LISA SMITH (Soprano)
Lisa has a wide musical and theatrical background and clocked up an extremely varied CV before coming to rest, or at least sit down for a few moments occasionally, as Bristol Children’s Hospital’s family support worker. As well as singing with NB, Lisa provides vocals for the Serenade Swing Band (it’s not as rude as it sounds, apparently) and has previously sung a variety of operatic roles including Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Carmen in Carmen and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. In musical theatre, she won the coveted Rose Bowl Award for Best Actress in a Musical, playing the title role in Hello, Dolly with Failand Drama Circle, with whom she also appeared in Calendar Girls, her modesty covered only by strategically-placed crockery. Lisa initially took on the role of public liaison officer for NotaBene as she is friendly, approachable and can do an extremely sophisticated telephone voice, but has now worked her way up to the heady heights of Chair because she’s so amazingly talented and diplomatic (and no-one else wanted to do it). Despite her demure façade, Lisa has proved herself adept at harrowing audiences with her rendition of Big Spender.


Kathy’s singing debut entailed a performance of ‘Oh soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me?’ He declined, though in his defence they were both only five years old and not eligible for an unaccompanied day return to Gretna Green. Music has always been a major part of Kathy’s life: she plays piano, flute, recorders and tin whistle and her home in Berkeley proves the repository of a surprising number of musical instruments. She started in school and church choirs and progressed to various choral societies and musical organisations: her vocal career highlights have included Kate in The Yeomen of the Guard with the Bristol G&S Society and Hebe in HMS Pinafore (in which she was ‘endearingly annoying’) with the Bristol Savoy. She has also performed with Impromptu, Dursley Operatic & Dramatic Society, the Oriana Singers and of course NotaBene, which she first joined in 2002. Kathy is a nurse by profession but is equally adroit in the tending of plants: her allotment is often overwhelmed with produce (as are her friends and relatives) and she writes a gardening column for the Berkeley Flyer. She also enjoys spending time on narrowboats, ‘pootling about‘ Britain’s canal system. Kathy intends to sing for ever and to encourage others to join in.


Helen’s earliest memory was of her mother singing, ‘My baby has gorn down the plug ‘ole’, which understandably put her off bathing for life, though fortunately she is now an experienced (and regular) shower vocalist. She began her musical career singing a solo in ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ at her infants’ school in Yorkshire. Though she started as a soprano, she condescended to lower herself at secondary school for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem in York Minster and on moving to Bristol, found herself a niche as a tenor.  Helen is a keen walker and believes there is no natural environment that can’t be enhanced by a bit of impromptu vocalising: she sings in parks; in woods; in caves; on mountain-tops; in rivers and in the sea, to name but some. In the off-chance she ever finds herself at home, her chickens and guinea-pig provide a moderately critical audience for rehearsing all those tricky harmony lines. She has been a long-running member of Bristol’s Gasworks Choir and has sung with many other groups over the years. She is particularly partial to sad songs, so is always happy to reduce her audience to tears… in a good way, of course.

Richard’s tender ministrations guided NotaBene through its infancy, so it is almost entirely due to him, should anyone be requiring a scapegoat, that it didn’t collapse from nervous exhaustion mere weeks after its nativity. He is NotaBene’s most experienced choral singer and is much in demand as a sight-reading tenor, a combination rarer than altruism and politics. He tirelessly devotes his spare time to teaching at Bath University, despite having enough natural contempt for students to over-qualify him for the post of Quizmaster General on University Challenge, should Jeremy Paxman become indisposed. Richard has been a member of Bristol Choral Society for many years and has occasionally dabbled in a bit of opera, including a role in Bristol Opera’s 2012 production of The Vampire (disappointingly, his costume comprised tartan trews and a tam o’shanter rather than fangs and an opera cloak.) Richard is a madrigal aficionado but often looks slightly confused when faced with an arrangement of one of those modern-type pop tunes that everyone (supposedly) knows. Among his many unique attributes, Richard is the only member of NB to keep livestock; he and his wife have a wee flock of small, lively Soay sheep in a slowly-developing orchard, in the picturesque environs of Wotton-under-Edge.

As NotaBene’s answer to Professor Brian Cox (albeit with not quite such floppy hair), Kevin was all set for a life devoted to the delights of the physics lab, but during his PhD research made the life-altering decision of joining the local choral society and then an affiliated opera group. This commenced his inexorable descent down the slippery slope of musical histrionics, culminating in studying at Birmingham Conservatoire as a young lad of forty. Kevin has sung a variety of opera roles, from the youthful Masetto to the ancient Seneca. He now combines performance and science, training science communicators, writing the odd school science show and generally playing with fun science toys, or as he calls it, testing suitable equipment and supporting students in the Faculty of Physics at Bristol University. Prior to this he helped his wife run two Stagecoach Theatre Schools, training young people in theatre arts which they thoroughly enjoyed but didn’t prove entirely conducive to totally renovating and rebuilding part of an old chapel as a family home and meeting the complex social and academic demands of their twin daughters. His ambitions are to conquer the mysteries of gravity, distort space/time and create perpetual twenty-eight hour days, which just might enable him to fit in a bit of music learning.

During an idyllic three years in North Wales in the early ‘70s, on the pretext of studying Russian language and literature, Roger made his solo début as Giuseppe in a student production of The Gondoliers, though for many years after his graduation the real world offered him little opportunity to renew his musical forays. In 1990, Roger felt ‘called to the bar’ and became the licensee of a village pub in Dorset, whence he arrived in Bristol, in the first fortnight of the new millennium, to run the Bedminster Post Office. Later that year he attended a performance by a then-youthful NotaBene in the Classical Tent at the Ashton Court Festival, not suspecting that eight years later he would be invited to join. 2008 saw the closure of the Post Office, but Roger has not been backward in finding innovative diversions for his leisure time: voluntary work has included stewarding at the annual Gathering Voices Festival of Song each October and he is also a walk leader with the LinkAge organisation. On a more glamorous note, he spent a memorable week in 2010 at Castle Combe along with approximately 199 other extras, as a result of which he appears on screen for three whole seconds in Spielberg’s film War Horse. He is happy to provide autographs on request.

HELEN JACOBS (Musical Director)

NotaBene’s general admin assistant and arranger cut her musical teeth in the sphere of liturgical music, where she honed the skills of writing musical arrangements and ordering people about, both of which have stood her in good stead. She placed herself in the NB driving seat quite early on, though she’s now very nearly accepted the fact that the vehicle doesn’t always go in the direction she’s steering in and that there appears to be something of a stealth-democracy emerging. Helen goes through occasional periods of writing vocal arrangements and once got paid some money for one. Given the option, she would quite like to be a blue whale as that way you get to sing and swim at the same time, which is quite difficult to do as a person. Since relinquishing the performing side of her NB role, she is getting to grips with working out which person’s singing out of tune during rehearsal and also singing in the line of whoever happens to be missing that week.