The original plan this lovely, sunny day was to amble along the Thames from London Bridge and appreciate the first riverside musician I encountered. Southwark Cathedral, however, was in the way and so I found myself inside a house of God for the second time in as many days, something I hadn't done since last year when I went back to the church the day after my father's funeral to get my coat. The occasion in the cathedral today was a music recital, featuring Mezzo soprano Sara Gourlay and pianist Richard Shaw.
The audience was sparser than yesterday's at St Martin's (if a vicar had rocked up next to the pulpit instead of the performers, would the audience have become a congregation?). I boldly sat twelve rows from the front, where the elegant Sara boldly stood and sang twelve songs by Brahms, Gurney, Hahn and Saint Saens - the latter from an opera. I have to admit here that I don't know a lot about this kind of music. Before today I had not heard of three of these composers. I even wondered whether Camille Saint Saens might be a woman (he's not) . And from there, as I noticed that the chair in front of me was donated by 3i Group PLC, why I could think of no female composers at all. It turns out the reason is because I am ignorant - according to wikipidea there were four hundred and fifty female composers born before 1900.
All of which hardly qualifies me to offer some kind of cod review here - that is not the point of this. To me, Sara Gourlay sounded fine and fantastic. And Richard Shaw must have been great too, seeing as, like a good football referee, I hardly noticed him throughout the performance. Neither, I suspect, did the two men sitting near the front who spent most of the recital looking at their respective knees. These were the only two people between me and the singer, but this didn't appear to put her off. She sang serene and confident as if every seat, donated or not, were occupied. Had a very large stone effigy fallen from the roof and taken out half the audience, I doubt she would have batted an eyelid.
So what is the point of this?
2011 update. Sara is scheduled to perform at The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich on June 3rd.
2014 - five years on - next two scheduled performances are weddings - one in Sussex and one in Italy. As well as being a professional singer, Sara is a speech and language therapist.