Synergy represented by:

L-R: Tom Bullard, Heather Cairncross, Micaela Haslam, Andrew Busher

“We all met in London – at St Giles in the Barbican – on the day we were travelling to Amsterdam. The four of us had had a rehearsal a couple of weeks earlier with Andrew Greenan who was stepping bravely into Brindley Sherratt’s shoes to sing the role of Christus. This was now the first meeting of the whole team, so Andrew really had to hit the ground running. There’s no recording of the piece (a luxury we’re all so used to these days when learning new music) so this was a tough gig for him, with very little tutti rehearsal. Andrew was sweetly self-deprecating, but actually did extremely well. It turns out that he and I sang Jephtha together at Manchester University about 100 years ago – small world. He assured me that he wasn’t a stalker though, or indeed “Mr Memory” from a travelling circus – he’d simply found the programme in his score.



Will Conway steered us all cheerfully and calmly through the piece, and we headed off to Amsterdam with renewed confidence. We were staying at The Mövenpick Hotel, right next door to the Muziekgebouw – always a happy experience. Most of the gang headed straight to the hotel bar to enjoy a beer or two.

Beer for ladies

Beer sizes










Which one of these is for the lady, I wonder….? Some of the ladies I go on tour with can drink the boys under the table! I did the sensible thing and headed straight to my room. Still suffering from a horrid incessant dry cough, I thought my “tower of isolation” [©John Milner – sonic sculptor] would be the best option the night before a concert, and of course I had this offer from the hotel to put to the test……!


Promises, promises!

After a splendid breakfast and a chill-out morning, we met for the balance/rehearsal. The Muziekgebouw has wonderful (adjustable) acoustics, and we opted for a more resonant sound. To my mind, Since it Was the Day of Preparation….. works best in a church, but a concert hall like this is the perfect alternative. We put Andy and Tom up in the galleries for their long recit solos.


Tom Bullard doing his thing

This looked great – at least it would have done if Andy’s spotlight hadn’t blown during the concert. He had to sing his entire 3 minute solo in complete darkness. Just as well he knew it from memory!

My biggest worry was that my voice would pack up completely, having sung nothing at all for three weeks. Every time I’d tried, I would start coughing uncontrollably, so I just had to surrender to the steaming and hot honey with lemon, and hope for the best. It’s amazing what a bit of adrenalin can do and thankfully I made it through the concert, which was really well received – a standing ovation, no less. The others all sang and played wonderfully and I felt very proud to be in such an amazing team.

The band – Gabriella, Liz, Steve, Yann & Will

The following day, our only job was to get to Leeds. Sounds easy enough, except that there had been yet another dumping of snow in the UK, resulting this time in the closure of Leeds/Bradford airport. Gabriella managed to get a flight back to London in order to pick up her harp from home and drive up to Leeds. In Amsterdam, she’d borrowed a harp – not the easiest instrument to take on tour. The rest of us waited and prayed that the airport would reopen for our early evening flight. Thankfully, it did, though we landed in quite a snow storm. Normally, I wouldn’t like that, but having endured a horrid turbulent flight from Glasgow the previous week, landing in what felt like gale-force winds, this was a breeze.

It may have been 9pm, but our hardy crew ventured into Leeds, braving the deep snow and ice, in search of a curry. Once again, I did the diva thing and retired to the hotel, but I did manage to persuade them all to return to the same curry house (Akbar’s) the following night – so at least I didn’t miss out on the delicious spicy fare and the monster naans.

monster naan

I’m afraid I didn’t really enjoy the concert in the Howard Assembly Room. The acoustics were too dry for this piece, and the air was too dry for my throat! After the Amsterdam gig, I was running on one vocal cord, and now felt as though I was clinging on for dear life – never a pleasant sensation in a concert. By the end of the gig, I was completely voiceless. Curry and beer in the noisiest restaurant imaginable provided the final nail in the proverbial vocal coffin, but at least I’d made it through – phew!


Taking a bow in Leeds