Saturday 13 July 2013

Peter Pan, Miss Saigon and Puccini...bear with me, it will make sense.

It struck me following my last diary entry that I don't want this to turn into a succession of reviews about other people's singing. It was always intended to be a personal account of how singing fits into my life. What drives people to pursue a life in this ridiculous business we call show? With that in mind I thought I would give you all an idea of what has been going on in my singing life and how I have got to this point and, more importantly, this diary. This could take a while so let's start with the early years, 1984-1995.

I think, but as my memory is beyond shocking I can only commit to think, my epiphany happened, and I absolutely knew I wanted to sing for a living, in 1989. I do remember discovering I could sing 4 or 5 years earlier when I was 11 years old and I auditioned for the school play, "Peter Pan". A few days later I also auditioned for the local Am Dram company's new show "Alf and the Dragon" (a pantomime type affair). I got the parts of Peter in the former and Alf in the latter. Therefore I figured I must have something although up until that moment I had no idea that I had anything! 1984/85 was an excellent year! A highlight in my career you might say. 

I became quite the star (well, star is probably pushing it but I thought I was the bees knees aged 11/12) of Brighouse Light Opera Juniors and took every opportunity to sing at school. The choir at Rastrick High School did a concert of songs from "Starlight Express" in about 1987 and instead of being accompanied by just a piano or even the school concert band we were accompanied by the school rock band "Jetlag". It was INCREDIBLE! The lead singer was a girl who, to me, looked and sounded like Susanna Hoffs from "The Bangles". I was obsessed with her and desperate to be like her. She was in the sixth form so left school, and "Jetlag" that year. I saw my chance and I took it. I asked the woodwork teacher, sorry, the lead guitarist, if I could join the band. After auditioning with Pat Benetar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" I was in. I absolutely loved being a part of this seminal rock band and am still hopeful there will be a reunion one day. My rendition of the Texas classic "I don't want a lover" was a high point and my involvement with "Jetlag" definitely played a big part in my deciding a life performing was going to be the life for me but I think the moment I absolutely knew I wanted to be a performer was seeing a particular episode of the chat show "Wogan" in 1989. The whole program was devoted to the new show by the creators of hit musical "Les Miserables", "Miss Saigon". From the moment I heard "I Still Believe" I wanted to be Claire Moore (I am halfway there being called Claire). I LOVE "Miss Saigon" and am thrilled it is coming back to the West End. I only wish I was 10 years younger and could audition for Ellen but alas, that helicopter has flown methinks. (You can see clips from that Wogan episode on the You Tube if you want to see what all the fuss was about.)

Aged 15 I was pretty sure a life in musicals was the path I was to be taken down. All was going swimmingly, I had left school and "Jetlag" (we were VERY successful in Rastrick btw) and moved on to Huddersfield Technical College to do a BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts taking me a step closer to my dream of being a star in London's glittering West End. I remember auditioning to sing "As Long as He Needs Me" in a concert there. I had been ill the week before and had missed the auditions but, in the spirit of fairness, the teacher in charge, who had never heard me sing before, allowed me to sing although he made sure I knew there wasn't much point in me auditioning as another girl had done such a good job the week before he was probably going to give it to her. So I sang my heart out, the teacher was totally gobsmacked, gave me the song and the other girl was relegated to "Oom pah pah". (The other girl was excellent and is hopefully still performing). Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately looking back, my singing teacher at the time threw a spanner in the works. I left Huddersfield Tech in 1992 and had accepted a place at De Montfort University in Leicester to do a degree in Performing Arts. In my final week at Huddersfield I got my report from my singing teacher. I had got a distinction and wonderful comments but she finished my report with the line "Claire could do anything she wanted to, even opera". So being a very impressionable 18 year old by this time I thought, alright then I'll be an opera singer! That literally was the moment I decided I wanted to be an opera singer. Forget "Miss Saigon", forget "Starlight Express" I was suddenly obsessed with Puccini.

The following 3 years at University are a bit of a blur (too much homemade wine! We used to leave it to ferment/cook/whatever in the airing cupboard). There isn't an awful lot to say about these three years so I won't bore you. The most important thing that happened was I was introduced to Mary Moore (also known as Mary Hodges Moore), Oxford based singing teacher extraordinaire and the the woman that forced me from a lazy mezzo to a fully functioning soprano (I am not saying mezzos are lazy, just me). So, in 1995 I left University thinking I was ready for a life in opera. Needless to say this was not the case and it would be 2 years before I actually got a professional job (Opera Holland Park, I mentioned that in the very first entry I believe). However, I left University, as most people do, full of myself but also full of hope and moved to Oxford to be nearer my singing teacher and started working in a Post Office!

I think that is enough for you all to mull over for now. We will probably skip 1995-1998, The Wilderness Years and go straight to the Guildhall Years as that is when it gets interesting (I will let you be the judge of that actually). I was reminded yesterday that The Proms have started so I will check the schedule and find some juicy stuff to talk about soon. Of course I will be commenting from my sofa. It is too hot to go to the Albert Hall.


  1. love your blog! Can´t wait for the next one ;) xxx Hallveig (from the "interesting Guildhall years")

  2. Ta Hallveig. Yes those Guildhall Years were definitely interesting! x