Joanne Lunn is one of Britain’s leading Baroque sopranos, in great demand around the world.
Fortunately Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is among the important ensembles with whom she collaborates. Lunn rejoins Tafelmusik this week for Handel’s Messiah Dec 16-19 at Koerner Hall plus the Singalong Dec 20th at Massey Hall. I asked her ten questions: five about herself and five more about singing Messiah.
1-Are you more like your father or your mother?
I have been blessed with the most wonderful parents.
I’m so grateful to them for their unswerving, unconditional love, care and laughter throughout life and for keeping my feet firmly on the ground.
They have been a fount of encouragement and grounding as I decided to become a musician, trained and live it out with all the up’s and down’s that that entails.
I hope that I might be likened to them in their characteristics, for they are best of folk and I love them dearly!
2-What is the best thing or worst thing about being a singer?
The best thing is simply making music that gives joy to many.
The worst is probably getting or fearing getting a cold.
The travelling can be tough sometimes, it all sounds very glamorous zooming off to far flung places and is often fun but on a long, busy tour you spend a lot of time away from your family, and much of that is spent waiting and travelling. Often you see little more of a place than the airport, your hotel and the concert venue!
However, that said, not all trips are like that and to spend this entire week in Toronto for these performances of Messiah is a real luxury! I love it here and Tafelmusik are fantastic. You can be rightly proud to have such an amazing orchestra in your city.
3-Who do you like to listen to or watch?
My absolute favourite album of all time is one of Jerome Kern songs called “Sure thing”.
Sylvia McNair is accompanied by Andre Previn.The easy style of music combined with their amazing level of musicianship is wonderful and you’ll find me on many a long flight/bus journey being soothed by this album!
4-What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
Hmmm, sounds a bit random, but to be able to ice a cake with fondant icing! This completely baffles me for some reason. I love baking and can turn out a half decent cake. I have all sorts of great and wonderful ideas for how I’ll decorate said cake, then I attempt to get a flat piece of icing smoothed down and round the sides of a cake…..well, I end up stressed and it looks like a dogs dinner!
I decided to leave our Christmas cake un-iced this year to save ruining a perfectly delicious cake.
I’m sure that a short YouTube clip and a couple of basic tools would probably solve my problem but so far for some reason (maybe laziness?!) I’ve resisted that solution to my fondant icing dilemma! Nevermind, the world will keep turning 🙂
5-When you’re just relaxing and not working what is your favourite thing to do?
Spending time with my family. I’m married with 2 young children and because I am away quite a lot there is nothing better to do than to spend time to them when I’m at home.
Baking is a real pleasure for me too (without the icing stress!) and taking walks in the beautiful Chiltern’s where we live.
Sorry, that’s 3 favourite things.
Five more about singing the soprano part in Messiah with Tafelmusik
1- How does singing the soprano part in Messiah challenge you?
Despite having sung Messiah many times, it still remains my favourite Oratorio. Keeping fresh in each and every performance is therefore vital. This is a challenge to any performer when they return time and again to a familiar work.
Therefore, I aim to sing and listen along as if it’s the first time I am able to hear, declare and wonder at these great Biblical truths.
2- Is there an interpretation the Messiah that you especially admire (whether it’s a historically informed version or not, whether encountered live or recorded)?
I love it when the chorus is really involved in the drama of the piece – the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir did this particularly well the last time I sang it with them I remember.
The chorus numbers portray so many different dramatic persona that it’s great when a chorus, as a body, take on that character and sweep us all along.
3-Do you have a favourite number in the Messiah: something that you’re looking forward to hearing?
As a Christian, I particularly love singing “I know that my Redeemer Liveth” as that is the cornerstone of what I believe. Handel uses radiant E major and the simplicity of the melodic line shared between the violins and soprano reinforces the amazing declaration that Jesus Christ died and is now risen from the dead so that we may all be forgiven and have eternal life.
My “goose bumps guaranteed” moment is in the final 12 or so bars of the entire piece in the Amen. Wonderful!
4-Messiah combines theatre, music, and sacred texts. Please reflect for a moment, on where you place the emphasis among those three (drama, music & spirit) and how this informs your preparation & your performance.
I feel the emphasis must be on all three!
Jennings knitted together text from Scriptures that takes us on a Bible overview from the Old Testament prophesies to Jesus’s fulfilling them in his birth, trial, death and resurrection. Then we get the opportunity to consider our current trust in Him and future hope of His return.
Handel of course was adept to writing both oratorio and opera and could gauge the dramatic pace of a piece exceedingly well. This work is no exception. He reports that he was so inspired and transported on reading the text Jennings delivered to him, that he sat down and wrote Messiah in just a matter of days – barely stopping to eat or drink! Imagine that.
The end result has certainly stood the test of time with performances still filling churches and concert halls around the globe. The music stands in it’s elegance and beauty, as music always does, as a servant to the words – lifting them from the page and giving them an enhanced expression than if they were merely spoken.
5- Is there a teacher or an influence you’d care to name that you especially admire?
There is always a special respect and friendship that grows with every teacher one has and I am grateful to them all. From my first infant school music teacher, lovely Mrs Clements who fostered and nurtured my innate love of music, through to the 4 voice teachers I’ve had so far.
My current teacher is Julie Kennard and she is totally brilliant. Her lessons are encouraging on a human level, for she takes time to be interested in you and inspiring vocally as she teaches solid technique so clearly and encourages musicality that one finds something new in ones own voice pretty much each lesson.
I’d certainly recommend her to anyone who is hoping to study in England!
Joanne Lunn joins conductor Ivars Taurins, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Chorus, and soloists Mary-Ellen Nesi, Rufus Müller, and Nathaniel Watson for performances of Handel’s Messiah Dec 16-20.