Nicky Schrire is a multitalented and inventive British-South African vocalist and composer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work has seen her likened to vocalists Joni Mitchell, Norma Winstone, and Esperanza Spalding with The Boston Globe’s Jon Garelick noting that “though her approach has earned her comparisons to Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens, the similarities are superficial…she’s got her own thing, and it’s very much worth listening to.”
A graduate of New York’s Manhattan School of Music, she has performed in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, London, Dublin and South Africa, with musicians including Ben Wendel, Nir Felder, Nikki Iles, Mark Lockheart, and Florian Hoefner. She released three critically acclaimed jazz albums-
2012's "Freedom Flight", 2013's "Space and Time", and the 2014 EP "To The Spring"-which earned her comparisons to songwriters like Joan Baez and Mary Chapin Carpenter. The duo album “Space & Time” featured Grammy-nominated pianists Gerald Clayton, Gil Goldstein and Fabian Almazan. The Ottawa Citizen’s Peter Hum described the recording as “fifty minutes of emotionally eventful, richly crafted music”.
Schrire's 2015 singer-songwriter EP “An Education” was released on the London folk label Wild Sound Recordings and led the Birmingham Review's Ed King to write that "when Nicky Schrire has something to say, she is on superior form...after listening to [An Education] a few times, especially in context to her previous recordings, it no longer feels like such a chasm between one genre and the other – more the landing in a place [she] could always have stood."
Returning to her jazz roots, Schrire took to the stage with her quintet at the 2018 Cape Town International Jazz Festival. She also performed her contemporary classical suite Escape: The Ingrid Jonker Suite, which sees Jonker’s poems set to music arranged for string quartet and voice, at the 2018 Suidoosterfees, the 2018 Franschhoek Literary Festival, and to a sold-out audience at the Norval Foundation in 2019.
Often praised for her choice of repertoire, Hardbop Jazz Journal described her as “clever and understated” while All About Jazz UK wrote that “in the crowded world of jazz vocals it helps to have a distinctive voice or a distinctive repertoire. Schrire scores on both counts.”
“When Nicky Schrire has something to say, she is on superior form...after listening to [An Education] a few times, especially in context to her previous recordings, it no longer feels like such a chasm between one genre and the other – more the landing in a place [she] could always have stood.”
– Ed King, Birmingham Review
A much-loved figure in South African poetry, Ingrid Jonker’s body of work, though small, continues to speak volumes decades after her death. She delicately and beautifully captured lust, love, heartbreak, anger and the fabric of everyday life in her poems. Composer and vocalist Nicky Schrire sets André Brink and Antjie Krog's English translations of a selection of Jonker’s works to music in a world that blends folk, cinematic and art song genres. The songs are arranged for voice and string quartet, and the poems are delivered in Afrikaans.
Music composed & arranged by Nicky Schrire
English translations by André Brink & Antjie Krog
(as compiled in “Black Butterflies”)
Borrowed text from letters between Brink & Jonker
translated by Karin Schimke & Leon de Kock
(as published in “Flame in the Snow”)
2017 Alexander Bar Theatre (debut)
2017 Youngblood Gallery
2018 Franschhoek Literary Festival
2019 Norval Foundation
“A number of the more and most intelligent female vocalists come to mind-Mia Doi Todd, Tori Amos, Kimiko Itoh, Lorraine Feather, Norma Winstone, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, etc.-in Schrire's work.”
– Mark S. Tucker, FAME
“Schrire is, by any standard, a remarkable talent, even if she isn’t the stereotypical prodigy. Her voice is a bell, a curve of pliant sound, a personality, a vessel for great songs.” – Will Layman, PopMatters
“[Freedom Flight is] an auspicious (if underappreciated) debut.”
– Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes
“Though her approach has earned her comparisons to Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens, the similarities are superficial. Like Parlato, she’s an assured technician with a whole bag of impressive tricks. Like Stevens and, for that matter, Esperanza Spalding, she has an affinity for folk. But...she’s got her own thing, and it’s very much worth listening to.” – Jon Garelick, Arts Fuse
“... Schrire becomes part of the fabric of her music. Her voice is a warm and supple instrument that serves as a dispensary of emotional power.” – Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
“Vocally surprising...Nicky Schrire is the breath of fresh air
that we so need.” – Philippe Vincent, Jazz Magazine (France)
“We will want to remember [Nicky Schrire]...I was especially impressed by the ease and confidence that Schrire exudes creating her music. This young lady knows exactly where she wants to go.”
– Martin Schuster, Concerto Magazine (Germany)
“[To The Spring] heralds a voice and lyrical ability of great originality...Schrire’s voice...which seems to soar and soar with no upper limit, its delicate, translucent tone becoming ever more gossamer as it rises, kite-like, into the clouds.”
– Matthew Wright, London Jazz
Nicky works with students in contexts including private lessons,
workshops, and ensemble rehearsals.
Nicky is an educator with over ten years of teaching experience in various contexts including private vocal instruction, workshops and master classes. She has worked with musicians at high school level as well as tertiary students at the Newpark Music School in Dublin and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.
Nicky was a voice instructor at the 2012 Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, and she compiled and delivered a range of music education presentations for the Manhattan School of Music's Distance Learning Programme while living in New York. In 2016 she was the vocal instructor on faculty alongside educator and author Dan Haerle at Tshwane University of Technology's Summer Jazz Workshop in Pretoria.
Nicky was a lecturer at the University of Cape Town in the Jazz Department for four years (2016-2019), during which time she taught improvisation, jazz ear training, jazz ensemble, music business skills, and gave private voice instruction. In 2018 she was acting head of the Jazz Voice Department. Her students have been accepted to study at the New England Conservatory, and have won awards locally as well as advanced to post-graduate studies.
Nicky served as an adjudicator for the 2015 SAMRO Overseas Scholarship Competition and the 2015 UNISA National Voice Competition. She has taught numerous workshops and master classes for the South African Association for Jazz Education (SAJE) as well as being part of their "Sisters In Sound" mentorship project, which aimed to encourage and promote the participation of young women in the art of jazz both educationally and professionally
She has a BMus from the University of Cape Town and a MMus from the Manhattan School of Music. She is certified Level 1 in Somatic Voice Work™, The LoVetri Method and has been fortunate to have had private instruction from some of the very best-Dominique Eade, Peter Eldridge, Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry, Judy Niemack, Gretchen Parlato, Darmon Meader,
Jo Lawry and Anita Wardell.
Working with music students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
With her fellow adjudicators and the finalists of the 2015 UNISA National Voice Competition
With voice students at Tshwane University of Technology's Summer Jazz Workshop
Nicky has several years of experience as a radio broadcaster and programmer.
Her twelve-year experience as a performing musician allows her to talk about music from various genres with both knowledge and an utter adoration for the art form in her trademark vivacious, witty and inclusive style.
Her first foray into radio presenting was compiling and presenting contemporary classical chamber works for
"Collage" on Fine Music Radio 101.3.
In 2018, she was given a weekly 2-hour programme on the station, which she named "Stepping Out".
The show celebrates the magic of film scores, folk songs, jazz, classical and world music, and is encapsulated by the tagline:
Experience the joy of music that moves you.
Schrire continued to compile programmes for the show, even from afar, thanks to the technological wonders of
iPhone Voice Memos and GarageBand, through March 2019.
You can listen to "Stepping Out" on Saturdays from 6-8pm on FMR 101.3 or online at http://www.fmr.co.za/
To purchase an album, click on the image and you will be redirected to Bandcamp
"Schrire deftly handles Jonker’s work with the sort of reverent fragility which both expands it and exquisitely hones in on it too."
– Texx and the City