Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I don’t come from a particularly musical family, at least not in the performing sense, but both my parents love music and so it was a hugely important part of my life growing up. I remember watching old VHS tapes of ballets at my grandmother’s, and being utterly entranced, by the dancing but even more so by the music and how it could be so magical and transformative.
It’s difficult to name things or people that have influenced me; there have been so many! But I wouldn’t be the player I am today without the teaching of Paul Mayes, who has been instrumental (pardon the pun) in shaping my approach to practice and trumpet playing in general. I also feel like I’ve been influenced hugely by the music I was drawn to when I was younger; composers such as Sibelius, Prokofiev, Respighi – and also by singers and instrumentalists and composers of all kinds. I think an artist in particular who has definitely influenced how I envision the ideal career and approach, is Joanna MacGregor – she has such a wonderfully varied career and seems to be able to do everything!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As many other musicians will probably attest, the last few years have been really tough on us all, during the pandemic. It has been such a strange and lonely time, and certainly I have found that the lack of live music during that time had a profound impact on my mental health. Strangely enough, the adjustment back to “normality” has been a difficult thing; readjusting expectations of myself and the recovering music industry has been hard.
Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?
I have to say my debut album, Obscurus, is the recording I’m most proud of! Every piece on there is wonderful, and I’m so happy to be able to curate a programme of works that I love. I am also proud of the road I took to recording it; I crowdfunded and then it was postponed multiple times due to the pandemic, so finally getting to record it was such a joyous experience.
Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?
I’m not sure it’s for me to say which ones I perform best, but I certainly love performing contemporary works, especially those where I get to collaborate with the composers in creating something. I love the music of Maxwell Davies, both to listen to and perform, and I really enjoy playing pieces that have really strong compositional voices.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Oh, life in general tends to provide inspiration! Specifically I love being in nature, whether walking or just enjoying it; I also write, and read a lot; but talking to other people about music and listening to it tends to be the real catalyst for creative ideas for me.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I really enjoy putting programmes together that have some kind of theme, so often I’ll look at repertoire from that angle, seeing what fits together. Other than that, I just play pieces I enjoy
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Not particularly – I think all the venues I’ve performed in each have their own qualities and charms, acoustically or atmospherically.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
That’s a tough one…I think I’d have to say being a part of the performance of Stockhausen’s Donnerstag at the Festival Hall in 2019 will be imprinted on my mind for years to come, especially finishing each performance with “Michael’s Farewell”, a series of trumpet calls from 5 trumpeters, each of us standing outside the hall, playing out over the Thames. Hearing those calls echo around the Southbank was pretty special.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
When you feel like you’ve contributed something meaningful to the world – in that way, every performance is a success if even just one person enjoyed it.
What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?
Stay true to yourself. It’s very easy to get swept up in what other people, your peers or teachers, say you should be, and very easy to lose your sense of musical identity along the way. Be curious, find out what you love within music, and outside of music, and let those things drive your artistic growth. Also, remember that perfection doesn’t exist and that we are all just humans trying to do an incredibly cool thing, which is to communicate via music.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?
I think it’s fundamentally something which needs to start from music having a more prominent place in our education system. It’s really worrying to see the cuts that have happened in recent years, both in music education and the broader musical world, because there are so many wonderful organisations which are dedicated to bringing music to more people, and they need more support.
I think also, talking about classical music without the expectation that your audience will know all the ins and outs of the genre is something we need to do more of to lower the perceived barriers of elitism or snobbery.
What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?
I think there are a few things that should be talked about more, although there has been a lot of progress in recent years to bring issues like diversity and accessibility to the fore, which is great. But one thing I think we should all be talking about more is how we need to reshape institutions to better reflect the changing music world. We aren’t setting music students up as well as we could be to cope with the realities of being a musician, and I think that is why so many young professionals fall through the gaps and don’t get the help or guidance they need, especially where mental health is concerned.
Lucy Humphris’ debut album ‘Obscurus’ is released on 31st March and will showcase some of the best trumpet writing of the 20th & 21st centuries as well as reimaginings for trumpet of other works. Composers will include Janacek, Maxwell Davies, Messiaen, Raskovic, Respighi & Takemitsu and Lucy is joined on the recording by pianist, Harry Rylance.
Lucy Humphris is one of the UK’s most innovative and versatile young performers. Her fresh and original approach seeks to widen the instrument’s repertoire and push beyond both musical and technical boundaries.