Ahead of Liza Pulman’s show at Stratford Play House on Saturday, when she performs Streisand songs, Herald arts talked about life, singing and cats with the singer.
Tell us about your path to becoming a singer?
I always sang as a kid. My mum and my sister and I would sing close-harmony on long car journeys and my sister and I sang together for years as The Pulman Sisters, singing music from the 1920s, to 40s. We started out just singing at our parent’s parties but ended up singing in the foyers of the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall. We made a great sound, like only siblings can.
Then I went to music college (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) where I studied singing for six long years, before joining the Glyndebourne Chorus as a junior principle. It was a pretty amazing start.
You grew up in a very sociable and creative home, did you know then that your life would be on stage?
With my mother an actress (Barbara Young — Coronation Street and Last of the Summer Wine) and my father the screenwriter Jack Pulman (I Claudius) I was surrounded by writers, actors, directors from a very early age, in fact, I don’t really remember anything else. There was a brief period where I fancied being a vet (not long after my goldfish, Felicity Fruit-Cake, died from unnatural causes) but the performing gene was always going to get me in the end.
What has been the highlight moment so far?
Oh Lordy! The Highlight? Probably going to New York with Fascinating Aida. We’ve been a few times now, and are always received with amazing reviews and warmth, but the glister never wears off. I mean it’s the Golden Apple after all.
Do you enjoy putting together the programme for your concerts?
I absolutely love putting the show programmes together. I love creating new arrangements of songs that people know really well and also introducing the audience to songs they might not already know. Then taking all of these songs and shaping them into a great night. Light and shade. Fast and slow. Big and small. There’s a natural flow to these things and it’s a fabulous challenge to find it.
If it could be anyone in the world, who would you most like to duet with?
Living?? That’s tricky for me. I only really like the dead ones!! Actually not true. There are some amazing singers out there at the moment. In terms of the kind of music I love to sing I think you still can’t beat a bit of Harry Connick Jr. He’s an amazing musician, produces great band arrangements, wonderful piano playing and a voice that kind of makes you swoon. He’s old school!
I’m also completely in love with a German singer called Max Raabe and if he asked me to sing with him and his Palest Orchestre I would jump at the chance!
Who has been the most important influence on your musical life?
I’m not sure there’s been only one musical influence on me. There’s a bag of them. Sinatra, Garland, Mabel Mercer, Al Jolson, Barbara Cook, Barbra Streisand. I love the old blues singers too — Ethel Waters, Billie Holliday, Sophie Tucker. I’d like to have been a blues singer in the 1920s/30s I think. All that suffering and song!
Where do you go to get away from it all?
I am incredibly lucky as I live in Cornwall and I look at the water every day of my life. I don’t need to go anywhere other than my own front room to get away from stuff. I do love to walk though, and will often put my walking shoes on and just go, either chatting with friends and family on the phone as I walk, working on my own shows, or just listening to the birds in the trees and the waves hitting the shore.
What are your desert island discs and your one luxury item?
I find the desert island question tough as there is so much wonderful music out there. My listening tastes are incredibly eclectic and I would probably have to include something by Sinatra, Elvis, Jolson, Billie Holliday, Streisand, Chet Baker, Leonard Cohen, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller, The Beatles…The list is endless. As for a luxury item, I’m afraid that would have to be my cat, Mr Chips.
When and where: Liza Pulman Sings Streisand is on at Stratford Play House on Saturday, 16th March at 7.30pm. Tickets are £23 available from www.stratfordplay.co.uk