At RREVERB, we think quality music lasts. That it can be listened to for years. This series of interviews with musicians takes the time to focus on the art of making music, on mastering an instrument, owning the stage.

Today, we meet…

ANDREW McANERNEY

QUICK BIO – Andrew has over 25 years of experience as a conductor, singer, arranger and educator. He holds a BA and MA in music from the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). He has participated in hundreds of performances in 28 countries with numerous amateur and professional choirs including Tallis Scholars, BBC Singers, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Brabant Ensemble, Gloucester Cathedral Choir, St George’s Chapel – Windsor Castle, and Studio de musique ancienne de Montreal.

Andrew has sung on over 100 recordings including plainsong, opera, pop and sacred masterpieces. He has broadcast live on national radio and television throughout the world. Andrew is Artistic Director of the Cantata Singers of Ottawa, the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal and the Anglican Chorale of Ottawa.

Andrew McAnerney B&W faceRREVERB: What is your name, where are you from, where do you live now?

My name is Andrew McAnerney and I am from England. I moved to Canada at the end of 2012.
 
RR: When did you start making music? Can you share the highlights or key moments of your career, up to here?

A.M – My first performance was as a boy soloist in my school Christmas play aged 5. After that I started singing in a church choir twice a week, then in a cathedral choir 7 times a week. As a boy chorister I had my first experience of conducting, taking over from the Director of music when he had to go and play the organ. I joined the National Youth Choir of Great Britain in 1994, won a music scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1995 and, after graduating, sang at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. After that I started my freelance career in London, first as a singer, later as a conductor too.

St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (photo: Josep Renalias, Wikipedia)

 

INTERPRETATION

RR: Do you work with the same songwriters most of the time, or do you chose the songs you’ll play among existing ones (covers)?

A.M – I love making music and have worked with material from 10th century plainsong to contemporary. While I am particularly fond of Renaissance and Baroque works, I am open to all types of music.

RR: Who helps you choose which song to play?

smam logoA.M – The Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal (SMAM) has a committee of expert musicians who come up with ideas for themes and repertoire to build each concert and season. I also have several trusted friends who I can reply on to reign in more unrealistic ideas. The problem is not thinking what to do, but choosing from the vast number of possibilities.

RR: Who do you sing or play a new song to, the first time? To what extent is the feedback you get then important?
 
A.M – When choosing repertoire sometimes there are recordings I can listen to hear how a piece has been performed before, however often there are no recordings and, especially with earlier music, possibly not even a score in modern notation. Then it is an adventure, performing something that may not have been heard for several hundred years. The feedback from the singers and instrumentalists is crucial in deciding if the piece works, or whether it would work better performed a different way. The final result is always a collaboration.

RR: Do you like to do covers? Why?

A.M – Much of the music I perform has been recorded many times, often by giants of the early music world, however by virtue of being early music there are no recordings by the composers themselves or the artists they wrote for. As a result I don’t think there is such a thing as a definitive recording, early music works are not museum pieces, rather a living legacy reflecting the skills of the performers on stage at each performance, and each generation has the freedom to make the music their own.

RR: Have you ever played a type of music that’s completely different from the genre or style we know you for?

A.M – Yes, while I generally direct Renaissance and Baroque music with choirs and orchestras, I have performed sea shanties on a pirate ship, appeared on radio as a backing singer for a pop band, and made comedic musical appearances on stage in London’s west end.

THE STAGE

RR: Describe your relation with the stage: how you approach concerts? Is it fun, or are you stressed out?

A.M – I am always nervous before a concert, even one with familiar music and musicians, but I love making music and almost always enjoy myself. When I was young I felt I had so much to prove that going on stage was quite combative, I imagined a critical audience waiting to jump on any mistake and looking for something to go wrong so they had a story to tell their friends. However, over time I realized, with the exception of some critics, that the vast majority of people at a concert are there to hear beautiful music and want everything to go well, they want to be transported and inspired. Realizing the audience was on my side made making live music more pleasurable.

Andrew McAnerney piano

RR: Can you share the best moment ever you lived on stage?

A.M – I love the Messiah by Handel and have been fortunate to perform it many times in his own Parish Church, St George’s Hanover Square, London as part of the London Handel Festival. The opportunity to perform that piece in that venue with such fine musicians was always a musical highlight of my year.

RR: Do you remember your first gig ever? How did that go?

A.M – No. Only my parents’ recollections of it. Apparently it went well, afterwards I was invited to join a church choir.

MUSIC BUSINESS

RR: Who is in your music team? Who is in your entourage? What do these people bring you?

A.M – The core of the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal (SMAM) is a small team of exceptionally talented and dedicated singers and instrumentalists. Many of this musical ‘family’ have worked with SMAM for numerous years, something that results is a musical cohesion that is very difficult to replicate. We also have a superb administrative team, organizing a season of concerts and collaborations while meeting grant deadlines and looking for donors is a herculean task. Our Artistic committee strive to ensure our seasons are attractive and varied while our board oversee the institution and make sure everything is properly run.

Rehearsing the Brumel Earthquake Mass with the SMAM

Rehearsing the Brumel Earthquake Mass with the SMAM

RR: Can you imagine living as a celebrity (a major one, like Celine Dino or the Beatles)? How do you think you would cope with this situation, and lifestyle?

A.M – No, I cannot think of a single early musician with a major celebrity lifestyle. That said I know plenty of exceptionally talented musicians who command great respect from their peers.

RR: Do you see only advantages?

A.M – I can see advantages to not being a celebrity. There is something extraordinary and humbling about being on stage being applauded by a crowd and swamped with well-wishers, only to go outside the venue and return to complete anonymity.

YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITES

 RR: On a desert island, you bring those 5 records (no more!): what are they?

Lamentations of Jeremiah – Thomas Tallis
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor – J.S. Bach
Messiah – Handel
Dido and Aeneas – Henry Purcell
Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – Benjamin Britten

 

RR: What was the first album you bought with your own money? At what age? Do you still listen to it today?

A.M – Love of Three Oranges (suite) by Sergei Prokofiev, age 12. Yes I have listened to it within the last year.
 
Thank you Andrew!

Do not miss the December 11 concert by the SMAM at Saint-Léon de Westmount Church where they will play Haendel’s Messiah. A second representation will be made in Châteauguay at St. Joachim Church on December 13 at 14.30. Information here.

messiah haendel

And finally, here is a concert by the SMAM dating back from 2013, where the choir plays music by John Tavener (1495-1545) and John Taverner (1944-2013), conducted by Andrew McAnerney’s predecessor, Christopher Jackson, who passed away last September.

 

 

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur-en-chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie “Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique” en 2013, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016.