Ian Aitkenhead


Ian AitkenheadWhat is your favourite Sixteen anecdote?
I love the one where Harry, John Bickley, Chris and David Roy were in Salisbury. No. Not Salisbury. Aix-en-Provence. Was that it? Or was it…hang on…I’ll remember in a minute…a bar in Valladolid, hiding under the table? No. That was another one. Or was that when the cat came on stage during the Allegri Miserere? And Harry said “Greg keeps calling me Christopher…”…and I said “Who’s Greg?”… and then the lady thought I was Eamonn and was quite put out that I had no idea who she was… and Matt said “IT’S NOT PECORINO!” … oh, yes. Good times.

What do you do to relax in your spare time?
I read – no particular genre, I’ll devour almost anything with words. When on tour, I enjoy whiling away the hours between rehearsal and concert playing Perudo (the ancient Inca game of liar dice) with my colleagues. I also like playing poker. I’m a regular pub quizzer, an armchair sports fan, and I run occasionally.

If you could perform in any venue, what / where would it be?
I’ve been lucky enough to sing in all sorts of venues which have been special for many reasons: some, like Sydney Opera House, speak for themselves. But I’ve never done a stadium gig, so I guess Wembley or Murrayfield would be dream venues!

Is there a piece you have fallen in love with since performing it with The Sixteen?
This year’s Choral Pilgrimage finishes with Vox patris caelestis by William Mundy – I always come off stage thinking that’s an amazing piece. But I feel that about so much of the repertoire we perform. I genuinely feel it is a privilege to be allowed to sing such fine music with such talented colleagues.

What has been the most challenging piece of music you have ever sung?
Different pieces present very different challenges. Singing a single plainsong line by candlelight while processing around a dark medieval church with an uneven floor can be as much of a challenge as the most angular and unpredictable contemporary music. I think the most challenging piece I’ve sung with The Sixteen, though, would probably be Figure humaine by Poulenc.

Does anyone in the choir have any annoying or unusual habits?!
Yes. That’s all I’m going to say.

Who were you, or would you be nervous to meet?
I think I was probably very nervous when I first met the legendary countertenor James Bowman – but he (like most of my singing heroes) is such a charming, engaging and friendly person that the nerves were gone in an instant.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t a singer?
That’s an easy one, with a boring answer. I read Law at university, and if I hadn’t decided to take a short break from that to ‘get the singing out of my system’ (a short break which so far has lasted over 15 years…) I’d be a lawyer.

What would your ultimate desert island disc be?
I’d opt for the complete back catalogue of Pink Floyd. If you were going to force me to pick one disc, I would have to toss a coin to choose between Wish You Were Here and Animals.

What would you eat for your last supper?
Lamb, washed down with a full-bodied red wine, or possibly a hoppy American-style IPA beer. Although if my last supper was a last breakfast, I’d definitely have Eggs Benedict. And if I was allowed a dessert (for the supper, not for the breakfast), it would have to be something ridiculous like a Knickerbocker Glory.

And the obligatory question…What football team do you support?!
Leicester City.