Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Singing ladies

Back on the Opera front. The Lexus Song Quest is now at the semi-finals stage, with twelve singers being put through their paces and broadcast on the radio. Two of those in tonight’s broadcast are people I’ve known – again from the Dunedin competitions scene – and another, Claire Barton, is a 25-year-old singer for whom I’ve been playing since she was knee-high to a grasshopper. (She isn’t much taller now, and she probably/hopefully won’t mind me saying so!). Claire is a great person: a marvellous singer with a totally professional attitude, an enormous sense of humour, and lots of warmth.

The two who were on tonight were Emma Fraser and Sarah McOnie (pronounced Ma-Coney, with the emphasis on the Cone). Emma is a great singer and will go a long way, with or without the Lexus. I haven’t heard Sarah for some time – apparently she’s been singing overseas – and her voice now sounds dark and rich.

The judge for this year’s contest is a woman who, once in my youth, I was engaged to! She broke the engagement off, wisely, I think, since I probably would have got in the way of her career, which has been considerable. We haven’t had much contact since then: a couple of emails in the last few years, and the occasional letter out of the blue. Elizabeth Connell came from South Africa and went to the (now defunct) London Opera Centre the year after I was there. She then flatted in the same flat as me for a time – there were six or seven, or maybe eight of us, in the place, a long sprawling ground-floor flat with a garden out the back, in Stoke Newington.

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