Navona Records presents VOICES OF EARTH AND AIR VOL IV, a choral celebration of the human commonality we find within music. Featuring the works of six seasoned composers, each piece tells a sentimental story unique to each composer, fitting together like puzzle pieces and demonstrating the connective qualities of the human voice. The album features composer Lydia Jane Pugh and her pieces My Hiding Place and AdiraÏ (misplaced).
Today, Lydia is our featured artist on “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about her hometown island of Guernsey and how the history, landscape, and language inspires her writing process, along with the compelling stories behind her two pieces on the album…
Tell us about your first performance.
So my first ever performance was somewhat spontaneous – when I was 6 years old my family went to Manchester for Christmas to visit my dad’s side of the family. As a treat, we went to the pantomime Dick Whittington which featured British comedian Ken Dodd as the pants dame. A usual tradition in pantos (for those that don’t know) is a moment where the dame and the cast invite the children in the audience on stage to join in singing a festive song. When this moment came, my Mum and Dad turned to me to say I should go up, but I was already running up towards the stage! It turns out only I and one other child got up on stage, but that child was too shy to sing, so I ended up singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as a duet with Ken Dodd! Safe to say, I started as I meant to carry on! Determined and spontaneous!
What inspires you to write and/or perform?
Much of my music is inspired by my home island of Guernsey, and the local language and history. I’m proud to be an islander, and I find so much beauty in the local landscape, and such interesting stories from our folklore and language. I hope that all my music has a story, and I find much of it comes from a deep need to tell a story that needs to be told, or express emotions that I feel will resonate with others.
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
The two pieces featured on this album are both very dear to me. Firstly, because they both represent pivotal moments in my career as a composer (both of which lead to my first international award as a composer), but also from an emotional perspective. My Hiding Place was written because, in my own words, “I just wanted to write something beautiful,” and Adiraï tells the story of the evacuation of the Channel Islands during World War II — a significant part of local history in Guernsey, and a story that still resonates today in current climates. I hope listeners take from this album the stories from all of these pieces, and the heart that inspired each composer to write them.
What are your other passions besides music?
I’m a lover of the theater, both watching and performing. I’m most frequently found on stage performing in musicals, but my most recent endeavor saw me performing as an actor-musician (and composer) for a production of Hamlet.
I’m also a lover of the sea, and in recent years I have gotten into year-round sea swimming. There’s something so invigorating about swimming out in the beauty and ruggedness of nature, and I always say, if you can plunge yourself into cold water, you can do just about anything!
Who are your musical mentors?
There have been several key players who have helped shape me into the musician and composer I am. From the composing side, I must mention Paul Mitchell-Davidson, who was my tutor at University, and set me on the path to writing choral music. Vince Peterson, who I met when I attended the Choral Chameleon Summer Institute in 2017, was responsible for nurturing my choral conducting skills and furthering my professional career by commissioning me for his choirs. Ria Keen has been my most incredible mentor in the world of vocal training and education. But I think I would be remiss if I did not mention my Mother, who basically set me on the path for all of the musical things I do.
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Nothing in this life worth having comes easy. If you want to achieve things, you have to be willing to work at them, work for them, and put yourself out there and expect to get rejected a lot. It can be frustrating at times, especially when we see people around us who perhaps have natural talents or seem to just get things handed to them. But something I frequently tell my students is that hard work beats talent when talent won’t work. People who perceive themselves as talented get complacent, and people who work hard to nurture their skills will always win in the end.