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The soprano

Ailish Tynan told David Hennessy why a recitial at Wigmore Hall is her favourite gig and what the queen said to her about the venue when she met her at Buckingham Palace

Originally from Mullingar and living in London for 20 years, soprano Ailish Tynan is revered on the classical music scene and a BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition winner.

Ailish Tynan told The Irish World how stunned she was that not only was a programme of such prestige taking place at Wigmore Hall but also that she would get to be part of it: “We can’t belive it. The music world is just like, ‘How did he pull this off?’ It’s just brilliant. It was so unexpected. All I’ve had is cancellation, cancellation, cancellation. And apart from anything else, my favourite, favourite gig that I get offered anyway is a recital at Wigmore Hall so the fact that the one thing that has come in is a recital at Wigmore Hall just feels so luxurioius.

“To have the time to work on it, we can really concentrate. You’re not trying to juggle it with learning an opera and learning another three recital programmes into the bargain. It’s all about this one concert which is a real luxury.

“After having nothing for so long, people will be delighted.”

Asked how lockdown has been for her, Ailish says she has been making the best of it with her husband and daughter.

“There are other musicians out there who are not earning any money and are worried sick about when they’re going to be earning any money. But my husband plays the bass trumbone at the Royal Opera House and I have been pretty busy myself as singer’s career goes so to be honest, we’re kind of enjoying the family time at home.

“We’re married now six years and together a good bit longer than that. He does five shows a week as long as I know him. I used to joke to my friend, ‘I might as well be a widow sitting at home on my own in the evening’.

“If we don’t kill each other, it will be great.”

Although people have been collaborating from isolation, Ailish says there is no replacement for the live experience.

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“People are doing things recorded on a phone remotely, the pianist in their house and you in your house but that’s very different.

“At the moment when I do things like that, the pianist records something and sends it to me, I then have to follow their tempo and I have no freedom to express myself like I would like to. Whereas this will be real music making in one of the most gorgeous acoustics in the world singing and we know people are watching, It will be the next best thing.


“This will be high quality and the musicians will be in the same room as each other.

“I even didn’t realise how much I love music myself until all this happened. I’ve got BBC Radio 3 on all the time now. It’s lovely to have the music around you at this time because the last thing you want to listening to is the news at the moment.

“It’s great to be able to connect with something and to be able to get a bit of solace from the loneliness and the worry. I know I’m worried about it. Okay, It’s not the stress of our working lives and the hustle and bustle but another stress has set in. Nobody wants to get sick and nobody wants people they love to get sick. To have an hour to take your mind completely off all that is going to be great for people.

“I have to say I’ve been really lucky in my career and I’ve had great things happen and offered to me and everything. I always say it’s the luck of the Irish. I feel so honoured to be part of it, so lucky to be chosen to do it.”

With nothing else going on, did she feel like joking that she was busy when the offer came? “I’m washing my hair that day,” she laughs. “I said yes straight away. If I’d had him there in person, I would have bit the hand off him.

“I think at the moment my gut feeling is that concerts with live audiences won’t be for a very, very long time. I really can’t see us being able to have concerts until there is a vaccine. Apart from anything else, I don’t think people would want to go to things and risk catching it.

“What can you do? Make the best of it and I think John Gilhooly is making really the best of it.

“And the hall itself, it’s gorgeous. It’s so intimate. I’m kind of used to having no people in it actually because you always have a rehearsal before a concert and I’ve done a lot at Wigmore in my career. I’m used to singing in the hall with nobody in it when I rehearse. It’s heavenly.

“In fact, I got to meet the queen a few years back. I was invited to Buckingham Palace. They were meeting all the Irish people. There was people like Louis Walsh, Mrs Doyle, Van Morrison, all these people were there and the queen was talking to groups of people. She came over to our group and she started talking to me. I think it’s probably because I’m the same height as her, ‘I’ll be able to hear what this one’s saying. She’s right on my ear level’.

“The one place she talked about was Wigmore Hall. Her mother had brought her to Wigmore Hall as a child and she said, ‘I remember hearing the sound of the traffic when I was sitting there and thinking, ‘How are these people making beautiful music when they can hear the traffic?’ Now can you still hear the traffic?’

“I said, ‘No, you can’t’. I don’t know how they’ve achieved that but you can’t hear the traffic at all. Maybe you can and I never noticed it I’m so busy concentrating.”

Does Ailish think the Queen will be listening to the concerts? “Who knows? We’ve nothing else to do, we might as well tune in. What else is she going to be doing?”

The series of lunchtime concerts opens on 1 June with a piano recital by Stephen Hough and can be listened to on BBC Radio 3 and streamed on the Wigmore Hall website. 

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