The tenor David Wilkinson was born at Rochford Hospital and grew up in Thorpe Bay. He was educated at Thorpe Dene School and then at Clark’s College which was in Victoria Avenue.
He was always interested in music – his mother sang – but his father didn’t like music at all and didn’t encourage him.
He is a Founder Member of Opera North, the award-winning national opera company based
in Leeds which was established with the aim of opening up opera and music for everyone
and to champion diversity in artists, repertoire and audiences.
M.T-T David, how did you become an Opera singer?
By accident! After I left Clark’s - which I had never wanted to attend as they didn’t
have a music department – I started an electronics course. During studies one
afternoon, I heard a singer from along one of the corridors. Thinking I could possibly
do better, I left the electricians and joined the musicians.
My first paid performance, in 1966, was Bach’s St John Passion at a church in
Southend. I still have the cheque!
M.T-T (The press at the time referred to David’s voice as “sounding remarkably like a
top-rate Italian tenor”.)
M.T-T. What would you have been doing otherwise?
Acting. There is a lot of acting involved in an operatic performance anyway.
M.T-T Who is your favourite composer?
Wagner. I feel that his music suits my tenor voice.
What is your favourite Opera/piece of music?
Staying with Wagner, I would say The Mastersingers of Nuremburg.
M.T-T. Is there anything that you would like to have done but not had the opportunity to
Yes, I would like to have performed Winterreise (Winter Journey). It’s a song cycle for one
(tenor) voice and piano by Franz Schubert and is a setting of 24 poems by German poet
Wilhelm Müller. It is, however, very sad and you would need counselling after!
M,T-T David, you have performed at so many of the world’s great opera houses and
concert halls, what is your favourite venue (at which you have appeared)?
La Fenice, the opera house in Venice. I was in a performance there in the winter of
1995 and the Company put me in charge of finding a Venetian Bar that served
Guinness. Although that may have seemed impossible, I was, of course, successful
and enjoyed free Guinness on my colleagues for the rest of our stay.
After we left, La Fenice burnt down......
M.T-T What is your favourite place?
Not at all opera-related, I really like Henley-on-Thames. Whatever the time of year, I
find it an extremely relaxing place to visit.
M.T-T Who is your favourite singer?
Maria Callas. There really is no one like her. I am also a fan of the Italian tenor Franco
M,T-T. What do you think of Classical Music now?
I prefer the older composers, but although I find some new classical music rather
pretentious, it is certainly very interesting. And of course there are some wonderful
singers around like Alfie Boe and Kathryn Jenkins.
M.T-T. What have you done since Opera?
I have been teaching both individuals and workshops. But when a woman phoned
me and asked if I could make her daughter sing like Amy Winehouse, I thought it was
time to give up!
M.T-T Do you have any regrets?
Not professionally. But unfortunately a Stroke has left me with extremely impaired
eyesight and I cannot watch concerts on TV anymore. I also tend to lose my bearings
a lot and end up in some strange places, but fortunately have kept my sense of
M,T-T What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for performing Schubert’s Winterreise and then
drinking 10 pints of Cider. (I’m cutting down......)
M.T-T. What do you like most about Southend?/What is its biggest asset?
I love the Estuary. I used to sail out there.
Thank you. MELANIE TYLER-THOMAS
Adam Tregoning JP has been the Mayor’s Officer and Mace Bearer since 2012. Prior to that he was a Musician in the British Army. He served as a flautist in the Band of the Royal Tank Regiment and the Band of the Parachute Regiment for more than 25 years. He is also a Director of the Legra Academy Trust, Chair of Trustees of Prost8UK, a Trustee of Safer Steps and a Magistrate on the
South Essex Bench.
According to former Southend Mayor, Judith McMahon, the role is of vital importance to the Mayor - giving support and guidance, ensuring that traditions are maintained, that correct etiquette is followed and protocols are respected. The Mayor’s Officer is also responsible for the security and maintenance of historic and priceless artefacts such as the Chain of Office and the Mace.
M.T.T. Adam, what prompted you to apply for the role of Mayor’s Officer and Mace Bearer?
A.T After a 25 year career in the Army, having worked predominantly in a Military Ceremonial role, I felt this would be an excellent way to cross over into Civic Ceremonial. I have a passion for the heritage, traditions and custom of our great Country and wanted to continue in that line of work.
M.T.T What are your main duties and what part of those do you enjoy the most?
A.T My main duties include the day-to-day running of the Mayor’s Office, their Diary and the official residence - Porters Civic House. Alongside this I am also responsible for chauffeuring them to events and ensuring the safety and security of the Mayoral Chains of Office. I most enjoy the fact that every day is different and that I get out and about in the Borough of Southend seeing the great things that
are happening every day.
M.T.T Can you tell us a bit about how and why you became a JP?
A.T I applied to become a Magistrate because I wanted to give something back to the local community in a voluntary role but also to stretch myself and learn new skills.
M.T.T There are a great many opportunities to participate in music and musical activities in Southend. When did you yourself first take an interest in music and which instruments can you play?
A.T Southend does indeed have a fantastic array of musical and cultural activities of which we should be rightly proud. I first became interested in music at primary school and took up playing the flute at the age of 10.
M.T.T Do you have a favourite composer/piece of music?
A.T I have an extremely eclectic taste in music and wouldn’t be able to pin down any particular favourite. I really do just like all manner of music. It depends what mood I’m in.
M.T.T In respect of your own musical career, is there a particular event or performance which stands out
A.T Performing at the Royal Albert Hall for the Annual Festival of Remembrance in front of HM The Queen would have to be one of my highlights.
M.T.T In many ways it must be absolutely fantastic to live in such historic premises at Porter’s. Is there
A.T It really is a privilege and I’m afraid I would struggle to find a downside.
M.T.T What is your favourite part of the “estate”, or do you have a favourite artefact?
A.T The whole estate is such a special historic place and a real jewel in the crown for Southend. I am passionate about the whole place.
M.T.T You were responsible for organising the town’s WW1 Centenary Remembrance events in 2018.
Having been in the Forces yourself, what - for you - is the most important issue for remembering and commemorating the men and events of the Great War?
A.T It is extremely important to remember the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom. Without their sacrifice we wouldn’t enjoy the lives we do now. It’s also important to remember the mistakes of the past so that we ensure they are never repeated.
M.T.T Now that we have commemorated 100 years since the Armistice, do you feel that the importance
of Remembrance and Commemoration will gradually diminish in the public’s psyche?
A.T Definitely not. We come together every year to remember all those who have fallen in the line of
duty to this country in all conflicts since WW1.
M.T.T. Since WW1 and the appalling problems surrounding shell-shock (often tragically “diagnosed”
as a lack of moral fibre, or simply cowardice) as a society we have a far greater understanding of PTSD and its long-term effects on servicemen and their families. In your current role, have you had any involvement with Help for Heroes which is an extremely popular charity here in Southend?
A.T I have not had any specific involvement with Help for Heroes but appreciate the sterling work they
do for our Veterans. There is much work being done locally by all Armed Forces Charities including
the British Legion and SSAFA for our local Armed Forces Veteran community. I meet many of these
volunteers who give up their precious time to help others at events throughout the year.
M.T.T What would you still like to achieve at a professional level?
A.T The achievement of ensuring each Mayoral year is a success is what drives me.
M.T.T What do you enjoy most about living and working in Southend/ what is its biggest asset?
A.T There is so much to love about Southend. From its parks, it’s award winning beaches and seafront,
to the world’s longest pier but for me it’s the people. I moved here in 2012 and have been made to
feel so welcome.