Ahead of our all-Handel programme tomorrow night at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, we caught up with OAE leader and director for this concert, Alison (Ally) Bury…

Alison BuryWhat do you fear the most? 

Monsters – inner and outer, real and metaphorical.

 Which mobile number do you call the most?

My husband, Richard Earle, OAE oboist. But I prefer my landline.

What – or where – is perfection?

A summer walk on the South Downs followed by tea and cakes.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?

Difficult to choose just one – but I love Rose Aubrey, the narrator of Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows, one of the few novels which gives a convincing account of a musician’s life.

What’s your favourite ritual?

Doing the Guardian cryptic crossword with my husband over a cup of tea.

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?

Clive Stafford-Smith, an English lawyer who has been working for Americans on Death Row for decades and more recently has been working for the release of Guantanamo Bay inmates.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?

I wish I could write. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

I read this the other day and it puts it much better than I could – ‘If you have enough to eat, and a safe place to sleep, and nobody wants to kill you or your family, you are among the fortunate few of a troubled world, and you should never forget your luck.’ (Joseph O’Conor) I try to remind myself of that whenever we have a horribly early check-in at Heathrow.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?

Recently it has been Act 2 of Tristan and Isolde.

Is it challenging playing as well as leading a performance?

Always. When you are trying to listen to everything it can be difficult to concentrate on one’s own playing. It’s usually fine in the performance but I sometimes play a lot of rubbish in rehearsals.

What’s the best thing about playing with the OAE?

The variety of repertoire – this year I’ve played music from Monteverdi to Wagner and I don’t think there are many orchestras where one could do that.

A celebration of Handel is on Saturday 4 June, 7pm at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Alison Bury directs from the violin, Elin Manahan Thomas is soprano soloist and the concert’s presented from the stage by Clemency Burton-Hill. For full details and booking, click here.


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