Murray Stewart

Murray conducted the choir during its Magnificat! concert in January 2003.

Murray Stewart, Conductor

Born in London, Murray Stewart read Music at Cambridge University, where he was Organ Scholar at Trinity Hall. His early years were devoted to following a career as an Organist. Following studies in St Albans with Peter Hurford and later with Daniel Roth in Paris on an Arts Council Scholarship, he recorded the complete organ works of Cesar Franck, and works by Vierne for the Danish label, Kontrapunkt.

Since 1988, Murray Stewart has devoted himself exclusively to a conducting career, studying with Harold Gray, Meredith Davies and Sir Charles Mackerras. He has worked with many Orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the Ulster Orchestra, the City of London Sinfonia, and the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Murray Stewart has also worked with the BBC Concert Orchestra, with whom he has recorded the complete orchestral works of Maurice Durufle. He has also worked with the Musici de Praga and with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, including a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Smetana Hall, Prague.

Murray Stewart, Conductor

Murray Stewart is Artistic Director of the London Pro Arte Orchestra and the London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra. With the former, he has conducted many Premieres, including works by Ropartz, Langlais, Sallinen, Kokkonen, Szymanowski, Howells, Patterson, Brian Chapple, Piers Hellawell, Geoffrey Burgon, Howard Blake, Naji Hakim and Robert Walker, all to critical acclaim. Murray Stewart is a former Conductor of the Collegium Musicum of London, where he succeeded Laszlo Heltay, Bristol Choral Society and the London Forest Choir. He was also Artistic Director of Finchley Children’s Music Group, with whom he gave the British Premiere of Pierre Max Dubois’ opera Le ruban merveilleux at Sadlers Wells, and appeared regularly on television. He is currently Music Director of the East London Chorus, and appears regularly as a Guest Conductor with other distinguished choirs at home and abroad, and has recorded with the West German Radio Choir in Cologne.

Murray Stewart, Composer

Since early days, Murray Stewart has maintained a strong interest in French repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He has recorded two discs of music by Jean Langlais for Koch International. Murray Stewart also made the premiere Recording of Richard Maunder’s edition of the Mozart Requiem, in its entirety, and on modern instruments, as well as a Christmas disc for Conifer Classics, which enjoyed great success in the classical charts. He has conducted over 20 Premieres both at home and abroad, including works by Kenneth Leighton and Naji Hakim in concerts this Season. Future engagements include the World Premiere recording in Belgium of the Requiem Mass by Rodriguez de Ledesma, and concerts in Spain of music by Britten and Stravinsky. Murray Stewart has appeared with the London Pro Arte Orchestra in the International Orchestral Concerts Series at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon.

For further biographical information, visit Murray’s professional website

London Pro Arte Orchestra & London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra

The Cantate Choir perfomed with the London Pro Arte Orchestra and London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra during the Magnificat concert as part of the Tudely Festival in January 2003.

London ProArte Orchestra

London Pro Arte Orchestra

Originally founded in 1985 as the Orchestra of St James, the London Pro Arte Orchestra is now in its fourteenth Season. Murray Stewart became Artistic Director and Principal Conductor in 1985, and since that time the Orchestra has given over 100 concerts both at home and abroad. The Orchestra made its South Bank debut in 1986, appearing at St John’s, Smith Square the following year. It appears regularly in all of London’s major Concert Halls, making its Barbican debut in 1995, as well as the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. The Orchestra has regularly appeared at the Colston Hall in Bristol.

The London Pro Arte Orchestra has toured abroad in France and Denmark, being invited to give the opening concert at the Vendsyssel Festival, when it broadcast on Danish Radio. The London Pro Arte Brass Ensemble (one of three associated Ensembles of the Orchestra) has since returned to Denmark, recording once again for Danish Radio.

A number of distinguished soloists have appeared with the Orchestra, including the late Manoug Parikian, Erich Gruenberg, Peter Katin, Marie-Louise Langlais, Peter Katin and Tim Hugh. The London Pro Arte Orchestra has appeared in three South Bank Festivals, Beethoven Plus, the French Bicentenary Festival, and the Szymanowski Festival. It also gave the UK Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Iron Age Suite in the presence of the composer.

London Pro Arte Orchestra

Having made its Royal Festival Hall debut in 1991, the London Pro Arte Orchestra took part in the Herbert Howells Centenary Concert the following year, when it gave the London Premiere of Howell’s Sine Nomine. The Orchestra has since returned to the Festival Hall to give a performance of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde with Finchley Children’s Music Group.

The London Pro Arte Orchestra has a commitment to premiering contemporary works. It has given London Premieres of works by Paul Patterson and Piers Hellawell, as well as premiering several works by Jean Langlais at the South Bank. The Orchestra gave the UK Premiere of Naji Hakim’s Organ Concerto, and the World Premiere of Robert Walker’s Mele Livida. Two more Premieres will be given this Season, the Oboe Concerto by Kenneth Leighton, and Naji Hakim’s Violin Concerto. The Orchestra’s first CD, of works by Jean Langlais, was released in 1998 by Koch International. The London Pro Arte Orchestra also made the premiere recording of Richard Maunder’s edition of the Mozart Requiem, in its entirety, and on modern instruments.

In 1997 the Orchestra began a Residency at the People’s Palace Concert Hall, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London. Last Season the Orchestra appeared as part of the International Orchestral Concert Series at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon. It has also appeared at the Henley Festival and in open air Concerts at Portchester Castle and Tredegar House, as well as the 650th Anniversary celebrations at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The Orchestra has twice appeared at ‘Music in the Air’ in Hampshire, playing before its largest audience ever of ten thousand people on both occasions. Future concerts this Season include St John’s, Smith Square, St Martin in the Fields and St Giles’, Cripplegate in London. A return visit to ‘Music in the Air’ will be made in 2003.

London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra

An associated ensemble of the London Pro Arte Orchestra (founded in 1989), the London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra, formed in 1995, brings together some of the finest young musicians specialising in playing period instruments.

The Orchestra made its London debut at St John’s, Smith Square in November 1995, and has since concentrated its activities around the major choral works of J S Bach. This has included acclaimed performances of Bach’s Mass in B minor in France.

Members of the orchestra play in some of the most prestigious Orchestras and Ensembles, including the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the English Concert, the London Classical Players and Floregium, under the direction of such distinguished conductors as Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Roger Norrington and Christopher Hogwood. Between them, members of the Orchestra have taken part in many recent and highly praised recordings of renaissance, baroque and classical music.

The Orchestra appears regularly at the London venues of St John’s, Smith Square and at St Martin in the Fields. Last Season’s highlights included performances of Bach’s Easter Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah at St John’s, Smith Square, as well as a Bach programme at the Henley Festival. This Season the Orchestra performs Handel’s Judas Maccabeus with the East London Chorus at St John’s, and later gives a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor. Tours to both France and Denmark are planned for the end of the Season in the summer of 2003.

Further details can be found on the orchestra’s website.

Amy Freston

Amy sang with the choir during its Magnificat! concert in January 2003.

Amy Freston, Soprano

Amy Freston trained as a classical dancer at the Central School of Ballet and now studies singing with Sandra Dugdale at the RNCM. Whilst at the RNCM she has taken part ina number of the College’s opera productions including Verdi’s Falstaff (covering Nanetta), Sondheim’s Into the Woods (playing both Snow White and Rapunzal), Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (covering the first boy) and Janàcek’s Jenufa (chorus and dancer). She performed the role of Asteria in the RNCM’s production of Handel’s Tamerlano and is a winner of the Alexander Young Award and the Brigette Fassbaender prize for lieder.

Recent engagements include the role of Galatea in Kent Opera’s Sprin 2002 production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the role of Sister Genevieve in Puccini’s Suor Angelica with Opera Holland Park, and soprano soloist in a performance of two Bach Cantatas and a Harrison Birtwistle song cycle, in the presence of the composer, at the home of Alfred Brendel this summer.

Recent concert performances include soloist in Carmina Burana with the City of Birmingham Symphony Hall, Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate and Brahms’ Requiem with Nottingham Choral Trust, and Vivaldi’s cantata Nulla in mundo pax sincera with the RNCM chamber orchestra conducted by Douglas Boyd.

For Opera North Amy covered the Sandman and the Dewfairy in their Summer 2001 production of Hansel and Gretel, and last January sang the role of Pamina in a two-week workshop of Die Zauberflöte in preparation for their Spring 2003 production directed by Tim Supple. Amy also sang the role of Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier for a masterclass lead by James Holmes this November.

Amy is most grateful to the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and the Peter Moores Foundation for their generous support of her studies.

Jonathan May

Jonathan sang with the choir during its Magnificat concert in January 2003.

Jonathan May, Bass-baritone

Jonathan May was born in Windsor and educated there and at Newcastle University. He then studied singing with Ellis Keeler at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he gained several scholarships as a post-graduate and member of the Opera Course. He also participated in Masterclasses at the Britten-Pears School with Martin Isepp and John Shirley-Quirk, and studied privately with Norman Bailey.

After working with Kent Opera, Jonathan joined the Royal Opera House Chorus, remaining there for three seasons, during which time he undertook numerous small roles including Hermann Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Venetian Guide Death in Venice. Other work during that period included Escamillo Carmen for Vivaldi Concertante, Geronte Manon Lescaut for Opera South and Basilio Barber of Seville for The Opera Company.

Jonathan left the Royal Opera House Chorus in 1992 and following a Wagner Faust and Ceprano Rigoletto for Opera Northern Ireland he attended the National Opera Studio on a Royal Opera House scholarship. During his time there he also sang three roles for the Royal Opera: Commissioner Madam Butterfly, Second Prisoner Fidelio and Fiorello Barber of Seville. In past seasons he has appeared with Bath and Wessex Opera: Grenvil La Traviata and Monterone Rigoletto; English Touring Opera: Dulcamara L’Elixir d’Amore, Colline La Boheme, Bartolo Barber of Seville, Papageno The Magic Flute; Opera Northern Ireland: Zaretsky Eugene Onegin and Masetto Don Giovanni; at Garsington as Peneios Daphne and Figaro Marriage of Figaro for Mid-Wales Opera and Commendatore Don Giovanni for the Civit Hills Festival.

In 1997 Jonathan made his debut with Welsh National Opera as Zuniga in their acclaimed production of Carmen. Subsequently other roles for WNO have included Monterone Rigoletto, Gorianchikov From the House of the Dead, Mr Flint Billy Budd, Horn Un ballo in Maschera and numerous understudies. His debut with Scottish Opera as Zuniga in 1999 was followed by Angelotti Tosca and he returned to Scottish Opera for the 2002 season singing the roles of Bonze in Madam Butterfly and Samual Taylor Colerdige in the world premier of Monster, a new opera by Sally Beamish. Future plans include Traveller Curlew River for Opera National de Rouen and Polonius Hamlet and a Richard Strauss role for the Royal Opera House. Concert performances have included Pulcinella with City of London Sinfonia, Glagolitic Mass with Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Angelotti in Tosca with Bournmouth Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem at the Albert Hall with Sir David Willcocks, Haydn’s Creation and Mozart’s Requiem, (English Haydn Festival, Messiah in Singapore, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (Rochester Cathedral) and Berlioz’s Messe Solennelle at Dartington, and Handel’s Acis and Galatea for Huntingdon Choral Society.

You can read further detail on Jonathan’s personal website.

James Oxley

James sang with the choir during its Magnificat concert in January 2003.

James Oxley, Bass

James Oxley studied at the Royal College of Music, at Oxford and privately with Rudolf Piernay. In 1994, he was awarded first prize at the renowned International Vocalisten Concours at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

He made his London debut at St John’s, Smith Square, singing Britten’s Les Illuminations. Since then, he has appeared at all the major concert halls in London, at the Symphony Hall (Birmingham) and Philharmonic Hall (Liverpool) as well as at the Three Choirs Festival. His engagements have taken him to all the major European countries, especially to France where he has worked with Philippe Herreweghe, Hervé Niquet and Christophe Rousset. In 1996 he gave performances of Britten’s War Requiem in San Sebastian and Amiens. Further afield, he has sung in Tel Aviv in concerts of Bach, in Hong Kong and Singapore, and he sang Schumann’s Dichterliebe with the pianist David Owen Norris at the Huntington Festival in Australia. Last year he made his North American debut with Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco.

James sings regularly for Opéra de Rennes, his recent roles including Antinoüs in Faure’s Penelope, Lensky in Eugene Onegin, Belmonte in Seraglio and Male Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia). He has sung in two Strauss operas at Garsington: Die Liebe der Danaë and Intermezzo and sang the role of Lucano in ENO’s acclaimed Coronation of Poppea.

His recent engagements include Acis & Galatea for Kent Opera, Rameau’s Pygmalion at the Cheltenham Festival, a broadcast of French baroque music from the Royal Chapel at Versailles and Verdi’s Requiem at Gloucester Cathedral. This year, he will give performances of Cosi fan Tutti for Opéra de Rennes and the Britten Seranade in Limerick, Dublin, and at the Sydney Opera House.

Katherine Manley

Katherine sang with the choir during its Magnificat! concert in January 2003.

Katherine Manley, Soprano

Born in 1979, Katherine Manley began her musical training at Leicester Arts In Education. Here she participated in various ensembles and choirs such as the Leicester Bach Choir and the Chanterelles, performing in venues including the Royal Albert hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

For four years from 1997 she was scholar studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where she was chosen as the young singer to represent the college in the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary. She has appeared in master classes with Benjamin Luxon, Roger Vignoles and recently with Sarah Walker. She took part of college opera performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Bizet’s Carmen.

Katherine is now continuing her postgraduate training on the Diploma Course at the Royal College of Music.

As a soloist Katherine has worked with both amateur and professional performances of oratorio and as a member of the RSAMD Chamber Choir performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Forthcoming engagements include work with Opera Holland Park, and singing in Händel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Nelson Mass, and an orchestral recital in Cambridge of Britten’s Les Illuminations.

William Purefoy

William sang with the choir during its Magnificat! concert in January 2003.

William Purefoy, Countertenor

A graduate of Magdalen College Oxford, William attended the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he received the John Clifford Pettican Award and was a finalist in the 1997 Gold Medal Competition. In 1995 he was a finalist in the Kathleen Ferrier Awards and a winner of the NFMS Young Concert Artists Award, and in 1997 won the Silver Medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He studies with David Pollard.

Operatic work has included Truth (The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit Barry) Almeida Opera, Coridon (Acis and Galatea Handel) New Kent Opera, Sir Philip Sydney (Angel Magick John Harle/David Pountney) Royal Albert Hall BBC Proms, Ernesto (Il Mondo Della Luna Haydn) Garsington, Ensemble Countertenor 1 (Orfeo Monteverdi) English National Opera, Arsace (Partenope Handel) Covent Garden Festival, Buxton Festival and Aldeburgh Proms, Endimion (La Calisto Cavalli) Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Orfeo (Gluck) St Endellion Festival, Ptolemy (Giulio Cesare Handel) St John’s Smith Square and Shepherd/Huntsman (Venus and Adonis Blow) Globe Theatre.

In concert he has sung with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the King’s Consort, the New London Consort, the Musicians of the Globe, the Hanover Band, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Purcell Quartet, Concordia, La Cetra, the BBC Concert Orchestra (Friday Night Is Music Night), I Fagiolini and Cantabile. He has given recitals at the Wigmore Hall, the Barbican and the Purcell Room as well as in Innsbruck, Graz, Passau, Brezice and Radjovlica. This year, he will be appearing in a BBC documentary about William Shakespeare.

He has recorded Rosey Blood (Sederunt) (Terror and Magnificence, John Harle)Decca Argo, Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day and David’s Lamentation Over Saul and Jonathan (Boyce, Hanover Band) ASV Gaudeamus, Mass in G Minor (Vaughan Williams, Richard Hickox) Chandos, a Purcell recording (Orchestra of the Golden Age) Naxos and a recital for the 1998 Innsbruck Festival CD.

For further biographical information, visit William’s personal website.

Review of Magnificat!

Reviewer – Robert Hardcastle

Review of the concert by The Cantate Choir at Chapel of St Augustine, Tonbridge School. – 26th January 2003

Image from programme for Magnificat! concert, part of the Tudely Festival

Three setttings of the Magnificat in one afternoon may sound like two too many, but thanks to some very ingenious programme planning and superbly authentic performances by the Cantate Choir, the London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra and a well-chosen group of soloists, a packed audience in the Tonbridge School Chapel last Sunday enjoyed a rare feast of joyous and celebratory music-making.

Mounted by Dr Stephen Coles as part of this year’s Tudeley Festival, this unique concert was given in aid of the Tonbridge Cottage Hospital, who are raising money for much-needed ceiling hoists to make patient care easier for the staff and patients alike. The programme consisted of two Magnificats in D major, the first by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and the second composed by his father, Johann Sebastian, some twenty years earlier.

Sandwiched between these two works – and this is what gave the programme such an intriguing shape – was a third Magnificat, composed in the latter part of the 17th century either by Jean Baptiste Lully or Couperin Le Grand, for two sopranos, organ and cello. The young sopranos were Amy Feston and Katherine Manley whose voices, although contrasting in character, blended together extremely well. As in the two Bach works, they brought to their performances a high degree of musicianship and insight. I do not know how much, if at all, they have sung together in the past, but I think we may have in the making here a future duo to compare with Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, which is high praise indeed.

Press clipping of review of Magnificat! concert in January 2003

Equally impressive were their colleagues William Purefoy, James Oxley and Jonathan May, in the two works by members of the Bach family. Purefoy, a wonderfully mellow counter-tenor – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – and the tenor James Oxley were heard to great advantage in the CPE Bach Magnificat, especially in ‘Deposuit potentes’ duet, while the bass-baritone Jonathan May, accompanied by chamber organ and cello, dealt powerfully with the unsympathetic acoustic of the Tonbridge School Chapel in, for example, ‘Quia fecit mihi omnia’, the one bass aria in JS Bach’s work.

The Cantate Choir, until recently known as the Chantry Choir based in Sevenoaks and directed by Robin Walker, director of music at St.Giles-in-the-Fields parish church in London, provided admirable support throughout, as did the London Pro Arte Baroque Orchestra led by Theresa Caudle and conducted by Murray Stewart. Special mention should also be made of the two oboes, who wove the usual Bach spell around many of the soprano arias, together with the splendid baroque trumpets, and the harpsichord and chamber organ parts performed by Kathryn Cok and James Longford. In the hands of all these dedicated musicians – soloists, chorus and instrumentalists – the causes of music and of medicine were, in equal measure, very well served.


7.30pm, Saturday 26 January 2003 – St Augustine’s Chapel, Tonbridge School

CPE Bach – Magnificat in D
Francois Couperin or Jean-Baptiste Lully – Magnificat
JS Bach – Magnificat in D