Singing Notes - Cathy Smith

  • Posted on: 14 February 2020
  • By: huw

Alto, Cathy Smith, shares her earliest musical memories.

What is your earliest memory of music in your life?

I know that my mother and father sang songs to me, because I know them now and have never seen them written down. Songs like ‘Mollie Malone’ and ‘Sweet Polly Oliver’. But my first clear memory is going to a musical performance of ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ sometime between 1967 and 1969. It was staged by the student association at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda where we lived. Toad was a big Ugandan man with a deep voice. The stoats and weasels were terrifying. I went away singing Ratty’s song ‘All along the backwater, Through the rushes tall, Ducks are a-dabbling, Up tails all!’ I have always liked birds.

What was your first 'public performance' of music/ drama/ or both?

Because we were in Uganda, I never did a classic nativity play. We went back to England when I was seven and I was raised to the giddy heights of being the innkeeper’s daughter in upper primary’s play basically because I could learn the lines. I wore a necklace!

Who is your favourite composer/ songwriter, and why?

I absolutely love the voice and interpretation of Lal Waterson. She is so compelling. It sounds simple but the melody and ornaments are beautiful and so hard to sing. The richness of the harmony contrasts with the flatness of her accent. Try ‘Fine Horseman’ from the album Bright Phoebus.

What composition/ piece/ song would you recommend to a friend to brighten up their day?

I always smile at ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO. It’s so unashamedly silly.

Please share a humorous saying/ quote/ joke with a musical theme.

Oh dear, I don’t really know one. But I will share with you the memory and family legend of my father playing ‘jobs charades’. He confused us for ages acting out the role of the triangle player in the orchestra. There was a lot of apparently leafing through a magazine and yawning, with occasional intense focus on pinging an invisible triangle.