As a native of Ottawa, Canada, Allyson Devenish began her musical career at the Conservatoire de Musique du Quebec followed by a B.Mus from Oberlin College (Ohio, USA), and at The Royal Academy of Music in London. She’s worked in live and recorded performance settings across Europe, Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean as well as in the UK.
Many of you will be familiar with Allyson’s excellent work through her roles as composer, arranger and musical director for I Have A Dream (2013) and Water, Bread and Salt (2014). She is also the musical director and arranger for our 2015 township styled production Steering Through Stars by Paula B Stanic. Given her illustrious career to date and her close association with Tangle and Tangle Company, we thought it high time for a catch up…
For Steering Through Stars you’re arranging a cappella songs from around the Atlantic Circle – Brazil, South Africa, Canada and Trinidad & Tobago. From the thousands of songs available, how do you go about selecting those that will be performed?
Anna and I discussed a variety of themes that would be running through this project. I don’t want to give anything away (!). Knowing that each of these countries are rich in folk music, I followed the direction of the script, identified the themes that came up and then got my head down and did a lot of listening!
You’re the creative and directive force of a cappella group nitroVOX. Tell us more about that!
nitroVOX began as the vocal “arm” of NITRO (Black Music Theatre). Since the departure of their previous Artistic Director, Felix Cross, we have struck out on our own. nitroVOX tells stories of the African diaspora, mainly through song. We are actors who sing and it is with this singing that we tell the stories that are at the very core of all our work.
You are also the creator of Syncopation. What’s your mission for the chamber ensemble?
Our tag-line is “voices unheard, voices undiscovered”. As a trained classical musician, I had spent many, many years studying repertoire from the Western European canon. It was a delight to find so much music from the African diaspora written at these same times. I just want people to hear it, discover it as I have, and pass it on!
You’ve worked on and led a number of projects, productions and groups. What is your proudest professional achievement?
Conducting nitroVOX on the Royal Festival Hall stage, celebrating Maya Angelou (London Literature Festival).
You’re a regular collaborate with Tangle. What does Tangle mean to you?
I like that Tangle celebrates the artistic wealth of the African diaspora. I’m part of that.
And finally, describe yourself in 3 words…
Short, funny, die-hard procrastinator (oops – 5…)