KS Q&A: Emma Nilsdotter

Soprano in The Real Group since 2008

If you had to give an aspiring vocal ensemble just one piece of advice, what would it be?
The most important thing I try to tell singers I meet is to ENJOY and HAVE FUN. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are. You as a singer or a group must enjoy what you are doing to be able to make the audience enjoy. Many times choirs or vocal groups tend to focus on being perfect. And what is that? What’s perfect? I don’t want to listen to a “perfect” group, I want to be surprised, touched and entertained.

How you were introduced to ensemble singing?
I started to sing harmonies to my favourite bands when I was ten or so. The bands were all male singers (U2, Radiohead, The Cure), and I could not sing along with their voices, so to be able to sing with my idols, I invented harmonies on top of the melodies. I guess I had a talent for that long before I even knew what I was doing. Then I entered a music school at age 18, and there I formed a girl vocal group with my classmates, and we had two or three performances altogether. Not so very busy, I guess. Then after ten years of work as a studio singer (doing a lot of backing vocals!), The Real Group called me and I joined the group. So I had very little experience of “ensemble” singing before I began singing with TRG, but singing backing vocals with an artist or singing in a choir is more or less the same thing, it’s just more people or less people.

What’s the first thing you look at when you open a score for the first time?
The first thing I look at when I open a new score is the last page! I want to know how long it is and how much time I will have to spend on struggling with it, haha! I am so bad at reading music and I always get a slight felling of panic when I must learn music through a written score. I prefer to learn by ear, but still a score can be very helpful to be able to start the process of creating new music, but I try to learn it by heart as soon as I can.

If and when you have to programme a concert, what factors influence you most?
What country we’re in matters a lot (to know in what language to speak or sing in) and the age of the audience (school kids or middle age Japanese women etc) to know how serious or funny we can be.

How rigidly do you like to keep to a score in performance?
I think the written score is only one of many tools to create music. While performing I never reference music theory. The music goes through my whole body, not only my head and I believe strongly that that is a key to making good music in the end. I have a very physical feeling to music and especially when I perform, because I feel through my body when we are right or wrong. Don’t think to much, I say. Just DO IT! But still ensemble singing is to cooperate and it is not only one’s solo singing, but I try to have fun with the written score every time I sing it, even if I sing more or less the same thing day after day.

What, for you, are the marks of a great composition for vocal ensembles?
Hmmm, hard to say. Not too difficult. But still not boring. Unexpected harmonies but not too tricky. And groovy I think.

What, in your opinion, makes a great ensemble singer?
A great vocal singer has great ears, it is through listening to your group, your band or choir that you make good music. And also a singer who enjoys being there, that is important.

Do you have any pet-hates when you hear choirs or vocal ensembles perform?
Not really… But I don’t like when a group apologises for themselves.

Is there anything that you do when you perform, rehearse, compose or conduct that others might find unusual?  (quirks, tricks, useful tips)
We take turns being the “rehearsal boss”, which means we switch every day. Very democratic!! So, every fifth day I am in charge of the rehearsal and I get to plan it the way I like it and the others have to follow my lead. Next day it is someone else’s turn.

If you could have had a different career, what do you think it would have been, and why?
I have always known that being a musician would be my career, in one way or another. So I guess I never had any other dream. But if I today would choose a new career, I would want to do something that is important, like being a midwife or a doctor in countries of crisis. Or help orphaned kids in one way or another.

Are you able to say why you particularly love choral music?
I love choral music and vocal music because it’s created with an instrument that everyone has – the voice. It’s easy to carry with you, it doesn’t cost you anything, in fact it is the most democratic instrument in the world, and I believe that singing people are happier people!

Do you have a favourite choral composer and, if so, whom and why?
Anders Edenroth. He is a genius. He has great experience of writing music and scores and that shows, he can make it sound difficult to sing, but he always makes it so easy to sing.

Is there a piece for choirs or vocal ensembles you’d like to recommend to us that we might not have heard of before?
ALL CREATURES score by Anders Edenroth. It’s magic.

Is there anyone or any group in the world of choirs and vocal ensembles that you admire particularly, either current performers or groups from the past?
Rajaton for their raw and true singing. I truly admire each and every singer in that group. And every time I hear them live, their voices hits me like a thunderstorm and I am ever blown away. I love them!

Do you have a guilty pleasure? If yes, will you tell us what it is?
I buy and own too many shoes. I try to compensate by only buying second hand and vintage clothes for me and my family, but I should really not buy any more shoes.

Read all the KS Q&As on the Ensemble Hub Dropbox.


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