I’ve been singing and playing musical instruments all my life. I started working on my singing voice while I was still at school and continued at University, studying with Brian Galloway as a mezzo soprano. His guidance gave me a healthy, flexible voice and a technique that has never wavered. My work as an actor-musician has given me opportunities to sing in many different styles: I have sung opera, oratorio, jazz, folk, pop, contemporary music….etc! Below you can listen to some audio clips of my singing work.
I started playing woodwind instruments at primary school when a chance opportunity to play the clarinet showed that I had an unusual facility for the instrument. My parents gratefully handed back the violin I had been scratching on so awfully and I have never looked back. I play Bb and Bass Clarinet as well as all the saxophones. Apart from helping me to get a lot of interesting work as an actor, I have played regularly with pop bands live and in the studio, often with A Little Orchestra of which I was a founder member. Below are some clips of my instrumental work.
I compose music and in 2017 set up the Out of Place project,
bringing together new music with contemporary poetry. You can hear
the original Out of Place compositions by clicking on the links
below. Many of my other works and performances are on my Soundcloud
1000 Witches 2021
Since 2017 I have continued to work with poets, including Anna Kisby Compton in her project '1000 Witches' in 2021. Anna's poems were incorporated into a play written by Poppy Corbett with input by historian Will Pooley of Bristol University. For the performance, imaginatively directed by Ellie Chadwick and showcased on Zoom, I played the part of The Poet and performed a song I had written based on Anna's poem 'Account by the Murderer's Wife' as well as incidental music recorded on many clarinets.
Stabat Mater 2019
In early 2019 poet Phil Vernon invited me to write music inspired by his new version of the Stabat Mater. This had its first performance on Monday, 15th April 2019 as part of Holy Week Mass at St Paul’s Church (The Actors’ Church), Covent Garden in London.
Vocals: Nicola Burnett Smith, Sarah Lambie and Anna Braithwaite. Double bass: Dai Price.
This was to be a regular Easter event but unfortunately Covid got in the way. There are also suspended plans to record a studio version. In the meantime we are lucky to have this informal recording of the performance:
The recording reached the ears of the curator of the Ultimate Stabat Mater website and in Easter 2021 I was included in the listings of Stabat Mater composers:
During the restrictions of 2020 I had to work in isolation and so decided to explore how to make use of recording software for the first time, without the aid of a sound engineer. Here is a sample of my first recording, 'So Tired', for 6 bass clarinets and one Bb clarinet. Inspired by a patch of bad sleep in lockdown, I pondered that the bass clarinet is the aural equivalent of a weighted blanket and it might act as musical valerian.
Here are my three compositions for Out of Place in which I also perform as vocalist and musician, recorded live in performance at the Actors Church in July 2017:
I work regularly as a performer with composer Anna Braithwaite on her series of contemporary music pieces
including ‘Brainsong’, ‘Super Obsessive’ and here, ‘Quintet for Biscuit’, recorded live in performance with The Bergersen Quartet:
And here I play bass clarinet and sing in a music-theatre piece, ‘Oblique’ by Dominic de Grande, recorded live at St Bart’s Church as part of a concert of new music:
Also for Dominic de Grande I sang soprano on his composition based on The Tempest, ‘Be Not Afeard’ – here is an extract:
I have also performed as vocalist with Gundula Gruen’s band Tatcho Drom, here we are, filmed live at the Union Chapel
This is an extract from a Bb clarinet piece ‘I’d Rather Walk’ by Paul Hepden, performed in concert at St Michael’s Camden
I recorded a song written by the Medieval Babes to be played every night as part of a circus show on Clapham Common while aerialists performed on ropes and cloths from the ceiling of the big top:
I am a founder member of
A Little Orchestra which was established in 2010. We play on stage and in the studio for Ralegh Long, Simon Love, The Understudies, Leaf Library, Haiku Salut, A Fine Day for Sailing, Shirley Lee, The Hidden Messages, The School, Pocketbooks, MJ Hibbett, Punk Wedding and Moose Factory. We released an album of original works and compositions in 2013:
In 2017 I played clarinet for Darren Hayman on his ‘Thankful Villages’ series as well as previously on ‘The Archduke Learns to Ski’ and ‘Seraing Lokamotiv’ and on David John Sheppard’s album Vertical Land.
As an actor-musician since 1989 I appeared at the Purcell Rooms in the Natural Theatre Company’s music-theatre show ‘William Tell’ and at the National Theatre on the South Bank singing Stephen Warbeck’s compositions for ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. I sang again for the RNT in ‘Hallisinia’, an operetta commemorating Hogarth at the Tate. I have also worked with composers/ MDs Howard Goodall, Steve Edis, Paul Clark, Felix Cross, Greg Palmer, John Lubbock, Carlton Edwards, Thomas Frere, Ian Davies, Ben Livingstone and folk musician Dougie Maclean. See
Theatre page for more details of these shows.
Other musical adventures include:
Vocals for Max Rheinhardt’s live improvised soundtrack to ‘Battleship Potemkin’ at the Regent St Cinema
Vocal soloist on The American Songbook at ‘Va Por Cuba’ at Bolivar Hall
Bb Clarinet on Tom Kilworth’s ‘Tea Suite’
Bass Clarinet for Dave Berryman’s ‘Sea Stacks’,
Bass Clarinet for Duncan Chapman/BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Eotvos Project at the Barbican