After returning from Australia via an amazing 17-hour direct flight from Perth, I found myself in a vivid jetlag anxiety dream; I was in a packed concert hall, my singer had disappeared, and I had no idea what would happen next. Urging myself awake, I found myself indeed in Oxford’s historic Holywell Music Room, packed as it always is for the yearly Oxford Lieder Festival. My neighbours were alluding to a last-minute cancellation by Ailish Tynan, due to sing Nuits d’Afrique, a song cycle I’d recently written for her – suddenly voiceless last night. It was the first I’d heard about it.
As in my dream self, I had no idea what would happen next. How relieved I was to see Harriet Burns arrive onstage – the only other singer in the world (a very talented recent grad of GSMD) ready and able to tackle my new work, which she had performed at this summer’s Ryedale Festival. How had festival director Sholto Kynoch managed this substitution with exactly no time to spare ? By coincidence he’d been backstage last night congratulating Harriet on a young artist’s recital she’d just given, when the phone call about Ailish came in. It must have been good Lieder karma in operation.
Pictured: Having attended performances of Haydn’s Miracle Symphony while with the Adelaide Symphony the previous week, I paid careful attention to the Music Room’s chandelier (see photo.) We wondered if those cobwebs are original, or authentic 18th century reconstructions, perhaps bio-engineered in a nearby science lab.