Photograph by Michael Jones
Lauren Kinsella was born in Dublin, Ireland. She was encouraged to sing at an early age at a school that supported music and taking singing lessons, she would take solo parts in classical choral music. Lauren went to the Royal Academy of Music in London and received an MA in Jazz Singing and Composition and while there was awarded the year’s Kenny Wheeler Prize. In 2016, she was named UK Vocalist of the Year at the Jazz FM Awards. Together with pianist Chris Hyson, Lauren performs as Snowpoet. Here they are in 2022 with If I Miss A Star at Birmingham Symphony Hall.
Lauren's interest in words started early – her father owned a bookshop where Lauren would help out and she explored and collected poetry and biography books when she was there. In one interview she said “I like improvising with poems because the very nature of their structure lends itself to music. Visual imagery is a very strong tool for a singer - we can't see our instrument, per se, so we have to use our mind's eye. I look at some words or passages, and it jumps back at me as sound. This could be in a letter, in a poem, in anything, really. It excites me, and I want to sing through it, play through it, understand the words and their meaning through music."
Lauren and Chris are the core members of Snowpoet, but at times they are joined by others. In this video from 2021 they are in the company of many of today's talented UK jazz musicians. Here they are playing With You at a gig from The Cockpit, this time with Chris playing electric bass and keyboards and with Matt Robinson (piano + synth); Josh Arcoleo (saxophone); Alice Zawadski (violin); Rob Luft (guitar) and Dave Hamblett ( drums) :
Snowpoet's album Thought You Knew on Edition Records was named as one of the best albums of the year by the National Public Radio USA in 2018.
Other projects see Lauren constantly developing the way she can use her voice. Her website talks of her “exploring the different types of vocabulary connected with vocal and instrumental sound. From singing to speech, utterance to lexicon, syllabic deconstruction to stream of consciousness, Lauren’s work celebrates the human voice in multi-faceted ways”. If you look at the Music page on her website you can get a taste of the variety of other albums in which she has been involved.
Over a 2 year period from 2014-2016, Improvised Music Company (IMC) and The Ark DUBLIN worked together with Lauren Kinsella, Shane Latimer and Patrick Sanders to create a "music improvisation and visual adventure" for children entitled 'Monster Music Improv'. They talk about the project here.
Lauren Kinsella can be heard on radio and at UK and European venues and festivals, including festivals that reflect the scope of her work such as the Dublin Literary Festival, European Jazznights (Oslo), Jazzy Colours (Paris),the Belfast Literary Festival and the Cardiff Poetry Festival. Lauren also lectures at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, The Royal Academy of Music, London and Leeds College of Music, and she has taught masterclasses in improvisation at several universities including Newcastle University, Dublin City University and Huddersfield Contemporary University.
Here is Lauren with saxophonist Trish Clowes, the London Sinfonietta, Will Sach (bass) and Saleem Raman (kit) and Carousel Trees in 2022. Trish says: ""Carousel Trees is a reworking of a standard I’m fond of, I’ll Be Seeing You. It’s a great piece, and very enjoyable to improvise on. The music and lyrics were written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal ..... To write Carousel Trees, I first took the original lyrics, and reorganised the words – this process is actually called a ‘found poem’, a term which has a nice ring to it I think. I also kept the pitches associated with the words from the original standard, and so I had a group of new melodies. Then around these, I added fragments of phrases from the original melody, reworked into basslines/riffs. Knowing that I was writing to feature Lauren Kinsella fairly early on also allowed me to write for her unique voice and endlessly creative approach to improvisation."
Lauren will be performing with the Irish group Roamer in Germany and with pianist Kit Downes and saxophonist Robin Fincker for the album launch of the trio Shadowlands to a sold out performance in Budapest in March. In April she will be with Ruth Goller's Skylla for their Skyllumina album launch in Italy and London. It's a busy schedule - Lauren's gig listing is here.
Sandy Brown Jazz February 2024