The Countertenor from a Cactus Farm

Just some of the things that Christopher Field neglected to reveal when interviewed for this profile are; the fact that he was Dux of the school in his final year (1995); that he was the recipient of the Australian Postgraduate Award for his Masters studies in voice at the University of Melbourne; that his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London were supported by the Rae and Edith Bennett Scholarship and the Josephine Baker Trust and; that he won the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship allowing him to explore, study and develop his artistic gifts through travelling overseas.

Any many other accolades besides.

Christopher started at Girton College in 1989 when in Grade 6 and graduated from Girton Grammar in 1995.

He describes himself as a career counsellor’s nightmare.

“My career interests fluctuated between being in the motoring industry (journalism, mechanics or sales), consumer law, sociology, or industrial psychology.

“I think I must have driven Mrs Judy Edward in the library (who gave careers advice) mad with my inability to stick to one particular thing.

“I even chopped and changed degrees and subjects once I got to Melbourne University, finally ending up with a Bachelor of Music (Hons) in Voice and a Dip Mus (prac) in Harpsichord.

“Later, I did postgraduate studies at The Royal Academy of Music in London where I graduated with the DipRAM in Opera.

“I thought a career in music would be fun but not sustainable and when I did decide to go down the musical route I wasn’t going to be as a singer. I initially trained as a pianist and string player before my voice was discovered almost by accident and my career was chosen for me.

“I was signed by an agent very early on and my performing career in voice was born,” he said.

The last decade has seen Chris embark on an intoxicating whirl wind tour of the world.  He has worked as a guest principal artist with several opera companies and sung in some wonderful venues in Australia and in Europe. He has worked with Opera Australia at The Sydney Opera House, The Semperoper Dresden and the Komische Oper Berlin (Germany) and in concert he has performed as soloist with many ensembles and the major symphony orchestras in Australia.

In Europe and the UK Chris has worked with renowned ensembles such as The Kings Consort, Collegium Vocale Ghent and The Academy of Ancient Music.

In terms of recording Chris has made several recordings in different parts of the world and was nominated for a Grammy Award for a disc called ‘Cloudburst’. He recorded the theme music to ‘Cloudstreet’ for Showtime Foxtel in Australia for the TV series based on Tim Winton’s book of the same name.

“Travelling the world singing sounds really glamorous but the reality of such a nomadic lifestyle and living out of a suitcase in hotel rooms wears thin after a while.

“I have had years of incredibly early starts, constant pressure to not miss travel connections and even a brief stint in a detention centre on the Hungary/Romania border!

“There is so much travel involved in this job that I’ve gone through 3 passports as they’re all filled up with stamps,” Chris said.

The hectic travelling regime that Chris has endured for the last 10 years has quietened down in recent years with Chris taking on a job as ‘Vicar Choral’ at the world famous St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

“In my current job, I sing at St Pauls for a minimum of 8 services per week plus various other things such as Royal and State events, weddings, recordings and broadcasts.

“It’s an amazing place to work and I still have the opportunity to freelance away from this job but it is a lot less hectic than in the previous decade,” Chris said.

Looking back on his school days, Chris finds it almost impossible to name his very favourite teacher, crediting many staff with having done a number of good things for him.

“My inability to draw is legendary and this manifested itself in my sheer dislike of art class with Mrs Knowles.

“But then something happened at the start of Year 10 and we started learning about art history and the theory of art and it went from the subject I liked least to the one I most looked forward to and Mrs Knowles was brilliant.

“I have to mention Betty Jenkin who was an absolute rock to me through my VCE and taught me so much about learning far beyond what was covered in the classroom. She and Mrs Lyons were a formidable combination and nurtured my love of the humanities, daring me to question so many things I encountered which has really set me up well in my working life.

“The late Nansi Ward is also very much missed and I enjoyed her biology classes. I remember she was on at me so often about spending far too much time on presentation and basically taking far too much time on the unimportant things rather than focusing on the facts, creating far more work for myself than was necessary. Again – valuable life lessons.

“Mr Kendrick was great too and I fondly remember him taking the after school tennis club.

“Mrs MacCulloch was an exceptional history teacher and I was surprised to win the Premier’s Award for History after the VCE results were out. I ended up studying history at university (initially, at least) inspired by her teaching.

“And of course I must mention the music department at Girton Grammar – Jaci Arnot and Daniel Herbst set me up with a great foundation and encouraged me to pursue music after I left school.

“I loved Geography thanks to Ms Kurrle as well,” he said.

Chris now lives in Kent, just outside London and in his spare time he likes to keep fit and to get to the coast with his French bulldog named Dennis, who even sings with Chris when he practices. Chris is still very much into cars and admits to buying and selling them nearly as often as he sings at St Pauls.

Chris Field_beach

“A couple of years ago I tracked down my Grandfather’s old 1955 Humber in Australia which I ended up buying – it now sits in a museum in Lockington – so I’m looking forward to driving it when I’m next back in Australia,” he said.

There is so much more to Christopher Field, including the fact that he used to sell vacuum cleaners door to door, his sister Kathryn Field was also Dux of her year at Girton Grammar and the fact that he grew up on the largest cactus farm in the Southern Hemisphere. But that is another story entirely.

When Chris graduated from Girton Grammar he was bestowed the honour of having the Year 8 string orchestra named after him.
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