THE RICHARD LEWIS TRUST
The Brandenburg Choral Festival of London has been privileged to receive financial support from the Richard Lewis Trust over the last two years. Find out more about them below
The story that is the life of Richard Lewis began in the back streets of Manchester 102 years ago. His family had emigrated from Wales during the great depression. They were working class at a time when opportunities were few and life was tough. That is, until a son was born. Thomas (as he was called then) had an exceptional soprano voice (he would be dubbed the 'Ernest Lough of the North' by critics). He would become very well known in his native town, even singing with Isobel Baillie in Mendelsohn’s Elijah in the Free Trade Hall, singing the boy.
He longed to be a tenor. And while most boy sopranos lose their voice when it breaks, he did not. What emerged was an exceptional tenor voice. But his journey would not be easy. Five years as a soldier in WW2, which interrupted his studies at the Manchester Music School. He did some singing during that time, mainly Benjamin Britten's works.
Britten heard about this soldier singing his music. When the war ended, auditioned him, and engaged him to join Peter Pears as one of his two tenors with the English Opera Company. Covent Garden engaged him, the newly opened Glyndebourne too. So a meteoric rise to the top of the singing profession. From soldier to the world class singer in one leap. Later came the USA, and all of Europe.
Richard sang with most great conductors, orchestras, producers, opera companies, recital venues. In demand for not only his voice (David Mellor would call it one of the most beautiful voices of the twentieth century) but for his superb musicianship and ability to learn scores (which became legendary). Composers clamoured to use him: Michael Tippett, William Walton, Stravinsky, Nono. He was the finest exponent of his time in Elgar's Dream of Gerontius recording it twice, with Sargent and Barbirolli.
Dr Jean Shanks (The Princess Galitzine)
When the eminent pathologist Dr Jean Shanks generously endowed the Richard Lewis Trust she gave the trustees of the charity a wonderful opportunity to help young singers with their careers.
This has included, over the past fifteen years, sponsorship and educational work with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Worshipful Company of Musicians, The Cardiff Singer of the World, and the Royal Academy of Music. The Trust has helped an impressive list of fine young singers, many of whom are now enjoying international careers, via bursaries, sponsorships and awards.
For more information about Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Trust, click here to visit their website.