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Olivia Sparkhall – A Multi-Faceted Maestro

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When you consider the role of a maestro, you may imagine someone leading an orchestra, or rehearsing a choir. Olivia Sparkhall not only fulfills this role but extends her expertise into multiple areas—she is a composer, a conductor, an editor, and an educator. Her contributions to the world of music go beyond mere performance; they reflect a deep intellectual and emotional engagement with the art form.

As a winner of the prestigious Three Choirs Festival composing competition in 2022, Sparkhall has firmly established her name on the global stage. This triumph was hardly an accident; it was the result of a journey that began in childhood. She was immersed in music from a young age, fueled by encouragement and opportunity, leading her to study music at university. In this fertile academic ground, Sparkhall honed her skills and transformed an initial spark of interest into a blazing career that she describes as “deeply rewarding.”

Her recent composition “Hear, O ye kings,” which won her accolades at the Three Choirs Festival, is a masterful exercise in the efficient use of musical material. Sparkhall describes it as an “introit conceived in miniature, like a sort of bonsai version of an oak tree.” It was premiered in the majestic surroundings of Hereford Cathedral, an experience she found “incredible” and “humbling.”

But Sparkhall’s work doesn’t reside in a vacuum. She is deeply aware of the landscape of the industry and has navigated her way through partnerships with publishers like Encore Publications and Chichester Music Press. These collaborations, she says, have been instrumental in elevating her compositions to an international audience and have given her a platform to contribute to the world of choral music.

The Kassian Choral Series is another feather in her cap, providing her with unique insights into the intricacies of choral composition, particularly that written by women composers from the past. Her dual roles as composer and editor have made her a steward of both historical and contemporary choral music, bringing overlooked compositions from the past into the modern spotlight.

Her work has found homes far beyond academic journals and music archives. Olivia Sparkhall’s compositions have graced BBC Television and BBC Radio 3. Her music has been critiqued in leading industry publications like Organists Review, Church Music Quarterly, and Choir & Organ magazine. For Sparkhall, having her music recognized on such prestigious platforms is not just a validation of her talent, but also serves as fuel for her future endeavors.

Sparkhall’s commitment to breaking gender barriers in the industry is notably evident in her role in the Multitude of Voyces’ Sacred Music by Women Composers series. She considers this series a crucial step towards leveling the playing field, bringing attention to the unsung female composers of yesteryears while paving the way for the women of today.

Her academic background in vocal pedagogy has also deeply influenced her teaching approach. She believes in a tailored, individualized method that aims to unlock the full vocal potential of her students, irrespective of their skill level. She shares the success stories of her students with palpable enthusiasm, reinforcing her commitment to education.

Sparkhall’s daily life, she admits, doesn’t follow a “typical” routine. She balances her myriad roles by prioritizing tasks based on deadlines and demands, always adapting to the work at hand, whether it’s composing, conducting, teaching, or editing.

When asked about future trends in contemporary choral and organ music, Sparkhall notes a divergence of styles reflecting the wide array of audience demands. And as for staying motivated during challenging times? Sometimes, she admits, it’s best to take a break and return recharged.

In a world where the impact of digital technology on the arts is often debated, Sparkhall remains optimistic. She sees choral music evolving with the times, leveraging modern tech for better accessibility and practice methods. And as for what’s next on her busy agenda? Keep an eye on her website. Sparkhall hints at professional recording projects and upcoming commissions, making it abundantly clear that her journey in the world of music is far from over.

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