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Muddy meets: Morag McLaren of Cooper Hall, Frome

getfileattachmentJust before Christmas I went to a sell-out, standout concert by jazz pianist Jason Rebello in Frome’s stunning, purpose-built music and performance space the Cooper Hall. The acoustics were perfect and the setting, in the grounds of a beautiful old Somerset house, idyllic.

Cooper Hall is a creative haven for all sorts of musicians (not just jazz), both established and up-and-coming (rising star trumpeter Laura Jurd was here recently), to perform, rehearse and compose. I grabbed a few minutes with the creative force behind it, professional singer and teacher, Morag McLaren…

What book’s on you bedside table?

The Magus by John Fowlds; it’s old fashioned, quality story-telling, a quirky, strange take which is a joy to pick up.

If you hadn’t been a singer, what would you like to have done?

A ‘nose’ or perfume designer; I’m obsessed with perfumes and scent.

In a fire, what would you rescue?

I’d risk my life for my dogs – I’ve got a labradoodle and a schnauzer.

What’s the best film you saw last year?

All the way, an HBO biopic about the presidency of Lyndon B Johnson after the JFK assassination. I’m fascinated by the era.

What luxury could you not live without?

I love clothes and jewellery but I feel naked without perfume.

Which eight tracks would you take to a desert island?

Richard Strauss’ ‘Four Last Songs’ sung by Gundula Janowitz (a reminder of student days); Bach’s Double Violin Concerto 2nd movement; the theme from The Mission by Ennio Morricone; James Taylor’s ‘Gaia’ (first LP); Sting’s ‘Field of Gold’; Maria Callas’ ‘Casta Diva’ from Norma;  ‘I like a little sugar in my bowl’ by Nina Simone; and Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ (first snog).

What three words most annoy you?

‘Trump/pence’ which I’m counting as one, just makes me feel sick. ‘Controversy’ because I can never decide how to pronounce it and people saying ‘hey’ all the time.

Your favourite restaurant?

When we’re in London we love going to The Cinnamon Club as a family; when we’re here it’s Babington House for the informality and fresh produce.

Are you muddy or stilettos?

Muddy through and through, I can’t walk in stilettos. Kitten heels are as far as I go.

Upcoming events at Cooper Hall include an International Women’s Day concert on Sun 12 March. See their website for more details and other performances and workshops.

Cooper Hall, Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome BA11 3NL, Tel 01373 471854.








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