Singer celebrates cultures

01:00, Jan 22 2013

Welsh mezzo soprano Elin Thomas makes her debut performance in Blenheim on Sunday when she joins four other guests at an afternoon concert in St Andrew's Church.

Thomas will share the concert programme with London soprano Elinor Chapman and three Blenheim-based musicians, pianist Marsha Stringer, bass singer Steve Austin, and cellist Caitlin Morris.

Thomas can be identified as a Blenheim singer, too, after moving to Marlborough in July last year with her New Zealand partner, Matthew Duggan. She had just completed a post-graduate teaching diploma in performance art, following a Bachelor of Music and Singing at Kings College and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

In her final year, she did an advanced course in performance music and immersed herself in everything from early Baroque music to British 20th century music.

Thomas grew up in a farming family on the Lleyn Peninsula in northwestern Wales. Its nearest town, Pwllheli, is smaller than Picton and it is where she met Duggan, who was spending a season playing rugby.

Rugby and rural scenery make Thomas feel at home in New Zealand and she has fallen in love with the Marlborough Sounds where Duggan has taken her fishing.


Music remains her first love, though, and she has travelled to Wellington for a couple of lessons with opera singer Margaret Medlyn who heads the Classical Voice department at the New Zealand School of Music.

"You can never reach your full potential, especially when singing classical music," Thomas says. "And girls don't develop their voices for a long time; [at 24] I'm still a young singer."

Regular trips across the strait are not cheap, however, and time constraints will be another deterrent when she starts a new teaching job in Blenheim this month.

Thomas, who has passed her grade 8 examinations for piano and harp, has been given a year-long contract as a performing arts teacher at Springlands School. She is looking forward to the challenges ahead, which will include learning kapa haka and familiarising herself with Maori waiata.

Music and song are important tools to promote and preserve New Zealand's indigenous language says Thomas, whose first language is Welsh.

To celebrate her culture, she uses the Welsh version of her surname when performing. People attending Sunday's concert will see her name on the programme as Elin "Tomos".

She will sing the Welsh aria, Anfonaf Angel by Robert Arwyn and Mozart's Italian Voi che sapete from The Marriage of Figaro.

Thomas does not understand Italian but makes sure she understands what the lyrics are about before she sings them to an audience.

She is glad to have met pianist and Sunday's concert organiser Marsha Stringer, herself a graduate from the Royal Academy of Music. Thomas hasn't met any of the other musicians yet but is rehearsing her parts in the duets (Offenbach's Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman and Delibes' The Flower Duet from Lakme) she will do with Chapman and, with Chapman and Austin, Mozart's Soave sia il vento trio from Cosi fan Tutte before full rehearsals are held on Friday and Saturday.

● The Sunday Afternoon Concert starts at 2pm, January 27 in St Andrew's Church, Henry St, Blenheim.

Tickets ($15 adults, $10 seniors $5 children) can be bought at the door.

The Marlborough Express