Alistair Ollerenshaw

Alistair, sang Bass for the Cantate Choir during it’s performance of J S Bach’s B minor mass in March 2012.

Alistair Ollerenshaw, Bass

Alistair Ollerenshaw baritone is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music with Mark Wildman and Iain Ledingham, having previously studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, where he won the Schubert Prize and at the University of Leeds, during which he spent a year at the Franz Liszt Hochschule in Weimar.

Whilst at the Royal Academy, Alistair has taken part in public and private masterclasses with Sir Thomas Allen, Dennis O’Neill CBE, Brindley Sherratt and Malcolm Martineau. He was a finalist in the prestigious Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Award in 2011 and has performed the roles of Il Conte in Le Nozze di Figaro, Garibaldo in Handel’s Rodelinda, Le Podestat in Bizet’s Le Docteur Miracle and the Lawyer in Williamson’s The Growing Castle in opera scenes as well as covering the role of Peachum in the Royal Academy Opera’s production of Kurt Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper.

Alistair performs extensively on the concert platform across the UK. His recent performances include Handel’s Messiah with the Manchester Camerata, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Brandenburg Sinfonia at St Martin in the Fields and Mozart’s Mass in C minor with the London Symphony Chorus. Other repertoire includes Bach’s St John Passion, Monteverdi Vespers, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Rossini’s Petite Messe Sollenelle. Future engagements include Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem for Birmingham Bach Choir under Paul Spicer and Mendelssohn’s Elijah for the Amersham Music Festival.

On the opera stage, Alistair has sung the roles of Figaro in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (Leeds University), Pollux in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux (The Yorke Trust) in addition to Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Father in Humperdink’s Hänsel and Gretel, Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Il Conte Robinson in Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto and Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème (Royal Northern College of Music). In July he will be performing the role of Figaro in Winterbourne Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Alistair is very grateful to be supported by The Josephine Baker Trust, Norman McCann Scholarship and the Royal Academy of Music.

Edward Ballard

Edward Ballard, sang Bass for the Cantate Choir during it’s performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus in March 2013.

Edward Ballard, Bass

Edward Ballard is currently on the Preparatory Opera Course at the Royal Academy of Music, studying with Glenville Hargreaves and Audrey Hyland. Born in London, Ed began singing as a Chorister at the Temple Church. He was subsequently a Choral Scholar in Clare College Choir and King’s College Choir in Cambridge.

Winner of the Marjorie Thomas Art of Song Prize, Ed is a member of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music Song Circle and performs as a soloist in the acclaimed Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Cantata Series. He holds a Maidment Scholarship administered by the Musician’s Benevolent Fund, a Clumber Music Studio Scholarship administered by the Royal Academy of Music and is generously supported by The Kathleen Trust, The John Wates Charitable Trust, The Josephine Baker Trust and Christopher Ball.

Operatic roles include Count Almaviva, Guglielmo, Demetrius, Aeneas, Death in Holst’s Savitri and John the Butcher in Vaughan William’s Hugh the Drover. In summer 2012 he covered the lead role, Chao Lin, for British Youth Opera’s production of Judith Weir’s A Night at the Chinese Opera and in summer 2013 he will be joining the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus for their production of Billy Budd. In concert, Ed has appeared with the Britten Sinfonia and the Orchestra of St Paul’s in St John’s, Smith Square, with the Orchestra of St John in King’s Place, with the Brandenburg Sinfonia in St James’ Piccadilly and with King’s College Choir in Chester Cathedral.

In Autumn 2013 Ed will take up a full scholarship to the Royal College of Music International Opera School, studying with Russell Smythe.

Iain Milne

Iain Milne, sang Tenor for the Cantate Choir during it’s performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus in March 2013.

Iain Milne, Tenor

Iain was born in Inverurie in Aberdeenshire and it is somewhat of a miracle that he is a singer at all. He was born with a congenital disorder resulting in under-developed larynx muscles – a rather useful set of muscles when it comes to singing. No one would have predicted that 26 years later he would have debuted on the opera stage, as Tito in Mozart’s Clemenza Di Tito for Hampstead Garden Opera and would now be studying on the prestigious Royal Academy Opera Course. Iain also recently graduated with distinction in his MA from the Academy and was awarded the Sir Thomas Armstrong Prize, and the Gabrowsky Connell Prize for outstanding performance.

Iain’s main experience lies in choral music, having been a Cathedral Lay Clerk at Aberdeen, Norwich, Wells and Christ Church Oxford. During his 12 years as part of the choral tradition he enjoyed going on tour to Norway, Malta, Germany, USA and South Africa. He also featured as a soloist with Wells Cathedral Choir on recordings of Kenneth Leighton’s World’s Desire and David Bednall’s Flame Celestial.

Becoming increasingly more in demand as an oratorio soloist, Iain has sung for many choirs and choral societies across the UK and Europe. Recent highlights include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, Handel’s The Messiah in Hamburg and Haydn’s Creation in Aberdeen Music Hall.

Iain is very proud of his Scottish roots and of his hugely supportive family, venturing home to do concerts as much as he can. He is also very proud to be studying with fellow Aberdeenshire tenor Dr Neil Mackie and fellow Scot Audrey Hyland.

Iain is currently supported by the Michael James Music Trust, Josephine Baker Trust, The Robertson Trust, The Sir James Caird Trust, The Royal Society of Musicians and The Alan and Jette Parker Scholarship.

Review of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus

7.30pm, Saturday 9 March 2013 – St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks

Review of concert by Graeme Fife

Poster from Cantate Choir's March 2013 concert - Judas Maccabaeus

In its day, Judas Maccabaeus was one of the most popular of all Handel’s Oratorios. Based on earlier events from BC it honoured the Duke of Cumberland’s bloody suppression of and brutal vengeance on the second great Jacobite rebellion. Handel’s score mingles passionate mourning, pious gratitude to the heroic defenders of the nation, ardent apostrophe of liberty, triumphant hymn and fanfare. In this story of a captive people fighting against the oppressor to win freedom, neither chorus nor soloists need to be other than voices raised at both ends of the emotional scale: grief and joy. The music throughout explores the gamut between both extremes and luscious dynamic variation and rhythm supply the means.

The homely drift of instrumentalists weaving through the seats to start the concert, duvet jackets against the cold, instrument cases slung over the shoulder, gave a friendly, turn-up-and-play atmosphere of a local festival. Once launched, however, utterly professional. And thrilling. The hushed piano of the chorus’s first entry, a tricky moment for any company, was sublime.

The chorus did take time to find its best voice and, if I have any quibble, it is with the tempo and shaping of their first contributions. Handel’s sobbing motif, underscoring the grief, the lamentation, needed a better defined dotted measure. This risks sounding mannered, but getting used to the way Handel pins the emotional tone with the faint, repeated stress, absorbing the technique until it comes naturally, is vital. I felt that chorus and orchestra, both, were not yet finding that pulse, although this may well be the fault of a quite unkind acoustic. And, important to say, the slight apprehension that grips before such a big sing as this is. A while to get into stride? For sure, but as the evening progressed their dynamism, articulation and vitality grew.

The soloists were wonderful, the balance between Soprano Sofia Larrson and Alto Rose Setten in their duets slightly skewed in Larsson’s favour, but their interpretation, lovely musicianship, eager projection and subtle shifts of dynamic were entirely delicious. So, too, Bass Edward Ballard, with a rolled ‘r’ worthy of an Andalusian gitano, and Tenor Iaian Milne, the timbre of a high French tenor, both engaging the listeners with a tiger’s eye. All four soloists imparted an excellent shading of the dramatic narrative, the subtle shifts of mood, a growing determination that victory could be pursued and won, and then the celebration of victory. They came to the fore with energy and verve, most importantly, looking into the audience, every face, speaking to each one. Eye contact is vital.

The Cantate know this, too, by and large… They are an exceptionally well-disciplined choir, from getting to their feet in unison with minimum disruption of proceedings to singing the full value of the notes, especially at the conclusion of a phrase (not many outfits do that). Where they wobbled on one occasion it took only two bars or so for them to recover. This takes well-drilled craft, fine articulation and, it must be said, nerve in their conductor, Robin Walker, who did not flinch. Chapeau.

Walker directed from the harpsichord, that in itself as strong an indicator of this group’s burgeoning stature and self-confidence. Given the subaudition that the word amateur carries – “not quite top drawer, don’t you know?” – I would prefer to call them unpaid, for Walker has made this outfit very top drawer. He, himself, has an engaging enthusiasm and composure at the epicentre of both music and musical forces, a nice sensitivity in drawing out the possibilities of Handel’s gloriously varied and complex musical adventure in this oratorio. I remark, especially, the glorious rendering of the piece’s big tune ‘O lovely peace’. Marked Allegro, the mistake is to take it too quickly. Allegro is, in fact, most often a marking suggestive of tone rather than tempo and here it swung with seductive power, evoking the dance that it is, here a joyous galliard. ‘Come ever-smiling Liberty’ did not have quite the same sensuous lilt. Face it, Handel’s music can be unashamedly sexy and whilst the earlier aria is about his Judas paying manly court to the damsel, Freedom, not Vivaldi’s Juditha giving Holofernes the come-on, an equal smouldering allure is there.

There was so much to enjoy in this evening of wonderful music so generously performed. I single out the air and chorus towards the end ‘Sound the alarm’ which really jumped when the brass joined and lifted the choir to a terrific deep-felt passionate intensity.

The collaboration between Cantate and Vivace began a while ago and is maturing with most pleasing effect: top-notch singers and players brought together to make music and make it look and sound as if they are enjoying the whole experience immensely. Consider how much of a task it is to bring together band and vocalists together for a brief interlude on the afternoon of the concert, to put everything together and then perform…this demands enormous self-assurance and, yes, discipline, preparation, to be there, on the button, ready to reproduce what has been pored over in rehearsal. Any reasonable ensemble can trot out the notes. Turning them into music is another thing entirely.

Sevenoaks is lucky, indeed, to be able to pitch up to a concert of this quality. A very costly concert, too. It needs to be said: the Cantate people really do put themselves on the line to fund such an outlay. They need to raise money at their other more intimate concerts to subvent the grander annual splash-out. That takes courage and commitment. In the words of the splendid final flourish of the piece, I say, let us all say: ‘Hallelujah. Amen.’

Underpinning just how the whole evening coalesced into a fine elation of voice and sound all the way through the second half, I noted the flautist, sitting rather sorrowfully inactive during the last blast, lost amid the players sawing and blowing, herself absent from the score but surely longing to join in. Instead? Wall-flowered, excluded from the crowning burst of harmonious fun.

Sofia Larsson

Sofia Larsson, sang soprano for the Cantate Choir during it’s performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus in March 2013.

Sofia Larsson

Sofia Larsson graduated with a first-class honours degree in Music from King’s College London in 2009 and completed the ENO Opera Works training programme in 2011. She currently holds the Draper’s Baroness de Turckheim vocal scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, where she is on the preparatory opera course in her second year of an MA in vocal performance, studying with Philip Doghan and Audrey Hyland. Sofia is a member of Song Circle, with whom she recently performed at the Oxford Lieder Festival. Last year she won the Elena Gerhardt Lieder Prize and was awarded the Andrew Sykes Prize.

Operatic roles include Susanna (Marriage of Figaro), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Marzelline (Fidelio), Angelica (Orlando), Romilda (Xerxes) and Carolina (Il Matrimonio Segreto). Sofia regularly performs as a recitalist and oratorio soloist. Future concerts include the Bach Magnificat and Schubert Mass in G with the English Baroque Choir at St. John’s Smith Square and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Southern Sinfonia.

Sofia is very grateful to be supported by the Maaike McInnes Charitable Trust, the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust, the Musicians Benevolent Fund and the Josephine Baker Trust.

Hazel Brooks

Hazel played for the choir during its Mozart Requiem and Schubert Mass in C concert in March 2006 and Baroque Masterworks concert in March 2007.

Hazel Brooks, Violin

Hazel Brooks read languages at Clare College, Cambridge. After graduation she studied violin at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Leipzig, and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where she won various prizes including the Christopher Kite Memorial Prize and the Bankers Trust Pyramid Award, and she was a finalist in the international competitions in York and Antwerp.

As a baroque and classical violinist, Hazel works as a chamber recitalist as well as playing with some of the leading period-instrument orchestras. Recital venues have included the South Bank Centre in London and the Barcelona Early Music Festival. She has released a solo CD with harpsichordist David Pollock.

Also a medieval specialist, Hazel is in demand as a vielle (medieval fiddle) player throughout Europe and America. She is currently involved in an exciting project combining Western and Moroccan musicians in an attempt to recreate the music of medieval Spain.

Rose Setten

Rose Setten, sang alto for the Cantate Choir during it’s performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus in March 2013.

Rose Setten, Mezzo-soprano

Rose Setten, mezzo-soprano, is currently studying on the Masters course at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of Elizabeth Ritchie and Iain Leddingham. In 2010, Rose graduated with a 1st class BMus(Hons) degree from the Royal Northern College of Music, where she studied with Thomas Schulze. During her time at the RNCM, Rose took chorus roles in Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen and in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. She has also performed the roles of the Bridesmaid in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and The Bat in Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges. In RNCM Opera Scenes, Rose has sung the roles of Helena in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lady Dunmow in Berkley’s A Dinner Engagement and Poppea in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea.

In 2004, Rose won the title of BBC Radio 2 Chorister of the Year and has appeared as a soloist on BBC television and radio, including Songs of Praise and the Daily Service. Since studying at RAM, Rose has performed in RAM Opera Scenes, including the role of Diana in Cavalli’s La Calisto and Nancy in Britten’s Albert Herring. Other appearances include recitals at the Garrick Club and solo performances at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, St. Martin in the Field’s and the Sage Centre, Gateshead.

Rose is looking forward to working at Opera Holland Park this summer and commencing her studies on the Opera Course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September. Rose is very grateful to The Josephine Baker Trust and to Gordon Hine and the Sussex Opera and Ballet Society for supporting her studies.