Lesley Birchall - Soprano
Lesley started choral singing in the late 1970’s, when she joined a ladies’ voice choir which specialised in competing in music festivals, including the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
In 1982 she joined the KVU Singers, a 65 plus mixed voice choir in North Yorkshire. She stayed with them until moving to France two years ago. Also during that time she sang for four years with the famous Huddersfield Choral Society, performing large scale choral works. She also sang for 18 years with a ladies’ choir formed by a group of 12 friends, giving regular concerts in north/west Yorkshire.
Singing has remained an important part of Lesley’s life here in France. In addition to being a member of La Voie Mélodieuse, she has sung with the Vocal Ensemble of Indre and performs regularly with A Capella, a mixed voice choir based in the Neuvy St. Sepulchre/Cluis area.
Christianne Braspenning – Soprano
Christianne’s musical career began at the age of 7, when she began recorder lessons. At 9 she started to play the flute, and was soon playing in Harmony Orchestras in Waalwijk, Holland. In the late 1980’s she began choral singing in the local area. In the early 1990’s she studied flute at the Brabants conservatoire, when she also learned the double bass. During this time she sang in several large-scale choral works, including Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem and Poulenc’s Gloria.
Between 1999 and 2002, whilst travelling around France in a gypsy wagon, she was a travelling street musician in the duo ‘Tourdion’. She settled permanently in France in 2002 and began to teach the flute.
Christianne began directing choirs in 2008. These include Mille Chants from Faux la Montagne. She also works as a choral animateur, under the auspices of her business, Opus-Inconnu. She has led choral workshops lasting from one day to a week including, in August 2013, a week-long residential workshop at the Chateau de La Lande, working on Chansons des Roses by Morten Lauridsen. She also provides practical musical experiences for children between 0 and 11 years in schools and creches in the region.
She currently studies singing with Jean-Paul Rigaud.
She created La Voie Mélodieuse in January 2012.
Kate Coulon - Soprano
Kate arrived in the Berry region nine years ago (2006) to be close to her husband’s family. Teacher by profession, she took part, in England, in amateur productions of musicals including Oklahoma, Calamity Jane, My Fair Lady and Oliver! She also performed with the Axe Vale Amateur Operatic Society in the south west of England, taking part in works by Gilbert and Sullivan.
In France, Kate became a member of two choirs: ‘Enjoy Gospel’ in Chateauroux and ‘Acapella’ in Neuvy-Cluis, where she met Lesley and Geoff. With her English friend Pippa, she formed the duo ‘Les Middletons’, singing repertoire in the swing style of the nineteen forties and fifties.
Kate finds great pleasure in singing with “La Voie Mélodieuse”, an intimate ensemble, she particularly enjoys the songs of the Renaissance.
Geoffrey Eke – Bass
Geoff started singing ‘seriously’ at school when he gained an early excellent choral education as a chorister in the St Alban’s Cathedral Choir.
His family were, and remain, heavily involved with Light Opera and he sang in several such operas including Oklahoma, Student Prince, The Vagabond King, The Gondoliers and Iolanthe.
He was a member of the choir for the Eric Robinson BBC production of Prince Igor in the programme Music for You at the Royal Festival Hall, London. In recent years, Geoff has sung the Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall, London, and twice at Perigueux, France.
He has sung with two Gospel Choirs at Chateauroux and also sings with mixed voice choir A Capella at Neuvy St. Sepulchre/Cluis. Singing in a more intimate group such as La Voie Mélodieuse is a new experience for Geoff, which he is enjoying very much, although he feels that many of his best performances have been heard in the baths of Harpenden Rugby Club!
Paul Freeman - Tenor
Paul first started singing seriously at his Grammar school in Liverpool - about the time of the Wars of the Roses - first in Britten's 'Noyes Fludde', then Bach's 'Christmas Oratorio'. Processing down the staves as further 'parts' were added each year, before topping the Britten/Bach sandwich with 'St Nicolas'.
A career in broadcasting, subject to the vagaries of unpredictable shift patterns and the frequent need to work away from home, effectively put paid to the opportunity for any serious choral singing for the next 30 years!
Once freed from the shackles of gainful employ, and happily retired to France, he became an original member of Chorale Vocalise, in Dun le Palestel where he enthusiastically embraced (and embraces) the challenges of a repertoire of items from all over the civilised world (and the USA).
Some months ago he was kidnapped by Christianne and brought to La Voie Melodieuse rehearsals in the back of a closed van. He has since found it to be entirely to his liking, and eschews the chance of escape, despite currently being introduced to new songs somewhat faster than he can learn them!
Anne Gravereaux- Alto
Anne has always liked music and singing, but it was only when she arrived in Canada in the 70’s that she started taking voice training. She then joined several choirs in Hamilton (Ontario). Among them were the St Joseph’s Parish Choir (who recorded 2 CDs and toured in Italy), the Mohawk Singers and the Bach Elgar Choir, with a repertoire of major sacred music works. Since her return to France in 2006, Anne has sung with L’Ensemble Vocal du Blanc et L’Ensemble Vocal de l’Indre. She is happy to sing now, in Argenton, with La Voie Mélodieuse.
Michael Growcott - Bass
Michael made his singing debut at the age of five, standing on a chair, singing a setting of an AA Milne poem. Encouraged by this early success, he continued singing in children’s choirs, both at his church and in school. He became a treble soloist with his secondary school choir and with the local choral society until his voice broke at the late age of 16. Whilst his soloist days were over, he continued to sing in the bass section of choirs all over the world: in China, South Africa, the Falkland Islands, Malaysia, Belgium (Brussels Choral Society) and St Lucia.
Returning to the UK in 1998, he sang with the Foreign Office choir and with one of the top London choirs, the Whitehall Choir. He has recorded works with the Brussels Choral Society and the Whitehall Choir. He returned briefly to solo work at a carol concert in St Martin in the Fields in London.
Michael also directed choirs in South Africa and at the Foreign Office in London, but he prefers to sing rather than to wave his arms about.
Since retiring to France he has sung with the Ensemble Vocale de l’Indre and is currently singing with the Ensemble Vocale du Blanc. La Voie Mélodieuse represents a new challenge, with a varied repertoire and no place to hide.
Wendy Hall - Alto
Wendy started singing at school in Stratford upon Avon, but didn’t begin to sing in adult choirs until she moved to France in 2005. She then joined A Capella de Neuvy et Cluis, where she is still a member. She sang for about 18 months with a chorale group in Montchevrier before joining La Voie Melodieuse in October 2016.
She was a teacher for 24 years in the UK, firstly teaching maths, P.E. and dance in mainstream secondary schools, then, for the final 14 years of her career, in special schools working with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
She has always enjoyed music of many genres, including classical, opera, folk and modern contemporary, but considers the highlight of her singing experience to be taking part in Handel’s Messiah in Périgueux in 2010.
She is looking forward to the new challenges provided by singing with La Voie Melodieuse.
Tjitske Lubach - Alto
Tjitske has been involved in music since her childhood. When she was seven years old she attended music school, where she took recorder lessons and piano lessons and sang in a children's choir, conducted by André Kaart. A performance of a children's musical, including a TV recording, was a highlight during this time.
Because of her work, many relocations were necessary. In each town she sought opportunities to sing. Various choirs followed, from a gospel choir to Het Nijmeegs Vrouwenkoor. She took singing lessons from Margit Schermann.
In 2011, following her relocation to France, she participated in a Chant o Chateau at the Chateau de Lalande, where she met Christianne Braspenning, following which she joined La Voie Mélodieuse.
She likes different music genres, from blues to classical music and is fond of folk and klezmer music, which is based on Jewish celebration music. Singing is a relaxing pastime for her and she is very happy to have found La Voie Mélodieuse in France.
Christine Morier-Genoud - Alto
On the farm, in the Berry region, where she grew up, Christine listened to Bach Cantatas and played the piano from the age of two. She began learning the piano seriously, with her teacher Jean Ferragut, in Saint-Amand-Montrond. Under his tutelage Christine became a prize winner at the nationally important Royaume de la Musique competition.
In 1971, having won a prize for excellence in the piano class of Mr Durand at the music school in Moulins-sur-Allier, Christine went on to study at the national conservatoire of the Lyon region, where she obtained a school teaching diploma in the city’s primary schools. Whilst there Christine sang in the choirs of Lyon Opera House (including performances of Bach’s St John Passion, and Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher, the oratorio by Honegger) and also in “Le Cantrel” a mixed choir directed by Christian Wagner. In 1976, Christine lived in Tours and was then a musician for 10 years in the ensemble Jacques Moderne (director Jean-Pierre Ouvrard) specializing in music of the Renaissance. In 1982, she moved to the Parisian suburbs, enrolled in musicology at the University of Paris/Sorbonne and obtained the C.A.P.E.S. (secondary teaching qualification) and then continued her musical teaching in colleges.
In the summer of 2008 Christine moved permanently to the La Châtre area of Berry, where she has since sung with many choirs. Currently she sings under Catherine Gaiffe in the ladies’ choir of the Chateauroux music school, and, since January 2016, has enjoyed being a part of La Voie Mélodieuse.
Augustin Renaudin - Tenor
As a child, I studied music theory and piano. After many years, I took up music again, learning the clarinet and beginning to sing in choirs. My first venture into choral singing was in the choir of the town of Boulogne Billancourt, “La Lupinelle”, where I sang works from the classical repertoire including the Requiems of Mozart and Fauré, the Nelson Mass and Theresienmesse of Haydn, as well as his “Seven Last Words from the Cross”. I also performed more contemporary choral works including Benjamin Britten’s cantata “St. Nicolas”.
Between 2010 and 2012 I was a member of the concert wind band of Boulogne Billancourt as a clarinettist, where I also sang in the church choir of St. Thérèse. As well as religious services, this choir sang motets and short works at special events.
In 2016 to 2017 I sang in the choir “Musicanti” under the direction of English director Peter Hicks, with whom I sang the German Requiem of Brahms. Since November 2017 I have sung at the conservatoire of Argenton-sur-Creuse under the direction of Catherine Gaiffe.
Christelle Schmit - Soprano
Christelle took her first musical steps at the age of 8, when she began to learn the flute and then the piano. She also took violin lessons at the Conservatoire of Cachan, in the Paris region. It was at this age that she discovered the emotional power of music.
As an adolescent she was a drummer with the municipal wind band of the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Several years later, fascinated by rhythm, she took percussion lessons at the Conservatoire of Chateauroux.
She has sung all her life, coming from a family which loves singing, and she has shared the pleasure of choral singing with them since the age of 10. Family gatherings large and small have always been accompanied by joyful singing.
In 2006 Christelle travelled to Canada to take part in a franco-québécois choral concert – an exceptional and emotional experience.
Recently she has sung in various classical and gospel choirs in the Indre. She now has great enjoyment in singing with La Voie Mélodieuse, which she joined at the end of 2014. She feels that she has blossomed in this new style of singing and she takes immense pleasure in the social life of the ensemble.
To Christelle, to sing is a need rather than a passion. She says, “When you hear me sing, know that I am happy!”
Damian Trafford - Tenor
Damian started singing as a boy treble at the age of 8 in his school chapel choir, singing Latin Masses.
Many years later, having sung in a number of choirs, he was a founder member of the highly successful Manchester Chamber Choir. After his move to Lancashire in North West England in 1991 he studied singing with several teachers in Manchester over the next 20 years.
He sang leading roles in several Savoy Operas, in addition to singing Danilo in The Merry Widow, Nemorino in L’Elixor d’Amore, and Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon. He also sang as Evangelist in Bach’s St John Passion and Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah and other oratorios and masses, as well as recitals of English and French Song and German Lieder. He is currently a member of the Ensemble Vocal Départemental de la Creuse.
He loves Renaissance and Baroque music above all, but also the extensive repertoire of English part songs from the late 19th and early 20th century, and singing these in a small group.