Cornish opera singer Cheryl Rosevear hits the right notes
PUBLISHED: 11:56 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013
Cheryl Rosevear discovered her singing talent at the age of eleven. In this January issue we follow her career, which has led her to become a successful opera singer
Esther Harris tells how Falmouth-based soprano Cheryl Rosevear discovered her love of opera, and the moment she realised her talent for singing
Cheryl Rosevear was 11 years old when she first realised she had a singing voice that could move people. Her affection for classical music started much earlier. As a youngster, every Christmas Eve, Cheryl and her family would visit Truro Cathedral for the 'Nine Lessons and Carols', and Cheryl remembers being mesmerised by a boy treble singing the first verse of Once in Royal David's City. "His voice made this beautiful sound that really moved me," recalls Cheryl. "It gave me a warm glow and I remember thinking one day I would like to do that."
As a lively 9-year-old, Cheryl was a member of the choir at her primary school, but "I never stood out, in fact I always got told off for talking." Two years later, when she moved to Penair secondary school, they were auditioning for singers for their Christmas carol concert, and she decided to try out
Cheryl says: "I practised in my bedroom and it sounded quite good. I thought, maybe I can sing? But I didn't take it too seriously." Her parents encouraged her to audition but gently warned her not to get her hopes up. Cheryl got the part and impressed at the performance. "Everyone was a bit shocked to realise that I could actually sing!"
Cheryl started private music lessons, joined the church choir at St Paul's in Truro and learnt more about choral and classical music. "I grew to love classical music. There is so much poetry in the words, and it's a pleasure to convey that using your voice, backed by the most lovely melodies. I began getting a greater response from the audience and people would come and thank me afterwards and tell me how wonderful my singing had made them feel. I was only 13, and it felt great!" she adds.
"Everyone was a bit shocked to realise that I could actually sing!"
Cheryl progressed further, singing with choirs like the Goonvrea Singers and the Camborne Circuit Ladies Choir. She also entered local music festivals competing in their singing classes. "I started to win!" she laughs. "It was a fantastic feeling and I began to grow in confidence."
While Cheryl was sitting her GCSEs, her mum, Gloria, spotted an advertisement for entrants to the BBC Radio 2 Choir Girl of the Year competition. Cheryl sent away a recording to see what would happen. "I still remember to this day the feeling when I got the telephone call to tell me I'd made the final eight, out of thousands of entrants. It was unbelievable!"
Cheryl came second on that occasion, and achieved the same position the following year - beating one Katherine Jenkins on the way. "She was just another struggling singer back then." It was third time lucky when, in 1997, Cheryl claimed first prize.
"It was an amazing experience! I appeared on Songs of Praise. All the preparation for the broadcast was done at the famous Maida Vale studios in London. I had never seen a proper studio before, or worked with a producer, or used things like a backing track and headphones. It was so exciting and a massive learning curve," she says.
The win opened up many opportunities for Cheryl including the chance to sing in the Easter Day Service at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral alongside the famous Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, again recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio: "I began to seriously believe that I can join these people, I can make a career out of singing if I work hard enough."
Cheryl auditioned at London's Royal College of Music in Christmas 1999. She had her 'Billy Elliott' moment right there and then. "I walked in and it just felt right to be there. The building and the inspiring people - I couldn't wait to start." The College felt the same, offering Cheryl one of their prestigious limited places as a Foundation Scholar. Cheryl and her long-term partner, Martyn, prepared to make the move to London.
College was a joyful five years for Cheryl and she graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Music and Postgraduate Diploma. "College taught me I had so much to discover about the world of music and my own voice," she says. "It was a humbling experience in many ways." She "sang all day, every day," and took acting, speech, Italian, German and French lessons for the first time.
Cheryl's singing professor was Margaret Kingsley, also born in Cornwall, and an international opera singer, having sung in all the great European opera houses. Cheryl says: "Margaret gave me lots of confidence in my ability and I am fortunate that she now lives in Truro and that we can still work together on a regular basis. She made me believe that I had something special and could go on to sing at the highest level." It was while at college that Cheryl's love of opera increased. "I adored the dramatic scores and stories in opera, and really getting my teeth into the characters."
Upon graduation, Cheryl suddenly found herself a jobbing singer, auditioning alongside hundreds of other talented performers. "A sobering experience," she smiles. "You not only have to master the audition process and learn to sell yourself, but also perform perfectly on the day and hope you stand out from the crowd."
She won her first professional job later that year in the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, a musical extravaganza that takes place every year in North Norfolk. The show includes an eclectic mix of music, dance and performance. Cheryl explains: "One minute I was in full choir robes singing carols, the next in bright pink singing Abba!"
Cheryl performed at Thursford for two more years, but in 2007 she and (now husband) Martyn decided to move back home to Cornwall.
"We missed our families, the sea and the coastline," Cheryl says. However, with a thriving singing scene in the region, teaching work with two local secondary schools and a growing number of private clients, pursuing her career from Cornwall is looking infinitely achievable. "Cornwall is more accessible than ever with airports at Newquay and Exeter plus a good train route into London, and I can continue to audition all over the country and set up home near my family."
What does the future hold for the girl who has already achieved so much, so young? "I'm 28 now and I would love to win a chorus part with one of the big opera companies and work my way up through the ranks," Cheryl smiles. "Meanwhile, I'm enjoying teaching, performing and being in Cornwall again. The day I win a big role, the chances are that I will have to travel again. I can't wait for that to happen, so I'm determined to make the most of home while I still can."
Cheryl Rosevear (07887) 820787, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheryl's tips on looking after your singing voice
Keep fit and healthy: it's hard to sing with a cold!
A daily vocal warm-up will improve stamina and ability.Start by working the middle of your range of voice, then move up to your top notes before moving to the bottom of your vocal range.
Always support your voice by using your abdominal muscles. These should form the basis of your vocal support.
Sing with energy and enthusiasm. If you're half-hearted you'll struggle to hit the notes.