A concert that has musically reunited two close friends opens this weekend’s French-themed Music in the Round event.
Amy Harman, who is bassoonist for Ensemble 360, soprano Louise Alder and pianist James Baillieu open the La Belle Epoque event with a Crucible Studio concert featuring the music of Ravel, Wagner Debussy, Berlioz, Beethoven and more, called Baudelaire and the Bassoon.
It is inspired by 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire.
Louise and Amy have been friends since secondary school. Amy said: “We have been desperate to work together, as we haven’t done so since we were 18.
“These are really, really beautiful songs, by chance, for soprano, bassoon and piano which is an unusual combination. There’s not many things we can do together and I’ve been desperate to do something with Louise.
“James, who’s a wonderful pianist, came up with this wonderful programme inspired by that.”
She added: “It’s the first time we’re doing this programme together. It’s going to be really exciting.
“It’s a good excuse for us to be in the same city. We have to travel to see each other quite a lot.”
They are hoping to repeat the concert for other audiences if the response is good.
As well as being close friends, the pair have proved hard to tell apart. Louise said: “We’ve always got mistaken for each other since we were 13. We often get congratulated for the other’s performances. I was once congratulated for Amy’s performance when we were standing in the same circle of people!”
One of the songs they are looking forward to performing most is a song by French rock star Serge Gainsbourg. Amy said: “Louise has to do a lot of sultry French talking at the beginning of it.”
Louise added: “We were both in the same French A-level class and the teacher used to tear her hair out with us!”
They went down a lot better in a string quartet at their London school. Amy said: “There was very, very little music in our school. Every school concert was basically the Amy and Louise variety show, in different formations.
“We’d play in a string quartet, then sing together. It was hilarious.”
Amy said she played lots of instruments when she was younger: “Because I was fascinated by different sounds when I was younger, especially bass sounds. The flute made me feel like I was having an aneurism.
“Then I wanted to play a wind instrument. I said I wanted to be a bass clarinettist and I’d just do that but you have to play all the higher ones as well, and I absolutely resisted to do that.
“They said what about the bassoon? I said if I must, if that’s my only option, but when I tried it I completely loved it. It’s given me an interesting and fun life.”
She works with chamber groups and in orchestras as a principal and soloist and is supported by the Young Classical Artists Trust.
Louise, last year’s winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World audience prize, lives in Frankfurt and sings with the city opera house.
She has also worked at Glyndbourne and at the Royal Opera House and has performed in opera and concert settings all over Europe.
lLa Belle Epoque features concerts all weekend. For the full line-up and tickets, go to Music in the Round