Baroque at the Edge 2021's ongoing series of Live Zooms continues on Saturday with soprano Lucy Crowe in conversation with Sara Mohr-Pietsch. Lucy is one of the UK’s favourite and most versatile concert singers – and appeared with David Bates’s baroque ensemble La Nuova Musica in the closing event of Baroque at the Edge Festival this year. The concert was entitled ‘FolkBaroque’, and saw Lucy and folk-fiddler Tom Moore join LNM for a celebration of those interesting corners where baroque music and folk-music meet. On the one hand, we would 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 gave to the Baroque at the Edge Artist Questionnaire.
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 house. How 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!