Fans may recognize Rachel from All Angels or one of her many stage performances, recently in Rock of Ages and the Sound of Music. With her big smile and honest performances Rachel’s fan base continues to expand.
Like with many Rachel’s love for music started early. “Growing up in Malta was lovely – I had a very happy childhood which was full of music. Malta has influenced my music and my love for the arts in a very profound way.” She took ballet, piano and also drama lessons. “One day (at approximately age eight) I went to an audition for Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat here in Malta, got selected and loved every second of the performances! I knew from that moment that I loved music and the stage!” That first audition lead to many more and at twelve Rachel made her professional debut as Annie. She also began to study with soprano Gillian Zammit and performed in numerous other workshops and master classes. “I kept on taking part in national theatre performances throughout my teenage years.” Her first degree was in Psychology but “Once that was done I knew I needed to follow my true passion which was singing.”
Rachel continued her education in England completing a Master’s degree in Musical Theatre at Guildford School of Acting. “I had just turned 20 when I moved to the UK so I was already quite mature and ready to explore what living overseas was like – I was very eager to learn and focus on musical theatre full-time. Being in the UK brought a deeper level of maturity and knowledge to my singing where I could focus on my passion full-time.” After graduation Rachel landed an agent which opened doors for her to appear in shows and eventually replace Laura Wright in All Angels.
Still at times Rachel was homesick. “It was only when I was living in the UK that I realized how much I missed certain things I had been taking for granted – family, the sea, the weather, friends, the close proximity of everything, the security…. I would often write songs in the UK about how I longed to see my boyfriend (now husband) or how I was missing my family and friends in Malta.” Despite the difficulty of studying and working so far away Rachel insists that she “thoroughly enjoyed” the experience. She tells us, “Now that I am married and once again living in Malta, I try to visit and perform in the UK whenever I can.”
One of Rachel’s best memories from her UK years is her time with All Angels which she says was “one of the most exciting and thrilling experiences of my life.” For her the journey began as a fan. “I remember purchasing All Angels’ first album when it had first been launched and I was immediately interested in this sound. I bought it when I was attending a random singing course in the UK and would have the CD on repeat back at home when I returned to Malta. I had never realized that classical-crossover was my niche until that very moment when I heard the blend of their four beautiful, pure voices.” Nearly four years later Rachel was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to audition for the group that influenced her so greatly. “I remember reading about the audition to join the All Angels quartet whilst browsing through The Stage newspaper in the park. It said that one of the girls, Laura Wright, had decided to leave. After a few weeks of nerve-wracking auditions, I couldn’t believe that I was the chosen soprano to complete the new line-up!” The friendships were instantaneous. “I immediately clicked with the other three girls – Daisy Chute, Charlotte Ritchie and Melanie Nakhla – and just found it so strange that I was actually once their no.1 fan, owning all three of their albums.” She describes the other members as not only great friends but “incredibly down to earth and so funny!”
After joining Rachel was quickly learning the soprano parts to their repertories as well as learning new material. She was also “trying on new performance outfits, sitting at meetings with management, doing photo shoots and interviews, recording new tracks and travelling to new performance destinations. As luck would have it, I was very unwell for my first concert with the group and could hardly speak let alone sing but I tried to take care of my voice as best I could and somehow, a voice managed to come out of my mouth. That first concert was held at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and I still remember thinking that even though I was so unwell, I had thoroughly enjoyed the performance so much and I just couldn’t wait for the next one.”
For Rachel some of the highlights with All Angels include performing at Wembley Stadium for the Champions League Final 2011, TV appearances on BBC1 and Channel 4 as well as the Classical Brits and being featured on the EP “Starlight.” As for countries? “I’d probably say Los Angeles and Spain but as a venue I would definitely say Wembley Stadium for the Champions League Final 2011 and the Royal Albert Hall!” Yet as much as a whirlwind as these events were one of Rachel’s fondest memories is when she performed with the girls at her own wedding “as per my husband’s request!”
Rachel recently released her debut album, “Forever Yours” and it was all about achieving a sense of intimacy with her audience. “My main thought throughout the recording process was that I wished for the listener to feel as though I was singing right there next to them in an acoustic, raw, natural setting. I wished that my passion for live theatre and music would really come across. All instrumentation on the album is also live, featuring some of the best Maltese musicians on the island.”
She hoped to touch the listener with a carefully selected track list that combines both her passions, musical theater & classical crossover. “Being a religious person, I also wished to include a couple of traditional spiritual tunes.” The album features some of her “all-time favorites” and others that are less familiar to audiences. “All the songs mean something to me and each have a special place in my heart. All the songs were chosen with a particular thought in mind – a few years ago, when the idea to create the album came to mind, I realized how fortunate I am to have had some amazing and inspirational people in my life. Some of these beautiful people are still with us and very much a part of my life and unfortunately quite a few of the others are no longer with us but I treasure them having been a part of my life very much. It’s thanks to these angels that Forever Yours came to life.” She discovered the title track while studying at GSA and quickly “fell in love with it and its message. That song encompasses the message of the entire album.” She also carries special memories of “It’s a Rosebud in June” from her first singing teacher and “Scarborough Fair” which was arranged by David Downes. “I was fortunate enough to get the blessing from Sir David Downes to record his beautiful arrangement and have it on my album.”
Choosing a favorite isn’t an easy task since she loves them all, so instead we’ll settle for her favorite to perform. These are: Memory, Pie Jesu and Someone to Watch Over Me. “I simply get transported to another land when I sing ‘Memory’ – the lyrics are so meaningful and so easy to relate to by so many people. ‘Pie Jesu’ is the hymn I sang at my dear uncle’s funeral and the overwhelming emotion I felt when I sang that song for him is one I will never forget and I will always have present when performing that song. ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ is so much fun to sing – especially to a live audience. It’s a cheeky yet romantic song. I love that Gershwin era and sometimes wish I was born in it!”
One of her humorous behind-the-scenes moments was “trying to get the massive harp into the recording studio. We recorded in a small studio, which was fine for most other instruments…but this harp was so huge and we had a good laugh trying to wheel it in.” Fortunately, it all worked out in the end. A cold made “All I Ask of You” and “May It Be” the greatest challenges of the album. Other commitments prevented rescheduling “there was no other option than to record the songs on the given days. Inhaling was a major challenge but we got there in the end!”
After the recording it was time for the launch. “The Malta launch took place in August 2015 at Maria Rosa vineyard and the UK launch took place in October 2015 at The Pheasantry in London. I was very used to performing as a solo artist in Malta but suddenly performing as a solo artist in the UK was very new to me. The whole process of not only performing but also of recording solo projects was new but exciting.” Of course she missed her All Angels friends. “I missed having the girls fooling around in the studio or during rehearsals or having the on-stage banter and creating beautiful harmonies, however, this was a new and exciting time and I was all for it. I felt a greater responsibility to have satisfied listeners and also learnt much more as an artist.”
In addition to her new foray into recording Rachel has continued to make a home for herself on the stage. One of her most recent roles was Regina in Rock of Ages. “It is so much fun to play – she’s like a crazy, overly energetic Chihuahua! It’s a very different type of show for me but fun nevertheless.” Of course Annie will always “remain close to my heart” but another all-time favorite was Cathy in the Last Five Years. “I loved the music and the story-line. As a character, Cathy was quite complex and so interesting to play. Presently, I am in rehearsals for The Sound of Music. I am playing the iconic role of Maria (no pressure there!) and the show run begins this October. This is definitely one of my dream roles and I can’t believe I am getting to perform this part! Other dream roles for me would be Cosette and Eponine in Les Miserables and Glinda in Wicked.”
She keeps her voice in shape with “regular lessons.” In Malta were temperatures are frequently hot and humid it may seem crazy not to have the air-conditioning on full blast but, “I try to avoid them at all costs. When it is inevitable, I try to stay as far away from it as possible and always have a scarf or cardigan handy – even in 35*C + weather! My routine for maintaining a healthy voice is to drink lots and lots of water, not to shout, not to stay around cigarettes and other fumes, to avoid caffeine and to have lots of fresh ginger & manuka honey. I also enjoy drinking ‘throat comfort’ tea and ginger-lemon tea.”
Rachel cannot picture herself completely away from music. “I guess if I could no longer be a singer-musician, I would be a full-time singing tutor.” She was previously the Head of Music at Masquerade School for the Performing Arts in Malta but had to stop “due to my solo projects and performer commitments.” Rachel says, “I love working with kids!”
In addition to singing Rachel also plays the piano. “I love playing the piano and I aim at finding more time to hone my piano skills in the coming year.” Another surprise?
“I’ve just bought a ukulele and decided I must try to learn how to play it within the coming months.” Rachel has also written several original songs. “I occasionally perform them at live, local concerts and have recorded a few of them but I never officially released them due to other commitments at the time that needed to take priority. However, I have just embarked on a music video project – filming is to take place approximately during the end of October. It is thanks to fans and their financial and unending, moral support that this music video will be taking place. This music video will be created for one of my more recent original songs called Let You Go. So keep your eyes and ears open towards the end of this year!”
With her genuine passion for music and kind spirit Rachel is a breath of fresh air. She leaves the following with our readers: “Sometimes, the reasons we may love music so much may be to escape the problems of life but we can also use music and its messages to help solve and deal with those problems. Let’s use music and allow it to teach us to be kind to each other, to swallow our pride and help our neighbors, especially in such trying times.”