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A cloakroom attendant who was plucked from the sidelines to perform at the world famous Wigmore Hall today said she was “honoured but terrified” to be chosen.
Milly Forrest, from Chiswick, west London, was given rave reviews after stepping in for a soprano who had fallen ill ahead of a recital of work by Schubert, Purcell and Vaughan Williams.
The 23-year-old, a graduate from the Royal Academy of Music who works at the Hall to pay for her studies, performed a solo version of Purcell’s If Music be the Food of Love.
She told the Standard: “I couldn’t quite believe I was being asked. I was absolutely terrified. I am just glad my dad wasn’t in the audience, he would have bawling his eyes out.
“I was so honoured to get the opportunity. It was amazing fun really and although I was really nervous you really raise your game when you are surrounded by other people who are so brilliant.”
The singer admitted she had got “extra bookings” for more concerts after her acclaimed performance, but insisted she was keeping her “feet on the floor” and would continue to work at the hall where she collects tickets and checks in coats to help pay for further studies.
She added: “Let’s see how it goes I am not getting carried away.”
Forrest kicked off her acting and singing career at a young age. She performed in Oliver in 2003 at the Bedford Park Festival in Chiswick aged just 9 and as Dorothy in a school production of The Wizard of Oz at the same festival a year later.
She said: “I always wanted to be a singer, I loved it from an early age. Some of the pictures are embarrassing to look at now but it was great fun.”
Forrest has also worked as a model to help pay her way through college and starts a Masters degree at the Royal College of Music in September.
Forrest told how she nearly missed out on the part because she had left her mobile phone at home as director John Gilhooly desperately tried to contact her after Welsh soprano Ruby Hughes was taken ill.
She said: “I went out and for the one day of the year I didn’t take my phone.
“When I returned there were loads of messages and missed calls. I was quite worried then I listened to the message and it was saying they needed me but would have to give the part to someone else if I did not respond immediately and there was a cut off point. Thankfully I beat the deadline and got my chance.”
Mr Gilhooly, the artistic director of the hall, said he had no hesitation in giving her a chance after auditioning her a few months ago.
He said: “She has a voice of great beauty. She is level-headed and knows there is work to do but there is real promise there.
“There were 17 other singers and it was only one song and I had said to her if there was an opportunity I would bear her in mind.
“The thing is you must always be ready and she was ready. I always say to young artists you never know when the phone is going to ring and you must be ready.
“We were about 10 minutes away from giving the opportunity to someone else when she called back.”
Forrest, who had less than two days to rehearse for the show, said: “Luckily one of the songs I had studied in an exam but it was tough to get it all together in such a short time.
“The director knew I was a singer and had asked me to sing in an audition five months earlier but I didn’t think anything would come of it.”
She told The Times that one day she hopes “to sing at one of the big opera house stages”.
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