In September 2017 I made my debut at the Rheingau Music Festival performing in the role of the Angel in Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.
We started rehearsals with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Paul McCreesh, Brenden Gunnell tenor, Marcus Eiche bass at the beautiful neo baroque Laeiszhalle (formerly Musikhalle Hamburg) which is the home of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. Composers such as Richard Strauss, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky played and conducted their works there. It survived World War II intact and Maria Callas gave several concerts there in the 60’s.
It was also great to have the opportunity to see a little of the centre of Hamburg the following day before we travelled on to Frankfurt for a further rehearsal where the Philharmonia Chorus joined us in the Sendesaal concert hall in Frankfurt.
Our performance of the Dream of Gerontius took place at the beautiful 12th century Eberbach Abbey, a former cistercian monastery located in the Rheingau Valley of Hesse area near the town of Eltville am Rhein. The Abbey was actually used in 1985/86 to film scenes for the movie “The Name of the Rose” starring Sean Connery!
It was the most magical setting for the performance which was given to a capacity audience in the Abbey. I was so lucky to have family and friends travel over for the performance which made the whole experience very special.
There was a little time to explore the Altstadt (old town) in Frankfurt on our final day which contains many of Frankfurt’s most important sights, including the Romerberg plaza with the famed Romer City Hall.
I was thrilled to make my BBC Proms debut in the stunning setting of the Old Royal Naval Chapel in Greenwich on Saturday 6th August 2016. David Hill conducted this ‘Proms at…” premier of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with the BBC singers which was presented by Sean Rafferty and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
I was joined by Elizabeth Watts, Soprano, Peter Auty, Tenor and James Platt, Bass. We were accompanied by Richard Pearce on the harmonium and Iain Farrington on the Piano together with the wonderful singing of the BBC Singers.
The Petite Messe Solennelle was Rossini’s final work. He called it “The last mortal sin of my old age” and whilst he described it as his Little Solemn Mass it is definitely not short nor solemn! It is a wonderful piece very much influenced by his operatic solo writing with elaborate choruses and beautiful expressive dramatic music.
It was amazing to perform in the setting of the Old Royal Naval Chapel (Chapel of St. Peter and Paul) at Greenwich which was stunning. The Chapel is a neo-classical masterpiece by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and William Newton. Featuring a Samuel Green organ and an altarpiece painted by Benjamin West. It has one of the finest eighteenth century interiors in the UK.
Greenwich is such a fascinating place situated on the banks of the River Thames and known for its maritime history. It is home to the Cutty Sark, a restored 19th-century ship, the huge National Maritime Museum, and the classical buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, including the magnificent Painted Hall which is recognised as the greatest piece of decorative painting in England and has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor it was originally intended as a dining hall for the naval pensioners who lived here at the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Overlooking the lovely Greenwich Park is the also the Royal Observatory the site of the Greenwich meridian line. The views from here across the Thames of London are amazing.
I had a brilliant time in Greenwich with family and friends. The week-end was made extra special too by taking a trip along the Thames by boat to Westminster and spending the afternoon on a tour of Buckingham Palace and seeing the special exhibition of 90 years of style of the Queens wardrobe! Here are some lovely photographs of a very memorable week-end.
Concert to commemorate the “Battle of the Somme” in collaboration with the Royal British Legion and St George’s Hall Liverpool.
As part of my work with Mersey Wave Community Music project, a concert in collaboration with the Royal British Legion was presented at St George’s Hall Concert Room, Liverpool on 1st July 2016. The event entitled “The Somme and Beyond” paid tribute in music and words to all those effected by the events which took place one hundred years to the day during World War One.
The Battle of the Somme was fought between 1st July -18th November 1916 and at 7.30am on Saturday 1st July 1916 100,000 British Soldiers launched their attack on German positions. On that day 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 38,000 were wounded missing or taken prisoner – This was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Armed Forces. During the Battle the allies advanced a mere 7 miles and there and there were 420,000 British casualties – 60,000 wonder or missing for every mile gained. The Battle is now considered to have been an essential and important step towards victory but it came at such terrible cost that it came to symbolise the tragic futility of war.
The concert paid tribute to the fallen beginning with the Royal British Legion March, an act of remembrance with presentation of Standard Bearers and Rev. John Williams MBE, Chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces . The performers were the Mersey Wave Choir and Fron Male Voice Choir and myself, with musical directors Jason Ellis, Leigh Mason and Owen Roberts piano/organ. There were also readings throughout the evening from Ian Nenna, Bill Sergeant, David Jones and students of the Blue Coat School, Compèred by BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Lyon. A vote of thanks and presentations were made at the end of the evening by the National Chairman of the Royal British Legion Mr Terry Whittles.
All ticket sales from the event supported the work of the Royal British Legion. With thanks to all involved and all who supported the concert. Here are some video highlight and a look back at our special collaboration with the Royal British Legion that brought a special Somme 100 commemoration to Merseyside.
ENGLISH MUSIC FESTIVAL
I performed a recital with pianist James Baillieu at the English Musical Festival in beautiful Dorchester on Thames on 30th May 2016. The English Music Festival is an annual four-day event dedicated to the performances of works by British composers – from the mediaeval period to the present day. It was founded in 2006 and is organised by Em Marshall-Luck. We performed songs by Elgar, Quilter, Bridge and a special commission for the festival – a reconstruction by John Mitchell of Peter Warlock’s ‘An Old Song.’
Our concert was performed in Dorchester Abbey (The Abbey Church of St. Peter and Paul) which is situated in the charming village of Dorchester on Thames. The Abbey is such a stunning setting to perform in – On the north wall of the chancel the window is a Tree of Jesse, combining tracery, sculpture and stained glass (all 14th Century). We were so fortunate to be able to perform in front of the Great East stained glass window which is a masterpiece of medieval and Victorian craftsmen – much of the glass is early 14th century.
The recital was introduced by a wonderful friend and supporter Andrew Neill. He is former Chair of the Elgar Society, Chairman of the Strauss Committee and treasurer of the Royal Northern College of Music’s Kennedy/Strauss award which I had the great honour of receiving during my studies at RNCM.
For more information about the English Music Festival please visit their website – https://www.englishmusicfestival.org.uk/welcome.html
Joyce and Michael Kennedy Strauss Prize Fundraiser Concert
It was also a great honour to be invited to perform alongside baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Christopher Glynn in a concert at the Royal Overseas League in the same month. The concert raised funds for the Joyce and Michael Kennedy Strauss Prize which is such a important award providing essential funding for students to continue their vocal studies. Representatives and friends of Royal Northern College of Music and also Joyce Kennedy were present at the evening. We also celebrated the 70th birthday of Andrew Neil who had organised the concert.
The Royal Overseas London Clubhouse backs on to Green Park in London and is a beautiful Grade 1 listed building – It was a stunning venue for an evening of celebrations. With thanks to Andrew and a really enthusiastic audience we concluded the programme by singing a big ‘happy birthday!’
Find out more about the Kennedy Strauss Prize which takes place annually at the Royal Northern College of Music here: https://www.rncm.ac.uk/kennedy-strauss-award/
The Royal Northern College of Music Gala Dinner took place on 16th April 2016 and it was a great honour to be invited as a special guest and to have the opportunity to speak and perform with pianist Ben Powell at the event. It was a great evening of food, drink and entertainment with performances also from; Round 3, Mortimer Quartet, RNCM Trombone Choir, Vornicu Quartet and Big Phat Phunction Band. Key 103’s Darren Proctor was the compère for the evening and the event was all in aid of the RNCM Student Awards Fund.
The RNCM Student Awards Fund provides vital support to young musicians who show exceptional potential but lack the financial resources to undertake their studies. The RNCM student fund currently allows £1 million a year to be awarded to young musicians studying at RNCM but requests for help total closer to £3 million – this means there are many students whose financial needs cannot be met. Any donations, large or small make a really difference to supporting young talent.
To find out more about supporting RNCM Students please visit: http://www.rncm.ac.uk/support/why-the-rncm-needs-you/student-support/