Behind the Music of Steel Songbirds

Emily and Marilla met whilst working behind various bars in Warwickshire & Worcestershire. They will be familiar faces to many, having served behind the Moongazing Hare Bars at Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Bromyard FF and Warwick FF to name but a few! They both moved to Sheffield independently in 2016, and, whilst looking for company to explore the city wide folk scene, began to sing together in sessions. There may also have been some testing of acoustics in swimming pool changing rooms...

In 2017, Marilla entered the John Birmingham cup with her song 'Carry the Black Beast'. Emily was there to cheer her on, and during the afternoon perfomances, inspiration struck. When the competition was over, Emily propositioned Marilla about the possibility of writing a song together, and not long after, with a copious amount of giggling, 'T'internet Dates' became a reality. 

This year (2018) Emily and Marilla entered The John Birmingham Cup again, this time as a duo, with their second co-written song, 'Gifford and Spey'.

 

More about Marilla

Marilla remembers soaking up the rehearsal atmosphere and music at her mum’s amateur musicals, attempting to learn ballet and callisthenics, and being furious for not being allowed to be in Annie when she was six. She would sit in the front row at church running her finger along the words of the hymn book before she could read, happily la-la-la-ing along, and was very excited to finally be old enough to join the Junior Choir when she started school.

Marilla studied piano and trumpet, before finally starting singing lessons at age 15. She continued her love of singing with classical training and formal qualifications of Master of Music Performance degree from Victorian College of the Arts and Bachelor of Music from the University of Melbourne. She was the first singer to perform jazz in Concert Class, to the glee of fellow students and chagrin of certain professors. Marilla delighted in performing pieces for exams that were not in the usual repertoire, and her Masters recitals included performing with piano quintet, fellow singers, and with guitar, harp, flute and cello.

Marilla has performed with many orchestras and opera/theatre companies in her native Australia, and successfully competed in eisteddfoddau and competitions. She covered the lead role of the Governess in Britten's ‘The Turn of the Screw’ for Victorian Opera in 2010. In 2013 Marilla performed Poulenc's one woman opera La Voix Humaine with Lyric Opera of Melbourne, in a new arrangement for Soprano, Piano, Clarinet and Cello in the form of ‘Elle’.

"This is a tour-de-force for the soprano and Marilla Homes met every challenge without losing the beauty in her voice. More importantly, her voice was a means to express the raw emotions demanded by the composer. At times very sexy and at others writhing in anguish, every emotion of this abandoned woman was felt by the audience... One of the operatic highlights of the year"

Review by Graham Ford in Stage Whispers.

"Homes is outstanding as Elle, by turns catty and nostalgic, vitriolic and pathetic – and often very funny. It is a real occasion to see a young singer command a stage for an hour in such an intimate venue." Peter Rose, Australian Book Review

Marilla discovered the world of folk through the Sunday night Singing Sessions at the Dan O’Connell pub in Melbourne. Trad Irish sessions and a new community brought her to attend her first folk festival in 2010, the National Folk Festival in Canberra, and in the next 12 months she attended 16 more festivals. She was hooked!

Marilla has performed in a variety of roles and musical combinations at many festivals around Australia and Europe, including the Port Fairy; Woodford; Cobargo; Maldon; Newstead Live!; Mt Beauty, St Albans, Bromyard and Chippenham Folk Festivals, Tamworth Country Music Festival as part of the Andrew Clermont International Supper Club (also in Estonia), and been a tutor at the Daylesford Singers Festival and Maleny Celtic Winter School.

Marilla has released three full albums. Her debut album ‘Inner Whirl’ was released in 2011, and has been re-printed:

"I have no hesitation in recommending this CD. It showcases a talented performer in a variety of genres and would appeal to most listeners" Review for Inner Whirl by John Williams for Trad & Now.

In 2014 Marilla released two albums, ‘Angel Song’ – a solo a capella recording of her own songs, poems and vocal improv, and ‘Settler’s Wife’ with 5-piece funky folk band Marilla Homes and the House-men.

 

More about Emily

Emily grew up surrounded by music, with a piano playing Mum, two violin playing sisters, and with an accordion playing, Morris dancing Dad. Forays into folk music were inevitable. 


She began learning the violin at the age of 7 with a musical education grounded in the Suzuki Method. Emily played violin with various orchestras, including The Birmingham Schools Orchestra's and National Children's Orchestra. By 2011, Emily was the viola player in the 'Oxford Four' string quartet.


Her years working in the pub industry brought her to work at, and then manage The Hollybush in Alcester, where Emily was thoroughly immersed in folk music and sessions, and hosted the Alcester Folk Festival.

Emily studied archaeology at the University of Sheffield, and while there she sang with the Gospel Choir and jazz band. 2016 saw a return to Sheffield and archaeology. Being the folk hub it is, Sheffield offered a plethora of music and sessions to get involved in, which Emily gets to as often as her work allows.

2017 brought the beginnings of Emily's song writing career, and the birth of Steel Songbirds, as well as Emily's first experience as a 'Tommy' for Shropshire Sharpshins Rapper at Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

 

©2018 by Steel Songbirds. 
Photography - Piers Cawley