About Me

WELCOME TO MY website. I've finally entered the 21st century and hope you enjoy your visit.

I'll tell you a bit about myself, but not the full, and to be honest, rather dull biography I generally use. It puts me to sleep by the fifth line, so I'll endeavour to keep you awake.

My parents come from Pembrokeshire in West Wales and I was born in Hampton Court, Middlesex way back in 1951, on February 15th. I missed being a Valentine's baby by fifteen minutes, thank goodness, and, being born on a Thursday seems to have been prophetic. Thursday's child has far to go, and I've certainly covered a hell of a long distance, one way and another.

I knew from the time I was five years old that I'd be a singer when I grew up. Mind you, I was mildly diverted in my teens into thinking pharmacy would be a good career; I thought I'd join forces with my Dad, who was a pharmacist, and we could each work for six months a year. Mercifully, I decided on a career in music and with that single decision I saved countless lives.

My Mum trained as a singer, but when she and my father were first married the world was a very different place. Once my younger brother Keith and I were born, Mum gave up the idea of pursuing a professional career and devoted herself to the family and the pharmacy. I've never met people who worked harder than my parents and that ethic became part of my personality by simply living with them.

I was lucky to win a scholarship to Surbiton High School when I was eleven and received a great education, the high point of which was studying with Elizabeth Ashton - one of life's most gifted music teachers.

It was she who enabled me to get an A at A-level in music in only four terms and she who wangled me into the Royal Academy of Music as a Junior in 1968.

I went on to study there as a senior: singing with the great Constance Shacklock; piano with Mildred Litherland (who always reminded me of Edward G Robinson); harmony with Eric Fenby, who had loads to say about Delius; and a variety of professors, good, bad and occasionally ugly, with whom I worked for the GRSM and BMus.

Once I graduated, I taught piano to several streets of small children, taught singing and piano at what was then Kingston Polytechnic, and in 1977 landed the job as presenter of the BBC award-winning programme Music Time.

I'd been singing professionally in concerts, recitals and oratorios since my student days but never had any experience of acting - I wasn't allowed in the Opera Class while at the Academy as I couldn't devote enough time to it! Quite funny as it turned out in the end.

I loved working in TV; it was pretty scary to start with and at the end of the first day's recording in spring 1977 I had a headache of monumental proportions just through nerves.

In all, I made 56 programmes with wonderful, zany Australian Peter Combe and a further eight with West End star Andrew Wadsworth.

During the four years of making the programmes, I married, had two wonderful children and continued to teach and sing concerts.

I was very thin.

In 1983, having been taken on by the prestigious London agency Ingpen and Williams, I began my career in opera. I can thank Sir Richard Armstrong and Sir Brian McMaster for my first job, which was as a Flower Maiden in Parsifal at WNO. However, had Richard not offered me the role of Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio, I would not now be writing this.

I had always thought opera was ghastly. Truly and horribly ghastly. I much preferred film, TV and straight theatre and, having worked in TV for several years, I found very little fulfilment in being a Flower Maiden.

Leonore was a different matter. In a manner that was to become horribly familiar throughout my career, I was chucked in at the deep end. My fifth ever operatic performance was as Leonore in Liverpool in March 1983 and I felt as if I'd done it all my life. I had ten days' rehearsal, and Richard very kindly organised that I should sing with the orchestra to get the hang of things.

Anne Evans, who became one of my dearest friends, sat me and my two babies down in front of her TV in Acton and told me how to approach the role in that extraordinary WNO production. Toria and Will have no recollection of it but happily, twenty three years later, Anne has made a complete recovery.

I won't bang on about all the years that followed my beginning in opera. I've put a list of roles and the places I've sung somewhere else on this website if you'd like to marvel at the extraordinary variety of roles I've sung.

When people ask me why I sang this or that role - and there are definitely some I should not have sung - the answer has to be that I thought I could and I had a mortgage to pay, children to feed and educate, and one dilapidated house after another to do up!

I had lots of fun and lots of misery; it's horrible being away from your children but at the same time it's really nice to get some sleep. And Toria and Will were never ill while I was away. They always waited for me to come home.

Hay fever and bronchitis have been the bane of my life and it's unbelievably stressful not knowing what your voice is going to do because of an allergy to grass, trees and flowers. However, it's small beer compared to what many people have to cope with. In spite of the problems, to work with the greatest musicians in the world in the greatest opera houses and actually succeed is something very special and a real privilege.

Thirty years ago I became involved with a very special group of people who have become my greatest friends. Because of their influence, I began raising money for a wide variety of charities. My Christmas concerts with my Ladies Choir, my other charity concerts, and my walk from John O'Groats to Land's End for Speakability in 2001 have raised around £700,000. Many chums sing, play, read and present for me year after year for which I thank them wholeheartedly. We have had a lot of fun over the last three decades and fully expect to be performing with the help of designer Zimmer frames in the not too distant future!

Toria and Will turned out rather well in spite of (or perhaps because of!) my being away so much. Toria is currently living and working in Sydney. She's absolutely gorgeous, clever and has a wicked sense of humour. Will is building a career in computer games after gaining an MEng at Oxford - it's not a disease, it's a masters degree in engineering. He's handsome, brilliant and also has a wicked sense of humour. Their favourite occupation is taking the piss out of their poor old mother - and I love it.

Like everyone of my age I've had highs and lows, and that's not just my vocal range.

I'm very happily divorced, single and living in a chocolate box cottage in the beautiful Surrey Hills. I still have my lifelong passion for horses but no plans to have another one of my own for a while. The best bits have been having my children; singing great roles in such a way that it truly touches people; and having the best family, friends and colleagues that any person could want.