In our regular feature in Business 365 magazine, published by Mannin Media, authors from different walks of Manx life offer a personal perspective on #MyBiosphere. This month, Haydn Rawstron writes:
My ancestors were Celtic (Irish) and English (Lancashire). These near-Manx ancestors emigrated to New Zealand, where I was born not far from Christchurch.
My musical training was as a treble in Christchurch Cathedral Choir and this vocal ancestry came from Lancashire. Arthur Rawstron was a fine bass in the North of England, winning the Blackpool Singing Competition in 1908, 1909 and 1910. His second cousin, once removed, was my father, and another such cousin is the world famous singer, Kiri te Kanawa, born Claire Louise Rawstron.
When I first visited the Isle of Man in the mid-1990s, I was struck by the independence of its people, the antiquity of the Island, a healthy relationship towards time and echoes of the world in which I had been born. I left my homeland in 1968 to go, as an undergraduate, to Christ Church, Oxford (after which Christchurch, New Zealand is named) to read music.
My work after Oxford took me to every corner of Europe. Nowhere did I find such a strong echo of where I had come from, as here on the Isle of Man. Were my Lancashire and Irish ancestral threads here intertwined?
I brought Dorothee, my German fiancée, to the Island in 1999. She asked: 'can we live here when we get married?' Dorothee, an active freelance opera singer and I, a manager of international opera singers and conductors, lived out of suitcases in those days and so our marital home became Castletown, a perfect antidote to the turbulence of theatres and busy cities.
I improvised a performing format for the Island, Dorothee singing and I playing keyboard and narrating. For each programme we included various accompanying instrumentalists and from the beginning I wrote a story for each programme, narrated in short 'chapters' between the sung pieces. We gave such performances all over the Island.
One day in 2012, the idea for Narropera came to me: why not use my improvised narrative/musical format to present the story and music of a single opera? In January 2013, Narropera was born, with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
We decided on a trio formation for Narropera (a singer, a violinist and a pianist/narrator). Since 2013, The Narropera Trio has given more than 100 performances in Germany, England, New Zealand and, of course, on the Isle of Man. On the Island, Narropera became an annual feature from the outset, with performances in the Peel Centenary Centre, in the Gaiety Theatre and in the Erin Arts Centre.
Since 2016 our Island performances have all been in Peel, each in association with Hospice Isle of Man. Post-crisis, we will re-start our Island performances with Carl Maria von Weber’s wonderful masterpiece opera, Der Freischütz (The Devil's Marksman).
If my Lancashire genes account for my love of the art of singing, perhaps my Celtic genes are the inspiration for my love of the narrative tale. If so, then no place has been more inspirational than the hermit’s little ruin near Eairy Cushlin, in its cul-de-sac facing the Irish Sea....and eternity.
Haydn Rawstron is a flying Kiwi, musician, entrepreneur and inventor of a new opera format, Narropera.