About the artist(s)
Lydia Jane Haynes is a British Mezzo-Soprano currently undergoing postgraduate study at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Despite being based in London, Lydia has worked as a soloist across the UK, Europe and Asia. A soloist whose repertoire spans from Bach to Berio, Lydia is accomplished in both Classical and Jazz repertoire, and has performed as a soloist in venues such as The Royal Albert Hall, Bridgewater Hall, and at The Barbican Centre. Highlights from Lydia’s conversation with The Enormity of Now are below.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lydia Jane Haynes. I’m a twenty-six year old Mezzo Soprano, currently studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
How did you get here?
When I was in sixth form and looking to apply to conservatories, universities, unfortunately that was the time that I was diagnosed with cancer in my neck. I had to undertake a few throat surgeries. During this time, there was a chance I would not be able to speak again, there was a possibility of vocal paralysis…
I was told by my parents not to put all my eggs in one basket and go and get a degree that would give me other options, if singing or speaking didn’t work out. That is why I went to study for an academic music degree at The University of Birmingham and had a fantastic time there. When I left, I worked as a teaching assistant for a year. I did a qualified teacher status and then worked as a secondary school teacher in Tower Hamlets, where I now live. In 2019, I had applied and fortunately been given a full scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study my Masters. I undertook it and was overwhelmed and excited and confused mostly. I’ve loved every single second of it. Within a few months of starting the Masters, however, there was a pandemic, which has obviously ruined a lot of people’s plans. It’s taken me a long time to understand what to do with my voice, how to work it and finally learning to love it after resenting it for so long and it being an “interesting” voice.
How has the journey of your art/career engaged your voice – personally, artistically, politically?
I suppose everything in my life has been considered to be BC and AC (Before Cancer and After Cancer). It’s such an impact in my life and in my journey, that it’s not even worth considering what it would have been like if I hadn’t had to have all the surgeries and speech therapy. It was a different life and I am still a growing, young person. It changed everything. It changed the way that I see life from the start of the morning to the night. It changes my relationships with my friends, my family. It changes the way that I engage in society. It changes the way I look at music and the way I sing poetry. And it changes the relationship I have with myself. When you have to consider that you might not be alive anymore, everything else is irrelevant. You start to learn what things really matter. Of course I’m frustrated, of course I wish I didn’t have the cancer, of course I wish I hadn’t had the speech therapy… but when I hear or sing certain pieces that talk of despair, I feel like I really know what that means.
And I know I’m only twenty-six, I’m a baby in the music world. I feel as though I’ve got something to say, to share and alleviate others. My cancer has massively impacted my voice in its professional ability. In some ways, it made the journey much longer and harder. I can’t sugarcoat that. Mentally, it made the journey more interesting and introspective, compared to another twenty-six year old singer.
What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?
I feel that the voice I’ve found is something truly unique. Yes, we are all unique but it takes a long time to love that about yourself. I feel that it might take some people up until their nineties to do that, if they have that God-given long life. I don’t feel I’m finished yet. I do feel that it has been a complicated journey, it’s forced me to open up a few doors in my heart that had some dark places and things inside, really deep pain. Finding that voice, it really mattered to open those doors…to let the dark colors of pain combine with the bright, shiny feelings. I’ve gradually learned to love that my voice is a little bit different, that my journey has been a little bit different. It hasn’t been an easy road and it’s not finished.
Lydia Jane Haynes is a British Mezzo-Soprano currently undergoing postgraduate study at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tutelage of John Evans. Despite being based in London, Lydia has worked as a soloist across the UK, Europe and in Asia. A soloist whose repertoire spans from Bach to Berio, Lydia is accomplished in both Classical and Jazz repertoire, and has performed as a soloist in venues such as The Royal Albert Hall, Bridgewater Hall, and at The Barbican Centre. Lydia has been fortunate enough to have been given significant young operatic training in recent years from companies such as The Glyndebourne Academy and British Youth Opera. Past operatic roles include: Carmen Carmen, Nancy Albert Herring, Ursule Béatrice et Bénédict, Madame de la Haltière Cendrillon, Third Lady The Magic Flute, Ismail’s Crew Member The Angel Esmeralda (premier), 1st Witch Macbeth, Mrs Peachum The Beggar’s Opera.