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Gather round, folks!

Baroque at the Edge 2021 starts tomorrow, and there are still some artists left to get you acquainted with. Today we’re featuring soprano Lucy Crowe – one of the UK’s favourite and most versatile concert singers – who appears with David Bates’s baroque ensemble La Nuova Musica in this year’s closing event. The concert's entitled ‘FolkBaroque’, and sees Lucy and David joined by fiddler Tom Moore for a celebration of those interesting corners where baroque music and folk-music meet. On the one hand, we might have a ciaconna by Antonio Bertali, a lullaby by Orazio Michi or a discourse on the nature of kissing by 17th-century German composer Andreas Hammerschmidt – on the other, Danny Boy, If I were a blackbird, or fiddle tunes with juicy titles such as Hare’s Maggot or Baccapipes.

To hear a little clip from the performance, click here.
So let’s hear what answers Lucy and David gave to the Baroque at the Edge questionnaire.

Lucy Crowe

When were you first aware that you loved singing?
From an early age. I would sing along to my Mum's recordings of ABBA, Blood Brothers (I know every word!), Handel’s Messiah and Maria Callas’s greatest hits. The latter in particular really struck a chord with me; the intensity of emotion moved me so much, and through the power of this music I found my happy place. I was bullied quite badly at school, so singing along to these recordings provided me with escapism.

When did you realise it was something you wanted to take seriously?
When I was 10 and sang The Snowman in school assembly, and when I went to see Swan Lake at Covent Garden (same age). I was taking ballet seriously at the time, and remember saying to my parents, ‘it’s my dream to perform here one day’. You can imagine, my debut there was very emotional; we stood and hugged each other, and I remember thinking ‘I’ve made it’. Every time I perform there, I feel so proud and elated!

Who have been the main influences on your career?
My middle-school teacher David Blant, who gave me the solos in choir and encouraged me to have singing lessons with the wonderful Coral Gould. And conductors Trevor Pinnock, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Harry Bicket, and directors Sir David McVicar and Peter Sellars for giving me amazing opportunities.

What are your favourite composers and styles to sing?
All the obvious ones: Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Debussy, Strauss, but also musical theatre and pop. This strange time has allowed me to sing in these styles and channel my inner rock/pop diva!

You’ve been seen on Facebook this year singing to your neighbours outside your houseHow did that come about?
So when lockdown was announced, my husband, Joe Walters (horn-player, guitarist, pianist), decided to do a ‘horn-call’ each night at the same time, to give our street (and ourselves) a focus to the day and something to look forward to. I couldn’t help but join in, so every night for the whole of lockdown we performed a song or aria – and most Sundays gave a 40-minute concert – with music ranging from Verdi to Kylie and ‘Dido’s Lament’ with electric guitar to REM and Aretha Franklin. We’ve also performed for Whipps Cross Hospital, Haven House Children’s Hospice, the Wellbeing of Women charity, and care homes. I’ve loved being able to sing for people who wouldn’t usually listen to opera or classical music, or who wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford to go to the theatre.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
I’ve met him already! Dinner with Sir David Attenborough at Buckingham Palace has to be one of the highlights of my life!

What interests do you have outside music?
I love to cook – curries mainly. I’m never without a book, my favourites being medical autobiographies (ie Henry Marsh, David Nott, Adam Kay). I love the outdoors, and we often enjoy family bike rides in our local forest. I also love going to festivals and seeing bands perform live (I know this is not an interest outside of music but it’s outside of classical music!), and in the past few years have seen Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Guns n Roses, Tears for Fears, The Levellers, Garbage, Morrissey, London Grammar and Beth Orton.

Which musicians, of any kind, do you admire the most?
Any who have no fear, who take their jobs seriously but not themselves. Those who are not afraid to bare their soul and take risks.

How do you relax?
 A nice hot bath with Laura Mercier Fig bath creme and candles. A glass of dry white wine (or a cup of tea with copious amounts of chocolate) whilst watching a psychological thriller or murder mystery drama. Lying in bed listening to London Grammar or reading a good book. If not of the medical kind then something like Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – it’s wonderful! I’m good at relaxing!! 

Tell us something about yourself you’d like us to know.
When I was growing up, my pets included a tarantula, a scorpion, hissing cockroaches and a slow worm.

Handel or Mozart?
I’m afraid that is absolutely impossible to answer, sorry!

* * *
David Bates

What gave you the idea for FolkBaroque?
It initially came from hearing Lucy Crowe singing folk-songs as part of a wider recital where actually, for me, the emotional heart of the evening were these folk-songs, which were so simple and so touching. Also, the level of improvisation and personal interpretation that you have to give them seemed very similar to late 17th-century opera style – the operas of Agostino Steffani and Francesco Cavalli and that lot, where you have a continuo band that basically improvises the accompaniment while the singer can weave their way above and be freely expressive. The two worlds seemed to come together.
What previous experience of folk music did you have?
I have no folk-music experience at all, other than singing the wonderful Roger Quilter settings of folk-songs, and obviously Cecil Sharp’s arrangements of folk-songs that I sang when I was at music college 20 years ago. Other than that, no ‘authentic‘ folk experience. Mind you, when I was little and going to my Dad’s at weekend. I loved Saturday nights because we would always go to the village barn for a barn dance; the dances were always sets, so you knew where you were going, you couldn’t go wrong. And they also served wonderful chilli con carne, which I loved, so that was probably a very core folk experience! And in fact, I want the follow up to FolkBaroque to be a Baroque Barn Dance, exchanging some of the traditional catches and reels for Baroque morescas and ciaconnas, but keeping the same dance patterns. But that’s for later. 
When did you form La Nuova Musica, and what would you say are the things that define the group?
I set up La Nuova Musica about twelve years ago.  I wanted to share with my friends works by the 17th-century Italian composer Giulio Caccini, who in 1601 published a very influential collection of songs called Le nuove musiche. But as to what makes the group individual, what our USP is, it’s always difficult to answer that sort of question, but I suppose it’s high a level of ‘interpretation’ – not waiting for the music to speak for itself, but rather all of us absolutely saying this is what we really feel about a piece. And of course, when you interpret something you put your heart it into it, so we always aim for thoughtful and heartfelt performances.
How did you start out as a musician?
When I was twelve we got a piano, and my parents couldn’t get me off it. Then I wanted to play the trumpet, but the trumpet-teacher told me I wasn’t right for it, so he gave me a trombone and I loved it. I went to the Junior Academy at the Royal Academy of Music as a trombonist, but then I did a summer singing class and loved that as well. So I went to RAM as a singer, and did the Singing Course and the Opera Course, and have been singing ever since.
Who have been the biggest influences on your musical career?
I think there are four people, and these are in no particular order. I worked with the conductor Emmanuelle Haïm at Le Concert d’Astrée for six or seven years, assisting and being her chorusmaster. I learned so much from her about French Baroque music, about directing and giving notes at the right time, helping singers and loving what they do, and working out how to get the best out of them. She’s completely wonderful. The Dutch harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt was one of the most thoughtful, great philosophers of music, and I loved his approach. I didn’t always love the results, but I loved his approach. He was amazing. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, of course, for some of the best music-making I’ve ever done, and will ever do. I sang in the Monteverdi Choir for about six years, and covered a lot of repertoire with him. I love what he gets, even if I don’t always like the way he gets it. And the final person is a guy called David Trendell. I learned more from singing in his choir at St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, London, than I learned from anyone.
Which musicians, of any kind, do you admire the most?
Of course, I really admire people who are technical whizzkids – that has to be a given. But then if they are prepared to risk all of that in performance and take us somewhere into their own imagination, that’s what I admire even more.
What interests do you have outside music?
Very little unfortunately – I’m a bit of a geek! Although I am just about to get a little wire-haired dachshund called Zadok – as in the Priest! So hopefully I’ll enjoy him a lot, and him me.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
I think the actor I’d like to meet and have dinner with is Josh O’Connor. I first saw him in God’s Own Country, an amazing film, and more most recently he’s played Prince Charles in The Crown. He’s just a top-notch actor, and seems really nice as well!
How do you relax?
Very easily. I fall asleep very quickly – which is a useful skill really!
Tell us something about yourself you’d like us to know.
I’m told I’m very impatient! And I’m a godfather to Lucy Crowe’s beautiful daughter, Elsie.
Chinese or Indian?
Here are two recommendations: Silk Road in Camberwell, an amazing Chinese restaurant; and a place called Diwali in Salisbury, an amazing Indian street-food place. I couldn’t choose between the two.

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‘The language of evaporation’

Join us for the Festival’s opening concert, a captivating solo recital by one of today’s most sensitive and immaculate guitarists, Sean Shibe. Sean also plays lute in Danse Éternelle, a clever and surprising combination of rustic dances and achingly lyrical folk tunes from Renaissance France and Scotland, with exquisitely crafted 20th-century miniatures by Erik Satie, Francis Poulenc, and Maurice Ravel. When Sean performed this programme for us just before Christmas, he held the small audience of Festival staff and recording technicians spellbound with his beautiful and affecting musicianship. It’s deep and dark; make sure you don’t miss it!

Tickets available via our website.

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It’s not just about the concerts!

Did you know that Baroque at the Edge has started up its own pop-up Podcast Station? This year, for the first time, we’ve been making programmes in and around the Festival, including interviews, previews, soundscapes and informative discussions, many of them presented by BBC Radio 3’s Fiona Talkington. See the Podcast page on the Festival website for more information and to access previous podcasts. And do look out for tomorrow’s fascinating Clerkenwell Ballad Walk, featuring singer Vivien Ellis and London Blue Badge Tourist Guide Dafydd Wyn Philipps.

To hear more visit our website

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Wigmore Hall live broadcasts

Wigmore Hall has been live broadcasting every one of their concerts. They are all free and available to watch here for 30 days following the live broadcast date. Watch exceptional artists from the comfort of your own living room!

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