Today I was incredibly lucky to be awarded the First Prize in the John Kerr Award for Early English Song at Finchcocks Museum. Nathaniel Mander, with whom I regularly perform, won the accompanists prize so a celebratory gin absolutely had to be partaken in. Nat and I met at Dartington International Summer School in 2008 and have remained firm friends both on and off the musical platform ever since. We had great fun working on this project which demanded a great deal of research and digging away in archives to find a good balance of the well-known and obscure. Eight finalists performed a 25 minute programme. Nat and I performed songs by Haydn, Purcell, Liza Lehmann, Maude Valérie White and Charles Dibdin using just a few of the vast collection of keyboards available at Finchcocks. I was accompanied by lutenist Richard MacKenzie for two additional songs by Henry Lawes and John Dowland. Our programme, entitled 'Sirens', was an exploration of the power of women in society pre-1900 and how many had to resort to using their beauty and sexual allure in order determine their own destiny.
I had my first experience of performing classical music at the age of 11 when I sang at the Royal Albert Hall in a massed county choirs performance of Carmina Burana. I couldn't really read music at that stage so had the whole thing drummed into me by my fantastic school choir director, Ian Hooker. I remember the soprano soloist walking out on stage and totally falling in love with everything she did; I think her massive, sparkly, Cinderella-esque ballgown was also an excellent selling point. For me there was no definitive moment when I decided to pursue singing as a career, but this sticks out in my mind as a pretty monumental occasion for an 11 year old.
On Saturday night, I was incredibly fortunate to take up the soprano soloist/massive ballgown slot my self as part of the London Welsh Festival of Male Voice Choirs. As wonderful as singing my solos and duets with Trystan Llyr Griffiths was, the highlight, for me, has to have been when all 6,000 audience members rose to their feet and belted out Mae hen wlad fy nhadau.
The concert will be broadcast several times in the next few years on television and a CD and DVD will be released later this year. I'll be posting details of how to buy a copy in the next few months.