Previously unheard performances

Stories and experiences of life as a professional classical singer

15 September 2020: The soprano, Margaret Marshall OBE, has today launched her
“Songbird Album” via a new website,

The Songbird album comprises the following works:
 Henry Purcell: The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation
 J. S. Bach: Non sa che sia dolore, BW209
 Antonio Vivaldi: Introduzione al Dixit, R636
 Antonio Vivaldi: De Torrente, from Dixit Dominus, R594
 G.F. Handel: Guardian Angels, from the Triumph of Time and Truth, HWV71
 W. A. Mozart: Ah’ lo Previdi – ah t’invola agl’occhi miei, KV272
 Gerald Finzi: Dies Natalis
All, except the works by Vivaldi, are from live radio broadcasts, unheard since they were first
performed in the 1970s. Spanning the baroque and classical periods, as well as English
song they encompass the composers and genres that showcase the purity and agility of
Miss Marshall’s voice.
The running time of the programme is approximately one hour and twenty minutes.
Bach, Easter Oratorio, Kurt Redel (conductor), Le Monde, 20th April 1976
“Margaret Marshall, soprano, is one of the finest discoveries of recent years. A perfect
technique carries this radiant voice, more varied in colour than some of her world-famous
colleagues, full of life and energy, of exquisite expression where the vocalisation pours forth
inner enchantment and surpasses technical virtuosity.”
Commenting on the website, Miss Marshall says:
“Through a chance encounter I came into possession of recordings of live radio broadcasts I
had given early in my career, when I believe my voice was at its brightest and freshest. I
was just happy to have these recordings which I had never heard, but a few persuasive
people, including my old school friend and highly regarded record producer John Fraser,
convinced me that perhaps they were worthy of a larger audience. These are the
composers and works I loved to sing – and whilst I enjoyed a wonderful operatic career, my
heart always belonged to the concert platform. Indeed, I have never like the categorisation
of classical singers as opera singers as I feel it gives a hierarchy to opera over other
classical musical genres.
“This programme is entirely from the concert repertoire. It starts with a performance from the
1974 Munich ARD competition in which I was awarded first prize when pregnant with my first
daughter Nicola. It’s rather ironic that when so heavily pregnant I was asked to sing “The
blessed virgin’s expostulation” in the final round. I was studying with Hans Hotter at the time
in Munch after winning a Caird travelling scholarship. He had suggested I enter the
competition before I knew I was pregnant and I remember him being rather surprised that I
returned to take part given I was rather close to giving birth! But I was pregnant not unwell,
so why not?!
“It also features Bach and Mozart, two of the geniuses of the classical musical world. I loved
to sing both, but they demand their own individual style and approach. Bach is very
instrumental, with clean lines and a purity of voice. In Bach, for me, the voice is truly an
instrument. I learnt this from my extraordinary teacher, Ena Mitchell, who I am dedicating
this album and platform to. As in every discipline, performing at a consistently high level is
not something anyone can do alone. I consider myself blessed to have met Ena when I was
studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, as it was known then. She
was a superb musician, a wonder and an inspiration, who taught me everything I know –
every aspect of the art of singing. I owe her everything and her picture still has pride of
place on the piano in my music room.”
The songbird platform is a collaboration between Miss Marshall and her elder daughter,
Nicola Davidson. In addition to the musical performances, it includes stories about life as a
classical singer, including discovering you have a voice, the importance of great teachers,
performing when heavily pregnant, singing the repertoire that best suits your voice even if
that means turning down exciting opportunities, and performing your first professional opera
with Riccardo Muti.
Talking about the project, Nicola says:
“Having grown up with a professional singer as a mother, I have first-hand experience of,
and the greatest admiration for, what it takes to succeed. Like any performance at a
consistently elite level the talent, dedication, practise and strength of character professional
singers and musicians have is extraordinary. We hear their talent, but we don’t often hear
them speak about how they got there, what a musicians’ life is like, the sacrifices they need
to make, the joy of performing but the pressure of being continually critiqued particularly
when you become successful. I’ve lived that with my mum. She won an international
competitional when seven months pregnant with me and recorded a Vivaldi opera in East
Berlin when six months pregnant with my sister. She has been a wonderful role model and
growing up as a girl with a successful mother it doesn’t occur to you that you can’t achieve
whatever you set out to. I’ve realised that even in today’s world this is not the norm, and as
well as being very proud of what my mum achieved I’m also so grateful she gave this
conviction to her daughters.
“It was fun collaborating with mum on this website although not always easy! But, we found a
good way of working and I hope that people find the stories interesting and that they add a
layer of understanding to life as a professional singer. We have only really scratched the
surface, so I’m hoping that having launched this platform our collaboration will continue and
that we can find other ways to share with readers the experiences of life as an elite classical
musician. Their talent is remarkable but often goes under the radar compared with actors,
sportsmen or pop-stars. I understand why that is, but I believe it should change. Classical
singers perform for two or three hours plus without a microphone, using only their voice and
body to fill a concert hall or opera house, 99% of the time in live performance, critiqued every
time they stand on a stage. I know from my mother it is a wonderful profession, but also a
stressful profession and I hope that we are able with this website to share a flavour of that –
as well as some wonderful unheard performances.”
Miss Marshall said:
“I’m very fortunate in that my daughter is a good writer. I don’t think I would have done this
with anyone else, but she persuaded me to at least consider that I might have something
interesting to say. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have been born with a voice
that enabled me to become a professional singer. Like every career, there are ups and
downs, it is most certainly not all glamourous and the stresses of performing professionally
year in year out are real and considerable. But the opportunities and experiences my voice
made possible I could not have dreamed of as child growing up in Stirling, Scotland. And
the joy of performing exceptional music with such talented colleagues and artists for the best
part of three decades is something I will forever treasure.”
Miss Marshall has obtained all the necessary rights for making these recordings available on
a not-for-profit platform.