Mark carves out stage for his hidden opera talent

THEY are two activities most would consider a world apart – yet for one man they are all in a day’s work.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 22nd May 2012, 1:00 pm

Mark Adams, a self-employed carpenter, spends most of his time making furniture, but last Thursday, the 51-year-old, from Ecclesmachan in West Lothian, realised a dream when he took part in an opera in Festival Square ahead of a BBC Big Screen broadcast of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme from the Royal Opera House in London.

For Mark, appearing with members of Edinburgh-based amateur group Aria Alba was the resurrection of a passion very nearly strangled at school.

The bass said: “It was good – I pretty much drowned out the traffic in Lothian Road, I think.”

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“When I was at Royal High in the sixties and seventies, music was an elitist thing, something for the talented rather than people who were not in the right place and needed a bit more help. I just did not have the voice and the confidence.”

Despite the lack of encouragement, Mark’s love of singing endured. It was in 2010, as his silver wedding anniversary approached, that a plan was hatched for bringing his singing back to life.

“I was listening to different types of music a lot but falling in love with arias,” he said. “I thought it would be really good to sing an aria to my wife, Shiona, for our anniversary, and she might forgive me for all the bad things I have done over the years.

“I decided to see if I could sing. I went to [Aria Alba founder] Nell Drew and just said ‘I need to know if I can do it’. After hearing me, she was hugely positive and said, ‘yes, I could’. So I was going to sing an aria from Puccini’s Tosca in a restaurant during our anniversary trip to Italy.

“I didn’t follow through. Thinking about it, it seemed that suddenly singing to her in a restaurant would be a bit of a nightmare.”

“When I told my wife about what I nearly did she said, ‘thank God you didn’t - that would have been crawl-under-the-table embarrassing’.”

For Mark, though, the spectacle is all part of the appeal.

He said: “A lot of people in opera do not want to admit that they are in ludicrous, farcical situations, and that it’s all over the place. I have never really grown up and the opportunity to act like a buffoon always appealed.”

Aria Alba formed last year and has members ranging from students to people mid-career and retirees.

Ms Drew, who has performed all over the world but now lives and teaches in Edinburgh, said: “We welcome anyone who wants to sing. We’ll hold auditions, but the group is open to all.

“It’s a place where singers can enjoy themselves and meet like-minded people. They have fun – it’s all about fun.

“Lots of my students were not finding anything that was getting them on to the first rung of the ladder – there was no place for them to perform. That’s what this group was set up to address.”

Music show treat for tots

TODDLERS in the Capital are to be introduced to opera in a show produced especially for them.

Scottish Opera will bring SensoryO – aimed at youngsters aged between 18 and 36 months – to venues in Edinburgh this month and next.

Featuring vocal music and percussive sounds, SensoryO will also use smells, textures, actions and visuals to encourage children to interact with the performance.

Paul Boyd, director of the Morningside School of Music, said: “If it’s giving kids the opportunity to find out about music early, hopefully it will lead to them wanting singing lessons.

“And the fact the kids are being allowed to interact is positive – they’ll remember it as something they enjoy.

“I’m also hoping it will break down the barriers. There’s a bit of social elitism with opera and hopefully this is Scottish Opera trying to break that down.

“It might even encourage the parents as well.”

SensoryO takes place at the Scottish Book Trust on Saturday and Sunday, and then at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on June 2 and 3. For more information, visit