Musical magician is on a mission
Juliet Russell, the hugely talented and inspirational leader of Vocal Explosion community choir has provided some insight into what makes her tick.
Juliet Russell possesses a rare talent of magically conjuring up music and phonetic sounds and ‘words’ whilst out walking in the woods and enjoying seascapes whilst communing with nature.
She wears many hats; that of composer, musical director, singer and founder of Vocal Explosion.
As a vocalist, her voice has been described as ‘brilliantly haunting’ by The Stage, and in the last 20 years she has taken her extraordinary sound around the world.
Juliet’s music has been both heard and sung by over 40,000 people in over 30 countries and her compositions have been used in film, TV, commissions for royal visits, plus radio, theatre, dance and football stadiums.
She grew up in Southwell Minster, a small town in Nottinghamshire, and has now been residing in Hastings for some years.
Juliette became interested in music at a young age.
An untrained vocalist, she got a job with Divas Contemporary Dance Company, who were commissioned to sing in Polish using an open-throat technique which informed a lot of her work.
Juliette was also influenced by African music, which influenced depth of tone and a sound where the voice can sound like man, woman and child at different points.
One of her earliest memories is walking past a friend’s house and hearing Pierre Akendengué, an African musician, playing.
Harmonies and energy in world music appeal and she believes that music is incredibly spiritual and can give us a glimpse of God.
As a freelance visual artist, then aged 26, Juliette went to Brighton and gained a first class degree in Music/Visual practice. She was invited to teach there after completion of the degree.
Part of her degree work involved creating a choir which gained paid work and received national acclaim. It was described as a ‘tribal choir’ and Juliet was writing all of the music, influenced by global cultures and a desire for trying to seek the sound of ancient Britain with spiritual overtones.
She writes pieces either in solid days or over a period of several weeks.
She has been involved in compositional work – music in the landscape, site-specific projects (large-scale and small-scale projects including writing for local artists during Hastings’ Coastal Currents arts festival.
She has toured with other artists, visiting places such as Mexico and Poland.
Juliette was guest composer for the annual midwinter lantern festival in Brighton ‘Burning the Clocks’ and guest composer and performer at Chichester Festivities (Festival of the Arts) opening event. She has acted as Musical Director and ongoing mentor for four years.
Juliette was soloist for the National Theatre in The Bell, a major international touring production and has performed in front of thousands.
She also performed on the roof of the National Theatre amongst Anthony Gormley’s sculptures, has produced a number of solo and choir albums and has even performed a piece for the Queen.
Juliette says it is nature and spiritual experiences.
More than just a choir, Vocal Explosion is the umbrella name for vocal activities – mass sings, children/adults with special educational needs, two world music choirs and Hastings Gospel/Soul choir.
Juliette will be leading from the front when Vocal Explosion holds its popular candle-lit Mid Winter Concert at St Clements Church, in the Old Town, on Saturday December 9.