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Behind the Musical Advent Calendar: Suzy Robinson, Soprano

I started writing down Suzy's interview then decided it's best written in her own words. So may I introduce Suzy: soprano, writer, editor, mum and treasure trove of amusing Christmas anecdotes!

I am Suzy Robinson and I am a Londoner. (That’s London, England, not London, Ohio as I lead Facebook to believe just to mess with the algorithm.)

I’ve been a singer for at least a hundred years (give or take) and my areas are both Early Music and 21st Century newly written stuff. I also write and edit books.

During lockdown I compiled a book on cats in literature which is about to go to press, and I spend quite a lot of time veering between writing deadly serious things on deadly serious subjects, and writing silly, funny, sometimes very rude and completely inconsequential stuff which at least makes the dog laugh. I have a 7 year old daughter to whom I have all the authority of a potato, but who is the light of my life and, I believe, possibly the hope for mankind.

What will you miss most about performing music this Christmas?

I will of course miss the raft of carol concerts: running from one to gig to another, feeling as if I have Carols for Choirs as a second language; Seeing at each service or concert friends and colleagues all on a similar marathon of descants with top zeds.

However this year I will miss one thing most of all - if, at the church where I am employed as the soprano, we are still a skeleton crew of four by Christmas, it will not be possible for my daughter to sing the first verse of Once in Royal - a solo which I would give anything to hear her sing for the very first time. But I would probably make a show of myself by sobbing loudly and snottily at my little girl's sweet piping voice and then she would stay embarrassed by me until she was at least 30.

Tell us your favourite carol/Christmas song?

I know it is an old (very old) chestnut, but I would have to say Lully Lullay, the Coventry Carol. I realise it is actually about the Massacre of the Innocents, which at first look might seem not really very Christmassy but it is a beautiful carol nonetheless and one which I love to hear and sing at Christmas.

And what are you hoping for this year for Christmas?

My serious and lovely holy-type person answer is world peace, an end to hunger, disease, equality for all, and a total reversal of Brexit; but the real answer is that I'd like a new Bosch 36v rotary hammer drill. I really would, actually. Well, yes of course, peace and love too.

Putting daughter to work

Can you share a special Christmas memory ?

I remember one of the first Midnight Masses I ever sang. There was a feast of Renaissance liturgical music, a church full of candles, the congregation in prayerful but excited anticipation of the moment we could all sing ‘Yea Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning’. Then a few moments of hush when the fourth candle of advent was lit followed by a howl and a burst of flame as one of the young acolytes bumped into the Master of Ceremonies and set his highly-starched cotta ablaze. The parish priest grabbed a jug of holy water from the nearby font and the MC was swiftly doused before any injury could occur. It was a happy and memorable Christmas all round.

Finally, what's your favourite thing about Christmas ?

I think it has to be the music. Though I suppose it is Advent I love most as a singer - that sublime anticipation in music. Maybe a double choired Venetian setting of the Mass; Spanish Renaissance motets by Victoria or Guerrero; and on Christmas Day, Sweelinck's Hodie Christus Natus Est.

Thanks so much Suzy, loved it and can't wait to hear you sing online, if not in person.


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