Laura Wright, dubbed the ‘sporting soprano’, prepares for Suffolk homecoming concert
- Credit: Contributed
Suffolk soprano Laura Wright is staging a homecoming concert later this month.
Arts Editor Andrew Clarke talks to her about her new image and how her love of sport has changed her life.
In the ‘90s we had Sporty Spice, but truth be told, she never appeared particularly sporty but now we have Laura Wright, who has been dubbed the sporting soprano, who really has zealously embraced her sporting persona.
When she’s not singing she can be found pumping iron in the gym or out pounding the pavements or on the rugby field playing for her London-based women’s team The Slingbacks at Rosslyn Park. She has cycled for the British Legion and run the London Marathon for the Nordoff Robbins music charity.
For Laura Wright being sporty is not a promotional image, it’s a way of life. Her album, The Sound of Strength has been recorded as the perfect accompaniment to a run or a session in the gym and she has recently completed a nationwide schools tour trying to promote more youngsters, particularly girls, to play rugby.
As part of the tour she joined in a rugby game at the Alde Valley Academy in Leiston. This is part of a her active lifestyle but also part of her love for rugby. She is happy that times are changing: “All my family are incredibly sporty and it was my brothers (Seamus, Patrick and Liam) who introduced me to rugby.
“I tried to start a team at school, and although there was interest, there were a couple of barriers in it being a contact sport and not having someone to teach it. I never thought singing would be my career, I discovered that later. I loved sport. I thought I’d be a tennis player.”
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She believes that sport has helped redefine our modern view of femininity. “Girls can have muscles and that strength can be very feminine and sexy. I think the Olympics has massively helped the image of female sportswomen in the last few years and my new album has been recorded to help emphasise that. It’s the sort of album you can put on your headphones while you are at the gym.
“I go to the gym once or twice a day. I do yoga and cross-training which combines gymnastics, weights and circuit training. Strength is beauty, I love being a strong woman, I love having a strong body.”
The video which accompanied the first single, Barber’s Agnus Dei, which reveals flashes of tastefully shot nudity, then Laura wearing a revealing gym outfit has created a very different image of her than the one she project on her first two albums The Last Rose and Glorious.
She maintains the new image is closer to the real Laura Wright but the creation of the images was a by-product of the music rather than a deliberate effort to find a way to set herself apart from other young sopranos like Katherine Jenkins or Hayley Westenra.
“Over the past few years I have tried to create an identity through the natural link between sport and music. I am the official anthem singer for the England rugby internationals and what sportsmen go through in the run-up to a big game is very similar to life backstage before a show.
“That’s where the inspiration came from really and that’s where my passions in life lie, so I just went with it. The album is an honest reflection of who I am and what I am interested in. I think it would have felt weird to do anything other than that.
“I have always tried to be honest about myself and who I am and through my work I suppose I have created a different identity to others in the classical world. I love to throw open the windows, bring in some fresh air and reinvent how people see classical music.”
She said that she was attracted to adding production and a beat to some well known favourites. “I worked with trip-hop producers like Killahurtz and drum-and-bass guys Dan Vinci and Starkey. I love the contrasts on the album. I love the complex production and then over the top of that you get that pure angelic sound that, funnily enough, is closer to the All Angels sound than anything that was on my last two albums.
“I love that sound, that beautiful quality of voices blending together in harmony.”
She said that looking back now, the All Angels feel to some of the vocals, may have been a unconscious indication that she is missing her former band-mates. “One of the things that I really miss about not being in All Angels anymore are those opportunities to harmonise. So although I didn’t deliberately set out to create an All Angels feel to the album, looking at it now, I obviously recognised the fact that having a more produced album, full of different sounds, has allowed me to add in some of those harmonies that I used to love singing with the girls.
“Also we have created some backing tracks, so these new songs will have that big sound live as well.”
She said that the fact that they used electric instruments to create that aggressive sound that characterises the album also presents something of a dilemma when it comes to the live experience.
“For the live tour, I wanted to sing material from all three of my albums. I want light and shade, I don’t just want to do the full-on new stuff, so there will be a couple of songs from the new album that will be stripped back and just done with a guitar or cello. I love the cello. It creates a wonderful sound that lends itself to the newer stuff as well as the older material.
“Music today is all about going that step further and mixing genres. You see that across music and a wide range of different art forms – which is brilliant because it gives you as an artist the freedom to do whatever you want.”
Laura said that she was delighted with the way that the album had come out. “This is the first album where I have written some of the tracks for and I have been involved in the arrangements. It is a very personal project. Putting a heartbeat over the opening and closing tracks was my idea because I wanted a sense that there was a symmetry to the album and that music can indeed bring people to life.
“I have been very hands-on this time around which has been great.”
Laura Wright will be staging a home town concert at the Ipswich Corn Exchange on March 29 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at www.ipswichregent.com