I have very fond memories of working on Long Story Short: the Belfast Opera in June 2016. I am deeply grateful to director Conor Hanratty, conductor David Brophy and composer Neil Martin for taking a chance on an emerging artist for one of the principal roles in this groundbreaking community-inspired opera.
So it's no surprise then, that when I get a call in April from Mr. Martin to see if I'd take part in his newest project, I said yes before he'd even finished the pitch! And what a pitch it was. Neil Martin had received a commission from HRH the Prince of Wales to compose a song cycle, Song After Rain, in English, Irish and Ulster Scots. Nothing as obvious as asking me to sing the Irish bit, mind you. No, the mezzo role was the Ulster Scots section - a beautiful and lively passage about a cheeky blackbird shirking his singing duties in the woodland chorus, from an 18th Century text.
The music, as always, was gorgeous, but it took a little while to get my head around the language. I spoke to people who had sung Robert Burns texts (thanks Arthur Bruce!) and went back and forth to make sure I got it right. Not that I would ever leave diction to chance, but I am glad I had taken the time. HRH is quite the expert on Doric dialects, as he explained to me at the reception in Hillsborough House.
This was a simply glorious gig: working to premiere music by a composer I admire; getting to explore a new language to sing in and meeting their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. I am indebted to Neil Martin and the Lord Lieutenant Fionnuala Jay O'Boyle for asking me to take part in this occasion. I wan't forget this one!