Sound Effect: Lucy Schaufer

Lucy Schaufer has confounded expectations and defied genre throughout her career, from her performance as Claire de Loone in the ENO’s production of Bernstein’s musical On the Town, to Jennie the dog in Oliver Knussen’s contemporary opera Higglety Pigglety Pop!

The Grammy Award winning mezzo-soprano released her debut solo recording, Carpentersville, in 2013 and more recently could be found performing in Venables’ 4:48 Psychosis at the Royal Opera House, which later transferred to New York.

Lucy is also the founder and artistic director of Wild Plum Arts, which supports composers by commissioning and promoting new works, and recently partnered with PRS for Music for the Wild Plum Songbook initiative.

The first record I ever bought was…

I grew up with the 45s and LPs which belonged to my older sisters and brother – everything from the Beatles’s first releases, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap to Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Disney’s Cinderella. Plus, my dad, an electronic engineer with a penchant for Bach and Lena Horne, specialised in stereo sound development, so our house had music coming out of its seams.

I remember when Yellow Brick Road came out and I think my brother bought that – so I guess my first purchase was Deep Purple’s Who Do We Think We Are, with My Woman from Tokyo. Well, we were living in Japan at the time and my 7-year-old self thought that made me pretty darn cool.

The first piece of music I developed an obsession for was…

I might be branded a heretic for saying this, but opera wasn’t my first obsession. MGM musicals became my Saturday afternoons, as the telly filled with glamorously lipsticked women and besuited dashing men sending me on a flight of fancy, yet the musicals made me feel a part of something bigger, something tangibly alive.

They stole my heart and fostered a sense of playfulness and creativity. An American in Paris with Gene Kelly will always do nicely, thank you. Gotta love Gershwin.

My favourite cover version is…

I love this question! Let’s explore the idea that every time any song, symphony, opera or anything is performed it is a cover version – what we as performers bring to the table in each performance allows for individual artistry and freshness, and therefore keeps music, in all its forms, moving forward. The definitive version of anything is an El Dorado, sought at each generation’s peril. EVERYTHING is a wondrous cover version.

The song that should’ve been a hit but never made it is…

Truly, how long do you have? Just look at the list of forgotten musicals Encores! in New York have performed, or the incredible unearthing of volumes of Entartete Musik which now form part of our regular concert seasons. I’m awfully fond of Hopper’s Wife, an intelligent and evocative opera by Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie.

The last great record I listened to was…

Oh, boy, hold onto your socks! Mike Lovatt’s 56º North with Foden’s Band – what a stunner of a debut CD from this extraordinary artist. Whether on trumpet or flugelhorn, Mike delivers exquisite style and gorgeous tone, plus his guests are a “who’s who” of session players, arrangers and composers. He’s put together selections from Ellington to Mendes, to film and stage music – it’s one for your collection. Just…wow!

The piece of music I wish I’d written is…

No doubt, You’ve Got a Friend by Carole King. You hear that 8-bar intro and you know exactly who you are, who you want to be, and why you put the kettle on and show up for others.

The piece of music that makes me cry is…

It’s true that Make our Garden Grow from Candide by Bernstein may flip my tear ducts on full flow, but Kleine Trauermusik from Higglety-Pigglety Pop by Oliver Knussen touches a profound space for me. Olly wrote that he tried to build a bridge between musical “innocence” and “experience” – and in his inimitable minutiae, Olly succeeded. Jenny’s journey to The Castle Yonder haunts me and breaks my heart from its first chord.

The song that I know all the words to is…

If I’m honest, I know all the words to every song written by James Taylor. A singer’s world revolves around remembering words, and the ability to share lyrics with friends is like a secret code which binds you together. Yet, if I don’t know the words, I’m quite happy and not too proud to whuzzawhuzza until the chorus kicks back in.

My all-time favourite film soundtrack is…

My husband and I go back and forth on this one. He chooses the soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone – which is indeed outrageously gorgeous. But I have to stick to my guns and choose The Color Purple by Quincy Jones because it has a raw elegance that embraces the truest elements of Americana, and let’s face it, that’s exactly what makes my bones vibrate.

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