Twice Emmy and BRIT nominated and having long worked for the likes of the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery Channel and Disney, Sarah Class is a brilliant English composer and classical music singer.
You’ll probably have already unknowingly listened to plenty of her paradisiac scores in natural history TV films and other numerous television projects, including a series by Sir David Attenborough on which she also collaborated with Dire Strait’s guitarist Mark Knopfler.
As I’m told that her newest EP is called Green Man, an endless flow of repressed memories suddenly come to my mind: Green Man was also the title of my teenage years crush Mark Owen‘s first solo album, released in 1996.
As a kid who’d had her heart broken by Take That’s split in 1995, I remember having queued for hours, aged 12, just to be the first in town to put my hands on that Green Man CD.
I admit this has been the silly reason why I first decided to give a listen to Sarah’s EP, and I now have to confess that this has been the best music decision I’ve made this month, given how exquisite her work is.
It’s a joy to know that everything Green Man has always meant is still alive and kicking in the voice of another talented singer.
Who are your main sources of inspiration in classical music?
So many! Leos Janacek, Mozart, Anton Bruckner, Vaughan Williams and J.S. Bach.
What was your dream job as a child?
As a child, I thought I wanted to be a concert pianist, with a dream of being the Young Musician of the Year. Later in my teens, then I wanted to be a great jazz pianist… I think the dedicated amount of practice it would have taken, and always wanting to play my own compositions, probably put me off that idea.
What leads a little girl with a passion for music to want to get into classical music and not into pop or rock?
Well, my father always played classical music as we were growing up, and so my sister and I were used to it and I developed a real love for piano music particularly… and all that listening has certainly helped in music exams! Although my upbringing was certainly classical, I have a great love of other genres, as by being a composer you have to be able to turn your hand to all things, and my first album releases have been singer~songwriter. For me, I have always drawn to emotive melodic music whatever the style of music, and beautiful themes are key. It’s probably because of the multi-layered depth in much classical music, that I am always drawn back to it because so often you create the picture in your mind with what the music evokes to you, and you’re not being dictated to by lyrics, and this is a real solace at certain times. But like all music, one feels like listening to different music at different times. I love so many lyrically-driven songs and this has fed into all the music I write. I’m probably a suppressed pop artist underneath! 😉
If you didn’t make it in the music industry, what was your plan B in terms of career?
Either music therapy, or probably being a poet or an artist. I particularly love painting with watercolours.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Cantamus Aurora, a Warner Classics release with a 50-piece girls choir all aged between 12 and 18: the album was at the top of the Classical Charts for over three months and was nominated for a BRIT Award. It was also one of the most creatively exciting projects I’ve worked on, and the choir was just wonderful. A hugely popular BBC Africa series was also a high point in my career. I got to work with beautifully story-lead animal footage featuring an amazing variety of musical genres within the series. I loved the diversity and scope of musical storytelling.
Are there any artists you would particularly like to collaborate with?
I’m currently collaborating with a great artist called Eimear Quinn on her new album, Erihu. We co-wrote the lead track, which is called Hibernia, and we’ll be performing together on my new album Natural High, whose planned release is in July. I would love to collaborate with Adele, with Greta Thunberg on some musical environmental projects, with Josh Page who has an amazing tenor voice, with Orchestra for the Earth (and we are hoping to collaborate on some projects soon) and with a wonderful emerging artist called Imogen Williams. That’s just for starters!
How did you come up with the name Green Man for your EP? Did you know this was also the title of Mark Owen’s first solo album?
No, I didn’t! But I’ll go and listen right now! 😉 My Green Man EP is out now and it is a sort of environmental guardian, the keeper and protector of woods and forests and all nature. Green Man represents to me Spring, rebirth and renewal, and the vibrant spirit of Nature. I really wanted to try to capture this and the healing qualities of nature into my music, and the name Green Man kept popping into my head – so… he/she obviously wanted to be heard!
What do you think of talent shows such as The X Factor?
I have mixed views because, on one hand, it’s great to have a platform for people to discover a talent they may not have been exposed to before. But on the other hand, I feel it’s sad that it has to be contrived in certain ways and there seem only narrow criteria for new people to come up through: it’s not for everyone. I think it’s time for us to see an all-singing, all-dancing TV show dedicated to showcasing new artists and music.
What, in your opinion, should be done to promote classical music to the general public?
Well, there are radio stations like the new Scala Radio – who thankfully have a very broad remit for classical music, and they play all sorts of amazing music coming out of Scala. I think if broadcasters, on the whole, relaxed the playlist criteria and programming more to let new music which falls in-between genres – and let’s face it, a lot of good music does, be more exposed to a public who really love this music. Spotify, of course, helps people discover new music, but I feel there really could be a dedicated online site “movement” if you like which could be the new hub for crossover genres of kinds, from folk to cinematic music and even classical pop. There needs to be a unifying link to feed cross-media outlets including the main classical broadcasters with people working together to promote this music.
Would you like to add anything else at all? New projects, new plans?
I’m working on the full album, at the moment, which, as I said, it’s called Natural High, and of which Green Man is a part of. I’m aiming to produce a whole new vibe to what I’ve done in the past and hopefully to what is out there to some extent, at the moment, again drawing from nature. Underlying this is a very tangible musically passionate energy channelled from what I feel is the universal spirit, some may call it God or the unification of the soul. It’ll be a loving expression of many things we experience in our lives inspired by the natural world. I hope people will feel this when they hear my music. I’m also Ambassador for the World Land Trust who are a brilliant charity protecting nearly one million acres of rainforest and other natural habitats all across the world. Sir David Attenborough is their patron, and I work with them through my music to raise funds and awareness for the incredible work they do. One of the biggest projects was the I Will Fight video with Sir David Attenborough focusing on the habitats and plight of orang-utans in Borneo. I’m currently working on new musical ideas and collaborations for them. TBA!