Glenys recalls the highlights of a lifetime in opera
She couldn’t quite believe she was sharing it with Joan Sutherland, Pavarotti and Marilyn Horne – one of the great moments she captures in her new book.
Glenys, who lives in Middleton, has been doing a talk on her life on the stage for a number of years. The book has grown from the talk – plus a little bit of straight talking.
“My nephew’s partner was standing in my music room looking at all the memorabilia and she said ‘When we come to clear out all your stuff, we won’t have a clue what any of it is!’ I thought about it and after I had picked myself up off the floor, I thought it was absolutely true! I thought I had better put pen to paper. I was already doing my talk, so I based it on that.”
After 25 years working at the Royal Opera House, writing the book proved cathartic, Glenys said: “After all that rushing up and down to London every single day, it was rather lovely to think that I had got all this time to reminisce, just to myself even. Everything in the book happened to me. It is not about other people’s anecdotes. This is all my story.”
Brought up in Middlesex, Glenys determined to be a singer at the age of nine after entering a music festival through her school. She was encouraged to sing in the solo class and got a taste for it.
“It was a bit of a road to Damascus experience. I just decided then and there that it was what I wanted to do. I just loved the feeling of singing and communicating. That was it. My father came home and said one of his colleague’s daughters was having singing lessons, and so I duly had singing lessons.”
Glenys then joined D’Oyly Carte opera company, just two days after her 18th birthday, thrown in at the deep end, as she says. She then enjoyed a number of shows in the West End. She also worked for the Ambrosian Singers, “arguably the most important professional recorded choir ever”: “I have been so lucky. I have never been out of work since. I think the idea was that I was supposed to go back to college, but after three or four years of earning, well, you don’t. And I have not been out of work. I have never had more than a couple of weeks without a job on the calendar.”
An important move was joining the permanent staff at the Royal Opera House: “I started off as an extra chorister in the early 80s and I think I must have joined in about 1987. I walked in through the stage door, and I loved it. I was a round peg in a round hole. I absolutely loved it. I was a member of the top opera company in the world working with the most prestigious opera singers and directors and conductors. I felt very, very privileged.”
Privileged too to be backing singer to Kate Bush on her only tour, Lionheart in 1979.
“When a pop star goes on tour, they have to reproduce the sounds on the record that they are promoting, but on every record she made Kate did her own backing vocals. She had an extraordinary voice. She had a very high facility and then the next day she would go in and do the low notes.
“But to reproduce that sound live is beyond the remit on your regular backing vocalists. We were regularly squeaking top Bs and Cs. Her singing teacher suggested to her that she needed to have a good and proper singer. I was approached, and we went on tour for about six months.”