Elin Manahan Thomas biography

Elin Manahan Thomas

Last updated: 18 November 2008

The Swansea soprano's love of Bach brought her to the attention of the Monteverdi Choir

Elin Manahan Thomas' clear, pure voice lends itself perfectly to the performance of baroque music, for which she has become increasingly well-known.

While a pupil at Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr in Swansea, she sang in the Swansea Bach Choir and the National Youth Choir of Wales.

I'd love to draw people to share my world of music making and, of course, this incredible music. It's about communicating emotions and showing people just how human and exciting these pieces are. This is the music I believe in with a passion.

Elin Manahan Thomas

In 1995 she won a choral scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, where she studied Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic. She graduated in 1998 with a first-class degree. Although she had funding to pursue her doctoral studies, "I already had an inkling that it wasn't the life for me. I remember thinking that, rather than living and breathing books, I was looking forward too much to my scone and tea in the university library at 11!"

At Cambridge she had regularly performed as a soloist, and appeared on many of the choir's CDs and on BBC Radio 3's evensong broadcasts. "Clare is choir non-stop, six days a week," she later recalled. "Although it can be an emotional rollercoaster, I learned so much. I wouldn't have gone any further as a singer without my time at Clare."

In 1999 the Monteverdi Choir invited her to audition for Sir John Eliot Gardiner. "I honestly thought it was someone playing a practical joke, because a friend took the call and I couldn't believe it," she said. "I sang some Bach the following day for John Eliot, he put down his newspaper and listened, and that was it - I was in!"

She joined the choir for Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, a project to perform Bach's 199 church cantatas in venues across the world. "It was an incredible journey. I was being paid to do what I loved doing."

She also performed with other professional choirs including The Sixteen, Polyphony and the Gabrieli Consort. A financial award from the Arts Council of Wales took her to the Royal College of Music, where she studied for two years as a postgraduate student and was awarded the Ted Moss and Bertha Stach-Taylor Lieder Prize.

She made headline news as the first singer in almost 300 years to perform Bach's aria Alles Mit Gott, a birthday ode written in 1713 and discovered in Weimar in 2005. She counts the composer amongst her favourites: "I'm a Bach, Handel and Purcell girl. They're at the top of my list!"

Elin signed to UCJ at the age of 29. The music industry giant, which also has Katherine Jenkins, Aled Jones and the Fron Choir on its books, resurrected its Heliodor imprint for Elin and other core classical artists.

Opera roles include Pamina (Mozart's The Magic Flute), Belinda (Dido and Aeneas), the Governess (Britten's Turn Of The Screw), Ninetta (Mozart's La Finta Semplice), Arminda (Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera) and Despina (Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte).

Elin signed a five album deal with record label UCJ, which resurrected its Heliodor imprint for her and other core classical artists.

Tom Lewis, UCJ's head of A&R, said, "Elin's signing came about by a chance meeting, but when she came and performed for us we were absolutely knocked out by the beauty and purity of her sound. Her voice is simply stunning and we had to sign her straight away."

Her first release on Heliodor, Eternal Light, was released in July 2007. The repertoire choice reflected her desire to bring baroque music to the widest possible audience. "Most people think of baroque as a period that seems incredibly distant and remote," she says. "Yet the tunes are remarkably familiar today."

Elin also appears on TV, and has presented coverage of events such as the National Eisteddfod and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. In 2010 she sat on the jury of the Choir of the Year competition.

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