Alison Buchanan’s story is inspirational. When her grandparents. Donald and Nora Harding of Kendal Hill, Christ Church, Barbados. came to live in England, they had no idea that their granddaughter would become immersed in the world of classical music. Although Donald Harding was a learned man. there was no culture of classical music and no appreciation for opera in the family.
Alison’s parents, Keith and Lena Harding listened to soul music and reggae. but her father had a handful of opera albums and Johann Strauss waltzes. She would play them and developed an interest in learning to play various instruments. Excelling a t he violin and viola, which was played in the Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestra, but once her voice was, discovered , this became her passion and soon she was on her way to an extraordinary career and life.
After being given her first scholarship. Alison studied at the Watford School of Music and her father would drive her there and back from home every Tuesday, often a two- and-a-half hour journey for a 30-minute lesson! When still only 15 years old, she auditioned and gained admission to the very prestigious Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Sussex, the youngest singer ever to be engaged to sing in the-full-time chorus. It was also at Glyndebourne that she met Maureen Braithwaite, a soprano from Barbados who became Alison’s role model and mentor. She also met Wayne Marshall another ‘Bajan’ , who was an organist and has gone on to a great career as a conductor. Alison attended both the junior and senior departments of the Guildhall School of Music in London. winning many competitions and awards and performing in many festivals. She completed her graduate studies and began winning more competitions, such as the Washington International Competition, the Kathleen Ferrier Competition and the most memorable Pavarotti Competition. where she was the only entrant to receive a one-on- one master class with Pavarotti.
She has consequently performed operas and concerts all over the world and met a host of distinguished musicians and artistes, such as Andre Previn. Dame Joan Sutherland. Placido Domingo, Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman. Marilyn Horne, Sir Colin Davis. Sir Simon Rattle and too many more to mention. She has sung for BBC Radio 3’s Friday Night Is Music Night, performing live with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at various opera houses, including the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, New York City Opera, San Carlo Opera House in Naples, Italy, the San Francisco Opera and Carnegie Hall. Alison is a great ambassador and inspiration for black youths. with her involvement in the London-based multicultural Pegasus Opera Company and the Ritz Chamber Players based in Jacksonville, Florida, which is the only all-black chamber music society in the United States.