Cathy Bell

Cathy Bell

Cathy Bell studied English and Medieval Literature at Cambridge, and undertook postgraduate vocal studies at Birmingham Conservatoire. Since moving to London in 2009 she has established a varied career in opera, ensemble and particularly oratorio work, coming to notice for the innate musicality and sensitivity to text that she brings to every performance. Recent highlights include the role of Venus in Pepusch Venus and Adonis for the Valletta International Baroque Festival, and Second Witch in the Academy of Ancient Music’s highly acclaimed Dido and Aeneas at the Barbican, a role she reprised at the Nordland Music Festival with Barokksolistene Norway in August 2019.

Cathy is an experienced and accomplished soloist on the oratorio platform. She has performed much of the standard concert repertoire for the alto voice, at venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall, Southwell Minster, Wells Cathedral, Bath Abbey, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Nottingham Albert Hall, and St Magnus Cathedral Orkney. Recent highlights include the Rachmaninoff Vespers with groups including Britten Sinfonia, Sonoro and the Oxford Bach Choir; Bach Mass in B minor with Nottingham Harmonic Choir and Cantemus; Mendelssohn Elijah with the Bach Choir; and Bach St John Passion with Leicester Bach Choir and at the Leith Hill Musical Festival. As a low mezzo Cathy enjoys singing Handel’s ever-popular Messiah in venues across the UK, but she also loves exploring more esoteric repertoire, and has made a particular specialism of neglected works from the Italian baroque such as Alessandro Scarlatti’s Salve Regina and Vivaldi’s Introduzione e Gloria RV 588, Magnificat and Dixit Dominus.

In 2014 Cathy was the first singer to be awarded a place on the Handel House Talent Scheme. While a member of the scheme she gave recitals at venues including the Handel House, St George’s Hanover Square and the Wallace Collection; developed and performed a lecture recital on Handel’s London years; sang in masterclasses with Mark Padmore and Laurence Cummings; and was the singing leader for several workshops and education projects.

Cathy is as comfortable on the operatic stage as the concert platform.  Notable highlights include the title role in Carmen for Barefoot Opera; Arsamenes (Handel Xerxes) for Hampstead Garden Opera; Russian Nanny (Britten Death in Venice) for Garsington Opera; and Third Lady/Third Boy (Mozart Die Zauberflöte) for Diva Opera and the Palestine Mozart Festival. Cathy has a strong commitment to contemporary music and has taken principal roles in new operas at the Tête à Tête and Grimeborn festivals, recorded a new work by Will Todd for an education project at Opera North, and worked on the development of a new piece for WNO MAX.

Cathy also works regularly in ensembles such as the BBC Singers, the Academy of Ancient Music, Philharmonia Voices, Sonoro, the Dunedin Consort, the Clerks’ Group and EXAUDI, and sings for film sessions with groups including London Voices, the Pinewood Singers, Synergy Vocals, Apollo Voices and RSVP Voices.

Cathy lives in London with her husband Jon Stainsby, also a singer, and their energetic daughter Rosie, born in 2016.

 

Alex Ashworth

Alex Ashworth is a concert and opera singer working across Europe and the United Kingdom.

His recordings include Oedipus Rex, Stravinsky, with the London Symphony Orchestra, Monteverdi’s Vespers with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Bach’s B Minor Mass and St Matthew Passion for Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists.

Recent performance highlights include Oedipus Rex with the Berlin Philharmonic, St Matthew Passion on tour across Europe, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem for the Three Choirs Festival and Christmas Oratorio across Australia. In 2018 he performed in the inaugural Alamo Baroque Festival in Texas and has toured Europe in over twenty performances of several of Bach’s cantatas with Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

Alex is delighted to be joining the Worcester Festival Choral Society for the first time, since he went to school in Worcestershire and was then a choral scholar at close neighbour Tewkesbury Abbey in his now long-distant gap-year.

 

James Cleverton

James trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Zürich International Opera Studio.

He has performed principal roles at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opernhaus Zürich, Salzburg Festival, Stadttheater St Gallen, Opéra de Rennes, Opera Holland Park, Grange Park Opera and Garsington Opera.

Recent performances include The Protector Written on Skin (Benjamin) and Pablo Exterminating Angel (Adès) for the Royal Opera House, his Buxton International Festival debut singing Gusmano in Verdi’s Alzira. Kyoto in Iris (Mascagni) for Opera Holland Park, Frank Die Fledermaus for Welsh National Opera and Dulcamara Elixir of Love for Scottish Opera.

Equally in demand on the concert platform, James regularly performs oratorios throughout the UK & internationally. Recent highlights include the Messiah with the CBSO at the Birmingham Symphony Hall and Haydn’s Harmoniemesse at the Cadogan Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He also appears as the baritone soloist for the Raymond Gubbay Classical Spectaculars at the Royal Albert Hall with the RPO.

Recordings include Arrostino in Cellier’s The Mountebanks with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Sir John Copeland in Rogers & Hart’s Dearest Enemy (New World Records, and as the White Rabbit on the original cast recording of Will Todd’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

In 2018 James appeared as Escamillo in a performance of Carmen at Dartmoor Prison, given for HRH Prince Charles. He can also be seen as the Mandarin in Turandot in the film Mission Impossible Rogue Nation starring Tom Cruise.

Future plans include returns to WNO, ENO, Scottish Opera and Opera Holland Park, Orff’s Carmina Burana with the RPO at the Royal Albert Hall, Mozart by Candlelight at the Barbican and a New Year’s Eve Gala at the Glasgow National Concert Hall with the RSNO.

 

 

Matthew Pochin

Matthew Pochin began his career as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral, where he later became a choral scholar and lay clerk. He went on to study at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

After several years working as a pastry chef, Matthew moved to London to continue his career as a singer. He currently sings with the choirs of St John’s Wood Parish Church and Belsize Square Synagogue. He also sings regularly with the choirs of HM Chapel Royal, Hampton Court and St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London.

Matthew performs as an oratorio and consort soloist across the UK and Europe. As well as choral society mainstays, recent engagements include renaissance lieder by Ludwig Senfl with the Linarol Consort of Viols, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings and Carmina Burana. He gives regular lieder and English song recitals, including works by Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Britten, Finzi and Gurney. Matthew has also recorded for the BBC, performing Nïneotpushchayeshi (Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace) from Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil for a documentary on the composer’s life.

Matthew is a founder member and Artistic Director of Scaramella, specialising in music for men’s voices from the renaissance to modern close harmony. He also researches and prepares performance editions and new arrangements for the group.  He is a member of the unique Jewish barbershop group bOYbershop, performing traditional Jewish liturgical music, folksongs as well as close harmony standards and original comedy songs.

Although he rarely bakes cakes anymore (much to his wife’s disappointment), Matthew still enjoys cooking, especially in the great outdoors.

Kate Symonds-Joy

Kate Symonds-Joy graduated with a First Class music degree from Cambridge University and a DipRAM from the Royal Academy Opera Course. Concert highlights include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Sydney Opera House, Ravel’s Chansons Madecasses at the Purcell Room, Rutter’s Feel the Spirit at the Barbican, Bach’s St John Passion in the Aldeburgh Festival, Mahler’s Symphony no.2 at Cadogan Hall, Handel’s Messiah at Birmingham Symphony Hall, Mozart’s Requiem with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Elgar’s Sea Pictures with Cheltenham Symphony Orchestra, and Verdi’s Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall.

​Kate recently cycled to the most northerly inhabited part of the UK to sing Judith Weir’s King Harald’s Saga in the Shetland Islands’ Muckleflugga lighthouse and joined The Prison Choir Project to sing Carmen with a chorus of inmates in Dartmoor Prison, in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Kate teaches the choral scholars of both Gonville and Caius College and St John’s Voices, Cambridge. She lives in nearby Royston in a 17th century barn with husband and baby son Wilfred. Future projects include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, 1st Witch, Dido and Aeneas with the Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican, a return to Carmen this time in Wandsworth Prison, and Bach’s St John Passion with Solomon’s Knot in Wigmore Hall.

Miriam Allan

The “sublime singing” (Gramophone, 2017) of Soprano Miriam Allan has been enjoyed across the world, from her native Australia, through Japan and Singapore, as well as at festivals throughout Europe and North America.

In 2018 she has sung Bach’s St Matthew Passion at Wigmore Hall with Dunedin Consort and John Butt, returned to Australia in the role of Josabeth (Athalia, Handel) for Pinchgut Opera, Sydney, tour books of Gesualdo Madrigals with Les Arts Florissants and made her debut with Portland Baroque performing Messiah.

Other recent highlights have included Bach cantatas at the BBC Proms, a recital of Dowland lute songs within the enclaves of Windsor Castle and performances with the Queensland Orchestra and Erin Helyard.

On the opera stage she is a regular company soloist with Pinchgut Opera, for whom she has sung Isifile Giasone, Cavalli and Costanza Griselda, Vivaldi. For the Innsbruck Festival she has sung Galatea Acis & Galatea, Handel, whilst she has taken various roles in The Fairy Queen for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Opera Comique, Paris, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York. Other roles include Queen of the Night Magic Flute, Mozart, Musica and Proserpina Orfeo, Monteverdi and various roles in Dardanus, Rameau.

She has appeared alongside Sir John Eliot Gardiner & English Baroque Soloists, Masaaki Suzuki & Bach Collegium Japan, Nicholas Collon & Aurora Orchestra and Lars Ulrik Mortensen & Concerto Copenhagen as well as conductors William Christie, Stephen Layton and Laurence Cummings and orchestras the BBC Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, Les Violins du Roy, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music.

Miriam has sung Mozart Mass in C Minor in Lincoln Centre, New York, Bach Magnificat in the Musikverein, Vienna, Handel Messiah in Sydney Opera House, Haydn Die Schöpfung at the Barbican, London, Rameau In Convertando in Chapelle Royale, Versailles and appeared in Mozart Opera Galas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Salle Pleyel, Paris.

Her discography includes the Gramophone award winning series of Monteverdi Madrigals with Les Arts Florissants and Paul Agnew, with whom she can also be seen in the DVD release of Orfeo as Proserpina , as well as the Mozart Requiem with Leipzig Kammerorchester, a recital of Handel and Purcell on ABC Classics and Pinchgut Opera’s series of live recordings.  Reviewing the latter’s release of Giasone, Gramophone remarked that her “stylish [Isifile] steals the show several times,’ whilst Voix des Arts wrote of the same performance “the timbre is one of polished gold from the top to the bottom.”

Review of our May 2019 concert

TIME TO SMILE

The audience enjoyed a full-blown baroque treat from the Stour Singers at their concert on 11th May with Handel’s The Trumpet Shall Sound (Messiah) and Foundling Hospital Anthem, Monteverdi’s popular Beatus Vir from his late liturgical works, and a Vivaldi favourite, the Dixit Dominus.  It was an inspired programme choice of three baroque composers at their best.

Under the lively baton of Music Director, Richard Emms, and with the enthusiastic support of the youthful Queen’s Park Sinfonia who contributed a spring-like freshness to the scores, this concert with fully committed choir and soloists was a joy.  The choir’s accomplished accompanist Rachel Bird was busy on keyboard throughout the programme.

These works demand a lot of concentration and accurate timing from any choir, being considerably energetic pieces that also need a subtlety of expression and the Stour Singers rose to the occasion to give the audience a very strong performance.

The vivid opening piece The Trumpet Shall Sound was brightly exemplified by one of the Sinfonia’s excellent trumpeters and bass baritone Julian Debreuil.  The choral works were enriched with the professional interpretation of all the soloists.  Both Susanna Fairbairn, soprano, and Cathy Bell, mezzo soprano, sang with a lyrical and moving expressiveness and with voices beautifully tuned in those duo passages echoing each other or in the exciting runs in the Dixit Dominus.  The same must be said for Tom Raskin’s bright tenor sound and the vocal colour of Julian Debreuil’s bass baritone, who also shared some exciting duo passages.  As a quartet the soloists performed well.

The whole programme resounded with an intuitive sense of balance and shared feeling between choir, orchestra and soloists to produce one of the best concerts of so many.  Though musical content was sacred, this exhilarating performance with its considerable bounce simply made you smile.

Don’t miss this choir’s only other major public performance of the year at Christmas.

 

Tom Bone

Stratford Herald, 16 May 2019

 

Telemann’s Magnificat in C

Telemann composed his Magnificat in C around 1705, probably while he was still in Leipzig.

He had enrolled at Leipzig University to read Law, but was very active musically, becoming thoroughly embedded in the musical life of the city.  Indeed, he became so dominant a figure that he seriously trod on the toes of Johann Kuhnau, J.S. Bach’s predecessor at the Thomaskirche.

It was customary in Leipzig when performing the Magnificat as part of a service that congregational hymns would be inserted between movements.  In line with this tradition, in this performance there will be appropriate Christmas carols included for the audience to join in.