My love of music came from a love of playing it. My parents were keen on the visual arts and contemporary dance, but they hadn’t learned to play an instrument growing up, and they didn’t really listen to classical music.

However, I distinctly remember being given my very first record for my fifth birthday by my godmother. It was Peter and the Wolf, with Peter Ustinov doing the narration. I would listen to it over and over, and learned to identify the instruments.

Fiona Allen

Fiona Allan. Photo © Prudence Upton.

I was really fortunate to go to schools where music was just part of the curriculum. I started playing the recorder from age five or six, then the fife – which is like a pretend flute. Soon, I was begging my parents for music lessons. 

We moved to the United States for a few years and I went to junior school there. They had a bank of flutes and clarinets you could hire, so I decided to give the clarinet a go. If you were good enough, you went into the school band, which I did. Part of the joy was the social contact...