Voice of the Mersey
Our Marketing and Communications Manager, Mike James spoke with Mezzo Soprano Danielle Thomas, who is performing with The Priests on 1 June in support of Nugent.
Mike: “How did you get started, what lead you to a career singing?”
Danielle: “I always sang as a kid to Disney films. My granddad who lived with me at the time would say to my Mum ‘oh she has a smashing voice on her’.
He took me to see phantom of the opera when I was 8 at the Liverpool Empire, from that day I walked out saying “Grandad I want to do that”.
He asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I asked for singing lessons and that was it. I got singing lessons from a teacher in Crosby ‘Mr. Hunt’ who was a bit of a legend at the time,
When I was 12 I got an audition for the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and I went there on Saturdays till I was 16.
Mike: What where your ambitions when you went to college?
Danielle: Well, it’s funny, when you go to Music College you are pushed to go into the opera side of things, but as I got older I couldn’t go all the time and I started working in care homes, I was going to give singing up, but I got asked to do a civic event for Liverpool Town Hall, and it made me realise there is a niche market for just doing concert work as opposed to being on stage or on tour doing operas. So now I go out as a classical soloist rather than being tied to anything.
Mike: So is that your full time job now?
Danielle: Yes, I’m so lucky, its hard work but I do enjoy it. People have said to me “it’s such a shame you haven’t made it” but to me I have, to me I’m doing something I love for a living, I’m happy.
Mike: How many times a week do you perform?
Danielle: It really depends on the time a year, on average if you include the funerals I do, its two or three times a week.
Mike: So what sort of highlights have you had so far?
Danielle: There are so many really. One would be singing for Princess Anne during the 70th anniversary of the battle of the Atlantic and I did a tour with the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines last year. I sang at the Hillsborough vigil which was a huge moment for the city and a historical moment. It was also good because I’m very much a home girl, a scouse girl.
Mike: Have you ever wanted to make it in London or anywhere else.
Danielle: Yes, I’m nearly 28 and I need an agent as I do everything myself. It’s always nice to branch out of the city, I’ve travelled to New York and other places but it’s nice to come back. I would probably not branch out to London because I would be one of so many in London with all the different colleges being in the city. I would always remain here but I am open to travel, for example my singing teacher is from London so I go and see her.
Mike: So do you still train even though you already have a career in singing?
Danielle: Yes, I see her about twice a year. I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t have any lessons because obviously you pick up bad habits, you learn every day. For example if you have a cold you learn how to sing through that cold, it may not necessarily be correct, but that’s why I go back to my teacher and say I did this and it was wrong, teach me.
Mike: What would be your favourite song to sing? Or does that vary depending on the occasion?
Danielle: Yes it really does.
Mike: Because your repertoire is quite varied..
Danielle: I do that for a reason, my family isn’t really a musical family. My sister, who I live with, isn’t interested in classical music what so ever, so when I go to perform at a concert where I know that there are classical music lovers I can do things like the real hard-core opera, but really the general audience are not that into it, so you have to appeal to whatever audience you perform to. I usually ask my sister “do you know this song” and she would normally know them from adverts or other places as classical music has become more accessible through that.
Mike: So do you have any favourites then?
Danielle: I’m going to be really controversial here, You’ll Never Walk Alone is a huge favourite, but not because of Liverpool, it’s from a musical film called Carousel (1956), and it’s actually completely heart breaking when you watch it, a lot of people don’t know it’s from a musical. It reminds me of my Grandad and he was my biggest influence, he is not with me anymore so I do all this for him. There was a time where is was getting no work in a very catty industry, but he told me to keep going and reminded me what I’m in it for. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be singing.
Mike: Was he very musical?
Danielle: No, well he said his mum taught herself how to play the piano so he was around that and I play piano as well. But that’s about it, but if I brought a new song home he would sit there for hours just listening to me singing. He would always attend my performance no matter the size or location. Sadly, the reason is why singing with the Priests is quite poignant for me, he died a couple of months before I sand with them, so he didn’t get to see it and he would have loved that. I could have been rubbish but he would have told me I’m amazing.
Mike: This’ll be the third time you’ve sung with The Priests at the Liverpool Phil, how did that come about?
Danielle: That was through St Joseph’s Hospice. The first time they came to Liverpool was 2012, I’ve grown up singing for St Joseph’s and am friends with Pat Murphy who worked there at the time. Pat was organising their first visit and suggested to The Priests that I could do guest appearance, and they agreed to it, initially without hearing me sing, they just thought yes, that would be nice. They then came back the following year and asked for me, which was really nice.
I’m really looking forward to singing with them again, and to help raise money for Nugent, it’s a very good charity and I’m proud to be able to support it.
Find out more and book tickets for the 1 June concert – The Priests
You can find out more about Danielle and hear some of her performances at her website.