Tenor and Conductor Richard Robbins (BMus Music 2012) was recently announced as a City Music Foundation (CMF) 2020 Young Artist. He speaks to us about his experience at Royal Holloway as the recipient of a Choral Scholarship funded by Santander, his career since graduating and what he is most looking forward to about his new venture.
Richard applied to study Music at Royal Holloway in 2009 and was awarded a Santander Choral Scholarship. He credits not only the scholarship but the “cumulative brilliance of the lecturers, the range of performance societies, the opportunities to lead - all whilst being able to live and work in the stunning Founder’s building” with his decision to pursue his studies at the university.
As a Choral Scholar, Richard sang in the Choir of Royal Holloway, considered one of the finest mixed-voice collegiate choirs in the country, and undertook a busy schedule of services, concerts, tours and recordings around the world.
“The trips we went on were always wonderfully rewarding performance experiences that brought us all closer,” Richard recalls. “From tours, to recording sessions, to trips to cathedrals and other universities here and abroad, we got to do so much. The sheer range of opportunities introduced us to the real world of being a jobbing musician, from teaching us to dig deep when you’re doing the 10th take, how to project confidence even when you might not be feeling it (having just got off a 12 hour coach journey), learning from an encyclopaedic range of repertoire, to performing and collaborating with a variety of national and international topflight ensembles and musicians.
“The whole experience as a Choral Scholar shaped my time at university in the most wonderfully positive way, it inspired me to go into the music industry and the friends I made in the choir will be friends for life.”
Since leaving Royal Holloway, Richard has developed a hugely varied portfolio career in performance, conducting and directing education projects across the country. As a singer he has been a Young Artist for Oxford Lieder, Handel House, Leeds Lieder Brighton Early Music and now the City Music Foundation. He has worked with some of the country’s top musicians in masterclasses and performance, singing for Sir Thomas Allen, fellow Royal Holloway alumna Dame Felicity Lott, Mark Padmore, John–Mark Ainsley as well as singing with musicians from The Academy of Ancient Music, The London Mozart Players, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Southbank Sinfonia. As an educator, he has directed musical education projects for primary and secondary schools, running the Baroque Central project for Handel House and the Cool Lieder project for Leeds Lieder. Richard currently runs the musical ensembles and scholarship programme for the highly respected music department at The Sixth Form College in Farnborough, teaches singing at Wellington College and conducts Egham Choral, now online due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“There’s something incredibly satisfying about running your own ship and being your own boss,” Richard says. “Yes, it means you have to be more disciplined with your time but the benefit of being freelance is in how you’re able to forge your own path, using your own will power to bring things into existence. I also love that my job is (normally) incredibly sociable and I get to see so many of my colleagues week to week. Singing can be incredibly cathartic, acting as a lightning rod for your emotions. Chiefly however, I just love making music; the rush you get when the strings start to play charges through me and fires me up.”
At the end of 2020, Richard was announced as one of City Music Foundation’s 2020 Young Artists. CMF’s mission is to turn exceptional musical talent into professional success by equipping outstanding musicians with the tools, skills, experience, and networks they need to build and sustain rewarding and profitable careers. As a CMF artist, Richard will embark on a two-year programme, which includes artistic and business mentoring and professional development workshops covering a range of topics.
“In a year of relentless bad news due to the Covid-19 pandemic, receiving this news brought me an oasis of excitement and anticipation,” says Richard. “It means refreshing myself artistically, collaborating with other artists whilst carving out my niche. The industry has taken a battering during the pandemic and I hope there will be a broad cultural renewal when we come out of it. One thing I’ve always enjoyed is taking old traditions to new audiences and collaborating with various artistic disciplines in performance. To that end, I hope to be able to collaborate with painters, storytellers and jazz musicians through the City Music Foundation and develop musically, philosophically and performatively.”
Photos: Ben Ealovega