We catch up with Soprano Mhairi Lawson ahead of our Messiah performances in December 2013.
Tell us a bit about your early life. How did you come to be a singer? Did you play any instruments? Were you encouraged by your parents to pursue music as a career? I don’t remember ever not singing something or other. Sang around the house, in church and sundayschool, in school. My parents are both active in choirs and amateur opera societies, it was normal for the house to be ringing with some kind of noise. I learned the piano, played for local ballet lessons and also occasionally church organ. A career in performing music came as a bit of a surprise as we didn’t know any professional musicians and there were none in the family. My parents were and still are extremely supportive. My Dad is still holding out for the yacht I’m supposed to buy him….
In recent years, you have really started to feature as one of the top specialist performers of baroque repertoire. Did you find yourself instinctively attracted to this repertoire? When did that happen? I have been extremely privileged to have been given good opportunities to work within the area of historical performance practice – it seemed to choose me, and I wonder if my childhood exposure to a lot of national and traditional music of Scotland, particularly dance tunes, contributes also to my love of 17th and 18th century repertoire.
You’ll be performing Messiah with us in December. I’m guessing that you’ve sung the work many times (!). How do you manage to bring fresh insight to it with every performance? Yes, I’ve sung this work many times – I never get bored with it, I always work it with my voice teacher to find a higher level of delivery – this is a lifetime’ s work.
What do you enjoy most about singing with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort? Being involved in all aspects of the work in progress ie. as chorister and soloist is immensely rewarding – hard work, mind you, physically and mentally.
When you’re not singing or travelling between engagements, how do you spend your time? I do the following…. build Lego star wars models with my 5 yr old boy, nag my husband, build lego batman models, plant vegetables, catch up on “worthy” reading to keep ahead of my historical performance students at the Guildhall School in London, build Lego chima models, go to the hairdresser, make damson gin and goosebarry and blackcurrant jam, watch DVD box sets of ‘boardwalk empire’ and ‘homeland’, drink gin, go to the opera as much as possible.
Do you have any advice for young singers considering pursuing their art as a professional career? Hmm, difficult. I was told by a well meaning teacher that I’d never have a career and that I should probably give up. I suppose that my advice would be – ignore people wanting to give you advice. At least, choose your advisors carefully!
Mhairi will appear with the Dunedin Consort at the following performances: Fri 20th of December 2013 @ 7.30pm The Queen’s Hall – Edinburgh 01316682019 Handel’s Messiah Sat 21st of December 2013 @8pm Kelvingrove Museum (Glasgow) 01413538000 Sold Out (£10 Standing Gallery tickets available) Handel’s Messiah Sun 11th of May 2014 @ 3pm The Queen’s Hall – Edinburgh 01316682019 Madrigals of Love and War