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Vivien Ellis


Born on a smallholding in Essex, Vivien dreamed of being a singer. Everyone advised her to become an English teacher instead. It was when she met Frankie Armstrong, a renowned folk singer and advocate of natural voice, that Vivien's life changed. Her ears were opened to different ways of singing, and she was inspired to follow her dream.

    Vivien had the opportunity to visit the Shoplouk region of Bulgaria on a music exchange programme before the fall of communism. During her stay, she lived with the Bistritsa Babi, a group of women who practised archaic dances and polyphony. Their tradition is recognized by UNESCO and inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This experience of witnessing singing as an inseparable part of everyday life has had a profound impact on Vivien's work.

    Throughout her career, Vivien has had the opportunity to work with early music groups such as Sinfonye, The Broadside Band, The Carnival Band and Alva, a small ensemble with Giles Lewin and Leah Stuttard. She has also appeared in seasons with The Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and her voice has been featured on radio, film, and TV. 
   She has toured extensively throughout the UK and Europe, as well as North and South America, Canada, and Australia. She has performed at major festivals and concert series, and made numerous solo recordings, notably 'Cancionero', a programme of early Spanish music with The Dufay Collective, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. 

    Alongside her career as a singer, Vivien is an educator and choir leader. She is also a care worker at Camphill Village Trust. In 2014, she began working with Mental Fight Club, a charity based in the London Borough of Southwark, where she leads weekly singing and songwriting groups supporting the health and wellbeing of individuals. Vivien has developed new models of community music engagement that draw on early and folk music, including popular 'ballad walks'. She co-wrote a paper titled 'Creating Health', for the Journal of the Royal Society for Public Health, about her new model of GP education in arts and health. Vivien is undertaking an MA by research in musicology at the University of York.

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