Richard Lewis - the war years

In spite of having to serve his country he enjoyed a bit of luck. His commanding officer, Mary Kirkby, heard him sing and decided he would be more useful as a British army ambassador than a signalman.

 

Consequently, Richard was flown out to Brussels to sing, with just one stipulation - that he wore army uniform.

 

This gave him invaluable experience on stage and, more importantly, the opportunity sing the works of Benjamin Britten which would, later on, give him an enormous leg up in his career.

 

Britten had heard that he was singing his Les Illuminations and his Serenade for tenor and horn and arrangements were made to audition him when he was demobbed mainly because Britten had received a telegram from a contact informing him of a 'young tenor with a lovely voice, who looks good, and has good legs'.

 

Still in uniform

But the war hadn't ended yet. He was still in uniform. He gave recitals, sang in opera; all good experience especially Madame Butterfly with Richard singing in Italian, the rest of the cast in Dutch.

 

Finally demobbed in late 1945, Richard hoped to resume his studies.  Now he was 32. Applying for a grant to the Royal Academy of Music was told he was too old. Norman Allin was by now teaching there and set about rectifying this ageism and soon Richard was offered a grant. He began his studies again.