Madeline Robinson (Soprano) 

Essex Young Musician of the Year 2021

Rachael Plunkett (Piano)

Wednesday 1 pm, 22 September 2021



At a very well-attended lunchtime recital we were thrilled to greet Madeline Robinson, soprano, accompanied on the piano by Rachael Plunkett.

In his introduction, Roderick Elms from the Ongar Music Club explained that Madeline had recently won the title of Essex Young Musician of the Year 2021, (marking the 37th year of the competition), and that she would be presented with her winner’s cup after the recital. 


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The concert began with ‘Die Georgine’ by Richard Strauss (1864-1949).  Written in 1883, it celebrates the beauty of the dahlia and all that nature offers; and we were immediately struck by Madeline’s beautiful and mature voice in this aria.

Two songs by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) followed, ‘Ich liebe Dich’ and ‘Ein Traum’, both performed with empathy and understanding of the composer’s aims, while also showing Madeline’s strong vocal range and expertise.

By contrast, Madeline continued her recital with ‘Feldeinsamkeit’ (‘In Summer Fields’) by American modernist composer Charles Ives (1874-1954), with words by Hermann Allmers, lyrics which have also been set to music by Brahms.  The scene is of a woodland, with bright green grass, snow-white clouds and realms of imaginary bliss, charmingly captured by Madeline’s voice through her rich and colourful tone.

The well-known aria ‘Die Junge Nonne’ by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), written in 1825, followed with its ‘stormy’ story-line and character. Challenging and rewarding for both singer and pianist, our performers impressively shared responsibility for the drama, constantly in perfect union with each other in this piece.

Moving away from German lieder, Madeline introduced us to ‘Between your Sheets’ from ‘Five Amorous Sighs’, by English composer Jonathan Dove (born 1959). Dove has written nearly thirty operas, amongst other musical works, and in this song cycle he evokes 18th century life in settings by two poets, with the text for ‘Between your Sheets’ by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762).  Madeline gave the message of this most appealing song with a smooth, velvety vocal texture and heartfelt delivery.

Two more English songs, this time by by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), followed. The first was ‘Highland Balou’ from the popular song cycle, ‘A Charm of Lullabies’ (1947), followed by Britten’s arrangement of the traditional ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. Madeline illustrated the sentiments of the songs with sensitive and immaculate singing, much to the joy of her listeners.

During all of her performance, Madeline engaged warmly with the Wednesday lunchtime audience at the Cathedral, concluding her lovely recital with an Italian vocal marathon! 

From the highly successful opera ‘I Puritani’, by Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), she sang Elvira’s aria, known affectionately as ‘Qui la voce’.

Bellini was known for his long-flowing melodic lines and emotional phrases, and the intense feelings of love and loss were clearly revealed by Madeline’s interpretation of this demanding aria, ending with an exciting display of cascading notes!

After great applause from everyone, Roderick Elms presented Madeline with her Trophy as Essex Young Musician of the Year 2021, after which we had the pleasure of meeting Madeline with her family and friends at the Song School, over refreshments.

On behalf of Andrew Wright, Brentwood Cathedral’s Master of Music, and Nina How, concert organiser, we would like to thank Madeline Robinson for her superb recital at the Cathedral and to offer our sincere congratulations for her well-deserved Award.

Many thanks to Roderick Elms for his kind words and presentation of this award.  We also thank Rachael Plunkett for her exquisite piano accompanying throughout the recital.

In 1825, the soprano Sophie Muller, who premiered Schubert’s ‘Die Junge Nonne’, said, “It is splendidly composed”.  I am sure that those of us who attended today’s recital would say that all the music we heard was splendidly performed! 

Our large number of enthusiastic music lovers look forward to welcoming Madeline and Rachael back to Brentwood Cathedral again soon!

Julia Bentham

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Rapturous applause greeted Madeline at the end of her recital, and she was then presented with her winner’s trophy as Essex Young Musician of the Year 2021 by Roderick Elms of the Ongar Music Club.

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‘The Close of Summer’


Richard Strauss Die Georgine
Edvard Grieg Ich liebe Dich

Ein Traumwetter

Charles Ives Feldeinsamkeit
Franz Schubert Die Junge Nonne 
Jonathan Dove Between Your Sheets 
Georges Bizet Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe
Benjamin Britten The Highland Balou

The Last Rose of Summer

Vincenzo Bellini

(I Puritani)

Qui la voce sua soave … Vien, diletto, e in ciel la luna!

Programme Notes

Madeline Robinson and Rachael Plunkett


Essex born soprano Madeline recently completed training for her Master’s degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tutelage of acclaimed mezzo-soprano Sarah Pring.  Previously she trained under Cathy Benson and Amanda Roocroft at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where she enjoyed success in roles such as Gabrielle in Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte.

She has performed in workshops for the Royal Opera House, covered roles for the Guildhall Opera School and enjoyed performing in festivals such as the closing night of the Lincoln Jazz Festival performing the soprano soloist in Ellington’s Sacred Concert.

As the music world began to open in 2021, Madeline performed virtually with Random Opera Company’s opening gala concert as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore in March.  She also covered the role of Lover in Hopes & Fears at the contemporary opera festival Grimeborn at the ‘Arcola Outside’ in London.  In July 2021, she won the coveted Essex Young Musician of the Year Award, which will help her to continue studying towards a career in opera.

Rachael is delighted to be accompanying Madeline today.  Originally she studied Music at the University of Birmingham where she was in demand as accompanist or répétiteur.  Fast forwarding through the decades, Rachael is now a Head teacher of a primary school in Essex and is kept busy in her spare time with many amateur operatic groups, as accompanist or musical director.

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Photos – Graham Hillman

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