Emotional homecoming for Morecambe soprano

Photo Neil Cross: Soprano singer Linda Tolchard returning home to Morecambe after 30 years to perform in a concert at St John the Divine church

Photo Neil Cross: Soprano singer Linda Tolchard returning home to Morecambe after 30 years to perform in a concert at St John the Divine church

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When Linda Tolchard was a girl she was part of a family of singers who would have given the famous von Trapps a run for their money.

Linda, and her two brothers and three sisters, were all part of their local church choir and for them, singing was a way of life.

Linda with her brothers Nigel and Steven with trophies from the Morecambe Music Festival.

Linda with her brothers Nigel and Steven with trophies from the Morecambe Music Festival.

Now 30 years after she left Morecambe, Linda is coming back home to sing at her childhood church once again – only this time headlining her own concert.

Now a renowned soprano, she will perform on April 30 at St John the Divine where she sang all those years ago.

The concert is appropriately named ‘Calling Me Home’, the same as her recent debut album.

Linda sees it as a tribute to her late father Ernest Patterson, a longtime Morecambe policeman who passed away last year.

Linda Tolchard performing last year in Stourbridge.

Linda Tolchard performing last year in Stourbridge.

“I wanted to come and do something in my home town as a tribute to him,” she said.

“It’s going to be amazing, I’m thrilled to bits.”

Linda Patterson was just a baby when her father was posted to England from Belfast.

As a girl, she went to Sandylands and Heysham High, then Balmoral Road school.

The six Patterson children with Linda at the back, and her mum Brenda outside St John's church in the 1970s.

The six Patterson children with Linda at the back, and her mum Brenda outside St John's church in the 1970s.

Along with her brothers Steven and Nigel, and sisters Valerie, Wendy and Dawn, she was brought up in the Church with Sunday school, brownies and guides, cubs and scouts and ultimately the choir at St John’s.

“The Church community was huge and strong and provided an incredible mainstay in difficult times as well as in good times,” said Linda.

“I so loved being in the choir, it was 50 strong when I was a member.

“My confidence slowly built and before long I was singing solos. Stephen Schofield was choir master then.

Photo Neil Cross: Soprano singer Linda Tolchard returning home to Morecambe after 30 years to perform in a concert at St John the Divine church, with Revd Linda Macluskie

Photo Neil Cross: Soprano singer Linda Tolchard returning home to Morecambe after 30 years to perform in a concert at St John the Divine church, with Revd Linda Macluskie

“My father used to take me to the old folks homes around Morecambe to sing for them at Christmas time, I can’t have been more than 13 or 14, I am still doing that now.”

Linda’s mum Brenda was also a massive support to her fledgling singing career.

“With six children, money was always scarce and there certainly wasn’t enough to pay for piano and singing lessons.

“My mum did housework for Miss Ruby Samson, who lived down the road from us in Heysham, in payment for our lessons.

“My mother would somehow, I don’t know how, take me to all the musical festivals.

“We had no car though.

“She managed to get me to Blackpool, Fleetwood, Southport, Freckleton, amongst others and sat there watching and listening to 
every note .

“I could be entered into as many as fuive classes at one festival which, sometimes meant we had run, walk or bus to just get from one venue to another in the quickest possible time.

“We’d arrive home late that evening with a handful of silver trophies and brothers and sisters and father waiting to be fed.”

Another major influence on Linda’s career was her singing teacher, Dorothy Armitage, who lived on Knowlys Road.

“She heard me sing at my very first Morecambe Musical Festival, I had been entered into that by my music teacher at Sandylands Primary School and I was just 11 years old.

“She approached my mother after the class, which I won, and she congratulated me on my success and offered to teach me. When my mother said there was no money for lessons she said she would take me on free of charge.”

Linda, who is now married with three children and lives in Worcestershire, sees her concert on April 30 as a chance to give thanks to her local community for giving her a start in singing.

By coincidence, her former Balmoral Road School music teacher John Heaton is now church organist and choir master at St John’s, and Linda has asked him to play a piece at the concert.

And as all her siblings will be present, who knows? We might well see a Patterson family singing reunion!

Linda will be accompanied by former BBC Young Musician of the Year semi-finalist, freelance pianist and music teacher Tim Sidford.

She will sing classics such as Ave Maria, Time to Say Goodbye, Over the Rainbow and Songbird.

Tickets cost £10 plus booking fee from www.lindatolchard.com or from the church. All proceeds to the church and Parkinsons charity. Linda’s album Calling Me Home will be available on the night.

The concert starts at 7pm.