Want to know what soloists eat before concerts, how they choose what to wear, and how they keep calm?
Well, now you can find out, as we interview soprano, Lucy Knight
Here at són, we always like to offer our concert-goers a little bit more. Our printed programmes are a good example of this.
Of course, we do cram it full of all the usual things, such as biographies, orchestra lists and programme notes (including, for our forthcoming Romsey Abbey concert next week, some brilliantly erudite notes from leading Beethoven-expert William Drabkin).
We think audience members like a little bit more than this, too. Our launch concert programme included specially written Sibelius articles, interviews and photographs, and even recipes for some Finnish Christmas goodies (it was a late-November event!)
So, for our Romsey debut, we couldn’t resist a couple of interviews. We enjoy a discussion with two of our són Masterclass students about the benefits and challenges of being an early-career orchestral musician. And we’ve also included a fascinating interview with the evening’s soloist, soprano Lucy Knight, about what her typical concert day looks like.
Want to know all about what soloists eat before concerts, how they choose their frock, and what they do to keep calm? Well, now you can find out – because we’re delighted to reproduce extracts from our interview below. Of course, if you’d like to find out more, including other interviews (no recipes this time, mind) you can pick up one of our programmes an hour before kick-off next Saturday. For now, read on and enjoy this taster…
Tell us about what you do on the day of a concert. What do you do to juggle all the timings, travelling & rehearsing?
My husband (a trombonist) and I have a busy schedule of concerts and late nights, so waking up early is not our greatest strength… On concert days I always feel a buzz of excitement: after weeks or months of preparation, now is the time to meet the orchestra and make the music come to life. I make an enormous breakfast to fuel me through the day – I’m currently obsessed with everything Sri Lankan, so it’s spicy scrambled eggs these days – before some exercise to wake me up, and a vocal warm-up. I’m a terrible driver, so if at all possible I will always opt for the train to concert destinations. We usually rehearse for three hours on a concert day, working through the music and addressing any issues such as balance (how loud the singer is in relation to the orchestra), which vary from venue to venue. Supper is usually rushing to the nearest restaurant that will serve food as early as 5:30pm, and quickly, before returning to the venue to get into concert dress and ready for the call to stage. Bed time is late after concerts as adrenaline is running high.
What about all the practicalities – how do you choose what to eat, what to wear, and are there any special routines you always follow?
Singers are told to avoid very spicy or high-dairy food, but I only have one food rule on concert days: to make sure there is plenty of it! Singing is very physical. We use our whole bodies to support the sound and make it carry over an orchestra, which requires a lot of energy. And there’s nothing more nerve-inducing than an empty stomach. I choose my dress the night before a concert and try to match it to the occasion, with dark colours for the Requiems and Passions, red for Messiahs, and pale or bright for more celebratory works like tonight’s Exsultate Jubilate. I don’t have any special routines as every ‘backstage’ is different (often I have my own dressing room, other times I can be sharing with a choir of 100) but you might find me in the kitchen breathing the steam from a kettle to hydrate my voice, especially after a heavy few days of singing.
What about your mindset? How do you approach an event from a positive mental perspective, and what do you do to stay calm and balanced?
It probably goes without saying that musical preparation is essential for a positive mentality. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel nervous before I perform, but learning to translate those nerves into excitement is one of the things we learn (whether through training, or trial and error) during the course of becoming a professional musician. And in fact the extra adrenaline is one of the things that makes a concert different to a rehearsal, and gives it that electrifying spark. Staying calm in general is definitely important, and for me this means a healthy lifestyle of good food, exercise, spending time with friends, and enjoying other things in life besides singing.
How do you know when an event has gone well, and how do you feel when you and your supporting orchestra have worked well together?
A great concert is immensely satisfying. I feel extremely fortunate to perform classical music as my job, and to be able to bring to life centuries of some of humankind’s greatest artistic endeavours. Music is not simply the dots on a page: it needs live performance in order to exist, and there is great excitement in bringing your own interpretation to these historical works and knowing that each concert will be different. I am aware that things have gone well with an orchestra when we are able to take risks together, and create the moments of spontaneity and magic where the music seems to have a life of its own.
What is special to you about the music you are singing in the Romsey Abbey concert?
To talk about the genius of Mozart must be the biggest cliche in classical music, but it exists for a reason. Not only is his music some of the most elegant and beautiful that has ever been written, but it is also captures the essence of human experience and emotion, expressing directly what words and other art forms cannot. In Romsey Abbey I am delighted to be singing Zerlina’s arias, the first Mozart role I ever sang whilst a student at Cambridge, in a notorious production which ended up with pizza falling into a harpsichord. Exsultate Jubilate also has special resonance for me, as this was one of the first concert works I performed as a Making Music Young Concert Artist in 2013, and how I met tonight’s superb conductor – Robin Browning – who was conducting the orchestra!
What do you do to unwind after an event?
You’ll probably find me with the orchestra in the nearest pub!
You can hear Lucy in concert with són at Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, in a programme of Mozart – arias from Don Giovanni and the Exsultate, jubilate – on Sat 18 March at 7:30pm.
Tickets are £12 to £22 – click here
or call 01794 512987 (during office hours only)
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