By Libby Clark
I love working as the Project Manager for Performing the Jewish Archive – there is never a dull moment on this vast, varied and challenging project and I am learning all the time. One thing that has given me great enjoyment and pleasure is the overlap between work and one of my main passions and hobbies outside of work – singing soprano with the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds (CCL) who have been involved in performing at a number of PtJA events.
It is not often that professional and personal life come together in such harmony and it means I have been able to play my part in planning and organising events such as the Leeds and York and Czech Festivals and have then gone on to perform in them too. This gives me a unique perspective on the project and has created many happy professional and personal memories – the opening Czech Festival concert at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, for example, will long stay in my mind as both a wonderful singing opportunity and an excellent showcase for the project.
Recently, the opportunity to sing at two high-profile Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations came up and, as a singer, I leapt at the chance. The first of these was for Music on the brink of destruction at London’s Wigmore Hall on 4 January and the second was the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day on 26 January at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster (for a full report on these events, and other HMD commemorations involving PtJA please see Project Consultant David Fligg’s article here).
As a singer, there was much to gain from taking part in these events. Learning new repertoire, especially repertoire away from the mainstream in languages that I am much less proficient at singing in (Hebrew and Yiddish), was challenging and interesting. Performing in a small, a cappella group with only one or two singers per part is something I am experienced at, but singing new repertoire, in prestigious venues, for large and distinguished audiences certainly focuses the mind in this regard! The chance to perform at Wigmore Hall and sing for the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t come up every day for the average amateur performer, and I certainly felt excitement and nerves in equal measures. Last, and by no means least, was the honour and privilege I felt playing a part, however small, in the HMD commemorations.
With my Project Manager hat on, I was interested and intrigued by the back stage arrangements at both venues. Slick professionalism and attention to detail were evident at every step of the way, leaving artists free to focus solely on performing. I have been involved in event organising for a number of years, but I am always on the lookout for new tricks of the trade and different ways of doing things and I certainly came away with ideas for my own professional practice. PtJA will hopefully be the recipient of these ideas over the coming months as we move ahead with plans for a number of big events of our own. See here for the next PtJA event involving the Clothworkers Consort.