different. Her voice is more
mature and polished and her interpretations are not superficial.
Charlotte Church's first recording with her pure innocent voice
were fine but she now seems to have gone in so many different
directions. She is singing all manner of things and appearing
on TV shows of little or no refinement which will do nothing for
her reputation. Her voice has become shrill and penetrating which
I consider may be partly due to her singing unsuitable and unworthy
Her concentration must be on her singing and
obvious talent and not on the sleazy world of pop stars and quasi
pop stars. Real music is not about glamour and appearing on cheap
television shows. One laments opera stars and other classical
singers appearing in concerts and on disc with pop stars. Pop
music and light music is certainly not to be dismissed and some
of it makes for excellent entertainment.
I understand that her first love is opera which
is another reason why she must not engage in music where precision
and quality is not necessarily required.
Isabella Cheevers was born in London in 1987
- the eldest of four daughters. On Saturdays she is an external
student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She has studied
the piano and achieved her Grade 8. She is studying with Michael
Lewin, who is internationally known as a guitarist. She has already
achieved Grade 7 in guitar playing so she is a versatile musician.
She is a member of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble. Tennis,
swimming and walking with friends she enjoys just as much as any
other teenage girl. She has successfully sung in singing contests
and at concerts. One of her singing teachers was Clifford Lister,
a chief lay clerk at Westminster Cathedral.
I hope Ms Cheevers is well advised. I was fortunate
to study with some fine singers and have worked with many. I know
how easy it is for a promising singer to be sidetracked or lured
into less worthy projects.
If I have one criticism about this disc it is
that all the music is slow, beautiful though it is. There are
no lively songs and a contrast would have been welcome. Her recital
covers about 400 years of music.
Peter Hurford's setting of Robert Herrick's Litany
to the Holy Spirit is well paced and the breathy style is
very appealing. It shows the security of her velvet low notes.
David Ruddock's accompaniment is truly admirable. Her phrasing
is a joy in what is a lovely setting. Singing slowly is an art
in itself. It shows up every blemish, every bad breathing technique,
but there are no flaws here.
Harold Darke's In the bleak midwinter is
only given one verse but how well it is sung. Her long notes are
so safe and she keeps the final phrase, which starts with a long
note, intact. The piece is best as a choral piece and we would
have liked another verse. How would she interpret Christina Rossetti's
telling last verse?
She has put a lot of thought into Purcell's Music
for a while. She observes all the rests and phrases and contrary
to what some self-opinionated people say it is a difficult song
to bring off. Often the voice is exposed and rather precariously.
I prefer Judith Buckle's singing of this little gem.
I liked Edmund Rubbra. He was such a humble man
and highly intellectual. It is my view that his best works were
written for the voice and this is but one example. She shows her
natural gift here. What I most like is the effortlessness in her
performance yet the song takes a great deal of effort.
John Ireland was also a likeable man. He taught
my teacher Humphrey Searle for a while and said of Humphrey, "He
is the best and cleverest musician I have ever known!" I have
never rated Ireland's work apart from a few of his descriptive
piano works and that splendid choral work These things shall
be. His songs are very fine . His setting of Ernest Dowson's
If we must part is a faultless song and the song on this
disc, Her Song, is another fine example. It is sung without
I am not sure about the Bononcini piece. To me
it needed a sweeter tone and I do not think the style was captured.
But let me emphasise that these are minor points and my long years
in singing has given me the disadvantage of experience!
Ralph Vaughan Williams was the best British composer
writing in a diatonic style for the voice. His choral works are
masterpieces from the sublime Serenade to Music to the
Tudor Portraits and the neglected G minor Mass. Perhaps
only Linden Lea is well known among his songs but who can
forget Heddle Nash's performance of Silent Noon? On this
disc we have one of the Shakespeare songs sung with a telling
simplicity which always works best.
After two Peter Warlock songs we have the famous
Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem (the only
Pie Jesu, as someone said) sung a shade too fast perhaps, but
still with that beautiful and very earthy voice. Quite delightful!
What I like about Ms Cheeversí singing is the
total lack of excess and effect. The music speaks for itself and
so it should. There are no glissandi or portamenti, no playing
to the gallery, no tear-jerkers, no nonsense - just music sung
for music's sake and sung well.
I hope that she will be well advised as to repertoire
and adhere to worthy music for then she should have a worthy career
which I will watch with interest.
In 2006 Isabella was awarded a choral
scholarship to Oxford University and
has also achieved a diploma in piano
performance (the dip.ABRSM) and Grade
8 distinction in classical guitar. Recent
operatic roles include Bastienne in
Bastien und Bastienne (Mozart)
and Dido in Dido and Aeneas
(Purcell). She has also worked as a
Musical Director and continues to perform
frequently in concerts and recitals
across the UK.