An interview with Gary Griffiths

If you’ve been to one of our concerts before you will obviously recognise Inspiration’s Founder and Musical Director, Gary Griffiths. Gary founded Inspiration in 2008 with the simple ethos that everyone can sing. He has sung in and conducted choirs all his life and truly believes that singing in a large group is life-affirming and fulfilling in a way that few other activities can be. Here Gary answers a few questions about Inspiration’s two choirs and life off the conductor’s podium.

Singing obviously gives many people from all walks of life a lot of pleasure. What is it about the singing experience that encourages your choir to keep coming back for more?

Now this needs a book to answer properly. Singing is by far the most personal of all the music-making skills. It is only you and your body making that sound, and when you do that in a group of 300 or more people, it can be quite overwhelming. I have sung in choirs all my life, and there is no better feeling than when it all feels right. I also like to think that my approach to rehearsals helps. We have so much fun that sometimes we don’t realise how hard we are working, and I try very hard to make singers feel safe. One knock back or cruel word (spoken without cruel intentions) can be devastating for a singer, and once confidence
is lost it can be hard to get back. The development of each concert is very rewarding as well; from first rehearsal through to concert is a thrilling journey.

Gary, you have been described as a talented cook and a rollercoaster fan, so I have two questions. What would you describe as your signature dish? Which rollercoaster has been the most thrilling so far and which one is on your wish list for the future?

Well I like to think I can turn my hand to anything, but I suppose one of my favourites is a proper steak and kidney pie, with a suet crust. I also do a mean chocolate mousse, which is a bit strange as I don’t have a sweet tooth at all! I would much rather see a decent cheeseboard than a sweet trolley. As for rollercoasters – easily my favourite, and considered one of the best in the
world, is Nemesis at Alton Towers. The genius of the design and the speed and smoothness of this is remarkable. And the one I’m looking forward to most is the one in my head, when I dream.

I have always wondered if you can tell the difference between the two Inspiration choirs – although we are all ‘Northerners’, we do speak differently but do we sound different?

This is a fascinating question. The difference between the two choirs is most obvious at the beginning of each term, before the work on vowels really kicks in. During warmups we do try to get a uniform sound for all our vowels, but if you haven’t sung for a few weeks, then the regional accents can come through. The two choirs each have their own personality too, but I couldn’t possibly declare a favourite.

If you weren’t involved in music, which other career path do you think you might have taken?

I would have loved to have been an actor. I did a lot of serious drama at school, and deferred university for a year to play the title role in Brecht’s ‘Life of Galileo’, which I adored doing. Once at university though, music completely took over. As an oboist, percussionist and singer, I was in all the university ensembles, choirs and orchestras and loved every second. I do miss playing in an orchestra, but it is such a joy to be allowed in front of players of the calibre of Northern Sinfonia and The Orchestra of Opera North.

Gary Griffiths, Musical Director and Founder

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