Baritone Sam Hird heads home with guitarist Tom Bennett for A Winter Night’s Recital by candlelight at All Saints’ Church

Baritone Sam Hird and guitarist Tom Bennett outside the Royal College of Music

JOIN York baritone Sam Hird and his fellow Royal College of Music graduate, guitarist Tom Bennett, for classical music by candlelight at All Saints’ Church, North Street, York, tomorrow night (9/12/2022).

A Winter Night’s Recital will feature songs from around the world including Schubert, Faure and Britten, complemented by festive favourites such as Adeste Fideles, O Holy Night and A Cradle In Bethlehem to stir the Christmas spirit at this cosy evening of December entertainment.

The 15th century All Saints’ Church will be the “perfect backdrop” to this 7pm to 9pm concert.  A glass of mulled wine and a mince pie is included in the ticket price of £10 plus booking fee, available from or on the door.

Heading north for Christmas: Tom Bennett and Sam Hird

Here, CharlesHutchPress welcomes Sam Hird back home to York ahead of his first professional solo recital

Why did you choose All Saints for this concert, Sam? What makes it a “perfect setting”? 

“I fell in love with this church a few years ago after being taken to a traditional service there. The acoustics were gorgeous, the church was beautiful – especially the mediaeval stained glass windows – and above all the atmosphere was incredible. As with so many places in York, you can really feel the history when you’re inside the building.”

Have you sung there before?

“I rehearsed there around the same time as that service. A particularly memorable moment was getting to sing Make Our Garden Grow from Bernstein’s Candide. Surrounded by a host of marvellous singers, I remember getting shivers from the sound ringing round the whole church after we’d finished the final ‘grow!’ of the piece.” 

Congratulations on graduating this year with a First, Sam. How have you found the experience of studying at the Royal College of Music? 

“It has always been an exhilarating experience from day one. Getting to learn from incredible industry professionals and singers that I’ve always looked up to, like the brilliant Sally Burgess, was invaluable. The astonishing feeling of walking through the same corridors that Benjamin Britten would have walked through has never worn off.” 

How has the training had an impact on your singing?

“It’s had a huge impact. Most of my experience in York before moving to the Royal College in London was in acting through song in musicals such Sweeney Todd, Assassins, My Fair Lady and playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

“The vocal training at the RCM, through so many top-notch practitioners, including my singing teacher, the baritone Peter Savidge, has built up my classical voice and given me a whole new toolkit for singing at a different level.”

Sam Hird and Tom Bennett performing an Elizabethan ballad in Pick Me Up Theatre’s April production of Shakespeare In Love, directed by Sam’s father, Mark Hird, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

When did you first perform with Tom?

“We used to play through Benjamin Britten folk songs in my room in halls in our first year, as and when we wanted some respite from pizza and the students’ union bar!

“But we first performed in front of an audience for my third-year recital, where we did some French folk songs and an aria from Don Giovanni.

“We also performed in York together in April when Tom’s guitar playing was an important part of Pick Me Up Theatre’s production of Shakespeare In Love at Theatre@41, Monkgate, and we performed a beautiful Elizabethan ballad together. We’ll reprise it in our winter concert in a sequence of Shakespeare songs.”

What do you enjoy about performing to guitar accompaniment?

“It’s a completely different experience to singing with a piano; somehow it instantly feels more intimate. I find the sound-worlds of the voice and guitar blend really beautifully, and I like that there’s more scope to be a little more daring in terms of the quieter moments.” 

When choosing a programme, what factors do you take into consideration to achieve balance?

“When Tom and I set out with programming, one of the key factors is available music, as most of what is written for voice and guitar is for tenors – lucky things! But we like to have sections in different languages with ebbs and flows in each part.

Sam Hird and Tom Bennett in a light moment outside the Royal College of Music

“We really enjoy putting in the first few pieces from a song cycle (like Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin) as that gives us a clear, defined journey to try and take the audience on with us.”  

How has the winter season infiltrated tomorrow night’s programming?

“We’ll be covering a lot of ground in terms of styles and sound worlds but the candlelit winter setting with mulled wine definitely made us want to find some ‘cosy-sounding’ songs to suit the season – and a few classic Christmas tunes tucked themselves in early on in the planning stages.” 

On leaving college, how do you go about building your career?

“Thankfully, I have another two years of Masters to try and get the definitive answer to that excellent question! I’ll be putting myself forward for quite a few competitions and keeping an eye out for auditions for appropriate solo opportunities.

“But the dream would be to join a Young Artist’s Programme, where I would hope to cover some main roles and perform smaller parts in operas. That would be an incredible learning experience and hopefully an important stepping stone for my musical career.”