Following in the footsteps

Former BBC New Generation Artist Kitty Whately on how her family inspired her latest recording project

Following in the footsteps

Growing up in a family of thespians, it always frustrated me as a teenager when people observed the inevitability that I would choose to have a career in the performing arts and that, somehow, my genes would guarantee me success. When I began my training as a classical singer, it used to grate on me when people would say 'it must be so useful having actor parents'. I used to feel that it diminished my own personal achievements, and suggested that I had inherited any talent I had, rather than gaining it through my own hard work and dedication. In more recent years though, I have begun to recognise just how lucky I am to have grown up in my theatrical family, and what I have learned from my parents, both consciously and subliminally. 

I was taken to plays and stage shows from an early age, I have been inspired by my parents' artistry and their successes, and have had acting notes since performing '2nd Shepherd' in primary school nativity plays. More importantly, though, I have witnessed just how much hard work and discipline is required to succeed, what personal sacrifices have to be chosen, how hard it is to have both career and family, how being an amiable colleague is as important as talent and hard work, and many more of the personal lessons that many young performers do not face until they leave the safe cocoon of music college/drama school/etc, which can come as such a shock.

I have been so lucky to have parents who understand what I have been attempting to achieve, who can directly empathise with the fact that the performing bug is like a drug, and that no matter how hard it is at times, I can't stop. They have neither pushed me into the performing world, nor tried to dissuade me from entering it to try to protect me from the hardships of rejection and criticism and regular loneliness. That is not to say that my singer friends who do not come from theatrical families have received less support than I have. It is difficult to understand the way our industry works, and how it feels to be gifted/afflicted with the bug of wanting to perform. I just cherish the knowledge that they know how I feel, and understand why I am prepared to live out of suitcase sometimes, and spread myself too thinly, often having to spend time away from my own family, and for very little money or financial security. 

Although I do occasionally get fed up with people always wanting to talk about Dad, (I have lost count of the number of times people have said 'I thought Sergeant Lewis didn't like opera? How does he feel now, having an opera singer daughter?'), I am so proud of him. He's an inspirational actor, and is renowned throughout 'the business' as being one of the nicest actors to work with. He is full of enthusiasm for what we do, and support in moments of self doubt. My mother performs less now, having dedicated much more of her life to being with my brother and I than I do for my own daughter. She has been such a support to me during my training, emotionally and logistically, being a super-gran, babysitting and encouraging me to believe that it is possible to have both a career and a family. She is highly intelligent and introspective, and passionate about words. She has been helping me to decipher the meaning and nuances of poetry since my GCSE English exam revision, and still does when I come upon song texts which flummox me. She understands poetic language and is very knowledgable about literature. We have had such pleasure in choosing poems to fit the themes of our joint recitals at Oxford Lieder Festival, The Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead, and several other venues around the UK. People seem to really respond to the mixed programme of song and poetry, and we so enjoy working together. 

I am so proud of the recording, This Other Eden, that my parents and I have made together. I have aimed to give the programme a real flow, and feel the poetry and songs complement each other well. It was such a joy to all be together down at Champs Hill during the recording week, and we will treasure the disc forever. I hope that people will buy hard copies, as the artwork features beautiful pictures of my eight year old daughter, Ivy, in various pastoral settings, just for another layer of family team-work. Everyone tells me that Ivy is destined for the stage, and I suspect that with actor grandparents and four opera singer parents and step parents, it is not entirely unlikely; not to mention her hilariously imaginative and eccentric personality. But for now, I want to give her as wide a variety of interests and skills as I can, and hope to be able to support her in what ever career she eventually chooses, just as I was supported by my family. 


– Kitty Whately, mezzo-soprano

This other Eden is out on Monday 9 March on the Champs Hill label






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  • Article Type: | Blog |
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