Singing at Lalande

I started having singing lessons at the age of nine. I met Olive Quantrill, who’s choir, ‘The Olive Quantrill Singers’ had won the BBC’s ‘Let the People Sing’ competition in the 1970s. She heard me singing in a local choir and offered to give me lessons even though I was so young. I was inspired by her beautiful voice and extraordinary teaching skills. Soon I was singing solos in all of my school concerts and local churches and taking part in county singing competitions.

Rehearsing in the Grand Salon with Cyril Huve

Instead of going to music college after school, I decided to study English at Oxford. I couldn’t resist the thought of spending years in such a stunningly beautiful, historic town. I was drawn then, as now, to any old building with a rich past! It turns out that it was the luckiest decision I ever made, because, as well as having three happy years at the university, I also met my best friend, Nic. He and I went on to buy the Chateau de Lalande together, and if I’d never met him, maybe none of this would have happened.

After Oxford, I thought that I would become an opera singer. I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Voice at Trinity College of Music in London. At just the same time that I would have been starting my career, I was renovating a very ugly flat in London. I very quickly realised that the decoration was taking far more of my concentration than the singing. My true passion was buildings and interiors.

I had to make a decision – was I going to throw myself into making a career in music, or was I going to sell my flat and move to a chateau in the middle of nowhere with my best friend? Both would require all of my time and energy. In the end, I didn’t hesitate for a second. Lalande was my love.

It was after a few years of major renovations here that the strangest thing happened. A Frenchman and a Dutchman turned up at the door one day. The Frenchman – Cyril Huve – wanted to arrange concerts at the chateau. The Dutchman – Rob Drabbe – wanted to arrange workshops. In one single moment music had come back into my life.

Cyril Huve is a great concert pianist, who won a ‘Victoire de la Musique Classique’ in France. And it turned out that we’re practically neighbours! He found out (from my mother!) that I sing, and dragged me back on stage. He created a music festival, ‘Pentecote en Berry’, and each year extraordinarily talented classical musicians come from around the world to perform in his home – a barn transformed into a concert hall.

Singing in La Grange aux Pianos, Cyril Huve’s concert hall in Chassignolles

We’ve even hosted some concerts at Lalande. And, every year, all of the musicians stay here, so the whole house is filled with the sounds of different instruments.

Performing in the Grand Salon at Lalande with Thomas Costille

With Cyril, I’ve had incredible opportunity to sing at Nohant, the chateau where George Sand lived with her lover, Chopin. It was a dream to be singing the songs that Pauline Viardot had composed over his mazurkas when she was staying with him in that very chateau.

Performing the mazurkas of Pauline Viardot at the Chateau de Nohant with Cyril Huve

The ‘Pentecote en Berry’ festival has staged many operas over the years. These I loved the most, as I enjoy the acting as much as the singing! And they’ve given me the opportunity to perform with truly great singers.

Playing the role of Yniold in Debussy’s ‘Pelleas et Melisandre’ with the great Francois le Roux
The role of the sex-changing Tiresias in Poulenc’s ‘Les Mamelles de Tiresias’, with the amazing Jean-Francois Rouchon

My favourite opera of all was ‘Une Education Manquee’ by Chabrier. I played the role of a man who has just got married, but doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do on his wedding night. He spends the opera desperately trying to find out!

Playing the part of a very confused groom in Chabrier’s ‘Une Education Manquee’ with my lovely bride, Elise Maitre

Recently, I have been performing much less as Lalande is becoming busier and busier and I haven’t got time to practise my voice as I should! I suppose that, even after all these years, Lalande still comes first in my heart.


  1. Jennifer May

    I hope you continue to sing, you are so beautiful your voice is absolutely lovely and you have such a great talent. Congratulations on being a light bringer to the world Stephanie! I have greatly enjoyed your vlogs this winter.

    I would love to attend a singing workshop at Lalande too!

  2. Carolyn Gross

    two of my favorite young men are Michael (the younger) & Thomas (I have just watched 6 hours of all of Thomas’s Mundo Mus. gay comedy
    and all)
    How do join his channel?
    Michael,is in trouble in many areas, I fear. Who or what can help him a nd his vlogs?
    no B Potter in Lake Country etc.
    always love your opera Stef..

  3. Susan Strick

    how is it that i did not discover your blog until today!!!!!!
    a singer, voice teacher and francophile with a great love of architecture, interior design, and restoration of old buildings and gardens, i feel that you and what you have done are hugely uplifting and positive. i can hardly wait for when travel will be possible again and have already begun dreaming of a visit and meeting you and the other folk at the chateau. i would love to volunteer in some way that would involve congeniality, singing, and any other “rolling up of sleeves” to pitch in…..
    very best wishes,

  4. Mary Ann Recht

    Dear Stephanie, Please do continue singing. Your voice has a wonderful quality and humaness that reaches across the clouds. Not to dismiss your many other abilities like informative history lessons on historic, architectually wonderful buildings in France; your appreciation of decorative arts in general is awe-inspiring; and a special ability to smooth life over in the midst of many different personalities and opinions without rancor, only it seems with humor and laughter. Wow! I suppose kudos to your editing abilities are in order. An admirer forever, Mary Ann Recht.

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