Mu­sic that Changed Me


BBC Music Magazine - - Contents - In­ter­view by Amanda Hol­loway

So­prano Ail­ish Ty­nan

A Vi­lar Young Artist at the Royal Opera House and a BBC New Gen­er­a­tion Artist, Ir­ish so­prano Ail­ish Ty­nan won the Rosen­blatt Song Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer in 2003. She has sung opera around the world and is a reg­u­lar recital­ist at Wig­more Hall. She is record­ing and per­form­ing a pro­gramme of Ravel and Ju­dith Weir with the He­brides En­sem­ble this May.

Icame to mu­sic fairly late – my par­ents didn’t lis­ten to clas­si­cal mu­sic and we didn’t even have a record player. So the first pieces of mu­sic I re­mem­ber hit­ting me be­tween the eyes, and get­ting into my heart, came when I was al­ready a singer.

Not long af­ter I met my fu­ture hus­band, [Keith Mc­ni­coll, prin­ci­pal bass trom­bone at the Royal Opera] he played me a beau­ti­ful Sal­va­tion Army piece called ‘SHARE MY YOKE’ with trum­peter James Wat­son. I looked at Keith and thought, ‘Oh my God, you are def­i­nitely the love of my life’. ★ere was this lovely man, play­ing me this deep, soul­ful, spir­i­tual mu­sic, and I knew I wanted to spend my life with him. Ten years later, we have baby Daisy and I couldn’t be hap­pier.

Early in my ca­reer I en­coun­tered JU­DITH WEIR and I was amazed – I thought com­posers were dead men from 300 years ago. We hit it off; I loved her mu­sic and was in­volved in record­ing sev­eral new pieces, in­clud­ing Nat­u­ral His­tory and The Wel­come Ar­rival of Rain.i was so happy to think that clas­si­cal mu­sic was alive and hap­pen­ing and I was part of it. Ju­dith is fan­tas­tic at rhythm – her mu­sic is not easy but it’s been an ed­u­ca­tion for me. She wrote a piece for me in 2016 called Nuits d’afrique, a com­pan­ion piece to Ravel’s Chan­sons madé­casses, and I was so tick­led to see ‘To Ail­ish Ty­nan’ on the first page. In 100 years’ time some­body might be learn­ing this mu­sic and they’ll wonder, who was Ail­ish Ty­nan? The pre­miere was de­layed first by an ac­ci­dent – I stuck

a score in my eye and dam­aged it quite badly – and then I was preg­nant. Nuits sets po­etry by con­tem­po­rary African women and the first song is a lul­laby from Senegal. A year af­ter the post­poned pre­miere we were fi­nally re­hears­ing it at Wig­more ★all and I was singing the lul­laby with Daisy in my arms when Ju­dith walked in. That was a very spe­cial mo­ment.

An­other life-chang­ing piece that ad­vanced my tech­nique was GLIÈRE’S Con­certo for Col­oratura So­prano. I was asked to sing at the BBC Proms with the Bournemout­h Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and of course I said yes – I love the Proms – and then I found out what I was singing. I’m not a col­oratura so­prano although I have an agile voice and the first move­ment was fine. But the sec­ond move­ment! I was singing Pa­pa­gena at La Scala and Al­bina Shag­imu­ra­tova was the Queen of the Night, and she told me, ‘I spent six months work­ing on it’. Well I did too, and learn­ing the piece trans­formed my tech­nique. It was like a vo­cal gym for six months. On the night I pulled it off, but I re­cently turned down the chance to sing it again!

Lieder and song recitals are so im­por­tant to me – I sing a lot of Schu­bert and

Wolf, but my heart lies in FAURÉ. My French-lan­guage coach, Michel Valat, has given me the key to un­der­stand­ing Fauré; a po­etic soul, he talks through the trans­la­tion and fires my imag­i­na­tion. I’ve cho­sen Fauré’s Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’, which are in­tox­i­cat­ing and erotic. At first you think, ‘Oh, a sim­ple lit­tle tune’, but you find your­self awash on a sea of emotion. The record­ing I made of Fauré songs with Iain Burn­side is one of my favourites.

Since hav­ing Daisy my voice has grown richer and more pow­er­ful and I’m ex­cited to be mov­ing into new reper­toire. PUC­CINI writes the most ro­man­tic operas ever – I defy any­one not to be moved by Madam But­ter­fly or La bo­hème. As a Young Artist at the Royal Opera I used to watch top so­pra­nos sing Mimì or Tosca and think, ‘Gosh, that must be dif­fi­cult’. Now I’m pre­par­ing those roles and it al­most feels ef­fort­less – my ‘Vissi d’arte’ was tele­vised at Proms in the Park from Glas­gow last year and it took no en­ergy to sing. In fact it feels in­dul­gent, like eat­ing a box of choco­lates.

I’ll be singing my first Mimì in 2020, but keep it un­der your hat!

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