Guest blog: singer Owen Willetts on why it’s a pleasure to be back in Buxton

It has been such a pleasure to come back to Buxton. My childhood memories of this beautiful town mainly consist of twice weekly band practice, marching through the rain to the beat of a drum, and trying to wriggle some warmth back into my fingers whilst we played on Remembrance Sunday. I grew up in the small village of Bamford in the Hope Valley, and from ages 11 to 16 I played with the Burbage Brass Band (Buxton’s finest.) Every Tuesday and Friday night, come rain or snow, my father and I would drive over the moors  to rehearsals. Then I turned 16 and, my hormones getting the better of me, I decided that my Friday nights were much better spent elsewhere. 

But I’ve always had a place in my heart for brass bands, and for Buxton. Which was why I was so excited when I was asked to come and sing in this year’s Festival. Not only did it mean working with the brilliant Laurence Cummings and the English Concert orchestra, and having the chance to perform Handel’s Tamerlano in Frank Matcham’s beautiful opera housebut it also meant I would be coming home to work. Since arriving I have had the chance to explore and rediscover Buxton: the beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture; the glorious views from Solomon Mycock’s temple; the warren-like five storey bookshop Scrivener’s and it’s working harmonium, and some really fine fish and chips. 

We had our opening night on 10 July, and after all of the weeks of hard work and fun, I think we were definitely ready to share what we had created. We’re so lucky to be working with such a wonderful cast and creative team. Francis, our incredible director comes from a theatre background and has helped us to explore these complicated characters and their emotions. I sang with Paul Nilon (Bajazet) about ten years ago having just left music college, and I remember then being amazed by the incredible commitment and artistry he brought to his role; he really is an inspiration. 

Of course I popped my head in on band practice the first opportunity I had, and 20 years later there are still some familiar faces, including the conductor and his wife the principle horn (my old job!), who have also swelled the band’s numbers with their two young daughters. It was wonderful to hear them again, and playing so well! 

Owen Willetts Andronico Tamerlano

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