There are some people who pop into my life just at the right time, and Russell Lomas was one of these people. In 2012 I entered a biennial interdisciplinary music competition held at Arley Hall, Northwich – The Warrington Competition For Young Musicians. Just before the competition, I had sadly broken my fifth metatarsal in my right foot and I was in a walking boot and crutches. My Dad parked in the wrong car park, 800 yards away, because we didn’t know the venue (learned a lesson from this and always try to check parking and travel arrangements in advance now). I was hobbling along a path in what I hoped was the right direction when a very lovely but bemused man came running over to me and shouted wait here and I’ll get my car. This was the first time I met Russell, and his generosity of spirit never changed the whole time that I knew him. Later I found out that Russell was the accompanist for the competition, he played for me in the vocal heat, which I won, and again in the grand final.
He must have enjoyed those first encounters as he offered me the opportunity to perform with him in several recitals over the years that followed. Giving me so much good advice, too much to list, but lessons that I will take with me into my future career, and which I have stood by during my training as we kept in touch even when I moved Glasgow and then later to London.
I have plenty of happy memories singing alongside him, he always used to know where the best cafes were at every venue and taught me to always bring a packed lunch just in case! This advice has helped me save money when on tour, and if you’ve followed my career so far, you’ll know I’ve needed this tip. And if you’ve worked with me, this will explain why you’ve seen me always pack a lunch and dinner.
One of my favourite stories about performing with Russell, was when we performed at a charity event for YouthPositive in Manchester at the Etihad Stadium, which is Manchester City’s home ground. Russell, however, was a very big Manchester United fan and gave me a cheeky smile when we arrived for our warm-up session, as he lifted the leg of his trousers, proudly displaying his Manchester United socks, which were still tasteful and black. But both he and I knew that he had stayed loyal to his club, and this still makes me giggle to today.
The last time we performed together was in April 2016 at Walton Hall, in a concert for past winners of the Warrington Competition for Young Musicians. It was a wonderful evening performing with Russell alongside some amazing instrumentalists.
I’m so pleased that I was able to tell him about my graduation and success at the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, he was so pleased and proud of me. It was shortly after that I heard the sad news of his passing and I will miss him immensely.
Here is a video of us performing together in Preston 2014. The song is A Piper by Michael Head