James Gower

James sang with the choir during its Baroque Masterworks concert in March 2007 an its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

James Gower, Bass

James was born in Newport, South Wales and studied at St John’s College, Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music. He is currently studying with Cathy Pope and Robert Lloyd.

James made his English National Opera debut performing Lord Krishna/Parsi Rustomji Satyagraha by Philip Glass and joined the ENO Young Singers Programme for the 2007/2008 season. His roles have included Mercury/Lictor/3rd Seneca Friend L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Bogdanowitsch The Merry Widow, Notary Der Rosenkavalier, Ormonte Partenope, Nikitich Boris Godunov, Speaker Die Zauberflöte, Ceprano Rigoletto and Sciarrone Tosca. As an associate artist with Welsh National Opera, James performed Un Moine Don Carlos and Second Armed Man Die Zauberflöte. For Glyndebourne Festival Opera he performed Pinellino Gianni Schicchi, (broadcast on BBC TV and performed at the Proms) and Erster Priester/Zweiter geharnischter Mann Die Zauberflöte. For Glyndebourne on Tour he sang Doctor Pelléas et Mélisande and Doctor Grenvil La Traviata. Other roles include Raimondo Lucia di Lammermoor and Seneca L’Incoronazione di Poppea for Iford Festival, Colline La Bohème for Opera Theatre Company, High Priest in Dvorák’s Vanda for University College Opera, Bartolo/Antonio Le Nozze di Figaro for the Classical Opera Company and Leporello Don Giovanni, Cambridge Touring Opera.

Recent concert engagements include Messiah with the RSNO and Christus St John Passion at Bath Abbey. Engagements outside the UK have included Israel in Egypt, Pagano I Lombardi and Silva Ernani at Dortmund’s Konzerthaus.

Suzanna Marks-Perry

Susanna sang with the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Suzanna Perry, Soprano

Suzanna was born in Essex, and began study as a scientist, gaining first a degree in Biology from Kings College, London and then a Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Science. In 1993 she went to study at the Royal Academy of Music and graduated in 1996 with a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Voice. For the past 15 years, she has worked as a freelance Soprano. Oratorio repertoire includes Dyson Hierusalem, Mozart Exsultate Jubilate and Rutter Requiem with the London Choral Society directed by Ronald Corp. She has also sung the dramatic oratorio role of the Virgin Mary, in Honneger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, with the Crouch End Festival Chorus, directed by David Temple. Operatic roles include Ludmilla in Smetena’s Bartered Bride, for Almaviva Opera and Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas on tour in Catalonia, directed by Nigel Rogers.

Suzanna has been the featured artist with the North London Philharmonia directed by Ronald Rappoport, with whom she performed six Richard Strauss Orchestral Songs.

She has sung in masterclasses for Nicolai Gedda, Robert Tear, Jill Gomez, Valerie Masterson and Nigel Rogers.

She has given many recitals and concert tours for the Council for Music in Hospitals throughout England, working regularly with Accordionist, Janet Beale.

Suzanna sings regularly with the Alexander Marks String Quartet in Merseyside, Lancashire, and has recently performed as guest artist with Occassional Strings. She gives regular song recitals in Hertfordshire.

Anne Page

Anne played for the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Anne Page, Harmonium

Anne Page is known in the UK and abroad as a musician who combines virtuosity and versatility. Born and educated in Perth, Australia, the music of Bach first awakened an interest in the organ. Her teacher at the University of Western Australia, Annette Goerke inspired her to study French organ music from the 18th century to Messiaen, and to travel to Europe for lessons with Marie-Claire Alain. Anne subsequently studied with Peter Hurford for whom she deputised in a teaching role at the Royal Academy of Music. Her London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988 playing 20th century masterpieces marked a commitment to contemporary music which led to commissions and premieres of new works. Lessons with Jacques van Oortmerssen on historic instruments, their repertoire and playing techniques were to inform both her playing and teaching.

As a member of the British Institute of Organ Studies she has been closely involved with the Historic Organ Sound Archive, playing an essential role in its organisation as well as researching and performing over 10 hours of recordings for the project. The HOSA project has been a pioneer of free internet access to classical music. She continues to give talks to organists’ associations about this innovative resource for the study of English organs and their music and has contributed articles on its use to several organ journals.

She has been at the forefront of the revival of interest in the harmonium, an instrument only recently receiving attention from scholars, composers and musicians as a serious medium for historical performance as well as for contemporary music. Swiss organist and composer Lionel Rogg has dedicated a suite of pieces for harmonium to her. She is acknowledged as one of the country’s leading experts and has appeared as soloist at the Edinburgh, Three Choirs and Oundle Festivals.

In 2002 the Royal Academy of Music invited her to establish a course in Harmonium, the first in modern times at any conservatory in the UK. She therefore succeeds Lemmens as Professor of Harmonium, who was appointed at the RAM in 1869. In 2008 she gave a full-length harmonium recital in the Purcell Room, the first time the instrument has been featured in a solo role on the South Bank. During eight years (1987-1994) as Artistic and Executive Director of the Cambridge Summer Recitals she programmed many first performances of new works and invited several distinguished recitalists from abroad to give UK debut recitals. Gaston Litaize, Louis Thiry and Olivier Latry gave masterclasses in addition to their concerts. Anne has more recently been instrumental in founding the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies which presents regular study days with distinguished scholars and teachers and an annual summer course in Cambridge. She teaches a wide range of students including organ scholars at the University of Cambridge and gives classes on the RCO Easter course and the Oundle summer school.

Iain Ledingham

Iain played for the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Iain Ledingham

Iain Ledingham gained a degree in music at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he was Organ Scholar. He subsequently studied piano, harpsichord and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. He was appointed a Professor of Piano there in 1981 and was awarded a Fellowship for the academic year 1983-1984.

He has broadcast frequently on BBC Radio 3 as an accompanist for singers and instrumentalists and has accompanied many recitals for music clubs both here and abroad. Artists he has accompanied in recitals and broadcasts include: the singers Alison Hargan, Faith Wilson, Annabel Hunt, Patricia Rozario, David James, Maldwyn Davies, Jacek Strauch and Mark Wildman, flautist Richard Dobson, oboist Keith Marshall and violinist Paul Manley.

In 1981 he joined the music staff of Glyndebourne Festival Opera and has played harpsichord continuo for a number of productions there with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, including Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in Glyndebourne’s 50th anniversary season. In 1984 he made his Queen Elizabeth Hall debut in harpsichord concertos by Bach.

He formed the South Bucks Choral Society in 1980 and has performed many major choral works with that society and with the Thames Chamber Orchestra and subsequently the Amersham Festival Chamber Orchestra including The Creation, Elijah, Messiah, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Verdi’s Requiem.

From 2000-2003 he was Director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music, responsible for planning and overseeing the first two years of the Academy’s new opera course, Royal Academy Opera. The course rapidly achieved an excellent reputation, attracting outstandingly talented young singers from far and wide. During that time he conducted performances of Falstaff (at the RAM) and Le Nozze di Figaro (in the 2002 Amersham Festival of Music) with singers from Royal Academy Opera as well as preparing students to work with distinguished guest conductors including Sir Charles Mackerras. In 2003 Iain returned to full-time work as a coach, pianist and conductor, and is greatly enjoying working with many young singers and accompanists at the RAM. In November 2003 he conducted performances of Haydn’s delightful comedy Il Mondo della Luna and more recently in November 2005 Mozart’s remarkable early opera La Finta Giardiniera both for Royal Academy Opera.

Susan Moore

Susan sang with the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Susan Moore, Mezzo-soprano

Susan Moore studied at Trinity College of Music, London with Hazel Wood, receiving the 1st prize in the Elizabeth Schumann Lieder Prize; she now studies privately with Susan McCulloch. Recent operatic roles include: Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro for Longborough Festival Opera, Buttercup in HMS Pinafore and Mrs. Partlet in The Sorcerer for Opera della Luna, the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, Tangia in Le Cinesi, Nancy in Martha, Thirza in The Wreckers, Sally in A Hand of Bridge and Delilah in Samson & Delilah (all for Opera Minima) and Filipyevna in Eugene Onegin at St. John’s, Smith Square with I Maestri orchestra. Future plans include: Widow Browe in Peter the Great for Opera South, returning to the King’s Head Theatre and Charles Court Opera’s HMS Pinafore as Hebe but also playing Buttercup in several performances, and making her directorial debut for Opera Minima with a production of Trial by Jury at Oakham Castle.

Kevin Kyle

Kevin sang with the choir during its Handel’s Messiah concert in March 2009 and its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Kevin Kyle, Tenor

Kevin Kyle began his career in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. He subsequently won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied on the opera course with Joy Mammen. He graduated with distinction having won a number of awards including the Kendall Prize and the EMI Award.

In 2004, he was a finalist in the London Handel Singing Competition and, in the same year, he made his BBC Proms Debut under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. In 2005, he performed the role of Jason in the world premier of Howard Goodall’s Jason and the Argonauts at the Royal Albert Hall. In 2006, he worked for Lille and Chatelet Opera and in 2007 he toured the USA playing the role of Frederic in the Carl Rosa production of The Pirates of Penzance. Last year, he was featured in War Oratorio, a newly commissioned feature length film for Channel Four. Kevin has also recorded for BBC Radio Three, Classic FM, Sony and BBC television. Other career highlights include; an invitation to perform at Clarence House and performances for Lord Lloyd Webber and The Queen. In 2009, his debut CD of Schumann’s Dichterliebe was released on the JCL label and a following album Songs was released early last year.

Rossini – Petite Messe Solennelle – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 19 March 2011 – St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks

Poster for the Cantate Choir's March 2011 Concert - Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle


Iain Ledinghampiano
Anne Pageharmonium
Suzanna Marks-Perrysoprano
Susan Mooremezzo-soprano
Kevin Kyletenor
James Gowerbass


Rossini – Petite Messe Solennelle

Programme notes

Thou knowest, O Lord, as well as I, that really I am only a composer of opera buffa. Rossini, dedication to Petite Messe solennelle (1864)

This is also the man who variously said, “Give me a laundry list and I will set it to music”, “Every kind of music is good, except the boring kind” and, my favourite, “One can’t judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend to hear it a second time.” Are you getting a picture of whom we are dealing with here? Gioacchino Rossini has to be one of the most outrageous figures in the composers’ archive.

He was notoriously idle and slapdash. His successes were approximately equal in number to his failures. A third of his operas at least are just rehashes of earlier works. Everywhere he went, he ran into trouble with critics, audiences, mistresses, even the Austrian secret police and he seems to have scarpered all over Europe at various times escaping this or that ‘local difficulty’. His productive life as a composer was short, only about twenty years, during which time he wrote 38 operas, 19 sacred works, some 13 instrumental works and numerous songs.

From about 1829 after the composition of William Tell, he fell into a period of ill health, both mental and physical. He did not write another opera or barely another note until his old age. At the same time, he seems to have amassed a fortune and gained numerous rewards and honours. He had a knack, it would seem, of getting a lucrative contract to produce a work, which never materialised. By the time this might be a problem, he had re-located elsewhere in Europe. The less he did, the more people liked him. He lived like a modern celebrity, if you ask me, getting away with extraordinary infelicities because we just love his tunes and he makes us feel good!

The Petite Messe Solennelle was written in 1863 to inaugurate the private chapel of the Count and Countess Pillet-Will and had its first performance on 14 March 1864. Scored for chorus, soloists, piano and harmonium, Rossini described it as the last of his ‘sins of old age’. The harmonium was invented and patented by Alexandre Francois Debain in 1841, used for the first performance and it is a Debain harmonium of the same period, which is played tonight by Anne Page. Thus we are directly linked to the composer’s sound world in this performance. The harmonium was created to give a reed organ capable of expression, ‘une orgue expressif’.

A five octave keyboard, with four sets of reeds, the bellows are directly controlled by the player through the pedals and thus she can control the air pressure passing through the reeds. For much of the work, it provides the legato glue in the piano’s bouncy and percussive contributions.

It has been said that this piece needs just a small hall, piano, harmonium, a small group of choristers and the four greatest soloists on earth! Certainly, they need extraordinary stamina for they are expected to double up with the chorus in their seven numbers and sing their own solos and ensembles in the other six. So take a deep breath and let’s get going!

Part 1 begins of course with Kyrie (Lord have mercy upon us), a teasing opener with long suspenseful lines in the chorus over a constantly chugging piano bass. Suddenly, this stops and Christe eleison (Christ have mercy upon us) is a surprising piece of polyphonic, a capella writing in Renaissance style. The Kyrie returns and moves now into a major tonality, as if Rossini is getting comfortable with this Mass business.

The Gloria (glory to God on high and peace on earth to men) is assertive and operatic and spiritual in a kind of Sound of Music way. Close your eyes and you can picture the scene. This is followed by a trio for alto, tenor and bass with piano, Gratias agimus tibi (we give thanks to You). This begins in a pleasant enough manner but builds into a richly contrapuntal texture that is most satisfying.

Domine Deus (Lord God, King of heaven, only begotten son) is a tenor solo. Such a piece might be the kind which prompted Beethoven to tell Rossini to stick to writing comic operas! Especially as the tune is almost a perfect copy of one found in Beethoven’s string quartet Op.18 no.4. Is he ‘aving a laugh?

Soprano and contralto soloists restore a suitable mood in Qui tollis (who takest away the sins of the world) and we can picture here two strong but worried women on stage grieving for the state of the world but placing their faith in God. The bass picks up his aria as the wise counsellor coming onto stage for Quoniam (Thou, Lord, only art holy). Always so reassuring to have a man around in troubled times! The chorus returns to the opening Gloria music and extends it for Cum sancto spiritu (with the Holy Spirit, the glory of God the Father). This is the most chirpy and life-affirming Amen you will ever hear.

Part 2 begins with the Credo (I believe in one God). This feels like more orthodox 19th century sacred music but Rossini cannot resist some dramatic recitative style at ‘and was made man’. This sets up the next aria Crucifixus to be sung by the soprano in a lyrical, amoroso style. Now our heroine is kneeling at the foot of the cross for sure. The chorus puts a stop to this with the words Et resurrexit (and arose on the third day) and then takes us on a lengthy romp through the remaining words of the creed.

The instrumental Preludio religioso is the most heartfelt section of the whole piece. Why this complete change of mood? Was the elderly Gioacchino beginning to think that you cannot entirely laugh off life, death and that which is to come? Certainly the choral Sanctus which follows is short and unconvinced compared with most Masses. Rossini inserts O salutaris hostia at this point. This is not normally in the Mass. It is a hymn of benediction but he only sets the first verse which has us beset by foes and hoping for the best. Oh dear!

The final section Agnus Dei (Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world) needs to come up trumps for us, and for a while…..but, no, I will not give away the ending!

Sara Kemsley