Soloists for 2017/2018
Below is information about some of the soloists featuring in our concerts this year.
Saturday 21st October: Handel – Messiah
Jessica Smith – Soprano
English Soprano Jessica Smith is a versatile performer based in Northamptonshire. She specialises in the areas of choral music and recital song and is a pupil of the English Soprano Julie Kennard.
Raised and educated in Northamptonshire, Jessica was Head Chorister at All Saints Church, Northampton, and held the Vocal Fellowship at Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust. Following placement in the finals of BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year competition in 2008, Jessica became one of the youngest members of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and performed under the batons of Eric Whitacre and Gustavo Dudamel during the BBC Proms series.
Jessica graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, with an honours degree in Music where she specialised in Solo Performance. Jessica balanced two choral scholarships alongside her University studies with the Royal Holloway Chapel Choir and at the church of St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square. Whilst at Choral Scholar with the Chapel Choir, Jessica performed alongside artists such as The Kings Singers and Dame Felicity Lott and featured as a soloist on the track ‘Live Forever Glorious Lord’ on the choir’s album Hymn to St Cecilia released on the Hyperion label in 2014. Whilst at St Martin in the Fields, Jessica performed in recital series, on BBC broadcasts, and in concert with Dame Emma Kirkby. Jessica is an alumnus of The Sixteen’s inaugural training programme, Genesis Sixteen, run by Harry Christophers and Eamonn Dougan.
Jessica played the role of Galatea in Benslow Music Trust’s Baroque Opera production of Acis and Galatea in April 2015 under the direction of Ian Caddy and Julian Perkins. November 2014 saw Jessica premiere Richard Leigh’s composition Has Your Soul Sipped in Beverly Matthews’ play of the same title at the Art House Theatre, Crouch End. She premiered solos in Jonathan Dove’s semi-staged work Out of the Whirlwind in October 2013, a centenary tribute to Benjamin Britten commissioned for All Saints’ Church, Northampton.
Natalie Davies – Mezzo Soprano
Natalie Davies was born in Huntingdon. She is a scholarship student on the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Artist Masters Programme, studying with John Evans. She recently completed undergraduate training at GSMD, and was awarded a First Class honours degree. Recent operatic work includes chorus, as well as covering and performing the role of Second Woman for The Vanishing Bridegroom (British Youth Opera), chorus for Tosca (Nevill Holt Opera), Gold-Tressed Maiden in Maxwell-Davies’ The Hogboon (London Symphony Orchestra) and Fag Hag in Salorian’s Boys of Paradise (Tête à Tête Festival). Recital work includes Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben (Devon Song Festival) and Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos (St Lawrence Jewry Festival). Upcoming performances include Stravinsky’s Pribaoutki with the Guildhall School Ubu Ensemble.
Robert Tilson – Tenor
Operatic tenor, Robert Tilson is a passionate interpreter of a wide range of roles in genres spanning from the 17th Century to present day. In 2016 Robert was awarded a place to study on the esteemed Masters course at The Royal Academy of Music under internationally renowned Tenor, Ryland Davies and multi award winning accompanist, James Baillieu, he has recently been involved in their spring opera scenes working on the role of Davey in John Dove’s 1994 opera Siren Song.
Robert is looking forward to working in the chorus for the summer season at Opéra de Baugé, and is also taking the role of Ferrando in Flat White Opera’s Cosi Fan Tutte
During his undergraduate degree at Birmingham Conservatoire, Robert’s passion for opera grew dramatically. He performed the title role in the Conservatoire’s 2015 production of Actéon by Charpentier. The role of ‘Satyavan’ in the 2016 production of Savitri by Holst. He created the lead tenor role of ‘Dave’ in the 2015 production of Michael Wolters’s world premiere Ava’s Wedding, the role of ‘L’Aumonier’ in the 2014 production of Dialogues des Carmelites by Poulenc and the role of ‘Lover’ in the 2013 production of Il Trittico by Puccini.
Robert has also featured regularly in Birmingham Conservatoire’s Autumn opera scenes appearing Twice as ‘Rodolfo’ in La Bohème Puccini, ‘Monostatos’ in Die Zauberflöte Mozart, ‘Fenton’ in Falstaff Verdi, ‘Snout’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream Britten, ‘Raoul De Gardefeu’ in La Vie Parisienne Offenbach, ‘Grocery Boy’ in A Dinner Engagement Berkeley. He has also sung as a member of the chorus in scenes from Carmen Bizet, A Night in Venice J Strauss, Macbeth Verdi, La Cenerentola Rossini, Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky and Street Scene Weil.
Robert has had several external opportunities while at the Conservatoire. His highlights include working with Midland Opera, performing the lead role of ‘Giannetto’ in La Gazza Ladra by Rossini. Other performances include being a featured soloist for Opera At Bearwood’s winter season and singing the lead tenor role of ‘Angelo’ in a new operatic commission, Die Welt Ist Das Exil by Austrian composer Ulf-Diether Soyka.
In his years at Birmingham Conservatoire Robert has been a key member of all three choirs at the Conservatoire, recently featuring on his third CD for the choir. Maintaining his choral foundations, Robert has performed as a tenor soloist in: Mass in B minor Bach, Messiah, Dixit Dominus and Chandos Anthem No.9 Handel, Creation and Harmoniemesse Haydn, Requiem Mass, Spatzenmesse and Coronation Mass Mozart, Petite Messe Solennelle Rossini, Carmina Burana Orff, Christmas Oratorio Saint-Saëns, Messa Di Gloria Puccini, Mass In D Dvorak, Mass in G Schubert, Crucifixion Stainer and Serenade to Music Vaughan Williams.
Alistair Donaghue – Bass
Alistair Donaghue is a recent graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, where he studied Vocal and Operatic Performance as a Bass-Baritone.
Originally from Northampton, Alistair started his singing career as a boy chorister at All Saints Church, before joining the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. Alistair sings with the National Youth Choir and is also a Senior Lay Clerk at St Phillip’s Cathedral in Birmingham, where he featured as a soloist on their recent broadcast of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3. He is also a member of the Chamber Choir of Birmingham Conservatoire, conducted by Paul Spicer.
Outside of choral singing, Alistair regularly appears in operatic productions at Birmingham Conservatoire, as well as performing in the chorus of the Dorset Opera Festival 2016. Notable performances include Blow Venus and Adonis (Title role), Verdi Macbeth (Chorus), Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin (Chorus), Rossini La Cenerentola (Alidoro) and Mozart Der Zauberflöte (Geharnischte Mann).
Future engagements include singing in the Bach St Matthew Passion with Birmingham Cathedral, and playing the role of ‘Dr Bartolo’ in Le Nozze di Figaro.
Saturday 4th November: Schumann – Piano Concerto
Stephen Meakins – Piano
Stephen Meakins is one of the UK’s busiest young accompanists. A keen collaborator, he is in great demand as a chamber musician and has performed in major concert venues as both soloist and accompanist. Recent venues have included St Martin’s in the Fields, St George’s Bristol, Dartington Hall and Wigmore Hall.
Born in Northampton, his formative musical education began as Organ Scholar at All Saints’ Church, Northampton, where he accompanied many of the choir’s recordings. Subsequently, Stephen held the Scholarship at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia.
Stephen then went to study at the Royal College of Music with Niel Immelman and Kathron Sturrock. Whilst at the RCM he was awarded the accompanist prize in the Kathleen Ferrier Competition for Young Singers and was also a prize winner in the the prestigious Schumann Competition.