Hitting high notes on the road to stardom

Monica McGhee
Monica McGhee

MOTHERWELL soprano Monica McGhee feels she was born to be an opera singer - now she’s in the UK’s hottest new classical group, Amore, who launch their debut album later this month.

Monica, who grew up in the shadow of Duchess of Hamilton Park, sings with baritone Peter Brathwaite, tenor David Webb and mezzo soprano Victoria Gray.

They were snapped up on a six-album deal by Warner Bros after a friend overhead a record company executive discussing his search for classical singers in a branch of Starbucks and proposed an audition.

Their debut single, ‘Brindisi’ from Verdi’s opera La Traviata, is out on Monday, followed by the album ‘Stand Together’ on May 28.

Monica (23) said: “The four of us have been friends for years so there weren’t any fears about how we would get on. We were just really excited to have the opportunity to make the most of it.

“The first album contains a lot of well-known tracks such as Ave Maria, Abide With Me and the new Olympic anthem, Here’s To the Heroes, but it was Cantique de Jean Racine by Fauré that most excited us as we had all sung it in choirs growing up, so meant a lot to all of us.”

Monica knew she wanted to be an opera singer from the age of eight after realising she had a ‘weird’ voice and even changed school to help her understanding of classic works.

She said: “People ask me why I wanted to do opera, but the reality is I couldn’t sing anything else.

“Even at a young age when I was in choirs with my friends I’d be making these weird noises and to be honest I was really embarrassed that I couldn’t just sing along to pop songs like my friends.

“However, I knew I wanted to pursue it and even though I went to Our Lady’s High after Cathedral Primary, I attended Dalziel High in sixth year for a few hours a week so I could learn Italian in order to better understand the lyrics of the operas.”

While at school Monica began eight years training as a pianist and singer at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

She also received funding through the Lanarkshire Educational Trust and the North Lanarkshire Council Gifted and Talented Award Scheme, allowing her to attend the Royal College of Music Masters in London to study vocal performance.

She said: “I’m grateful for all the local support in helping me realise my ambitions.

“It can be really tough training and singing at this level as we are striving for perfection. But it’s the best job in the world and the buzz from performing, and having such amazing stories and characters to portray, is what makes it worth it.”

She said: “It can be really tough training and singing at this level as we are striving for perfection. But it’s the best job in the world and the buzz from performing, and having such amazing stories and characters to portray, is what makes it worth it.

“I am not from a musical family, but I have been in contact with Marie McLaughlin, from Craigneuk, who has performed opera all over the world and she has been a great help and influence.

“All of us in Amore are in our 20s and I hope to keep getting better. I won’t peak for another 10 years and it will be exciting to see what happens on the journey.”

Amore are celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by offering their talents free of charge.

They are currently travelling across the country as part of their ‘Serenading Britain’ campaign, performing every day for good causes or special occasions at the request of the public.

Fill in an application form at www.weareamore.com, giving your reason for requesting Amore to come and sing.

They have been lined up for Chelsea Flower Show on May 27 and TV’s This Morning on May 28, and on June 3 will be on Songs of Praise’s Jubilee Special.

Monica said: “I’m looking forward to meeting Aled Jones and we are supposed to be doing ‘something’ with him for Songs of Praise. As a student I was an avid watcher of This Morning so to be on the sofa with Phillip and Holly will be a thrill.”

Monica still considers herself very much a Motherwell girl, with parents Maureen and Phillip and sister Laura still living in the town.

She said: “It is good to come back and see the family. I am also looking forward to seeing the newly refurbished Motherwell Concert Hall. I have been there on many occasions and, who knows, maybe one day we’ll perform there.”