In the Spotlight – Morgan Pearse

20 March 2017 Featured, LCV Stories, News

Morgan Pearse is our latest choir member to come under the spotlight. Morgan, aged 35, was born in Sligo, Ireland. Upon receiving a degree in Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music in Boston, he moved to Los Angeles in 2008. After assisting on the motion pictures Wanted and Hellboy II, scored by Danny Elfman, he began his own freelance composing career which has included music for independent film, numerous web series, shorts, commercials and other visual media. In February 2016, he began a new chapter when he moved to London. Here, he talks about how finding harmony with others can get you through the worst of times.

My personal life took a tumble in the middle of 2016, within months of moving here from California. The combined stresses of moving, renovation and immigration issues came to a head, and I just fell apart.  It became suddenly apparent that I had been quietly unhappy for a long time, without understanding it, much less dealing with it in any kind of constructive way. As you can imagine, that makes it difficult to be a freelance composer for visual media, the sometimes solitary, studio-bound career I’ve chosen for myself. And it’s difficult for people who love you to watch you go through it.

Thankfully now that I live in London I’m much closer to my family. My sister, ever practical, encouraged me to distract myself with as many activities and people as possible, so I took up yoga, did some local volunteering, and took a part-time job in a busy museum. I sought all manner of self-help wherever I could find it. One piece of wisdom that really resonated was the Joseph Campbell quote “follow your bliss, and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be”. It’s an old one, but it came like a revelation to me. Another was the notion of replacing “I should” in my vocabulary with “I can, and I have a choice”. One of those things I had always said I “should” do was investigate what remained of my singing voice.

I had, I believe, quite a nice voice as a child, and took part in some choirs in school and church, but when my voice changed it became this painfully limited, strangulated thing, and I thought that was the end of all that. (My speaking voice has never felt particularly deep or resonant, so I always assumed I was a tenor, albeit a weak one; as it turns out, I’m a bass.) I came across London City Voices in a Google search, and was absolutely floored by the videos I was seeing. My first thought was, these look like nice, friendly people, a family. My second thought, sadly, was, I wonder if they would let me in. That speaks to the high standard of the arrangements and performances, but it also tells you what a low opinion I had of myself. Knowing these people now, it seems laughable in retrospect.

I don’t need to tell you the welcome to London City Voices was a warm one. When Richard found out I was Irish, the first thing he said to me was “go bhfóire Dia orainn!” (God help us!) and I thought to myself, WTF? this British guy speaks better Irish than I do. The feeling of Irish kinship has been strong ever since, and I’m in awe of both our maestros. Richard’s arrangements — his haunting Gregorian take on “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” comes immediately to mind — continue to blow me away with their technical wizardry, while Ben’s contributions, such as “Rock With You” and “Sit Down”, are about as note-perfect as I can imagine, and come together beautifully in rehearsals or in the pub. The whole idea of the choir is so positive and so rewarding, and I’d be seething with professional jealousy if they weren’t also wonderful people who have become good friends.

I’ve become somewhat known in the choir as the guy with perfect pitch. I say that with absolutely no boastfulness whatsoever — there is nothing ‘perfect’ about my singing voice! Much has been written on the subject of perfect pitch, and some people have it to different extremes. In my case it means the ability to sing a note instantaneously — Morgan, give me a B flat! — or to identify one, whether played on a piano, tapped on a wine glass or hummed by a vacuum cleaner in the apartment above. It comes from somewhere in the brain more deeply rooted than mere memory, and in my case is linked to an appreciation of sound, languages and mimicry. For me it’s always been just a thing I have, but since joining LCV, from being a guy who has at times felt like less than nothing, it’s been nice to be singled out for something.

It’s been almost a year full of magic moments with LCV, but our trip to Dublin in December was a highlight for me. I remember looking around the pub in Temple Bar, as we raised our voices and our pint glasses in song, and proudly thinking, these people are here visiting my country and they’re loving it, they’re having a good time. From learning our old school songs phonetically to exploring the city as tourists, London City Voices embraced its Irish flavour warmly, and made the Dublin weekend an unforgettable homecoming at the end of an emotional year. Now I’m part of the family — that’s me in the opening seconds of The Fields Of Athenry, singing with a smile.

Each week brings new friendships, and with them renewed optimism, but I’ll give a special shout-out to our tenor Tim Milton. I was first familiar with him as the gent who, at the end of our summer concert, stepped up to the mic and paid affectionate tribute to LCV from the perspective of a longtime member. I had never spoken to him, however, until one Wednesday evening in October. It had been a bad week for me, one of many at the time. I was leaving the pub at the end of the night, when Tim stopped me to say that he’d been standing next to me while we were singing in the pub, that I had one of the most accurate bass voices he had ever heard and that if we ever formed a small splinter group, he absolutely wanted to sing with me.

In a week when I had been feeling utterly invisible and insignificant, I was incredibly touched by that; in fact it turned my whole week around and carried me into the next one. It showed me the immeasurable value of just being around other people. You never know when a comment or fleeting moment you have with someone else could be transformative, a lifeline for them — or for you! You also miss out on the vital perspective that comes from meeting people of all ages and all walks of life. I will never build walls around myself again.

Sometimes it pays to throw caution to the wind and follow your bliss, because it turns out nothing is better for the soul than blending your voice, in all its imperfections, with one, or ten, or three hundred and fifty others. London City Voices has helped me through depression, expanded my circle of friends and fired me up creatively. For as long as I’ll be in London, I’m in this choir for life.