Duet Diana are a classical vocal duet, formed of Sarah Lenney (soprano) and Katie Morel-Orchard (mezzo).
Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
Katie: Well, my first singing teacher, Mai Donoghue, was my first inspiration in terms of singing as she had a beautiful voice and I would listen to her in lessons and want to find that mature, classical sound for myself. The real turning point though was seeing by chance the film production of ‘La Boheme’ starring Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko on television when I was fourteen! That was my first taste of opera and I was well and truly hooked.
Sarah: I really think a good teacher can inspire you like nobody else. Katie and I were both lucky enough to study with Diana Palmerston at Chetham’s School of Music and she was the one who was with us as our voices began to properly mature and change. Without her I think the pressure might have got too much, but she had total faith in us both and was always on hand with advice and encouragement.
Katie: I totally agree – in such a full on environment and especially away from home, I’m not sure we would have carried on pursuing music as a career without her guidance and support.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Sarah: We’ve only just really started our career! I would say staying focused even when it seems like you’re one very small fish in a very big pond and keeping your drive and love for the music strong enough to keep going. This can be a tough industry and there’s a lot of competition.
Katie: Another challenge is simply living up to your own standards – it seems musicians are universally hard on themselves and feeling like you’re not good enough can be so isolating as you try to succeed. That’s what is amazing about being in a duet with your best friend though, I highly recommend it!
Which performances are you most proud of?
Katie: Our first full recital as a duet was at The Clock in Marylebone and it went as well as we hoped it would, which is rare! The reception we got and the thrill from singing with each other really confirmed that we were doing the right thing.
Sarah: Yes, that was a very special evening for us. It’s a beautiful venue – we performed in their music room and the whole event was stylish and really fun.
How do you make repertoire choices from season to season?
Sarah: We are always finding new music and sending it to each other, and constantly looking for new repertoire. We like a huge variety of genres really and are complete music nerds, so always chatting about our latest obsessions. Recently we went to see Handel’s ‘Faramondo’ and were really inspired by the duets in that, so we went away and started learning them for our next recital.
Katie: Yes, there are some beautiful moments in that opera. We always try, also, to really figure out what each event needs in terms of repertoire, especially if it is for something specific, and we tailor our rep to what each client wants.
Who are you favourite musicians?
Katie: I adore Sarah Connolly – her voice is completely mesmerizing and so full of emotion. The first singer who truly inspired me though was the mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham for how she can communicate and express herself on stage, both through acting and singing.
Sarah: Barbara Bonney – I listen to her compulsively!
What do you consider to be the most important advice to impart to aspiring or young musicians?
Sarah: Don’t give up, and embrace your quirks – they might be what people remember about you! Stay true to yourself as a performer and take care of yourself, don’t expect perfection but think about really bringing something new to the music instead, and performing honestly.
Katie: Completely agree. I would also say that your physical and mental health is so important and is often overlooked. Working as a performer is a challenge for your self-esteem and it’s hard to keep up creativity and ambition at the same time – we would really recommend paying a visit to ‘The Floatworks’ in Vauxhall for this purpose. We love using that to take a deep breath, release tension in the body and open your mind back up. Georgina Sutton also runs a really inspiring fitness programme specifically for musicians that is innovative and cool.
Where would you like to be in ten years’ time?
Sarah: Making all the money I need from singing!
Katie: Still singing with Sarah, having figured life out a bit more.
What is you idea of perfect happiness?
Katie: Oh wow…big question…probably to be around people I’m inspired by.
Sarah: I prefer the term ‘content’ over happy…but I’ll let you know when I find out!
What is your most treasured possession?
Sarah: A necklace from my Grandfather that I never take off, and my Dad’s watch.
Katie: A huge box of photographs from when I was younger – no other possession will ever make me happier.
Duet Diana are a classical vocal duet, formed of Sarah Lenney (soprano) and Katie Morel-Orchard (mezzo). Sarah is a recent graduate from the Royal College of Music and most recently performed in the chorus for Opera Holland Park. Katie is about to graduate from the Royal Academy of Music and has been working on performances around London of a new experimental opera by Anat Ben-David. Sarah and Katie became friends whilst attending Chetham’s School of Music and remained close throughout their university degrees, deciding finally to form a professional duet. The main aim of this venture is to bring classical music to a wider audience and to promote wellness and health within the industry as a whole.