Linda Kitchen – The Importance of Elocution Lessons from Mrs Huddleston

‘I must be honest; I don’t read much anymore. I watch telly,’ says Linda Kitchen, opera singer and director on the podcast Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything

Then she immediately talks about the book The Bone People. The novel was published in 1984 by New Zealand writer Keri Hulme. Set on the coast of the South Island of New Zealand, the book focuses on three characters, all isolated in different ways: a reclusive artist, a mute child, and the child’s foster father.  Over the course of the novel, the trio develop a tentative relationship, are driven apart by violence, and reunite.

‘It’s fantastic, beautiful prose, poetic; I was hoping to have finished it for our chat,’ explains Linda.

She’s been searching for why she didn’t read anymore while preparing for the interview.  It was a profound and emotional journey for Linda, as she realised that she had stopped reading at the same time she lost her singing voice over ten years ago.  (Linda details the trauma of injuring her singing voice in next week’s instalment of the podcast). 

Linda was born in Morecambe, Lancashire, and from a young age, she attended elocution lessons on Saturday with the formidable Mrs Huddleston, where Linda was taught acting, music, sightreading and singing.

‘She was a wonderful woman, and it wasn’t unusual to arrive at the house and witness Mrs Huddleston doing the splits in the front room,’ she chuckles.

Linda loved to perform and played the piano well enough to achieve grade 8.  She entered competitions most weekends for best Shakespearean soliloquy, a duet, or acting monologues.

‘I was unhappy if we didn’t come home with cups and prizes,’ says Linda.

And she was supported by her mother, a singer of note who had never had the opportunity of making a career out of her talent.

‘Mum was a major celebrity in the town,’ laughs Linda, ‘but when she understood I could sing, she threw all her efforts into encouraging me.’

She attended Morecombe Grammar School and found studying music easy and enjoyable, but she didn’t have much time for other subjects.  She played pranks with her best friend Anne and thinks this helped her decide she wanted to be on the stage and sing.  It was always opera, no pop songs or life as a rock chick.  She left school to attend The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.  Linda is a soprano; her voice was developed during the four-year course.  In the summer of 1984, she joined the Glyndebourne Opera in the chorus and soon won her first solo role.

‘I didn’t find auditions that nerve-racking; I suppose from my days competing for cups,’ laughs Linda, ‘and I had a look that fitted the roles of my singing voice.  I always played the maid, the page boy or the cherub. I was lucky that I looked the part.’

Linda went from strength to strength, playing significant roles at Glyndebourne, Welsh National, and Covent Garden.

Tune in next week to Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything to find out how the downs came with the ups and how a career in directing and mentoring young singers emerged.

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