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Photos by Kelly MacDonald

Biography


Short Biography
Paula Downes was a Choral Scholar at Trinity College Cambridge from 1998 – 2001, and has since performed with The Sixteen and Philharmonia Voices, and as a soloist with numerous Choral Societies and Orchestras including performances under Stephen Cleobury in King's Chapel, Cambridge and under Sarah MacDonald in St John's Smith Square, London. She founded the female vocal group, The Cantabrigians in 2016, and was Musical Director of The Meridian Singers in Bluntisham for 2 years from 2018. An experienced teacher, Paula has taught singing at Bristol University, and music and singing at schools including St John's College School, Cambridge. As Creative Director of Lynwood Music, Promoter and Publisher of the music of her father, composer Andrew Downes, Paula has produced many films, animations, multitrack recordings and a podcast series.

 


Long Biography

Paula Downes hails from a rich pedigree of musicians. Her father is world renowned English composer Andrew Downes, who began his career as a successful countertenor, performing alongside the likes of Dietrich Fischer Diskau in his twenties, and going on to be Professor of Composition and Creative Studies at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Andrew taught Paula singing, helping her to gain her Choral Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge from 1998-2001. Andrew’s father Frank Downes was horn player of the CBSO and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as Head of Orchestral Studies at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Frank’s brother, Herbert Downes was lead violist in the Philharmonia. Andrew's mother, Iris Downes, had a beautiful singing voice, and enjoyed playing leading roles in local Gilbert and Sullivan productions in her youth. Paula’s mother Cynthia Downes is a violinist and violist, and during her university days, she also sang in her Chapel Choir of Royal Holloway. She taught Paula and her sister Anna to play the violin. Cynthia’s mother, Cicely Cooper, also had a beautiful singing voice, and was always being asked to perform in shows when she was in the ATS during the Second World War. Cicely also had two very musical cousins: John Reid, a pianist who got his LRAM at the age of 16 and went on to play jazz piano with the Zenith Hot Stompers; and the late Lieutenant-Colonel Rodney Bashford, OBE, LRAM, ARCM, Director of Music, Grenadier Guards, 1960–1970, Director of Music, Kneller Hall and Senior Director of Music, British Army, 1970-1974.

As a Soprano, Paula Downes has been described as 'excellent' by the Boston Globe, and has been praised for her 'fine upper register' by Opera News; for 'the cool beauty of her voice' and 'affectingly plangent tone' by the Birmingham Post; and for her 'immaculate intonation' by the Nordsee-Zeitung, Germany.


After winning a Choral Scholarship to Trinity College Cambridge University, where she read music, and did a PGCE in Secondary Music Education, Paula went on to teach Music and Singing for three years at at South Hampstead High School, London. During this time, she was an A Level examiner for Edexcel and she gained an Opera Diploma from London University and an Acting Certificate from the Central School of Speech and Drama.

 

She moved to Boston, USA in 2005 to join her husband, while he completed his PhD in Musicology at Harvard, and during her four years there, she studied voice with tenor Frank Kelley; participated in Masterclasses at Harvard led by Robert Levin, Yehudi Wyner, and Daniel Stepner; undertook song and opera courses at the New England Conservatory; attended Accademia d'Amore, founded by Stephen Stubbs; and was a Stern Fellow at SongFest, where she was coached by John Harbison and Martin Katz. She also worked as Resident Music Tutor at Adams House, Harvard, and as a singing, piano and violin teacher for Artisan Music Studios, for Linneaen Community School, and for the New School of Music in Cambridge, MA. Additionally, she taught "Music Together", an early childhood music program.

On her return to the UK in 2009, she was awarded the Nicholas Boas Bursary to particpate in Masterclasses with Emma Kirkby at the Dartington International Summer School where she met Jessica Cash and continued to study singing with her for a few years in London. She also worked as Head of Lower School Music at Haileybury College in Hertfordshire before moving on to teach Singing and Music at St. John's College School in Cambridge, UK, where she also regularly taught for Stringmoves and was Director of Sine Nomine Youth Choir in Histon.

She moved to Bristol in 2013 and coached the girls' choir of St Mary Redcliffe Church for a year before becoming a singing teacher for Bristol University in September 2014.
 

Paula moved back to Cambridge in 2014, where she has shared music and singing at Ace Nursery School; she has run a music club and workshop for St Philip's Primary School; she has coached members of St. Ives Choral Society; and she has run singing workshops at St Helen's Primary School in Bluntisham. She has also performed for Encore Concerts with her professional all-female vocal group, The Cantabrigians; she was Musical Director of the Meridian Singers, Bluntisham, from 2018 to 2020; and she taught for Cambridge Holiday Orchestra in 2019 and 2020.

 

Paula is the creator of a set of Music Education resources, as part of her Dad's website www.andrewdownes.com.


As an oratorio soloist, Paula has sung with choral societies throughout the UK, most notably in St. John's, Smith Square, London under Sarah Macdonald; in King's Chapel, Cambridge under Stephen Cleobury; with Gig Caritas under Keith Horsfall; with Central England Camerata under David Trippett, Cynthia Downes and Anthony Bradbury; in St Edmundsbury Cathedral under James Thomas; with the Dorian Singers of Felixstowe under Alan Loader; St Ives Choral Society under Alison Daniels; Haslingfield Choral Society under Graham Walker; Collegium Laureatum under Ian Cobb; and in the New England area with Old North Festival Chorus, Marblehead under Maria VanKalken; Coro Allegro under David Hodgkins; the Providence Singers and the Newport Baroque Orchestra under Andrew Clark; the Masterworks Chorale under Sean Burton; and Chorus Pro Musica under Jeffrey Rink and Adam Boyles.


Solos with orchestra have included Bach's Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen with the South County Chamber Orchestra of Rhode Island, USA; Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate and Bach's Wedding Cantata with the Hagley Community Orchestra, Worcestershire, UK; Vivaldi’s Nulla in mundo pax sincera in La Madeleine, Paris; Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody on tour in Germany, with the Central England Ensemble; and opera arias with the Central England Camerata.


Opera roles have included the creation of 'Bathsheba Everdene' in Far from the Madding Crowd by Andrew Downes for the Thomas Hardy Society, UK, and the reprisal of this role the following year for the Wednesbury Music Club, UK; 'Christian Woman' in The Prioress's Tale by Delvyn Case for Yale Institute of Sacred Music; ‘Amor’ in Cavalli's L'Egisto for Abbey Opera, UK; ‘Flora’ in Britten's The Turn of the Screw for Opera East Productions; and ‘Venus’ in both John Blow's Venus and Adonis at Cambridge University; and in Purcell's King Arthur for the Harvard Early Music Society.


Her passion and aptitude for new music has led to performances of works by Messiaen and Berio, and living composers such as Andrew Downes, Yehudi Wyner, John Harbison, Steve Reich, John Musto, Carson Cooman, and Delvyn Case. In 2008, she performed the World Premiere of Torrid Nature Scene by Nicholas Vines with the Firebird Ensemble in Cambridge MA, and then at the Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC.  She returned to Boston in 2010 to perform and record this work with the Calithumpian Consort at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory for Navona records.


She has performed as a recitalist with her husband, pianist David Trippett for numerous music clubs in the UK, and in venues such as the National Portrait Gallery, London; St Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall, London; Cambridge University; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Harvard University; Bristol Music Club; St. Martin's in the Bullring, Birmingham; King's Chapel, Boston; MIT Chapel; Taylor House, Boston; and St John's Church, Bowdoin Street, Boston. Most recently they gave a concert for Markson Pianos Concert Series. She has performed lute songs with Musicke in the Ayre at St Stephen's Church, Bristol, UK and the Holburne Museum, Bath, and chamber music with the Amabile Ensemble at Peterborough Cathedral, UK, and with the Himley Quartet at Wednesbury Art Gallery and Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge .


Paula has sung in the Boston Bach Cantata Series of the Chorus of Emmanuel Music under Craig Smith, John Harbison, Michael Beattie and Scott Metcalfe; with 'The Sixteen' under Harry Christophers; the 'Philharmonia Voices' under Andras Schiff at the Royal Festival Hall, London; and the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus under Harry Christophers, John Finney and John Nelson at Symphony Hall, Boston, and under Sir Roger Norrington at the BBC Proms 2007, on live television from the Royal Albert Hall, London.

In 2016, Paula founded The Cantabrigians, a professional, all-female vocal group singing mainly one-to-a-part. They have performed in Christ's Chapel, and Churchill Chapel, Cambridge, for Encore Concerts, Jesus College Music Society May Week Concert Series, and the Brandenburg Choral Festival of London.

 

Following an intensive film-making course at the New York Film Academy, Paula embarked on a long-term project of combining film images with songs by Andrew Downes.  A fusion of three elements, the films interpret the songs, just as the songs interpret the poetry.  See more on the Filmmaker page.

Paula's singing can now be heard on her Multitrack Promotional Recordings, made as part of her role as Creative Director of Lynwood Music, Publishers and Promoters of Andrew Downes.