FEATURE: Spotlight On Sam Barton

Brian Butler September 4, 2021

Sam Barton is the newest arrival on the Brighton choral scene as he he takes up the baton as  MD at Resound Male Voice Choir.

His musical pedigree is impeccable and he has a strong desire to deliver diversity. Born in South Manchester he admits he wasn’t a child prodigy but had an early interest in music, playing piano and double bass in a youth orchestra as well as singing in a youth choir as a teenager. He was a founder member of the Halle Youth Orchestra and its Choir and at 18 in 2005, he appeared at the BBC Proms, singing in the Dream of Gerontius.

With the Halle he toured Germany and also Edinburgh – “ I was Bass 2 as I could sing the low notes – it never occurred to me that I was actually a tenor, but my voice worked its way northwards”, he tells me. After 5 years in Canada, he moved to London and singing teacher Zoe Souh helped him find his true voice.

Sam had studied music at York Univerity and realised a soloist double bass  career wasn’t a reality. “I wanted to be a conductor at an early age”. He went to the University of Toronto and studied choral conducting.”Hilary Apfelstadt was my wonderful teacher”. Alongside a small group of other conducting students he helped to run the 4 main choirs at the university, which also had a well-respected opera school. Using his 5-year student visa to the full he freelanced with choirs and at St James’ Cathedral but did a lot of professional singing too. In 2015 he moved to London and then Brighton in 2017.

He admits he struggled to get work and ended up as a Brighton bus driver for 18 months to pay the bills. But in 2019 he took the plunge and quit the buses. He quite quickly got work and now is involved with 5 choirs and as rehearsal pianist. His groups include ones in Worthing, Ashdown and West Norwood in London.”They’re all very different, including one choir where people join who have never sung before. They all have different styles and repertoires – for instance Resound is a tenor and bass choir.I’ve not worked with lower voice choirs since university so that was an attraction. It’s a lovely sound”.

”Resound is a choir that wants to be challenged – they have an eclectic repertoire and that interests me.My aim with them is to achieve more diversity”. One route he plans is to present more women composers- for Resound’s 10th anniversary Christmas concert this December he plans a programme that looks back and forward, including a piece by Trans composer Mari Esabel Valverde. And he plans to explore the wide range of non-binary composers who get little exposure.

Having come out at uni to no-one’s surprise, he tells me that his advice to a young Sam would be: “accept who you are and just deal with it. Be open-minded about what you could do and stop interrupting people!”

Exciting times ahead for the choir and for us the audience. Resound’s Christmas concerts will be at St George’s Kemptown on 17/18 December and Scene will be there to review.